Little Caesar

Critics Consensus

Little Caesar achieves epic stature thanks to Edward G. Robinson's volcanic charisma, forging a template for the big-screen mobster archetype that's yet to be surpassed.

92%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 24

75%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 6,077

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Movie Info

An aspiring small-town criminal, Caesar "Rico" Bandello (Edward G. Robinson) relocates to Chicago to hit the big time, accompanied by his buddy, Joe Massara (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.). While Rico makes a name for himself in the underworld, Joe decides to leave the life of crime and ventures into show business, where he meets the lovely dancer Olga (Glenda Farrell). Though Rico and Joe try to honor their friendship, eventually their choices take them down dramatically different paths.

Cast & Crew

Critic Reviews for Little Caesar

All Critics (24) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (22) | Rotten (2)

  • Ed. G. Robinson gives an excellent character study of the scheming Rico, and an effective cast also includes Douglas Fairbanks, Jun., Stanley Fields, Ralph Ince, Glenda Faxrell, and Sidney Blackmer.

    June 17, 2020 | Full Review…
  • LeRoy's coldly efficient direction-due less to his own artistry than to the constraints of sound recording in its first years-imposes a static rigor on the action and lends the actor's diction and gestures a sculptural, granitic force.

    September 7, 2015 | Full Review…
  • No director could ask for more than Edward G. Robinson's contribution. Here, no matter what he has to say, he's entirely convincing.

    October 31, 2007 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • Though it looks somewhat dated now, there's no denying the seminal importance of this classic adaptation of WR Burnett's novel.

    February 9, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • The production is ordinary and would rank as just one more gangster film but for two things. One is the excellence of Mr. Burnett's credible and compact story. The other is Edward G. Robinson's wonderfully effective performance.

    May 24, 2003 | Full Review…
  • Edward G. Robinson in the performance of his career.

    January 1, 2000 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Little Caesar

  • Apr 04, 2013
    Imo, this film is pretty much like "Scarface". You have an up in coming gangster who rises through the ranks, becomes boss, enjoying the glamourous lifestyle, gets into conflicts with his closests friends, smoking cigars, following with a big climatic shootout. I really enjoyed this film and Edward G. Robinson plays a convincing Little Caesar. One of the big differences is Caesar doesn't partake in assassinating his boss (his boss then works for him), no love life, doesn't rat on his associates, cares a lot for his best friend. Caesar seems to be the gangster with a heart of gold and well even gangsters can be human. So in a way even though Caesar is a deadly gangster, he's got a bit of careness in his heart. Even if he is so good covering up his soft side.
    Brian R Super Reviewer
  • Sep 17, 2012
    One of the earliest gangster flicks of the talkie era, "Little Caesar" is a much bleaker film than the likes of "Scarface" and the various Jimmy Cagney genre entries. Unlike those films, no attempt is made to portray Robinson's hoodlum as any kind of charismatic figure. We get introduced to the title character as he slays a garage clerk in cold blood immediately before feasting on a late supper in a nearby diner. It's a shocking opening, mainly because you don't see any specific details, just the flash of a discharged weapon seen through the garage's kiosk window. Caesar considers knocking off small-town garages as beneath him and sets off to Chicago, the gangster's mecca, with his friend (Fairbanks Jr) in tow. There he gets a job as an enforcer for a mob led by Stanley Fields. It's not long before Caesar is rising through the ranks and, after killing the Police Commissioner, takes control of the gang from Fields. Meanwhile Fairbanks has struck up a romance with actress Glenda Farrell and wants to leave the criminal life. This does not please Robinson. The movie is filled with acts of cruelty and despair, leading you to really despise Robinson's character, no doubt the intention of the film-makers. The problem with this approach is that it distances the viewer from the story, you're never really given a character to get behind. The closest the film has to a hero is Fairbanks, but his character disappears from proceedings for a lengthy period. Had his attempts to escape a life of crime been the primary focus it would have made for a more involving film. Some have noted a homosexual sub-text to the film, specifically because Robinson, for all his ill-gotten wealth and power, never indulges in any female company. I see the character not as homosexual but asexual; he has no time for women because he simply has no time for humanity. He's driven purely by a desire for infamy and sees others as mere pawns in his quest. Considering how great he is in this role, it's strange that Robinson avoided being typecast in the same manner as Cagney. Not till 1948's "Key Largo" would he play this sort of menacing character. For me, Robinson was at his best playing patsies in films like "Scarlet Street" and "The Woman in the Window" but he's oddly remembered more for his relatively few tough guy roles. "Little Caesar" has a reputation I don't feel it deserves but it's worth a watch for fans of Robinson. Over the next few years Warner Brothers would expound on it's themes to make far superior gangster pics.
    The Movie W Super Reviewer
  • Jan 09, 2011
    Little Caesar's represents Cagney's gangster counterpart, and the more elegant and "sophisticated" side of gangster "values" and "family loyalty". The Roaring Twenties (the era, not the movie) had barely ended, and thanks to the powerful performance of Edward G. Robinson, along with some memorable scenes in the history of cinema and several classic lines, this movie and The Public Enemy gave the courage to Hawks to release a particularly groundbreaking gangster film titled "Scarface". 99/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer
  • Sep 03, 2010
    A pretty good start at gangster films, but it could have been better.
    Aj V Super Reviewer

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