Elevator to the Gallows (Ascenseur pour l'échafaud)

Critics Consensus

Louis Malle's hypnotic debut is a noir with genuine soul, infusing its tale of best laid plans gone awry with wistful performances, swooning cinematography, and a sultry soundtrack.



Total Count: 56


Audience Score

User Ratings: 6,190
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Movie Info

The feature-film debut of famed director Louis Malle is an interesting, modern film noir with the classic theme of lovers plotting to kill the husband and make it look like suicide (reminiscent of The Postman Always Rings Twice). Jeanne Moreau, as Florence Carala, gives an astonishing performance, perverse but naive as she leads her young lover down a path that can only lead to doom for both of them. Malle and his cinematographer Henri Decae make extensive use of Paris at night, giving the film the feel of claustrophobia and desperation reminiscent of the classic noir films. The excellent score by Miles Davis adds to the entire effect of this mystery thriller. ~ Linda Rasmussen, Rovi

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News & Interviews for Elevator to the Gallows (Ascenseur pour l'échafaud)

Critic Reviews for Elevator to the Gallows (Ascenseur pour l'échafaud)

All Critics (56) | Top Critics (24)

  • A classic European film noir with an irresistible score by Miles Davis, it builds tension from a series of seemingly minor mistakes that echo the political/military context of the postwar era.

    Sep 1, 2016 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Elevator to the Gallows, killer stuff.

    Aug 26, 2016 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • Elevator to the Gallows married a new kind of jazz to a new kind of cinema, and created something altogether sublime.

    Aug 25, 2016 | Full Review…
  • The film's alchemic blend of Bressonian rigor, Hitchcockian suspense, and overall proto-Nouvelle Vague cool more than compensates for its straightforward plotting ...

    Aug 2, 2016 | Full Review…
  • Lift to the Scaffold (Ascenseur pour l'échafaud) was the perfect opening to the French New Wave in 1958, sashaying in to a jazz score from Miles Davis and starring Jeanne Moreau as a mistress-in-peril.

    Sep 23, 2014 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

    Kate Muir

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • What a supremely stylish and watchable picture it is.

    Feb 6, 2014 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Elevator to the Gallows (Ascenseur pour l'échafaud)

  • Jan 06, 2013
    Rating: 2 stars Arthouse Rating: 2.5 stars Elevator To The Gallows is the only truly acclaimed work of Malle that I've seen. While it was unique, following two criminal couples with baggage in France, it wasn't particularly good. For one everything felt to coincidental, everything happened at the wrong time, or right time depending on how you viewed the film. I was viewing it rooting against the protagonists. All four of them, I was cheering for the police. Therefore the ending actually did bring some joy to me. I doubt this is how Malle intended to deliver the film though. I also felt like the female performances were amateur. The men did alright, but the woman didn't seem convincing at all. I feel like my rating is a tad rough, but honestly I didn't catch the hype. I'm not saying it's overrated, just not of value to me. I will say though, some scenes looked gorgeous.
    Daniel D Super Reviewer
  • Aug 26, 2012
    Damn good thriller. It's pretty clever how everything unfolds, and with also all those twists and turns, it's hard to guess how it's going to end. Brilliant debut for Louis Malle.
    Hugo S Super Reviewer
  • Apr 03, 2012
    Very stylish film with a very intriguing premise. Watching this film reminded me of the feeling I had when I watched Godard's Breathless. The cool protagonist and a seductive blonde as his partner, accompanied by a classy score, this is a film that epitomizes the French noir films of it's time. The one problem I had was when Louis cannot steal the German's Mercedes because the German hid something the first gear of the gearbox. After Louis kills him, he manages to drive away in the Mercedes without adjusting any gearbox or anything; it wasn't a huge deal but it was confusing. Although there is quite a break from convention, the ending does not manage to tie up all the loose ends in a completely logical and realistic manner. Malle does cover his tracks and there is not any inconsistency in the ending, however, it seemed a bit out of place with the rest of the film.
    G S Super Reviewer
  • Sep 05, 2011
    The jazzy score of Males Davis highlights the Hitchcockian atmosphere of Malle's suspenseful and excellent debut with the beautiful Jeanne Moreau in a role that perfectly suits her. It may not be a longstanding achievement in the genre but it's one of the most pleasing, and the peculiar direction set a new direction for the French New Wave before Godard or Truffaut entered into the business. 98/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer

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