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The Big Sleep (1946)

tomatometer

90

Average Rating: 7.5/10
Critic Reviews: 10
Fresh: 9 | Rotten: 1

No consensus yet.

audience

91

liked it
Average Rating: 4.1/5
User Ratings: 32,404

My Rating

Movie Info

The definitive Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall vehicle, The Big Sleep casts Bogart as Raymond Chandler's cynical private eye Philip Marlowe. Summoned to the home of the fabulously wealthy General Sternwood (Charles Waldron), Marlowe is hired to deal with a blackmailer shaking down the General's sensuous, thumb-sucking daughter Carmen (Martha Vickers). This earns Marlowe the displeasure of Carmen's sloe-eyed, seemingly straight-laced older sister Vivian (Bacall), who is fiercely protective of her

Feb 15, 2000

Warner Bros. Pictures

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All Critics (51) | Top Critics (10) | Fresh (49) | Rotten (2) | DVD (4)

The Big Sleep is wakeful fare for folks who don't care what is going on, or why, so long as the talk is hard and the action harder.

March 7, 2014 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The Big Sleep, though, is witty and sinister, and in an odd way is a realistic portrayal of big-city life with Arabian Nights overtones.

August 30, 2012 Full Review Source: The New Republic
The New Republic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Brittle Chandler characters have been transferred to the screen with punch by Howard Hawks' production and direction, providing full load of rough, tense action most of the way.

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

What you remember here are moments.

July 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This is arguably the high-water mark of Hollywood's love affair with the infinitely slippery possibilities of the English language.

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

It's likely to leave you confused and dissatisfied.

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times | Comments (8)
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The plot is a bundle of confusions, but who cares? Few films have made cigarettes seem so glamorous. Or had such seductive repartee.

March 7, 2014 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph

The Big Sleep is as fresh and perverse as ever, and remains one of Hollywood's most entrancingly strange bedtime stories.

March 7, 2014 Full Review Source: Independent
Independent

Hawks' film noir remains legendary, despite complicated and convoluted plot, due to its star power and chemistry between Bogart and Bacall.

February 6, 2013 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

It's unmissable, irresistible.

January 3, 2011 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

The Big Sleep has the distinction of being without doubt one of the greatest crime films of the Forties, yet also one of the least structurally satisfying.

December 31, 2010 Full Review Source: Eye for Film
Eye for Film

Oozing class from start to finish, Howard Hawks' 1946 noir isn't just a Hollywood classic.

December 24, 2010 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

No screen couple, before or since, had as much chemistry as Bogart and Bacall.

December 23, 2010 Full Review Source: Guardian [UK]
Guardian [UK]

One of the great pleasures of the silver screen.

December 23, 2010 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

Try to see the original version, which explains the plot better and has better story telling.

July 7, 2010 Full Review Source: Classic Film and Television
Classic Film and Television

If anyone ever tries to make the argument that plot is more important than anything else in cinema, this is a great movie to throw in their face.

June 19, 2009 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

The direction, cinematography, screenplay, brooding score and acting in this movie are all without fault. If you see one film noir movie in your life, make it this one.

July 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

Bogart as Marlowe is compelling in this classic thriller that is complex but triumph of atmospheric cool.

July 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Tribes of monkeys doing monkey things, albeit things related to the perforation of the flesh: murder and blood and sweat and sex.

July 9, 2007 Full Review Source: Film Freak Central
Film Freak Central

True classic Bogie and Bacall, even though plot is way out puzzling in many ways.

May 9, 2007
Video-Reviewmaster.com

One of the most intriguing, energetic and playful film noirs ever.

December 27, 2006 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for The Big Sleep

it's supposed to be a classic, and, while I did enjoy this film noir caper, I must say...it's pretty overrated.

Based on a novel by Raymond Chandler, this is about cynical private investigator Philip Marlowe and his involvement in a blackmail case that turns murderous. The film is noted for being really complex and confusing, and that's one of my main issues with it. I'm not a stupid person, but if the three screenwriters who adapted this had to contact Chandler and ask him to tell them what was going on, and even he didn't really know (or so he said), then you've got some problems here.

I've watched, and enjoyed, some very complex and convoluted films before, but here it just didn't stick. I think maybe too it has something to do with how hyped this film was. Yeah, it's a strong mystery, and sure, maybe I did enjoy the fact that it's really more about the procedural aspects of a criminal investigation than the results, but even then it feels unsatisfying. Maybe that has to do with my other major complaint, which is censorship.

I know that you can still have a great work of art without having to details all the graphic aspects, but when the more sordid stuff is integral to the film, then maybe yeah, they need to be shown. Obviously that wasn't gonna happen in the 40s, but maybe they could have tried to really be groundbreaking, even if it meant courting more controversy than they would have wanted to deal with. Look at stuff like A Clockwork Orange as a prime example.

Sorry for ranting, I just couldn't help it. Anyways, yeah, this is a fun, though challenging mystery thriller. I think what makes it work in the end are the performances, and the chemistry the cast have with one another, especially where Bogart and Bacall are concerned. Those tow are terrific, and its said that Bogart's turn are Marlowe is the definitive one. Works for me. Martha Vickers is also really good, and, even though she makes just a brief appearance, I loved Dorothy Malone as the book seller that Marlowe has a moment with while hiding out in her shop. It's a great scene (and one where I'm okay with the subtlety).

Despite how much of a complicated mess this is, the film does have some great lines, and a dry and sardonic sense of humor. It's really stylish, and from a formal perspective, is very impressive. The look is great, it's well shot, and the score by Max Steiner is a real treat.

It has its flaws, and I'm prepared to have my cinema buff card revoked for saying anything bad about this film, but I stand by my judgment. I did like it, and do recommend it, but think that it's not as grand as I was lead to believe.
May 24, 2013
cosmo313
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Phillip Marlowe gets embroiled in a family's drama, which quickly turns murderous.
Everything about this film is perfect. The mystery is compelling and engaging because the characters are always ahead of the audience, which is refreshing in this age when everything but flashing arrows tell modern audiences when the detective encounters a clue. The writing is sharp and funny with lines so good and so right for Bogie that it's impossible to imagine anyone else saying them. For example:

Eddie Mars: Is that any of your business?
Philip Marlowe: I could make it my business.
Eddie Mars: I could make your business mine.
Philip Marlowe: Oh, you wouldn't like it. The pay's too small.

And there's Bogie and Bacall -- film legends with legendary chemistry -- who sizzle the screen. It's only their talent that makes a rather tepid love story work.
I don't see anything profound or socially necessary about The Big Sleep, but films like this can be intellectually engaging and fun.
Overall, The Big Sleep is a foundational film and a great time at the movies.
May 12, 2013
hunterjt13
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

Just watch Humphrey Bogart. Listen and enjoy. New actors...please learn something...anything.
January 9, 2012
sergioogarcia
Sergio Garcia

Super Reviewer

Bogart gives a pitch perfect performance as Philp Marlowe in the second Hawks/Bogart/Bacall classic. This noir gem is a true treat to watch.
November 14, 2011
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer

    1. Agnes Lowzier: Wish me luck, Copper. I got a raw deal.
    2. Philip Marlowe: Your kind always does.
    – Submitted by John L (8 months ago)
    1. Philip Marlowe: You do sell books don't you?
    2. Agnes Lowzier: What do those look like? Grapefruit?
    – Submitted by John L (8 months ago)
    1. General Sternwood: If I seem a bit sinister as a parent Mr. Marlowe, it's because my hold on life is too slight to include any Victorian hypocrisy. I need hardly add any man who has lived as I have and indulges or the first time in parenthood at my age deserves all he gets.
    – Submitted by Andrew C (19 months ago)
    1. Philip Marlowe: She tried to sit on my lap while I was standing up.
    – Submitted by Andrew C (19 months ago)
    1. Vivian Sternwood Rutledge: So, you're a private detective. I didn't know they existed, except in books, or else they were greasy little men snooping around hotel corridors. My, you're a mess, aren't you?
    – Submitted by Andrew C (19 months ago)
    1. General Sternwood: You may smoke, too. I can still enjoy the smell of it. Hum, nice state of affairs when a man has to indulge his vices by proxy. You're looking, sir, at a very dull survival of a very gaudy life, crippled, paralyzed in both legs, barely I eat and my sleep is so near waking it's hardly worth a name. I seem to exist largely on heat like a newborn spider.
    – Submitted by Andrew C (19 months ago)
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