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Anatomy of a Murder (1959)



Average Rating: 8.6/10
Reviews Counted: 42
Fresh: 42 | Rotten: 0

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.


Average Rating: 8/10
Critic Reviews: 5
Fresh: 5 | Rotten: 0

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.



liked it
Average Rating: 4/5
User Ratings: 11,017

My Rating

Movie Info

Based on the best-selling novel by Robert Traver (the pseudonym for Michigan Supreme Court justice John D. Voelker), Anatomy of a Murder stars James Stewart as seat-of-the-pants Michigan lawyer Paul Biegler. Through the intervention of his alcoholic mentor, Parnell McCarthy (Arthur O'Connell), Biegler accepts the case of one Lt. Manion (Ben Gazzara), an unlovable lout who has murdered a local bar owner. Manion admits that he committed the crime, citing as his motive the victim's rape of the


Drama, Mystery & Suspense, Classics

Jul 11, 2000

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

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All Critics (42) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (42) | Rotten (0) | DVD (14)

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

April 24, 2009 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop 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.

October 23, 2007 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop 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.

October 23, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Coolly absorbing, nonchalantly cynical.

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

It is the best courtroom melodrama this old judge has ever seen.

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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

November 6, 2013 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

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

November 6, 2013 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

(Stewart's character) finishes the film an enigma, possibly the good go-getter of Capra but too much of a shadow.

June 8, 2012 Full Review Source: Film International
Film International

Otto Preminger, no stranger to ruffling moral-watchdog feathers, never succumbs to the sleaziness inherent in the material, instead turning out an intelligent and tightly controlled drama that ranks as one of the all-time great courtroom procedurals.

April 25, 2012 Full Review Source: Creative Loafing
Creative Loafing

Even with the glut of crime-related TV dramas that pepper today's screens, you'd be hard pressed to find a courtroom story that doesn't have you rooting one way or the other with a heavy-handed POV. This one doesn't it's way ahead of its time.

March 9, 2012 Full Review Source:

simultaneously plays by and punctures the expectations of the courtroom thriller

March 1, 2012 Full Review Source: Q Network Film Desk
Q Network Film Desk

As courtroom thrillers go, it has few peers.

February 23, 2012 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

The picture is superbly photographed by Sam Leavitt in black and white, though there's nothing black and white about the movie's morality.

October 23, 2007 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

To me Remick's damaged, dysfunctional presence is the really subversive thing about the picture. And Stewart's grandstanding attorney propels this long film to its final verdict.

October 23, 2007 Full Review Source: Guardian [UK]
Guardian [UK]

From the stylised Saul Bass credit sequence to Preminger's assured direction, this is a thought provoking, superbly acted drama that simply oozes class.

October 23, 2007 Full Review Source: Film4

It's simply the best trial movie ever made.

April 1, 2006 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Otto at the top of his game.

February 22, 2006 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Brilliant from start to finish, this flawless courtroom drama is exquisitely acted by Jimmy Stewart, Lee Remick and Ben Gazarra.

December 2, 2005 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

The screenplay, from a novel by John D. Voelker, drips with the smoke-drenched taste of 1940s noir, stinging the eyes and lungs.

July 31, 2005 Full Review Source: Arizona Daily Star
Arizona Daily Star

Time has blunted much of the film's daringly ironic take on notions of guilt and innocence. Yet it still stands as a telling commentary on 50s America.

April 19, 2005 Full Review Source: BBC | Comment (1)

Packed with astonishing dialog and bristly performances, this is essential cinema.

April 18, 2005 Full Review Source: Shadows on the Wall
Shadows on the Wall

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:
July 23, 2007

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.
March 31, 2014
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Amazing dialog and performances. There's a reason you've seen this ripped off 100000000 times.
The legal procedural drama starts here.
Plus, a Duke Ellington score!
June 9, 2012

Super Reviewer

It's sort of relieving how unpreachy this courtroom drama is. I read that this is one of the best portrayals of a live courtroom case, which if that's the case, I ain't mad.
April 28, 2011

Super Reviewer

    1. Pamell McCarthy: The lieutenant goes to Quill's place and plugs Mr. Quill about five times, which causes Mr. Quill to promptly die of lead poisoning.
    – Submitted by Francis L (20 months ago)
    1. Paul Biegler: I'm just a humble country lawyer trying to do the best I can against this brilliant prosecutor from the big city of Lansing.
    – Submitted by Francis L (20 months ago)
    1. Pamell McCarthy: Gin!... I knew there was something wrong with that guy. I never met a gin drinker yet that you could trust.
    – Submitted by Francis L (20 months ago)
    1. Judge Weaver: One judge is quite like another. The only differences may be in the state of their digestions or their proclivities for sleeping on the bench. For myself, I can digest pig iron. And while I might appear to doze occasionally, you will find that I am easily awakened, particularly if shaken gently by a good lawyer with a nice point of law.
    – Submitted by Francis L (20 months ago)
    1. Paul Biegler: Mr. Paquette, what would you call a man with an insatiable penchant for women?
    2. Alphonse Pacquette: A what?
    3. Paul Biegler: A penchant... a desire... taste... passion?
    4. Alphonse Pacquette: Well, uh, ladies' man, I guess. Or maybe just a damn fool! [laughter in the courtroom]
    5. Judge Weaver: Just answer the questions, Mr. Paquette. The attorneys will provide the wisecracks.
    – Submitted by Francis L (20 months ago)
    1. Paul Biegler: If you do that one more time, I'll punch you all the way out into the middle of Lake Superior!
    – Submitted by Francis L (20 months ago)
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Ben Gazzara: 1930-2012
The accomplished stage, television, and film actor passed away this afternoon in Manhattan, New...

Foreign Titles

  • Autopsie d'un meurtre (FR)
  • Anatomía de un asesinato (ES)
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