Chinatown (1974) - Rotten Tomatoes

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.

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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.
Classics , Drama , Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Paramount Pictures

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Jack Nicholson
as J.J. Gittes
Faye Dunaway
as Evelyn Mulwray
John Huston
as Noah Cross
Perry Lopez
as Escobar
Diane Ladd
as Ida Sessions
John Hillerman
as Yelburton
Roman Polanski
as Man With Knife
Darrell Zwerling
as Hollis Mulwray
Roy Jenson
as Mulvihill
Joe Mantell
as Walsh
Nandu Hinds
as Sophie
James O'Rear
as Lawyer
James Hong
as Evelyn's Butler
Beulah Quo
as Maid
Jerry Fujikawa
as Gardener
Belinda Palmer
as Katherine
Roy Roberts
as Mayor Bagby
Noble Willingham
as Councilman
Elliott Montgomery
as Councilman
Rance Howard
as Irate Farmer
George Justin
as Barber
Jim Burk
as Farmer in the Valley
Doc Erickson
as Customer
Fritzi Burr
as Mulwray's Secretary
Charles Knapp
as Mortician
Claudio Martinez
as Boy on Horseback
Frederico Roberto
as Cross's Butler
Burt Young
as Curly
Elizabeth Harding
as Curly's Wife
John Rogers
as Mr. Palmer
Cecil Elliott
as Emma Dill
Paul Jenkins
as Policeman
James O'Reare
as Lawyer
Lee de Broux
as Policeman
Bob Golden
as Policeman
John Holland
as Farmers in the Valley
Jesse Vint
as Farmers in the Valley
Jim Burke
as Farmers in the Valley
Denny Arnold
as Farmers in the Valley
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News & Interviews for Chinatown

Critic Reviews for Chinatown

All Critics (62) | 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

The hard-boiled private eye coolly strolls a few steps ahead of the audience.

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

In 1974 a director, a screenwriter, and a producer (Robert Evans, who for once deserves a few of the plaudits he's apportioned himself) could decide to beat a genre senseless and then dump it in the wilds of Greek tragedy.

Full Review… | August 5, 2003
Village Voice
Top Critic

A new private-eye melodrama that celebrates not only a time and a place (Los Angeles) but also a kind of criminality that to us jaded souls today appears to be nothing worse than an eccentric form of legitimate private enterprise.

May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

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.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

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