The Maltese Falcon


The Maltese Falcon

Critics Consensus

Suspenseful, labyrinthine, and brilliantly cast, The Maltese Falcon is one of the most influential noirs -- as well as a showcase for Humphrey Bogart at his finest.



Total Count: 54


Audience Score

User Ratings: 57,743
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Movie Info

After two previous film versions of Dashiell Hammett's detective classic The Maltese Falcon, Warner Bros. finally got it right in 1941--or, rather, John Huston, a long-established screenwriter making his directorial debut, got it right, simply by adhering as closely as possible to the original. Taking over from a recalcitrant George Raft, Humphrey Bogart achieved true stardom as Sam Spade, a hard-boiled San Francisco private eye who can be as unscrupulous as the next guy but also adheres to his own personal code of honor. Into the offices of the Spade & Archer detective agency sweeps a Miss Wonderly (Mary Astor), who offers a large retainer to Sam and his partner Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) if they'll protect her from someone named Floyd Thursby. The detectives believe neither Miss Wonderly nor her story, but they believe her money. Since Archer saw her first, he takes the case -- and later that evening he is shot to death, as is the mysterious Thursby. Miss Wonderly's real name turns out to be Brigid O'Shaughnessey, and, as the story continues, Sam is also introduced to the effeminate Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre) and the fat, erudite Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet, in his film debut). It turns out that Brigid, Cairo and Gutman are all international scoundrels, all involved in the search for a foot-high, jewel-encrusted statuette in the shape of a falcon. Though both Cairo and Gutman offer Spade small fortunes to find the "black bird," they are obviously willing to commit mayhem and murder towards that goal: Gutman, for example, drugs Spade and allows his "gunsel" Wilmer (Elisha Cook Jr.) to kick and beat the unconscious detective. This classic film noir detective yarn gets better with each viewing, which is more than can be said for the first two Maltese Falcons and the ill-advised 1975 "sequel" The Black Bird. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Humphrey Bogart
as Sam Spade
Mary Astor
as Brigid O'Shaughnessy
Peter Lorre
as Joel Cairo
Sydney Greenstreet
as Kasper Gutman
Gladys George
as Iva Archer
Barton MacLane
as Det. Lt. Dundy
Lee Patrick
as Effie Perine
Ward Bond
as Det. Tom Polhaus
Jerome Cowan
as Miles Archer
Walter Huston
as Capt. Jacobi
Murray Alper
as Frank Richman
Emory Parnell
as Mate of the La Paloma
Creighton Hale
as Stenographer
Elisha Cook Jr.
as Wilmer Cook
Charles Drake
as Reporter
Hank Mann
as Reporter
Jack Mower
as Announcer
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Critic Reviews for The Maltese Falcon

All Critics (54) | Top Critics (9)

Audience Reviews for The Maltese Falcon

  • Apr 06, 2016
    Tough and gritty, the film noir classic The Maltese Falcon from 1941 has a fantastic cast, led by Humphrey Bogart in the role of hardboiled detective Sam Spade. A dame played by, whoops, a woman played by Mary Astor shows up in his office looking for a guy, but for reasons she's not being truthful about. A couple of murders later, Bogart comes to understand she and others are searching for a priceless antique, a statue of a falcon (from Malta, naturally). Bogart must navigate the waters between the police, who suspect him, the various tough guys, one of whom is the fantastic Peter Lorrie, and Mary Astor's character, who he's attracted to, but knows he cannot trust. Along the way, he'll blow smoke in a guy's face, take and give punches, and deliver several good lines, my favorites of which were "When I slap you, you'll take it and like it", and of course, the last one, in response to being asked what the falcon statue was, saying it's "the stuff dreams are made of". It's regarded as a classic, but for me it's good-not-great. I think one of the issues is the connection to Astor, I didn't see any real chemistry between the two of them, rendering a couple of the scenes false. It's certainly worth watching though.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Nov 13, 2014
    Great film. Good performance by Bogart -- actually, good performances all around -- along with great direction and lighting, as well as the music. Bogart really fits the detective role here, with an ending that really is hard-hitting. Might grow on me if I see it again -- between a 4 and a 4.5 for me.
    Kyle M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 13, 2014
    It is uneven, and dips in energy mid-way through, however the mystery and well-delivered one-liners make The Maltese Falcon a mostly enjoyable watch.
    Matthew Samuel M Super Reviewer
  • Jun 28, 2014
    Bogart is perfect as an arrogant detective who tries (along with us) to make heads and tails of an extremely intricate and dizzy affair, and the best thing is that it has an incredibly well-constructed plot in which all of the pieces fit in the end leaving no loose ends.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer

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