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North by Northwest (1959)

Approved  |   |  Adventure, Mystery, Thriller  |  26 September 1959 (Japan)
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Ratings: 8.4/10 from 205,790 users  
Reviews: 499 user | 199 critic

A hapless New York advertising executive is mistaken for a government agent by a group of foreign spies, and is pursued across the country while he looks for a way to survive.



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Top Rated Movies #66 | Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 8 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Josephine Hutchinson ...
Philip Coolidge ...
Patrick McVey ...


Madison Avenue advertising man Roger Thornhill finds himself thrust into the world of spies when he is mistaken for a man by the name of George Kaplan. Foreign spy Philip Vandamm and his henchman Leonard try to eliminate him but when Thornhill tries to make sense of the case, he is framed for murder. Now on the run from the police, he manages to board the 20th Century Limited bound for Chicago where he meets a beautiful blond, Eve Kendall, who helps him to evade the authorities. His world is turned upside down yet again when he learns that Eve isn't the innocent bystander he thought she was. Not all is as it seems however, leading to a dramatic rescue and escape at the top of Mt. Rushmore. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Alfred Hitchcock takes you.... North by Northwest! See more »


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Parents Guide:





Release Date:

26 September 1959 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest  »

Box Office


$3,101,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)| |



Aspect Ratio:

1.75 : 1
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Did You Know?


In one scene, Vandamm jokingly suggests Thornhill to try out for the Actors' Studio. Both Eva Marie Saint and Martin Landau were from the Actors' Studio. See more »


When Thornhill is being examined for intoxication, his position changes from sitting up in one shot to leaning forward in the next shot. See more »


Judge Anson B. Flynn: How long have you known your client?
Victor Larrabee: Seven years, Your Honor.
Judge Anson B. Flynn: Do you know him to be a reasonable man?
Victor Larrabee: Absolutely.
Clara Thornhill: Ha!
Roger Thornhill: Mother.
Judge Anson B. Flynn: And you believe there is some...
See more »

Crazy Credits

Right after his credit as director during the opening credits, Alfred Hitchcock is running toward the door of the city bus just as it slams shut on him! See more »


Referenced in Tango (1993) See more »


It's a Most Unusual Day
Music by Jimmy McHugh
Lyrics by Harold Adamson
Played as background music at the Plaza Hotel
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Wonderful comedy thriller, not Hitchcock's best but his most sheerly enjoyable
30 September 2004 | by See all my reviews

North By Northwest is not an artistic masterpiece like Rear Window and Vertigo, but it is probably the most purely entertaining picture Hitchcock ever made. It's essentially a rehash of many of his earlier films, with a plot partially derived from The Thirty Nine Steps and the very similar Saboteur, while there are borrowings from Foreign Correspondent and Notorious, among others. However, it is all done with such style and confidence that it doesn't matter if it's essentially just a greatest hits package.

Very few other films of this kind attain the near perfect tone of this one, precariously balanced between seriousness and silliness. Sometimes this film manages the very difficult trick of being both suspenseful and comical at the same time, as in the auction house scene, or the wonderful scene in the lift when the hero's mother turns to two heavies in a lift looking menacingly at the hero and says "you gentlemen are not REALLY trying to kill my son, are you?".

Of course the famous crop dusting plane scene and the Mount Rushmore chase are terrific. The former is really more notable for the amount of time taken to build up to the action than the action itself, while the technical work on the latter still looks pretty good. In a totally different vein is the astonishingly frank seduction sequence on the train. Hitchcock takes his time here as with many of the other scenes, but the film is so crammed with memorable passages that one hardly notices it's 136 mins long.

Ernest Lehman's script is full of wonderful lines, many of them delivered so well by chief villain James Mason that at times we almost want to root for him. "Has any one ever told you tend to overplay your various roles Mr Kaplan....it seems to me you fellows could stand a little less training from the FBI and a little more from the Actor's Studio". Cary Grant is so smooth one almost forgets he's over 50, and of course there's also Bernard Herrmann's vibrant score.

Endlessly enjoyable even with repeated viewings. How many of today's thrillers will be such fun in 25 years time?

122 of 168 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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