Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Affectionately spoofing 1940s film noir and detective dramas, this comedy follows a private investigator's attempts to solve the murder of a scientist. The central gimmick allows the film's modern-day stars to, through clever editing, interact with scenes and characters from actual period thrillers.
Comedy , Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Universal Pictures

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Steve Martin
as Rigby Reardon
Rachel Ward
as Juliet Forrest
Reni Santoni
as Carlos Rodriguez
Carl Reiner
as Field Marshall VonKluck
George Gaynes
as Dr. Forrest
Adrian Ricard
as Mildred
Britt Nilsson
as Poppy Secretary
Jean Beaudine
as Duty Secretary
John Easton Stuart
as German Henchman
Ron Spivey
as German Henchman
Bob Hevelone
as German Henchman
Dieter Curt
as German Henchman
Phil Kearns
as German Henchman
Kent Deigaard
as German Henchman
Eugene Brezany
as German Henchman
Brad Baird
as German Henchman
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Critic Reviews for Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid

All Critics (22)

A parlor trick, but the kind -- an inquiring jester making his way through the ghosts of cinema's past -- that gets Godard at the Moviola to layer Histoire(s) together

Full Review… | September 6, 2009

Hilarious and seamless!

November 1, 2004
7M Pictures

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid is a thoroughly entertaining spoof of Hollywood private eye movies.

Full Review… | February 4, 2004
Spirituality and Practice

Too clever for its own good when it should be worried about being funny.

November 24, 2003
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Mainly for the noir geeks and the Steve Martin fans -- and I'm both.

July 26, 2002

Um filme de uma piada só.

Full Review… | May 31, 2002
Cinema em Cena

Audience Reviews for Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid

An underrated Steve Martin classic, it's a bit much of a concept and surely goofy throughout, but it's wildly entertaining. Steve Martin portrays a gumshoe named Rigby Reardon, a noiresque detective on the case of a murdered man with the help of his daughter Juliet (Ward). Intercut in the fantastical story of Martin's character are scenes from classic mystery and noir films. Rigby himself has a very oddball approach to these characters, and there are several stand in body doubles to take on the backside persona of such greats as Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, Burt Lancaster, and Veronica Lake. The writing for Martin's character into these elemental scenes is nothing short of positively goofy, but the tone is correct, the ambiance if you will. The language is the best part because though the noir metaphors are in the same category as everything else, it's all odd and willfully cool. My favorite idea was making the famous Philip Marlowe of the Raymond Chandler books and several films (played by Humphrey Bogart) into his willful stooge and incompetent hired hand; Watson to his Holmes. The first clip throws you off at first but eventually the change in sound, the obvious body doubles, and the funny give and take between the different films; it really is a guilty pleasure kind of experience. Though it's not an obvious winner and surely takes liberties, this film is a lot of fun in seeing the different icons on the screen as well as watching the ludicrous plot unfold one piece at a time.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer


This may be my favorite Steve Martin movie and one of my favorites ever. I consider it one of the funniest, most inventive films ever and years ahead of its time. As most of you know, this is a send-up or spoof of film noir detective movies interlacing live action with film clips. This is Forrest Gump meets Chinatown, sort of. The plot involves the mysterious death of a scientist and cheesemaker and subsequent investigation by Rigby Reardon (Martin) and his beautiful daughter (Ward). The story's actually only a setup for the brilliant and hilarious combination of movie clips and new footage. Director and co-writer Carl Reiner worked with Steve Martin in The Jerk, and if you're a fan of that film, you'll love this one too. Gorgeous Rachel Ward is the bombshell here who plays it straight. She has great comedic timing. The films used for footage here include many of the greatest of the 1940s, including: Double Indemnity, The Big Sleep, Sorry Wrong Number, and The Postman Always Rings Twice. Humphrey Bogart (as Rigby's partner) plays a larger role than the other noir-era actors. Probably my favorite blended scene combines Martin (and a puppy) with Jimmie Sue Alfeld's father (Edward Arnold), "It's all soft and steamy" will leave you rolling in the aisle. I can't get enough of the film noir era and its style, so "Dead Men" has enticed me to see many of the classic films that contributed clips here. Further stunting my development, I cannot hear the term "cleaning woman" without laughing. This was the last film for Oscar-winning designer Edith Head and composer Miklos Rozsa. Sorry, Terre Haute, IN.

Clintus Maximus
Clintus Maximus

Super Reviewer

This film noir spoof takes footage from the old movies and mixes them with scenes of Steve Martin as a detective. It's very interesting to watch, and very funny too.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer

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