Double Indemnity (1944) - Rotten Tomatoes

Double Indemnity (1944)



Critic Consensus: A dark, tautly constructed adaptation of James M. Cain's novel -- penned by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler -- Double Indemnity continues to set the standard for the best in Hollywood film noir.

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Directed by Billy Wilder and adapted from a James M. Cain novel by Wilder and Raymond Chandler, Double Indemnity represents the high-water mark of 1940s film noir urban crime dramas in which a greedy, weak man is seduced and trapped by a cold, evil woman amidst the dark shadows and Expressionist lighting of modern cities. Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) seduces insurance agent Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) into murdering her husband to collect his accident policy. The murder goes as planned, but after the couple's passion cools, each becomes suspicious of the other's motives. The plan is further complicated when Neff's boss Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson), a brilliant insurance investigator, takes over the investigation. Told in flashbacks from Neff's perspective, the film moves with ruthless determinism as each character meets what seems to be a preordained fate. Movie veterans Stanwyck, MacMurray, and Robinson give some of their best performances, and Wilder's cynical sensibility finds a perfect match in the story's unsentimental perspective, heightened by John Seitz's hard-edged cinematography. Double Indemnity ranks with the classics of mainstream Hollywood movie-making. ~ Linda Rasmussen, Rovi

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Barbara Stanwyck
as Phyllis Dietrichson
Porter Hall
as Mr. Jackson
Tom Powers
as Mr. Dietrichson
Richard Gaines
as Mr. Norton
Gig Young
as Nino Zachette
Al Bridge
as Execution Chamber Guard
Bess Flowers
as Norton's Secretary
Oscar Smith
as Pullman Porter
Sam Gorlopis
as Fortunio Bonanova
Betty Farrington
as Nettie, the Maid
Edmund Cobb
as Train Conductor
Floyd Schackleford
as Pullman Porter
James Adamson
as Pullman Porter
Teala Loring
as Pacific All-Risk Telephone Operator (uncredited)
Sam McDaniel
as Garage Attendant
Judith Gibson
as Pacific All-Risk Telephone Operator
Clarence Muse
as Black Man
Miriam Franklin
as Keyes' Secretary
Edward Hearn
as Warden's Secretary
Lee Shumway
as Door Guard
Boyd Irwin
as First Doctor
Dick Rush
as Pullman Conductor
George Melford
as Second Doctor
Alan Bridge
as Execution Chamber Guard
Floyd Shackelford
as Pullman Porter
George Magrill
as Man (uncredited)
Douglas Spencer
as Lou Schwartz
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Critic Reviews for Double Indemnity

All Critics (54) | Top Critics (8)

This expert night of the Hollywood soul is such a genre axiom it practically scans like a mid-'40s shopper's catalogue for noiristes ...

July 29, 2014 | Full Review…
Village Voice
Top Critic

Double Indemnity is the season's nattiest, nastiest, most satisfying melodrama.

March 7, 2014 | Full Review…
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Wilder trades Cain's sun-rot imagery for conventional film noir stylings, but the atmosphere of sexual entrapment survives.

February 11, 2008 | Full Review…
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

MacMurray has seldom given a better performance. It is somewhat different from his usually light roles, but is always plausible and played with considerable restraint.

August 14, 2007 | Full Review…
Top Critic

The film is a brilliant collision of evil and the mundane, and one of the reasons viewers respond to it so well is that it makes the mundane seem a little sexier in the resulting debris.

September 23, 2006
Hollywood Reporter
Top Critic

This is the gold standard of '40s noir, straight down the line.

January 26, 2006 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Double Indemnity


One of the most indisputable definers of noir, a classic film with a fantastic direction and cinematography, a delicious, sharp dialogue and wonderful performances in a diabolical plot that is breathtakingly tense and suspenseful.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer


Thrilling and suspenseful, Double Indemnity is a complex classic that deserves to be seen and praised by all movie-goers. You won't be able to keep your eyes off the screen.

Matthew Samuel Mirliani
Matthew Samuel Mirliani

Super Reviewer


"Double Indemnity" is a marvelously crafted noir film that is purely driven by its impeccable narrative and flawless filmmaking techniques. Billy Wilder, Howard Hawks, John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock; all renowned people within cinema history, but were unknown in my book. Little did I care to learn about these filmmakers, nor did I care to see their work because it was too "old school" for me. Boy, am I glad to have seen this film. James M. Cain, the author of "The Postman Always Rings Twice" which is the source material for the narrative, is beautifully translated from book to film by Billy Wilder's deft hands. The narrative's where all the glory is at: it flows like liquid gold with tensely interesting twists and turns from start to finish; no hiccups found here. And what's found within the storytelling is one of the most highly engaging and innovative crime thrillers to date. Though "Double Indemnity" is already regarded as an exceedingly entertaining film due to the narrative, the film surpasses further due to flawless directing. The noir elements audiences have come to know are present, but with spotless results. The style "Double Indemnity" takes to deliver crisp, sharp-edged shadows, the breathtakingly distinct shots, and the narrative told by flashback are nothing short of astonishing. Merely, everything about "Double Indemnity" is perfect. Billy Wilder managed to craft a masterpiece that remains fresh even to the 21st century. Nothing short of cutting-edge, "Double Indemnity" is brimming with an atmosphere of a cool, cold cockeyed-ness style -- a film that will not be forgotten for decades to come.

Albert Kim
Albert Kim

Super Reviewer

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