The Birds (1963) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Birds (1963)

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Critic Consensus: Proving once again that build-up is the key to suspense, Alfred Hitchcock successfully turned birds into some of the most terrifying villains in horror history.

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The story begins as an innocuous romantic triangle involving wealthy, spoiled Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), handsome Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor), and schoolteacher Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette). The human story begins in a San Francisco pet shop and culminates at the home of Mitch's mother (Jessica Tandy) at Bodega Bay, where the characters' sense of security is slowly eroded by the curious behavior of the birds in the area. At first, it's no more than a sea gull swooping down and pecking at Melanie's head. Things take a truly ugly turn when hundreds of birds converge on a children's party. There is never an explanation as to why the birds have run amok, but once the onslaught begins, there's virtually no letup. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Cast

Rod Taylor
as Mitch Brenner
Tippi Hedren
as Melanie Daniels
Suzanne Pleshette
as Annie Hayworth
Jessica Tandy
as Lydia Brenner
Veronica Cartwright
as Cathy Brenner
Ethel Griffies
as Mrs. Bundy
Ruth McDevitt
as Mrs. MacGruder
Charles McGraw
as Sebastian Sholes
Joe Mantell
as Salesman
Doodles Weaver
as Fisherman
Alfred Hitchcock
as Man in Front of Pet Shop with White Poodles
John McGovern
as Postal Clerk
Richard Deacon
as Man in Elevator
Doreen Lang
as Mother in Cafe
Bill Quinn
as Farm Hand
Suzanne Cupito
as Schoolchild
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News & Interviews for The Birds

Critic Reviews for The Birds

All Critics (51) | Top Critics (8)

Drawing from the relatively invisible literary talents of Daphne DuMaurier and Evan Hunter, Alfred Hitchcock has fashioned a major work of cinematic art, and "cinematic" is the operative term here, not "literary" or "sociological."

Full Review… | January 18, 2013
Village Voice
Top Critic

Few films depict so eerily yet so meticulously the metaphysical and historical sense of a world out of joint.

Full Review… | October 9, 2012
New Yorker
Top Critic

Hitch's much misappreciated follow-up to Psycho is arguably the greatest of all disaster films -- a triumph of special effects, as well as the fountainhead of what has become known as gross-out horror.

Full Review… | October 9, 2012
Village Voice
Top Critic

The movie flaps to a plotless end.

Full Review… | October 7, 2008
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Beneath all of this elaborate feather bedlam lies a Hitch cock-and-bull story that's essentially a fowl ball.

Full Review… | September 21, 2007
Variety
Top Critic

Alfred Hitchcock's most abstract film (1963), and perhaps his subtlest, still yielding new meanings and inflections after a dozen or more viewings.

Full Review… | September 21, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Birds

½

Inexplicably, birds begin attacking the town of Bogeda Bay, interrupting a burgeoning love affair between a socialite and a lawyer. These birds are as natural, inexplicable and inevitable as death itself.

Greg S
Greg S

Super Reviewer

In an isolated California town, birds mysteriously begin attacking people. It's often said that a Hitchcock film has two plots: in the beginning there is an innocuous plot, but then something unexpected happens that overtakes the film. For example, Psycho is about a woman stealing money from her employer until Norman Bates appears thirty minutes later. Notorious is about a love story between Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman until it becomes a spy flick about thirty minutes later. The Birds follows this formula, but the problem is that the initial story is so damn boring. The love story between Mitch and Melanie gathers no steam, and the Breaking Bad credits have more chemistry than Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren. Once the birds start pecking away at people's eyes, I had already given up on caring about these characters. Also, the film refuses to answer why the birds go nuts, and while I don't think it's necessary that the film answer this question, the film's steadfast apathy for wherefores got overbearing when a character asked why for the fourth or fifth time. What I can say about the film is that Hitch's work changes the way people look at the world. The Birds is not a strong film, but I did notice myself paying closer attention to birds as I drove to work. It's irrational but also the mark of director who can affect his audience in mysterious ways.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

Hitchcock's The Birds, like millions before me have said and witnessed themselves, absolutely manages to turn birds into frightening monsters of terror. Hitchcock manages to build tension slowly until the build-up almost becomes unbearable and then all hell breaks loose. Obviously the special effects are dated and a little laughable at times, but nonetheless they get the point across and were much better for their time. The actors do a good job of character building during the slower first half where we get to know all of the characters. In true disaster movie fashion, the characters aren't the smartest and their circumstances for being in the wrong place at the wrong time aren't exactly the best, but Hitchcock keeps enough under wraps that you don't question their bond by the end. The film is a little long and slow in spots, but they are worth sitting through for the pay-off. Like most Hitchcock films, The Birds makes you think and lingers in your mind long after the credits roll. It's not his best film, but it's a darn good one.

Josh Lewis
Josh Lewis

Super Reviewer

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