Chinatown (1974)



Critic Consensus: As bruised and cynical as the decade that produced it, this noir classic benefits from Robert Towne's brilliant screenplay, director Roman Polanski's steady hand, and wonderful performances from Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway.

Movie Info

A private detective, Jake Gittes, hired to investigate an adultery case, stumbles on the plot of a murder involving incest and the privatization of water through state and municipal corruption, land use and real estate. If he doesn't drop the case at once he faces threats of legal action, but he pursues it anyway, slowly uncovering a vast conspiracy.

Rating: R
Genre: Drama, Mystery & Suspense, Classics
Directed By: ,
Written By: Robert Towne
In Theaters:
On DVD: Nov 23, 1999
Paramount Pictures


as J.J. Gittes

as Evelyn Mulwray

as Noah Cross

as Escobar

as Ida Sessions

as Yelburton

as Man with Knife

as Hollis Mulwray

as Mulvihill

as Walsh

as Evelyn's Butler

as Katherine

as Mayor Bagby

as Councilman

as Irate Farmer

as Farmer in the Valley

as Customer

as Mulwray's Secretary

as Mortician

as Boy on Horseback

as Cross's Butler

as Curly's Wife

as Mr. Palmer

as Emma Dill

as Policeman

as Policeman

as Policeman

as Farmers in the Valle...

as Farmers in the Valle...

as Farmers in the Valle...

as Farmers in the Valle...

as Man With Knife
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Chinatown

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Critic Reviews for Chinatown

All Critics (61) | Top Critics (8)

As much as I admire the work of both Polanski and Nicholson, I found Chinatown tedious from beginning to just before the end.

Full Review… | January 18, 2013
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

Roman Polanski's American made film, first since Rosemary's Baby shows him again in total command of talent and physical filmmaking elements.

Full Review… | March 27, 2009
Top Critic

Polanski's film suggests that the rules of the game are written in some strange, untranslatable language, and that everyone's an alien and, ultimately, a victim.

Full Review… | March 27, 2009
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Chinatown is deliciously, intolerably cruel as it toys with us.

Full Review… | February 4, 2014
Movie Mezzanine

This film is flawless.

Full Review… | January 5, 2013
Observer [UK]

Polanski's telling of his tale of corruption in LA is masterly - thrilling, humorous and disturbing at the same time - and brilliantly played by John Huston and Faye Dunaway as well as Nicholson.

Full Review… | January 4, 2013
This is London

Audience Reviews for Chinatown

An excellent, classic film that is suspenseful, well-filmed, and features enjoyable twists and turns. Jack Nicholson is terrific--as usual.

Matthew Samuel Mirliani
Matthew Samuel Mirliani

Super Reviewer


Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer

One of the best late century detective noirs, Roman Polanski helms a stunning vehicle for star Jack Nicholson while weaving a web of intrigue, murder, and calculated conspiracy as only he can do. What remains gripping about this period thriller after so many years has to be the precision in setting, being that Los Angeles was a lovelorn subject of author Raymond Chandler, and the time period expresses the moving innovation of technology and clash with worldwide politics. Los Angeles is itself a character in this film, though I hate to use that expression. The premise is subverted from what noirs generally look to, making lead character P.I. Jake Gittes confused and feeling taken advantage of in the beginning, when most P.I.s are the narrators and the ones in charge. Instead of finding corruption in most cases Gittes is most often called upon in marital disputes, and therefore he seems a pawn in the conspiracy. He finds this to be wanting, and handles the case himself, which leads to him uncovering lies about a new dam going up, and eventually it leads back to his employer, a widow who wants to get to the bottom of the case as badly as he does. Jack Nicholson is the most subdued I've ever seen onscreen, and yet has a quiet, animalistic sexuality about him that makes him both piteous and strong at the same time. The conspiracy itself is beyond tangled and complex, which makes it even better to watch Gittes unravel it one interview after another. Faye Dunaway always seems so tepid in large roles, but here, a ray of personality shines though, and between her precise acting and doll-like features she captures the role and wrestles it to the ground. Polanski simply shoots a timeless film with serious implications: not living up to your potential, corruption in public works leading to a lost generation, incest, and villainy of an unnamed sort. This is one of the best films of all time, and it raises more questions than even an investigation should.

Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

Chinatown Quotes

– Submitted by Matthew B (5 months ago)
– Submitted by George P (21 months ago)
– Submitted by Jesse K (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Sree L (2 years ago)

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