The Towering Inferno (1974)

PG  |   |  Action, Drama, Thriller  |  20 December 1974 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 28,523 users  
Reviews: 193 user | 92 critic

At the opening party of a colossal, but poorly constructed, office building, a massive fire breaks out that threatens to destroy the tower and everyone in it.



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Won 3 Oscars. Another 9 wins & 13 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Paula Ramsay (as Sheila Mathews)
Giddings (as Normann Burton)
Jack Collins ...
Mayor Ramsay


Doug Roberts, Architect, returns from a long vacation to find work nearly completed on his skyscraper. He goes to the party that night concerned he's found that his wiring specifications have not been followed and that the building continues to develop short circuits. When the fire begins, Michael O'Halleran is the chief on duty as a series of daring rescues punctuate the terror of a building too tall to have a fire successfully fought from the ground. Written by John Vogel <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


You are there on the 135th floor, no way down, no way out. See more »


Action | Drama | Thriller


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

20 December 1974 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Flammendes Inferno  »

Box Office


$14,000,000 (estimated)


$116,000,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System) (5.0) (L-R)


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Screenwriter Stirling Silliphant took seven main figures from each novel and incorporated them into the screenplay, as well as the major climax of each novel: the lifeline rescue to an adjacent rooftop from "The Tower", and the exploding water tanks from "The Glass Inferno". See more »


A gallon of water weighs approximately 8 pounds. A tank holding a million gallons of water would've collapsed all or part of the building under its weight. See more »


Chief O'Hallorhan: How long before you can give me a complete list of your tenants?
Harry Jernigan: Oh, you don't have to worry about that, we're moving them out right now.
Chief O'Hallorhan: Not live-in. *Business* tenants.
Harry Jernigan: Well, we kind of looked up there, too. The majority of them haven't moved in yet, and those that have aren't working tonight.
Chief O'Hallorhan: I want to know *who* they are, not *where* they are.
Harry Jernigan: [perplexed] But what does that got to do with anything, who they are?
Chief O'Hallorhan: [patiently] Do you have any wool or silk manufacturers? You see, in a fire, wool ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

The 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. Pictures logos don't appear in the beginning. See more »


Spoofed in The Sonny and Cher Show: Episode #2.5 (1976) See more »


The Morning After
Written by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn
Played at the party when Roberts is first reporting the fire to Duncan
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Fire cracker
19 April 2004 | by (St. Louis, Missouri) – See all my reviews

The all-star blockbuster THE TOWERING INFERNO proves that you can make a bad film that still manages to be a great movie. Contrary to conventional wisdom, special effects and elaborate stunt work can actually be the star of a movie and provide ample compensation for poor writing, clumsy direction and really amateurish acting.

THE TOWERING INFERNO is, of course, a disaster movie, the methodical destruction of a high-rise skyscraper, along with many of its tenants. It came on the heels of THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE and quite honestly is no match for that film's delicious mix of sappy sentimentality and hammy heroics. But, while its dramatic quality is only marginally superior to hack films like AIRPORT '75 and the atrocious EARTHQUAKE, INFERNO provides a masterful blend of audience manipulation and technical craftsmanship. As Paul Newman pointed out to the press, neither he nor his perpetual professional rival Steve McQueen are the star of the film: the fire is the star. And as appropriate to any star, the fire, in all of its glorious mayhem, is lovingly filmed and given a wide berth to overact with style.

The rest of the cast should be so lucky. The remarkable, once-in-a-lifetime cast (Newman, McQueen, Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Fred Astaire, etc.) behave like troopers, even though they are primarily reduced to being little more than high priced props. Most of the scenes involving actual human interaction seem rushed and the inept line readings of the inane dialogue suggest that no one bothered with retakes, let alone rehearsals. But such moments are little more than filler, marking time between some of the most remarkable actions sequences ever filmed. The helicopter rescue of the derailed scenic elevator is heartstoppingly thrilling, even as you realize that it is absolutely physically impossible. And it is overshadowed by the explosive final showdown with the villainous fire. Hollywood has cinematically destroyed greater amounts of real estate, but seldom with such style.

As art, THE TOWERING INFERNO is a fizzle, but as a cheap carnival thrill show it's pretty hot stuff.

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