The Ladykillers

1955

The Ladykillers

Critics Consensus

The Ladykillers is a macabre slow-burn with quirky performances of even quirkier characters.

100%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 23

87%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 10,510
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The Ladykillers Photos

Movie Info

Music professor Alec Guinness rents a London flat from sweet old lady Katie Johnson. He tells her that, from time to time, several other musicians will visit in order to rehearse. In truth, Guinness can't play a note, nor can his visitors: he's a criminal mastermind, holding court over a gang of thieves, including the likes of punkish Peter Sellers, homicidal Herbert Lom and punchdrunk Danny Green. The gang uses Guinness' flat as headquarters as they conceive a daring 60,000 pound robbery. After pulling off the job, the gang stuffs the loot in a railway station locker. To avoid detection, Guinness convinces the ever-trusting Johnson to pick up the money. Through a series of comic complications, Johnson returns home with a police escort, with neither the woman nor the bobbies suspecting that she's carrying a fortune in her suitcase. Mistakenly believing that Johnson has ratted on them, the gang reluctantly plans to eliminate her. The Ladykillers won an Oscar nomination for William Rose's screenplay, and a BFA award for veteran character actress Johnson. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Cast

Katie Johnson
as Mrs. Louisa Alexandra Wilberforce
Alec Guinness
as Prof. Marcus
Peter Sellers
as Harry Robinson
Cecil Parker
as Maj. Courteney
Danny Green
as One-Round
Edie Martin
as Lettice
Jack Melford
as Detective
Helen Burls
as Hypatia
Ewan Roberts
as Constable
Herbert Lom
as Louis Harvey
Jack Warner
as Police Superintendent
Philip Stainton
as Police Sergeant
Frankie Howerd
as Barrow Boy
Fred Griffiths
as The Junkman
Kenneth Connor
as The Cab Driver
Phoebe Hodgson
as 4th Guest
Harold Goodwin
as Parcels Clerk
Leonard Sharp
as Pavement Artist
Stratford Johns
as Security Guard
Sam Kydd
as Second Cab Driver (uncredited)
Evelyn Kerry
as Amelia (uncredited)
Neil Wilson
as Policeman (uncredited)
Michael Corcoran
as Burglar (uncredited)
Robert Moore
as Constable (uncredited)
John Rudling
as Nervous Man (uncredited)
Madge Brindley
as Large Lady (uncredited)
Lucy Griffiths (II)
as Miss Pringle (uncredited)
George Roderick
as Radio Car Policeman (uncredited)
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Critic Reviews for The Ladykillers

All Critics (23) | Top Critics (2)

Audience Reviews for The Ladykillers

  • Aug 25, 2011
    Fantastic film. Not really sure why the Coens would want to remake this, it holds up absolutely beautifully. Alec Guinness is brilliant as the leader of the bank robbers. Also a great supporting cast, including Peter Selllers, Some wonderful color cinematography (Gunness's first close up looks incredible). Great comedy!
    Grifty G Super Reviewer
  • Nov 19, 2010
    7.0/10 I was never one for goofy comedies. Not even classic goofy comedies. Screwball humor just does not cut it for me at the best of times. So why did I enjoy "The Ladykillers" as I did? Was it really "goofy" enough? Was it a screwball comedy at all? It may as well be. But I could find entertainment in it nevertheless. More-so a dark comedy than an all-out goofy one, "The Ladykillers" is a smartly written crime-comedy. I do not think it is a masterpiece, but it could be called a minor cinematic classic. It does not, in fact, throw the word "art" out of the picture. To its credit, "The Ladykillers" has darkly humorous moments and features a strong cast, as well as a good soundtrack and a great premise. What it lacks is true perfection and the ability to truly compel me, although in ways I don't think it was meant to do achieve either. It throws a good deal of ideas into the mix and creates an entertaining, be it frustrating movie. I can indeed recommend it to a good selection of film buffs due to its lack of graphic-violence and lack of truly risqué humor. This is indeed a true comedy-thriller; suspenseful and appropriately funny. They just don't make them like this anymore, do they? No, I suppose they do not, and for good reason. People don't like these kinds of movies anymore, after all. I know that I personally would like it, but what the hell. I'm not everybody. And I'm certainly not the majority. There are those who will love it; and then there are those who will simply like it. But most will end up enjoying it either way. It's a good deal of fun for the most part, although it doesn't go without its moments of blandness. But do most films do that to begin with? Most films outside of cinematic achievement territory should by all means carry the clichés they were made with. "The Ladykillers" was born with plenty faults, but many gifts too. In that sense, I will not prevent you from watching it. I will not prevent you from watching it at all. It is a good movie, but not a great one. In the end, I did however feel satisfied, despite the extremely high praise which it didn't quite live up to (in my opinion). But then again, you can't always get what you want when it comes to minor classics, now can you? A team of gangsters decide to plan a heist in the custody of an elderly woman. To get in, they tell her that they are musicians. The naïve old woman believes them and allows them to stay without much persuasion, although things don't go as planned. The old lady continues to annoy the visitors, causing them to want to dispose of her at once. Their desire is deepened further when the woman discovers their plans. Then they must hatch a plan to kill the mistress, although none of them truly want to do it. This causes the gangsters to go about killing each-other as each one begins to double-cross the other; all while the sweet old lady is catching some good-earned sleep. The final outcome is extremely predictable and sort of unsatisfying, given that it feels a bit like a cop-out. Nevertheless, the experience is flamboyantly goofy and pleasant to watch throughout. It's nothing much more than average, but the screenplay is better written than the story itself. The premise promises something really awesome will happen, although it just doesn't happen in the end. I would have liked to see the gangsters kill the old woman in some cruel, strange way. After all, it would have been a slightly better film if it had been for that. But who am I to say anything, "The Ladykillers" still remains some pretty funny stuff. By funny, I of course mean darkly funny; meaning that this movie is not for everyone. But...I would recommend it to any real film buff, because chances are they will like it more than I did. Joy! Alec Guinness is wonderful as the first member of the gangster squad to appear. He is both quirky and joyously goofy, producing some of his finest work. Peter Sellers is as wonderful (and funny) as always, Cecil Parker is pretty good, Herbert Lom is wonderful, and Danny Green is endearing and likable as a clear stereotype. I mainly praise the performance of Katie Johnson, who plays the old woman who the gangsters are planning to murder. Johnson has the innocence of an old lady, but the unassuming, cunning ways of a warrior. In other words, she is very interesting and entertaining to watch. Overall, the cast is well balanced and very, very British. Well done. There are moments in "The Ladykillers" that were funny, and then there were moments where the movie was not funny at all. When it's funny, it's quite funny; and when it's not funny, it's just not funny. There are of course classic, priceless moments of comedic relief; most of which stand as strong highlights for the film itself. The other highlights include the scenes of true darkness, and then the scenes of true artistry. The camera work is good for the most part, although it never reaches anything along the lines of "extraordinary". What it does achieve is solidity. The soundtrack was another highlight for me personally. The score was effective throughout, building a strong atmosphere. The film also featured solid suspense at some moments, although I find it difficult to take it as seriously as it wants me to take it. This is a silly, goofy movie, and it wants to be elsewhere sometimes, as it seems. However, it is still a minor classic. Through all its flaws, I still saw it as a good film. It is, in fact, funnier than a lot of comedies, even from its time. It's not the funniest of "classic" comedies or dark comedies, but it's up there on the "good" list. And it's high up too. So at least it achieves something. I will not deny a film that is intelligent; I will not forget a film that is good. This particular film may not be as magnificent as some think it is, but you either love it or you don't. I certainly liked it, and with so much charm, who the hell could hate it? I mean look at it: it's so endearing! With good acting and certain artistic qualities to make it good enough to watch, this is a solid, minor classic in 50's cinema. I've seen better of course, but then again I have seen worse. Take it as you will, please. I will not prevent you from seeing it, and I will not necessarily recommend it. I guess it all depends on who you are as a movie-goer; somebody who is able to accept goofiness for what it is. If you can manage to do that, then a film like "The Ladykillers" is worth a spin. I myself was not a big fan, and am still not a big fan, of goofy slapstick. Yet here we are; gazing at a winning comedy. It may be flawed, but look on the bright side: at least it's still art.
    Ryan M Super Reviewer
  • Sep 05, 2010
    A hilarious story, I loved it.
    Aj V Super Reviewer
  • Jun 13, 2010
    Absolutely terrific. Funny and charming. I love this movie.
    Tim S Super Reviewer

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