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The Conversation (1974)

A paranoid, secretive surveillance expert has a crisis of conscience when he suspects that a couple he is spying on will be murdered.
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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 14 wins & 13 nominations. See more awards »
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Complete credited cast:
Bernie Moran
Michael Higgins ...
Meredith (as Elizabeth Mac Rae)
Robert Shields ...
The Mime
Phoebe Alexander ...


Harry Caul is a devout Catholic and a lover of jazz music who plays his saxophone while listening to his jazz records. He is a San Francisco-based electronic surveillance expert who owns and operates his own small surveillance business. He is renowned within the profession as being the best, one who designs and constructs his own surveillance equipment. He is an intensely private and solitary man in both his personal and professional life, which especially irks Stan, his business associate who often feels shut out of what is happening with their work. This privacy, which includes not letting anyone into his apartment and always telephoning his clients from pay phones is, in part, intended to control what happens around him. His and Stan's latest job (a difficult one) is to record the private discussion of a young couple meeting in crowded and noisy Union Square. The arrangement with his client, known only to him as "the director", is to provide the audio recording of the discussion ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Harry Caul is an invader of privacy. The best in the business. He can record any conversation between two people anywhere. So far, three people are dead because of him. See more »


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

June 1974 (France)  »

Also Known As:

La conversación  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$1,600,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| (restored version)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Gene Hackman was a fit, good-looking relatively young man when Francis Ford Coppola cast him as Harry Caul. In order to personify Harry's weary, aging, and unhappy existence, Hackman grew a pathetic-looking mustache, wore ill-fitting glasses, and had a wardrobe picked out that was at least 10 years out of date. Coppola specifically told Hackman he wanted Harry to look like a "nudnik", a Yiddish word referring to a person who is boring and a pest. See more »


Partygoers ride Stan's scooter around Caul's loft, but Stan had taken the scooter when he quit the day before. Stan came to the party in the car with everyone else so the scooter would not have been there. See more »


[first lines]
Passerby: Well, I want to go over to my place and start, you know, getting it on...
Ann: Oh, that's terrible.
Mark: Yeah. Do you ever, uh... ballet?
Ann: Be thankful. Do you have a quarter for them?
Mark: Yes, I do.
Ann: [gives it to street band]
Ann: What about me?
Mark: You'll see.
Ann: A lot of fun you are. You're supposed to tease me, give hints, make me guess, you know.
See more »


Referenced in Father Ted: Escape from Victory (1998) See more »


When I Take My Sugar To Tea
Music by Sammy Fain
Lyrics by Irving Kahal & Pierre Norman
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Oh, the Boredom! Torture Worthy of Amnesty International Intervention!

"The Conversation" is the single most boring movie, out of thousands, that I have ever seen.

Critics and fans praise it as a classic. These critics and fans should be arrested, booked, and sentenced.

I would like to stick a pin in the fans of this movie, to see if their blood is green.

There needs to be a new word to identify the level of boredom this movie induces. I had flashbacks of something I hadn't thought of in years: being a small child, sitting in a class I hated, taught by an inept oaf, on a beautiful spring day, my eyes glued to the clock, waiting for each tick of its second hand, straining to will that hand to move, and fearing that time had somehow thickened, like molasses, and slowed, and would never move again.

I had to watch this movie for a writing assignment. Had I been able to, not only would I have stopped watching it after thirty minutes, no matter the rave reviews, I would have performed exorcising ablutions on the DVD player.

I must immediately watch a good movie -- to get back on the horse once again, as it were. Otherwise, I might never be able to watch another movie again.

My Deity! The pretension, the acting class exercises, the shallow take on human nature, the excruciating slowness of the camera movies, the cheapness and phoniness of the dishonest, tarted-up, "surprise" rip-off ending, the utter implausibility, the complete refusal to provide anything so simple as a compelling plot or even one bit of action.

Russian playwright Anton Chekhov famously said that you don't introduce a gun in act one if you aren't ready to use it by act three. The application of that famous quote to "The Conversation"? Had Chekhov lived to see this movie, he might have shot the filmmaker. And I'd testify in Chekhov's defense.

No, not really. The Chekhovian point is that the basic elements of this movie: an emotionally frozen surveillance man, the couple he's spying on, an older, powerful man interested in the couple -- could have been used to make a brilliant movie. In fact, they were used to make a brilliant movie: Florian Henckel von Donnersmark's "The Lives of Others." "The Conversation" isn't a movie; it's a diabolical form of torture. Its star, Gene Hackman, gives better performances as the voice-over for Lowe's Hardware Stores commercials.

That critics and fans have been touting this overrated, self-serious, naked emperor for the past thirty plus years is a mark of shame to the film community, far outstripping previous scandals from the Fatty Arbuckle trial to the latest African adoption. This movie, much more than "Celebrity Jeopardy" skits on "Saturday Night Live," is a damning indictment of some celebrities' IQs.

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