Anatomy of a Murder (1959) - Rotten Tomatoes

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)



Critic Consensus: One of cinema's greatest courtroom dramas, Anatomy of a Murder is tense, thought-provoking, and brilliantly acted, with great performances from James Stewart and George C. Scott.

Anatomy of a Murder Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

This is a film noir classic about a murder trial and the ensuing courtroom drama. An army lieutenant (Ben Gazzara) is accused of murdering a bartender who allegedly had beaten and raped his wife (Lee Remick). The wife is portrayed as a promiscuous tramp by the prosecutor (George C. Scott). The defendant is represented by prosecutor turned defense attorney Paul Biegler (Jimmy Stewart), and helped by a hard drinking veteran lawyer Parnell McCarthy (Arthur O'Connell). The opposing sides lock horns in a taut courtroom battle in which the defense seems to be hampered by the fact neither the defendant or his wife are likeable characters. Filmed on location in the upper peninsula of Michigan, Anatomy of a Murder stirred much controversy at the time with the frank and graphic language used to describe sexual situations and rape. The music is by Duke Ellington, who has a small role as Pie-Eye the piano player. Produced and directed by Otto Preminger, the film was released just three weeks after filming was completed.more
Rating: G
Genre: Drama, Mystery & Suspense, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Wendell Mayes
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jul 11, 2000
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment


James Stewart
as Paul Biegler
Lee Remick
as Laura Manion
Ben Gazzara
as Lt. Frederick Manion
Arthur O'Connell
as Parnell McCarthy
Eve Arden
as Maida
Kathryn Grant
as Mary Pilant
Joseph N. Welch
as Judge Weaver
Douglas Brooks West
as Mitch Lodwick
George C. Scott
as Claude Dancer
Murray Hamilton
as Alphonse Paquette
Orson Bean
as Dr. Smith
Alexander Campbell
as Dr. Harcourt
Joseph Kearns
as Mr. Burke
Russ Brown
as Mr. Lemon
Howard McNear
as Dr. Dompierre
Ned Wever
as Dr. Raschid
Jimmy Conlin
as Madigan
Ken Lynch
as Sgt. Durgo
Don Ross
as Duane Miller
Lloyd Le Vasseur
as Court Clerk
Royal Beal
as Sheriff Battisfore
James Waters
as Army Sergeant
Irving Kupcinet
as Distinguished Gentle...
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Anatomy of a Murder

Critic Reviews for Anatomy of a Murder

All Critics (42) | Top Critics (5)

At 160 minutes, Anatomy is longer than the subject warrants, but the pace seldom slackens -- thanks to the competence of Director Otto Preminger.

Full Review… | April 24, 2009
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Preminger purposely creates situations that flicker with uncertainty, that may be evaluated in different ways. Motives are mixed and dubious, and, therefore, sustain interest.

Full Review… | October 23, 2007
Top Critic

As an entertaining look at legal process, this is spellbinding all the way, infused by an ambiguity about human personality and motivation that is Preminger's trademark, and the location shooting is superb.

Full Review… | October 23, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Coolly absorbing, nonchalantly cynical.

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

Otto Preminger's cynical view of the judicial system is curiously contemporary and still serves as a blueprint for numerous TV 'tec shows.

Full Review… | November 6, 2013
Total Film

This is probably the greatest courtroom drama ever made and it features James Stewart's finest screen performance.

Full Review… | November 6, 2013
Radio Times

Audience Reviews for Anatomy of a Murder

I generally loathe courtroom dramas - (so tired!) - but this is a real good one.

Terrific use of locations and location sound.

One of the goofiest trailers I've ever seen:

Bob Stinson

Super Reviewer


With a fantastic cinematography and superb direction, this superlative courtroom procedural unfolds in an unhurried fashion, daring to make outspoken use of sexual terminology (something unthinkable at the time it was made) and presenting a brilliantly complex script centered on a fiery, breathtaking rhetorical combat of the highest quality.

Carlos Magalh„es

Super Reviewer

Though this adaptation of a best-selling novel may not seem like it now, it was quite a groundbreaking big deal when it came out.

The story, a stirring courtroom drama, follows an alcoholic, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants small town lawyer (Jimmy Stewart going against type), defending a man who openly admits to murdering someone, but only because said individual raped his wife, who, admittedly, is kinda a floozy. Stewart's character understandably has a lot going against him, and that's not including the fact that the prosecution is made up of some slick, hard-cased big city guys led by George C. Scott.

Like I said, this was a big deal at the time, mostly due to the subject matter, and how director Otto Preminger dealt with it. He did a great job of dealing with stuff that, until then, hadn't really been covered in cinema. Yeah, like I said, some of the impact has diminished, but that doesn't take away from the fact that it's still a powerful and engaging piece of work.

The opening titles by Saul Bass are the stuff of legend, the score by Duke Ellington is a jazz classic, and the performances, as one may expect, are quite good. I mean, there's Stewart, Scott, and Lee Remick as the floozy wife, all of whom are quite great. Oh yeah, and Ben Gazzara as the man on trial.

This one kinda set the standard for a lot of courtroom dramas to come, and it is quite realistic, accurate, and does a fine job of trying to show things in a pretty down to Earth way.

So yeah, I dig the film a lot, but I'll admit that the running time could be cut down a bit, and some of the pacing trimmed as well. It's quite engaging, but once in a while it gets slightly boring, but not enough to really derail things. While I don't feel like a lot of people do, I still think this is a fine film worth seeing, even if I don't regard it as a masterpiece like a lot of others do.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Anatomy of a Murder Quotes

– Submitted by Francis L (3 years ago)
– Submitted by Francis L (3 years ago)
– Submitted by Francis L (3 years ago)
– Submitted by Francis L (3 years ago)

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