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Sweet Smell of Success (1957)



Average Rating: 8.8/10
Reviews Counted: 46
Fresh: 45 | Rotten: 1

Sweet Smell of Success boasts a top-notch cast, sharp direction, atmospheric cinematography, and an appropriately jazzy score, making it one of the best noir crime thrillers ever made.


Average Rating: 8.3/10
Critic Reviews: 9
Fresh: 9 | Rotten: 0

Sweet Smell of Success boasts a top-notch cast, sharp direction, atmospheric cinematography, and an appropriately jazzy score, making it one of the best noir crime thrillers ever made.



liked it
Average Rating: 4.1/5
User Ratings: 6,418


My Rating

Movie Info

J.J. Hunsecker, a powerful New York newspaper columnist, is dead set against his sister's marrying a jazz musician. Sidney Falco, a sleazy PR man, will do anything to get publicity for his clients, and he sees Hunsecker's situation as an opportunity to win the writer's favor. So, he sets out to break up the affair anyway he can.


Drama, Classics

Clifford Odets, Ernest Lehman

Jun 19, 2001

United Artists

Watch It Now


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All Critics (46) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (45) | Rotten (1) | DVD (11)

Sweet Smell, which could have been offal, is raised to considerable dramatic heights by intense acting, taut direction (by Alexander Mackendrick), [and] superb camera work (by James Wong Howe).

April 21, 2009 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Mackendrick's nighthawk landscape is compellingly, poetically bleak.

April 21, 2009 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

James Hill's production, locationed in Manhattan, captures the feel of Broadway and environs after dark.

July 22, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The screen was rarely so dark or cruel.

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

A lean, mean amorality tale that still goes down like a cookie laced with arsenic.

May 16, 2002 Full Review Source: Dallas Morning News
Dallas Morning News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The main incentive to see this movie is its witty, pungent and idiomatic dialogue, such as you never hear on the screen anymore in this age of special-effects illiteracy.

April 18, 2002 Full Review Source: New York Observer
New York Observer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

[VIDEO ESSAY] Here lies the defective foundation of the American Dream as viewed from an implicitly American viewpoint - Bert Lancaster's company produced the film.

December 2, 2013 Full Review Source:

A meandering drama about the lure of success and the ignominious aggression of defeat.

August 15, 2011 Full Review Source: Cinema Sight
Cinema Sight

It all begins with the title. The irony aside, its lightness and alliteration suggest the last breaths of one of the film's victims.

March 7, 2011 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

... one of the most lacerating and vicious visions of the predatory urban world in the American cinema...

February 26, 2011 Full Review Source: Parallax View
Parallax View

A masterpiece.

April 21, 2009 Full Review Source: Film4

The film is a masterpiece, intelligent Hollywood cinema at its best.

April 21, 2009 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

Masterful direction and cinematography are shown off in this restored version, with Bernstein's apt jazzy score nailing all the right notes.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

Engaging, at times vicious drama w/Lancaster as acidic gossip monger, Curtis fine as wimpy sidekick.

February 23, 2008

With some of the sharpest dialogue ever cut in Hollywood, only on the most superficial level is this a movie about gossip and publicity. We're talking show business. We're talking America. We're talking cast-iron classic.

December 30, 2006 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

A cruelly cynical take on the seamy side of New York City's swinging nightclub life.

February 11, 2005 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

It's about hype and, although it was made decades before the word was coined, it still has eye-opening things to convey about the slippery business of celebrity journalism. Such is the value of first-hand experience.

September 20, 2003 Full Review Source: Sydney Morning Herald
Sydney Morning Herald

Sizzling dialogue, incendiary performances.

August 7, 2003
Movie Mom at Yahoo! Movies

Excellent drama containing one of Tony Curtis' greatest performances.

February 21, 2003

A true classic. Lancaster at top form, Curtis is great as his toady. A cynical masterpiece.

December 17, 2002
Journal and Courier (Lafayette, IN)

Lancaster is monumental.

December 16, 2002 Full Review Source: Goatdog's Movies
Goatdog's Movies

An ambitious and self serving group bent on their own self survival make for a crisp script. Lancaster at his larger than life best... A classic.

December 1, 2002
Martha's Vineyard Times (Massachusetts)

Audience Reviews for Sweet Smell of Success

A double-barrelled shotgun in the face of celebrity press and American societal values itself, the film snaps, crackles, and pops with its depiction of a Broadway publicist's crawl to the top and what he does to get there. Curtis and Lancaster make Darth Vader and Hannibal Lector seem like Disney friends.
May 21, 2013

Super Reviewer

About as hard edged as a movie can be. As a look at a group of venal people it can't be beat but this is a very loathsome group so spending any time with them could never be described as a pleasant experience. Burt and Tony both give outstanding performances, the whole cast is very fine, but the wonderful Barbara Nichols stands out in her brief scenes as a sad sweet girl who has been treated badly by life, one of the few people in the picture who engenders any sympathy.
August 10, 2011
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

This pitch black hearted noir was something of a flop on its release, and it's not difficult to see why. Not through lack of quality, but rather the fact that its unrelenting cynicism and bleak outlook is certainly not for the faint hearted. Tony Curtis turns in easily his best performance as Sidney Falco, an obsequious press agent who is perfectly willing to sell his soul to get on top, and Burt Lancaster is similarly superb, brilliantly cast against type as a cold-hearted tyrant (even describing an attack on his character as an attack on his country, the cry of despots throughout the ages) who controls all around him through contemptible manipulation. The core of the film is the creepily ambiguous relationship between he and his sister; at one point he refers to her "apron strings", an allusion to motherhood, but he also keeps a portrait on his desk as one would a spouse or lover... It is unusual in that instead of fists and bullets, all the damage is done through words and insinuations; the razor sharp dialogue is amongst the best ever written for the screen, and the magnificent photography represents the city streets as blackly as the protagonists' hearts. The package is completed by a soundtrack of fantastic contemporary jazz and the overall result is one of the pinnacles of film noir.
July 26, 2011
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

    1. Otis Elwell: Like the rest of the human race, I'm bored.
    – Submitted by John L (16 months ago)
    1. Otis Elwell: Consternation reigns.
    – Submitted by John L (16 months ago)
    1. Susan Hunsecker: 10 cents of American tell and tell.
    – Submitted by John L (16 months ago)
    1. Sidney Falco: From now on the best of everything is good enough for me.
    – Submitted by John L (16 months ago)
    1. J.J. Hunsecker: I'd hate to take a bite out of you.You're like a cookie full of arsenic.
    – Submitted by John L (16 months ago)
    1. Sidney Falco: The cat's in the bag and the bag's in the river.
    – Submitted by John L (19 months ago)
View all quotes (10)

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