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Chinatown (1974)

R  |   |  Crime, Drama, Mystery  |  20 June 1974 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.3/10 from 197,344 users   Metascore: 86/100
Reviews: 446 user | 216 critic | 10 from

A private detective hired to expose an adulterer finds himself caught up in a web of deceit, corruption and murder.



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Top 250 Movies #118 | Won 1 Oscar. Another 21 wins & 22 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Darrell Zwerling ...
Richard Bakalyan ...
Loach (as Dick Bakalyan)
Nandu Hinds ...
James O'Rear ...
Lawyer (as James O'Reare)


JJ 'Jake' Gittes is a private detective who seems to specialize in matrimonial cases. He is hired by Evelyn Mulwray when she suspects her husband Hollis, builder of the city's water supply system, of having an affair. Gittes does what he does best and photographs him with a young girl but in the ensuing scandal, it seems he was hired by an impersonator and not the real Mrs. Mulwray. When Mr. Mulwray is found dead, Jake is plunged into a complex web of deceit involving murder, incest and municipal corruption all related to the city's water supply. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





| |

Release Date:

20 June 1974 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Barrio Chino  »

Box Office


$6,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Phillip Lambro was originally hired to write the film's music score but it was rejected at the last minute by producer Robert Evans, leaving Jerry Goldsmith only ten days to write and record a new score. However, when it was time to put together a trailer for the film, the studio's marketing department decided that Goldsmith's new score wasn't suitable and asked Lambro to use cues from his original score instead. In exchange for allowing his music to be used for the trailer, Lambro asked to retain the publishing rights to his own score. Paramount agreed on the condition that if the music was ever released commercially, Lambro could not use the title "Chinatown". An album with Lambro's original rejected score was finally released in 2012 under the title "Los Angeles, 1937". See more »


During the "Mulvihill! What are you doing here?" scene, elevator call buttons are modern, automatic elevator type with lights. In the 1930's, elevator call buttons were generally black and had no lights. See more »


[first lines]
Jake Gittes: All right, Curly. Enough's enough. You can't eat the Venetian blinds. I just had them installed on Wednesday.
See more »


Referenced in Good Will Hunting (1997) See more »


The Way You Look Tonight
from the film "Swing Time" (uncredited)
Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

An excellent piece of filmmaking.
21 November 2001 | by (Rancho Cucamonga, CA USA) – See all my reviews

If it wasn't for the fact that most of the cast would have been too young or not born yet, this movie could have been made in the 1930's or 1940's. It reminds one of the film noirs that Hollywood used to make during that time period. It is a superb example of film making, certainly among the 20 best movies I have ever seen.

Jack Nicholson is private detective Jake Gitties, who can be as hard-boiled as Humphrey Bogart's Phil Marlowe. But Gitties is different: He is intelligent, dresses well and has associates whom work with him. Gitties is hired by Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) to investigate into an extra-martial affair she believes her husband is having. However, the investigation leads into bigger things involving the water supply of Los Angeles, which is in the middle of a drought. A series of double-crosses, murders and plot twists all lead into a climatic showdown in Chinatown which has a surprising conclusion.

If the saying `They don't make them like they used to' was ever more true, it was with this movie. Sex is only suggested between the Nicholson and Dunaway characters, yet it is convincing enough. And although Faye Dunaway is a beautiful woman, we never see frontal nudity of her (Directors today would do just the opposite). Some of the plot twists also would not be possibly made today, especially the ending (Which, if you haven't seen the movie, I cannot reveal).

Nicholson is a tour de force in his role as Gitties, but the rest of the supporting cast (Including John Huston as Mulwray's deceptive father) is equally superb. As to how Nicholson could loose the Best Actor Oscar to Art Carney in Harry and Toto is beyond me. Faye Dunaway was also nominated for Best Actress, only to loose to Ellen Burstyn for Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. Fortunately, Nicholson and Duanway have both won Oscars since. In addition, the film itself received nominations for Best Picture and Best Director for Roman Polanski (Who has a cameo in the movie as the knife-welding thug who cuts Nicholson's nose), but those Oscars would be lost to The Godfather, Part II. The only Oscar won was for Robert Towne's screenplay, which is today considered the model for film writing. After watching the movie, one will know why. From the stellar performances to the sharp direction to the superb screenplay, this is a cinema treasure.

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