High Noon (1952) - Rotten Tomatoes

High Noon (1952)



Critic Consensus: A classic of the Western genre that broke with many of the traditions at the time, High Noon endures -- in no small part thanks to Gary Cooper's defiant, Oscar-winning performance.

Movie Info

In this controversial western classic, Gary Cooper as Will Kane must delay his retirement as town marshal on the morning of his wedding to Grace Kelly in order to face outlaws planning to kill him. Three are waiting in and around town for the noon train that will bring their boss. Taut drama and crisp characterization examine the town's reaction to Kane's dilemma. As noon approaches, his new bride prepares to leave town-and him-based on her Quaker principles of nonviolence. His deputy (Bridges) wants to prove himself without Kane around; his former lover (Jurado), who is now seeing the deputy, was once involved with the leader of the men coming to kill him, and has to make choices of her own. The local pastor offers no advice; the former marshal (Chaney) declines to help. Other men in town refuse to join Kane, and the tension builds with powerful use of the title song in the soundtrack. When the noon train arrives, Kane's bride and his former lover go to the depot together to leave and he prepares to face the outlaws alone in the abandoned streets. During the gunfight, Kane is outnumbered but he is saved at one point when his bride returns from the train, gets a gun, and shoots an outlaw in the back. After Kane finishes off the others, he unpins his badge and drops it on the street among the townspeople who have come out to surround him before driving his bride away in their buckboard. "High Noon" succeeds as a fable with a range of ethical conflicts. The excellent cast gives it life. Appearing in the heart of the McCarthy Era, the film presents a town that hides behind its marshal rather than back him, a bride who violates her own principles to save her husband's life, and a hero who chooses to act alone while everyone who should support him backs away. At the same time, the film fails as realism, given Kane's inexplicable failure to take decisive pre-emptive action against the outlaws waiting for their boss to arrive. Gary Cooper plays a role unusually vulnerable and complex for him, and earned his second Best Actor Oscar in the process. The title song, composed by Dimitri Tiomkin with lyrics by Ned Washington and sung by Tex Ritter, became the first country and western song to win an Oscar. A young Jack Elam, who went on to play villains in countless film and tv westerns for decades, has a very brief role as the town drunk. The film, and especially the final gesture of dropping the badge on the ground, incensed John Wayne, who led a successful political movement to deny residence to the immigrant screenwriter, Carl Foreman. Wayne also later starred in three films, "Rio Bravo," "El Dorado," and "Rio Lobo," that set up a similar main plot with heroes who are more decisive than Cooper's character, but which supplant the ethical conflicts of "High Noon" with a certainty that removes depth and controversy. "High Noon" also provided the template for "Outland," a science fiction film starring Sean Connery.more
Rating: PG
Genre: Western, Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By: Carl Foreman
In Theaters:
On DVD: Oct 23, 2001
United Artists


Gary Cooper
as Will Kane
Thomas Mitchell
as Henderson
Ian MacDonald
as Frank Miller
Katy Jurado
as Helen Ramirez
Otto Kruger
as Mettrick
Eve McVeagh
as Mildred
Lee Van Cleef
as Jack Colby
Robert J. Wilke
as James Pierce
Bob Wilke
as James Pierce
Sheb Wooley
as Ben Miller
Ted Stanhope
as Station Master
Jeanne Blackford
as Mrs. Henderson
Ralph Reed
as Johnny
Lucien Prival
as Bartender
Howland Chamberlin
as Hotel Clerk
Morgan Farley
as Minister
Virginia Christine
as Mrs. Simpson
Jack Elam
as Charlie
Tim Graham
as Sawyer
John Doucette
as Trumbull
Virginia Farmer
as Mrs. Fletcher
Henry Morgan
as Sam Fuller
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for High Noon

Critic Reviews for High Noon

All Critics (48) | Top Critics (8)

High Noon combines its points about good citizenship with some excellent picturemaking.

Full Review… | July 26, 2011
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Zinnemann carefully and deliberately makes the most of the mood cast by the threat of impending violence.

Full Review… | October 18, 2008
Top Critic

Some of the results ring false, but the memorable theme song and some equally memorable character acting (by Thomas Mitchell and Lon Chaney Jr. more than Lloyd Bridges and Katy Jurado) help things along.

Full Review… | September 4, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

High Noon won a fistful of Oscars, but in these days of pasteboard screen machismo, it's worth seeing simply as the anatomy of what it took to make a man before the myth turned sour.

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

More than a half-century later, Foreman was right after all: High Noon is a scorching and sour portrait of American complacence and capacity for collaborationism.

Full Review… | April 27, 2004
Village Voice
Top Critic

Regarded as '50s melodrama, it's nearly perfect.

May 30, 2003
Washington Post
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for High Noon


The bad guy, who's a really bad guy, the guy sent to prison after luckily getting caught, the guy promising way violent revenge, he's out. And he's coming back.
And that's the set up for this most modern of Westerns, wherein an entire town, much less the sheriff, wait for the coming doom of one angry outlaw ... and his gang of hoods. Their fear and how they react is really what the film comments on, on how any of us handle fear, and then what we manage to do about it, whatever lofty ideals we might profess to uphold.
The Jesus story goes West (asking where we stand insofar as our beliefs go) packs a six gun and waits out alone on main street, alone to face the worst, to face the Devil, to face the future, whatever it brings ...
I love this movie.

Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

At first the character's irrational insistence to stay in the city may be a puzzle for the viewer (and an infuriating contrivance), but soon it reveals a fascinating complexity about him in this superbly edited Western that relies on a visceral performance by Cooper (and his bleeding ulcer).

Carlos Magalh„es

Super Reviewer

In an era of flamboyant and charismatic westerns, High Noon takes a turn in a somewhat darker direction. The film does a remarkable effort to highlight the suspenseful moments before it dwindles down to the climatic showdown. The music and score also plays well to reflect the pride-filled moments. Finally, the film is epitomized by the Oscar-winning performance by the resilient Gary Cooper. High Noon is a new direction in westerns that changed the face of the genre and film in the years ahead. 4/5

Eugene Bernabe
Eugene Bernabe

Super Reviewer

High Noon Quotes

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– Submitted by Jeff B (33 days ago)
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