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The 39 Steps (1935)

tomatometer

98

Average Rating: 8.9/10
Reviews Counted: 42
Fresh: 41 | Rotten: 1

Packed with twists and turns, this essential early Alfred Hitchcock feature hints at the dazzling heights he'd reach later in his career.

100

Average Rating: 7.7/10
Critic Reviews: 7
Fresh: 7 | Rotten: 0

Packed with twists and turns, this essential early Alfred Hitchcock feature hints at the dazzling heights he'd reach later in his career.

audience

86

liked it
Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 22,949

My Rating

Movie Info

A man in London tries to help a counterespionage agent. But when the agent is killed and he stands accused, he must go on the run to both save himself and also stop a spy ring trying to steal top secret information.

Jul 20, 1999

Scott Entertainment

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All Critics (42) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (41) | Rotten (1) | DVD (16)

The Thirty-Nine Steps neatly converts its essential implausihility into an asset by stressing the difficulties which confront its hero when he tries to tell outsiders about the predicament he is in.

August 5, 2014 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

In Hitchcock's hands, however, this well-known espionage adventure provided the basis for a new sort of thriller and a new sort of comedy.

September 4, 2008 Full Review Source: Village Voice
Village Voice
Top Critic IconTop Critic

At 35, with more than a dozen features already under his belt, the director triumphed with this dazzling mixture of spycraft, banter, expository nonsense and manic chases along the Scottish Highlands.

September 4, 2008 Full Review Source: Time Out New York
Time Out New York
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's melodrama and at times far-fetched and improbable, but the story twists and spins artfully from one high-powered sequence to another while the entertainment holds like steel cable from start to finish.

August 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

As an artist, Alfred Hitchcock surpassed this early achievement many times in his career, but for sheer entertainment value it still stands in the forefront of his work.

July 9, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Great fun.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Alfred Hitchcock brings John Buchan's novel to the screen with characteristic wit and verve.

August 5, 2014 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

Surprisingly fast-paced for a 1935 film, full of twists and turns, and when the unlikely couple becomes handcuffed together and are forced to pretend they are married, it really kicks into high gear. Donat and Carroll have chemistry to burn.

September 4, 2012 Full Review Source: Scene-Stealers.com
Scene-Stealers.com

At its most breathtaking when both Hitchcock and his characters fully embrace the surreality of the story

August 21, 2012 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

"The 39 Steps" isn't groundbreaking, but it's an extremely solid mystery thriller. Hitchcock always managed to keep the audience guessing and always had them in the palm of his hand. "The 39 Steps" still accomplishes that.

July 20, 2012 Full Review Source: Examiner.com
Examiner.com

Classic Hitchcock suspense, some drinking and smoking.

July 20, 2012 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

The 39 Steps is sexy, exciting, unexpectedly moving (thanks to Peggy Ashcroft's portrayal of a lonely woman married to a brutish farmer), and wholly unpredictable, with an ending that nicely loops back to the start.

July 13, 2012 Full Review Source: Creative Loafing
Creative Loafing

an indelibly fun movie, one of Hitchcock's early triumphs of sheer enjoyment

July 8, 2012 Full Review Source: Q Network Film Desk
Q Network Film Desk

The 39 Steps was the first time everything just came together: the master's favorite themes, his sense of humor, his timing and rhythm, and his personal touch. With this movie, he emerged, fully formed.

July 6, 2012 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Holding up extremely well, 39 Steps, Hitchcock's most commercial UK film, mixes successfuly suspense, comedy, and romance, serving as format for many later pictures (especially North by Northwest).

March 14, 2012 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

Far more substance than other thrillers.

January 2, 2011 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

With its great turns by Donat, Carroll (the original Hitchcock blonde) and all the cast, and immaculate direction of a cracking script, this is timelessly enjoyable. A true classic.

April 11, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4

All the fun of North By Northwest in a little over half the time, The 39 Steps is -- even for the umpteenth viewing -- absolutely unmissable.

April 11, 2008 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

Hitchcock at his very best.

April 11, 2008 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

This film couldn't be more entertaining, even if it had 40 steps.

August 23, 2007 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for The 39 Steps

A few years ago I saw the stage play of this and thought it was absolutely amazing. This film, not so much. Yes it's brilliant in the way the story weaves around all over the place, taking the audience on the adventure with Richard and Pamela, however something is missing. I didn't really care for either character at all. I wasn't bothered what happened one way or another. Not my favourite Hitchcock but a worthy film.
June 20, 2012
StarCrossedVoyager

Super Reviewer

A clumsy start to the directing dynasty Hitchcock would later build in America; The 39 Steps is unlike many of his other films in the way it's put together. Hitchcock would later make taut, sometimes action packed thrillers, all with ingenuity and a special zest that would saturate and identify his later films. This, made in his native England, is far from a disappointment. Though it doesn't possess inherent fear or a debonair protagonist, it does have this strange charm that he would never recapture in later films. For the time it was set it reads much more like a romantic thriller than a case of mistaken identity or reviewing a network of spies. Though the chasing of Hannay (Robert Donat) was at first overwhelming and tense, it becomes almost comical how he ends up in place after place. From hiding out in a country inn to being inadvertently thrust onstage to give a speech about a politician he knows nothing about, Hannay continually comes into contact with odd characters and irreverent townspeople. Much of the film is just his hiding out and people who have never met him helping to hide him from various spies, the police, and a bothersome blonde. Eventually the blonde (Madeleine Carroll) becomes the love interest and an ally in his quest to clear his name and stop a spy from leaving the country with viable secret government information. For an espionage film there isn't much in the way of action or strange, exotic accents, except for the first agent who gets killed off. Most of the film hinges on Robert Donat's performance, because it takes a considerable charm and gentility to make this film work without any of the core elements. Still, the film is quite entertaining and enticing. It has a lot of gimmicks and comes off as dated versus later films which are timeless, but this is still a great start to the Hitchcock empire.
December 28, 2011
FrizzDrop

Super Reviewer

One of the most timeless films I know. This was Hitchcock's first masterpiece. Though his films got much more elaborate later in his career, all of the things that I love about Hitchcock are here: suspense, comedy, beautiful cinematography and camera movement, etc. This is pure entertainment.
November 16, 2011
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer

This may have just reinvigorated my love of film. This case of mistaken identity thriller from 1935 is leaps and bounds better than most schlock to hit the screens in the past 30 years. While technically we may be capable of creating flashier and sharper productions, we've lost our ability to tell a good story thoughtfully. The 39 Steps is just that and more importantly, made when cinema was still such a nascent medium. From scene to scene Hitch builds the suspense in such a confident and concise manner, with an awe-inspiring attention to detail. The acting here is top notch, and shoots holes in the misconception that all acting from this period was inflated and over dramatic. In fact, the performances are rather subdued, which is rather refreshing considering the material. Although the film is old, it is still, to use a cliched phrase, young at heart and still kicks the ass of most of the thrillers we have been served in recent memory.
October 10, 2011
axadntpron
Reid Volk

Super Reviewer

    1. Scudder: Free.
    2. Sir Walter Bullivant: Free.
    – Submitted by Valerie K (2 years ago)
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Foreign Titles

  • Die 39 Stufen (DE)
  • The 39 Steps (1935) (CA)
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