The Public Enemy (1931) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Public Enemy (1931)

The Public Enemy (1931)

The Public Enemy




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Public Enemy Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

This film chronicles the making of a Prohibition-age gangster from childhood through a murderous, bootlegging adulthood and a grimly sobering sudden downfall. The seminal sound-era gangster film, with the performance that made James Cagney a major star, still packs plenty of punch, mostly seen now in a slightly abbreviated version.more
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure, Musical & Performing Arts, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Kubec Glasmon, John Bright, Harvey Thew
In Theaters:
On DVD: Sep 11, 2001


James Cagney
as Tom Powers
Jean Harlow
as Gwen Allen
Edward Woods
as Matt Doyle
Beryl Mercer
as Ma Powers
Donald Cook
as Mike Powers
Leslie Fenton
as Nails Nathan
Murray Kinnell
as Putty Nose
Russell Powell
as Bartender
Rita Flynn
as Molly Doyle
Snitz Edwards
as Hack Miller
Adele Watson
as Mrs. Doyle
Frank Coghlan Jr.
as Tom As A Boy
Frankie Darro
as Matt as a Boy
Robert E. Homans
as Off. Pat Burke
Dorothy Gee
as Nails' Girl
Purnell Pratt
as Officer Powers
Lee Phelps
as Steve, the Bartende...
Helen Parrish
as Little Girl
Dorothy Gray
as Little Girl
Nanci Price
as Little Girl
Ben Hendricks III
as Bugs as a Boy
George Daly
as Machine Gunner
Eddie Kane
as Joe, the Headwaiter
Douglas Gerrard
as Assistant tailor
Sam McDaniel
as Black Headwaiter
William Strauss
as Pawnbroker
Russ Powell
as Bartender
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for The Public Enemy

Critic Reviews for The Public Enemy

All Critics (28) | Top Critics (3)

There's no lace on this picture. It's raw and brutal. It's low-brow material given such workmanship as to make it high-brow.

Full Review… | October 30, 2007
Top Critic

Cagney's energy and Wellman's gutsy direction carry the day, counteracting the moralistic sentimentality of the script and indelibly etching the star on the memory as a definitive gangster hero.

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

James Cagney's portrayal of a bootlegging runt is truly electrifying (he'd made five films, but this one made him a star), and Jean Harlow makes the tartiest tart imaginable.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

This early sound film, which made a star of James Cagney, remains one of the most influential crime-gangster films ever made, establishing the basic narrative format of the popular genre.

Full Review… | August 12, 2011

Crime may not pay, but The Public Enemy was one of the first pictures to recognize that it sure can be exciting to watch.

Full Review… | July 5, 2009

Top notch Cagney gangster flick with memorable final scene.

March 2, 2008

Audience Reviews for The Public Enemy


James Cagney's breaking role sees him as one of the original "hoodlums", tracing his steps from young tearaway to enforcer during the prohibition years. Pretty much the template for every gangster film to come after, The Public Enemy was a groundbreaker that inevitably had its hands tied by the strict moralistic code that straight jacketed the industry at the time, which in retrospect can be seen to have been rather counterproductive. Without seeing the consequences of his violent crimes on-screen, the cocky and charismatic Cagney is actually quite an appealing character compared to his moralistic but seemingly self righteous and pompous brother. Particularly in the face of such a ridiculous law as prohibition. It has some very memorable scenes, especially the infamous "grapefruit" scene in which the lovely Mae Clarke (who is usurped by the vampish and rather dreadful Jean Harlow) is assaulted with her breakfast, and Cagney's revenge upon the rival mob. It's more of a quaint period piece by today's standards, but Cagney's cocksure performance means it still entertains to this day.

xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

Typical gangster story, predictable, but with an unexpected ending.

Aj V

Super Reviewer


I am a fan of Jimmy Cagney and this one seems to be one of his very early works. Quite typical of the mob style films of it?s time, but for me not enough storyline to separate this from any other mob movie of it?s day.

Lady D'arbanville

Super Reviewer

The Public Enemy Quotes

– Submitted by monsieur r (3 years ago)
– Submitted by gerardo r (3 years ago)
– Submitted by gerardo r (3 years ago)
– Submitted by gerardo r (3 years ago)

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