114 user 62 critic

When a Stranger Calls (1979)

A psychopathic killer terrorizes a babysitter, then returns seven years later to menace her again.



On Disc

at Amazon

1 win. See more awards »
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

When a Stranger Calls Back (TV Movie 1993)
Horror | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

A young babysitter, all alone in the house with two children asleep above, is bothered by a stranger. Unfortunately, the phone's dead...

Director: Fred Walton
Stars: Carol Kane, Charles Durning, Jill Schoelen
Horror | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5/10 X  

During a babysitting gig, a high-school student is harassed by an increasingly threatening prank caller.

Director: Simon West
Stars: Camilla Belle, Tommy Flanagan, Katie Cassidy
Horror | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

During their Christmas break, a group of sorority girls are stalked by a stranger.

Director: Bob Clark
Stars: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder
Horror | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

At the snobby Crawford Academy, Virginia's group of friends start to go missing years after horrible events that happened to her as a child around her birthday.

Director: J. Lee Thompson
Stars: Melissa Sue Anderson, Glenn Ford, Lawrence Dane
Horror | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

A decades-old folk tale surrounding a deranged murderer killing those who celebrate Valentine's Day turns out to be true to legend when a group defies the killer's order and people start turning up dead.

Director: George Mihalka
Stars: Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier, Neil Affleck
Crime | Drama | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

After murdering his entire family, a man remarries a widow with a teenage daughter in another town and prepares to do it all over again.

Director: Joseph Ruben
Stars: Terry O'Quinn, Jill Schoelen, Shelley Hack
Horror | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

After a young girl is brutally murdered during her first communion, her strange and withdrawn older sister becomes the main suspect.

Director: Alfred Sole
Stars: Linda Miller, Mildred Clinton, Paula E. Sheppard
Horror | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

Five campers are stalked and killed in the mountains after traveling there to examine property they had purchased.

Director: Jeff Lieberman
Stars: George Kennedy, Mike Kellin, Chris Lemmon
Terror Train (1980)
Horror | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  

A masked killer targets six college kids responsible for a prank gone wrong three years earlier and who are currently throwing a large New Year's Eve costume party aboard a moving train.

Director: Roger Spottiswoode
Stars: Ben Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Hart Bochner
Curtains (1983)
Horror | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  

Six young actresses auditioning for a movie role at a remote mansion are targeted by a mysterious masked murderer.

Director: Richard Ciupka
Stars: John Vernon, Samantha Eggar, Linda Thorson
Prom Night (1980)
Horror | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.4/10 X  

A masked killer stalks four teenagers, responsible for the accidental death of a little girl six years earlier, at their high school's senior prom.

Director: Paul Lynch
Stars: Leslie Nielsen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Casey Stevens
Tourist Trap (1979)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

A group of young friends stranded at a secluded roadside museum are stalked by the owner of the place, who has the power to control his collection of mannequins.

Director: David Schmoeller
Stars: Chuck Connors, Jocelyn Jones, Jon Van Ness


Cast overview, first billed only:
Kirsten Larkin ...
William Boyett ...
Sgt. Sacker (as Bill Boyett)
Heetu ...
Tony Beckley ...
Joseph Reale ...
Bartender (as Joe Reale)
Ed Wright ...
Retired Man
Louise Wright ...
Retired Woman


High school student Jill Johnson is traumatized over an evening of babysitting by a caller who repeatedly asks, "Have you checked the children lately?" After notifying the police, Jill is told that the calls are coming from inside the house... Written by Betsy Bloomley <betsybloom@juno.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A Terrifying Classic! See more »


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

26 October 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

'n maniak belt op...  »

Box Office


$1,500,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The film stars the actresses Carol Kane and Colleen Dewhurst. The two share no scenes. The two actresses previously appeared in Annie Hall (1977), in which they also shared no scenes. See more »


Based on the year the film took place, 1 minute would not be nearly long enough to trace Curt's call. Back when the movie was set, it would've taken 10-20 minutes for several switchboards and circuits to locate the origin of the call. See more »


John Clifford: [to Tracy, about Curt's murders] After the coroner's investigation the bodies were taken to the mortuary where the undertaker took one look at them and said their bodies couldn't be reconstructed for the burial without six days of steady work. Then he asked what had been the murder weapon, because looking at the mess in front of him he couldn't imagine what had been used. The coroner told him there had been no murder weapon. The killer had used only his hands.
See more »


Space Race
Performed by Billy Preston
Courtesy of A&M Records
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

A Very Scary and Real Thriller
21 February 2004 | by (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) – See all my reviews

Jill Johnson (Carol Kane) is babysitting two children, when a stranger insists calling her in the phone, asking her to see the children in the upper floor. She decides to telephone to the police, to trace the phone call. When the office on duty tells her that the call is from inside the house, Jill panics. Seven years later, the maniac escapes from the asylum and the private investigator John Clifford (Charles Durning) is hired by the father of the children to kill the man.

It is almost impossible to write a summary of this thriller without spoilers, so I have to stop here. A couple of days ago, I watched 'When a Strange Call Back', a type of sequel of this film. I was amazed with the beginning of the story, one of the most scary I have ever seen. Yesterday I decided to see 'When a Stranger Calls' and it is indeed a tense and suspenseful thriller. The situation through which Jill passes is amazingly real and scary. When the police officer tells Jill that the phone call is from inside the house, he heart of the viewer 'jumps'. This part is too frightening. The greatest problem in both movies is the continuation of the story seven years later (five in the sequel). It breaks the tension and the viewer gets completely lost about what happened to the characters. With a better sequence, this film certainly would be considered a classic. The story is excellent, and the performances are very realistic. In my opinion, the famous 'Scream' copied the introduction of this film. In Brazil, it was released on VHS only, and the quality of the image is not good. It deserves to be released on DVD. It is really worthwhile to watch this film. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): 'Mensageiro da Morte' ('Messenger of Death')

20 of 31 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Cellphone in 1979? Detectiveblue
No murder weapon? proudbrunette
1979 or 2006? proshot1
Black Christmas was NOT first Bou
Colleen Dewhurt's character PeterBradford1
This film's scary as hell alexis-jonke
Discuss When a Stranger Calls (1979) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: