M (1931) - Rotten Tomatoes

M (1931)

M (1931)




Critic Consensus: A landmark psychological thriller with arresting images, deep thoughts on modern society, and Peter Lorre in his finest performance.

Movie Info

Fritz Lang's classic early talkie crime melodrama is set in 1931 Berlin. The police are anxious to capture an elusive child murderer (Peter Lorre), and they begin rounding up every criminal in town. The underworld leaders decide to take the heat off their activities by catching the child killer themselves. Once the killer is fingered, he is marked with the letter "M" chalked on his back. He is tracked down and captured by the combined forces of the Berlin criminal community, who put him on trial for his life in a kangaroo court. The killer pleads for mercy, whining that he can't control his homicidal instincts. The police close in and rescue the killer from the underworld so that he can stand trial again in "respectable" circumstances. Some prints of the film end with a caution to the audience to watch after their children more carefully. Filmed in Germany, M was the film that solidified Fritz Lang's reputation with American audiences, and it also made a star out of Peter Lorre (previously a specialist in comedy roles!). M was remade by Hollywood in 1951, with David Wayne giving a serviceable performance as the killer. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovimore
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Art House & International, Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By: Karl Vash, Fritz Lang, Thea von Harbou, Paul Falkenberg, Adolf Jansen
In Theaters:
On DVD: Oct 20, 1998
Box Office: $35.3k


Peter Lorre
as Hans Bechert
Gustav Grundgens
as Safecracker
Otto Wernicke
as Inspector Karl Lohma...
Theo Lingen
as Bauernfaenger
Theodor Loos
as Police Commissioner ...
Georg John
as Blind Peddler
Paul Kemp
as Pickpocket
Rudolf Blumner
as Defense Attorney
Karl Platen
as Watchman
Gerhard Bienert
as Police Secretary
Rosa Valetti
as Servant
Rose Valetti
as Landlady
Fritz Odemar
as The Cheater
as Woman
Albert Karchow
as (uncredited)
Werner Kepich
as (uncredited)
Hermann Krehan
as (uncredited)
Josef Almas
as (uncredited)
as (uncredited)
Carl Balthaus
as (uncredited)
as (uncredited)
Hans Behal
as (uncredited)
Rosa Lichenstein
as (uncredited)
as (uncredited)
Sigurd Lohde
as (uncredited)
Hugo Döblin
as (uncredited)
J.A. Eckhoff
as (uncredited)
Karl Elzer
as (uncredited)
Paul Mederow
as (uncredited)
Margarete Melzer
as (uncredited)
Ilse Furstenberg
as (uncredited)
Trude Moss
as (uncredited)
Hadrian M. Netto
as (uncredited)
as Women
Klaus Pohl
as Witness / one-eyed m...
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for M

Critic Reviews for M

All Critics (50) | Top Critics (10)

Few films are gripping and effective 82 years after their original release, but this one surely is.

Full Review… | April 11, 2013
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

This is a movie that dares to sympathize with a sick person, that risks making the monster real and us (in an era when Germany's cinema was still shellacked in canted angles and fanciful shadows).

Full Review… | March 12, 2013
Time Out
Top Critic

The moral issues are complex and deftly handled: Lorre is at once entirely innocent and absolutely evil. Lang's detached, modified expressionist style gives the action a plastic beauty.

Full Review… | February 9, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

An extraordinary, good, impressive and strong talker. Again fine work by Fritz Lang, and his wife and helper, Thea von Harbou.

Full Review… | November 11, 2006
Top Critic

A subversive film, or more simply a movie brimming over with the ferment of Lang's imagination at its height? You choose.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

[VIDEO ESSAY] A precursor to the serial killer and policier genres, "M" is first and foremost a suspense thriller made all the more gripping because the identity of the killer is revealed in the first act.

Full Review… | March 11, 2015

Audience Reviews for M


Fritz Lang crafts a stunning work of dramatic thrills with his 1931 film M. This being his first talkie after years of making silent films, Lang's direction is superb, and this is a film that is tense, and engaging from the moment it starts. The story is very good, and it has enough effective moments to really grab your attention. This is a picture that for its time delivered something that had never been seen before. Beautifully directed and acted, M is a near perfect picture that broke barriers in the way films told stories. With effective, memorable performances, Fritz Lang has crafted one of the most impressive classic films that I have seen it ranks as a film classic that raised the bar in storytelling and it did this at a time where it was almost taboo to tell a story like this. M is a stunning picture well worth your time, and it's a fine foreign film, and it ranks as a masterpiece of cinema as well. I've only seen Lang's Metropolis beforehand, and is a director who can craft thoroughly engaging picture with very interesting concepts and ideas. Metropolis was extremely ambitious in its ideas, but with M he took a step back and focused on a simpler story, and the result is a stunning piece of cinema that is thrilling from the moment it starts. If you enjoy every aspect of film, then you're going to enjoy this picture. The film stands out because Fritz Lang pushed the boundaries of what you could do with a story, and he is a pioneer in doing so, and M resonates because of it. Overall this is a near perfect movie that is one of the finest film classics that you can watch. With brilliant direction and effective performances, M is a superb picture that helped shape cinema for many years to come.

Alex roy

Super Reviewer

Hans Beckert: What do you know about it? Who are you anyway? Who are you? Criminals? Are you proud of yourselves? Proud of breaking safes or cheating at cards? Things you could just as well keep your fingers off. You wouldn't need to do all that if you'd learn a proper trade or if you'd work. If you weren't a bunch of lazy bastards. But I... I can't help myself! I have no control over this, this evil thing inside of me, the fire, the voices, the torment!

M was the first talkie from Fritz Lang and it still stands up as one of his best films and quite possibly his best talkie. There's a ton of social issues, especially involving the whole pleading insanity thing. A child murderer is walking the streets and the police, despite their hardest efforts are having absolutely no luck in catching him. They follow every lead and scour the underworld looking for him. This begins to anger the underworld and the criminals that use it. Police are constantly showing up and escorting them to headquarters. Still, they can't find their man. The criminal underworld, with help from the beggars decide to take it upon themselves to find the killer and bring him to justice.

M is a masterpiece. A film that is now over 80 years old and still maintains all of its power. Also, all the themes of this film are still perfectly relevant in todays world and will probably always be. Peter Lorre gives a terrific performance, embodying both the evil child killer and the victim of insanity because he can't help what he does.

M is a film for fans of noir style films, Lang, and filmmaking in general. This is one of those movies that must be seen once by all film buffs. Not to be missed.

Melvin White

Super Reviewer

A meticulously crafted German crime-drama. Peter Lorre's performance is haunting and inspired, and only complements the sharp screenplay, complex story arc and incisive social commentary.

Kristijonas Fussman
Kristijonas Fussman

Super Reviewer

M Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

Discussion Forum

Discuss M on our Movie forum!