Strangers on a Train

1951

Strangers on a Train

Critics Consensus

A provocative premise and inventive set design lights the way for Hitchcock diabolically entertaining masterpiece.

98%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 47

92%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 35,668
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Strangers on a Train Photos

Movie Info

In one of Alfred Hitchcock's suspense classics, tennis pro Guy Haines (Farley Granger) chances to meet wealthy wastrel Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker) on a train. Having read all about Guy, Bruno is aware that the tennis player is trapped in an unhappy marriage to to wife Miriam (Laura Elliott) and has been seen in the company of senator's daughter Ann Morton (Ruth Roman). Baiting Guy, Bruno reveals that he feels trapped by his hated father (Jonathan Hale). As Guy listens with detached amusement, Bruno discusses the theory of "exchange murders." Suppose that Bruno were to murder Guy's wife, and Guy in exchange were to kill Bruno's father? With no known link between the two men, the police would be none the wiser, would they? When he reaches his destination, Guy bids goodbye to Bruno, thinking nothing more of the affable but rather curious young man's homicidal theories. And then, Guy's wife turns up strangled to death. Co-adapted by Raymond Chandler from a novel by Patricia Highsmith, Strangers on a Train perfectly exemplifies Hitchcock's favorite theme of the evil that lurks just below the surface of everyday life and ordinary men. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Cast

Farley Granger
as Guy Haines
Ruth Roman
as Anne Morton
Leo G Carroll
as Sen. Morton
Patricia Hitchcock
as Barbara Morton
Marion Lorne
as Mrs. Antony
Kasey Rogers
as Miriam Joyce Haines
Jonathan Hale
as Mr. Antony
Howard St. John
as Capt. Turley
Norma Varden
as Mrs. Cunningham
Laura Elliot
as Miriam Haines
John Brown
as Prof. Collins
Robert Gist
as Hennessey
Dick Wessel
as Baggage Man
Edward Clark
as Mr. Hargreaves
Al Hill
as Concessionaire
Edna Holland
as Mrs. Joyce
Dick Ryan
as Minister
Tommy Farrell
as Miriam's Boyfriend
Rolland Morris
as Miriam's Boyfriend
Murray Alper
as Boatman
John K. Butler
as Blind Man
Roy Engel
as Policeman
Joel Allen
as Policeman
Edward Hearn
as Sgt. Campbell
Georges Renavent
as Mons. Darville
Odette Myrtil
as Mme. Darville
Charles Meredith
as Judge Dolan
Monya Andre
as Dowager
Laura Treadwell
as Mrs. Anderson
Joe Warfield
as Seedy Man
Harry Hines
as Man Under Merry-Go-Round
Alfred Hitchcock
as Man Boarding Train With Bass Fiddle
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News & Interviews for Strangers on a Train

Critic Reviews for Strangers on a Train

All Critics (47) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (46) | Rotten (1)

  • The upshot is a perfect Alfred Hitchcock thriller...with a ingenious plot taken from a Patricia Highsmith novel and a memorably seductive villain.

    Nov 2, 2018 | Full Review…
  • Strangers on a Train is an admirable demonstration of Alfred Hitchcock's virtuosity in the area of suspense dramas.

    Jun 30, 2017 | Full Review…
  • Winds up with a scene in which a merry-go-round goes wild, spins like a pin wheel, and crashes in a gaudy blaze of explosions that no earthly carrousel could touch off. The movie itself is the same way: implausible but intriguing and great fun to ride.

    Aug 30, 2009 | Full Review…
    TIME Magazine
    Top Critic
  • Perhaps Strangers on a Train still hasn't yielded all its secrets.

    Feb 4, 2008 | Full Review…
  • Hitchcock erects a web of guilt around Granger, who 'agreed' to his wife's murder, a murder that suits him very well, and structures his film around a series of set pieces, ending with a paroxysm of violence on a circus carousel.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Hitchcock was above all the master of great visual set pieces, and there are several famous sequences in Strangers on a Train.

    Jan 15, 2004 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Strangers on a Train

  • May 27, 2016
    This is one of my favorite Hitchcock movies - it has a fantastic premise and cast, and also one of his very best murder scenes (and that's saying something!) Hitchcock uses great economy in the first half of the film; right out of the chute two strangers meet on a train, and one proposes the 'perfect murder', one in which there is no apparent motive because the two simply 'criss cross' murders for each other. Robert Walker is absolutely perfect as the sociopath who proposes this scheme to the straight-laced tennis player, played well by Farley Granger. He wants his overbearing father out of the picture, and knows that Granger wants a divorce from his wife, having done his homework. Granger politely declines, and while his motivation increases when his adulterous wife (Laura Elliot) manipulatively tells him she no longer wants to split from him in the next scene, he still wants no part of murder. However, in the very next scene Walker goes forward with his 'end of the bargain' anyway, stalking Elliot at a carnival in an outstanding sequence. She's aware of him staring at her and even flirts with him a little bit, and as he follows her through the Tunnel of Love out to 'Magic Isle' it's seriously spine-tingling. Hitchcock shows her getting strangled in a reflection from her glasses which have fallen to the ground. These first few scenes, from the train to Magic Isle, are a masterpiece. Granger is of course horrified to hear about this, and while he intends to move on to woman he's already been seeing (Ruth Roman), he doesn't intend on committing a murder he never agreed to. Walker begins stalking him and putting pressure on him, and there are fantastic scenes at the Jefferson Memorial (him staring down a distance and high up on the stairs), as well as at a tennis match (the crowd following a volley, turning their heads back and forth; Walker staring straight ahead at Granger). It is true that the film slows down slightly in the second half, but it's by no means 'slow' - there are several other great scenes, we feel real tension as Granger finds himself mired in a creepy lunatic's fantasy come to life (channeling Hitchcock's 'wrong man' theme), and it has a thrilling climax, but I won't spoil it any further. I have to say I loved the spunky character played by Patricia Hitchcock, the director's daughter, and it's a shame she didn't get more work as an actor. It's also a shame that Robert Walker died at age 32, shortly after the film's release. He certainly lives on in this role, and this film more than stands the test of time. Excellent.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Apr 10, 2016
    An overrated thriller that does have a gorgeous cinematography and an intriguing premise but whose development has its share of unnecessary narrative flaws and drags unforgivably, feeling bloated (and even tiresome) with scenes that are elongated for too long.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Mar 18, 2014
    "Strangers on a train, strangers on a train, into this house we're... um... named... or something." I could have really evoked some sighs with a "Snakes on a Plane" reference, but this film is even way too old for The Doors' "Riders on the Storm", and that is old. Of course, it's not too old for "The Lady Vanishes", so I reckon you could call this second Alfred Hitchcock train thriller "The Lady Vanishes II: Keep Myself Riding on This Train". Oops, there's an anachronism that's even more embarrassing, because I'm not even particularly crazy about Kasabian, you likely don't know Kasabian's "Underdog", and this film is by no means as British as "The Lady Vanishes". Yeah, I don't know about you guys, but I feel that Hitchcock needed a serious break from Britain after "Stage Fright", which kind of showed that Hitchcock was by no means getting any less rusty with British filmmaking after "Jamaica Inn". Well, Hitch, you were never a stranger in Hollywood, so I hope you enjoyed the ride to your new true home, and didn't give a stranger the idea of committing a murder or anything like that. Jeez, at this point, I figured that's how he most enjoyed his train rides, and I can't say I can blame him entirely, because he sure made these kind of train rides interesting, at least to a certain extent. Both consistently compelling throughout its length and, well, not really all that lengthy to begin with, at only a notch over 100 minutes, the film still outstays its welcome on occasion, or at least seems to, as it meanders along certain areas in material, until it seems to lose its focus, in addition to yours. Of course, the somewhat lazy plotting within Raymond Chandler's, Whitfield Cook's and Czenzi Ormonde's script isn't helped by those moments of excessiveness which get the film to an unreasonable, if still seemingly tight length, which isn't to say that the structure of this drama is the only overblown attribute to storytelling. Further bloating is found within the dramatics of this thriller, whose histrionics' sting is compensated for enough by inspired storytelling for you to take the drama's meat in its context, yet can be obscured for only so long before you begin to question the logic of this thriller, whose most distinctly Hollywood tastes in dialogue and tensions prove to be kind of bland in their being so overblown. If nothing else feels rather lazy about the Hollywood histrionics, it's their simply being tropes, though not the only ones, as this film follows a formulaic path that is watered down enough by the aforementioned aimlessness, let alone by the familiarity. Even the flaws just mentioned are formulaic in an Alfred Hitchcock film, and yet, don't take that as a reflection of the degree of conventionalism which plagues the final product, because at this point, the usual Hitchcock missteps are easier to forgive, and it helps that they're actually pretty limited here, even if they do still stand. No, what most threatens the film is natural limitations, which are themselves limited, as opposed to the strengths that carry the film as pretty decidedly rewarding, yet perhaps could have carried the final product even further if it wasn't for the boundaries set by the minimalism of this do-little subject matter, reinforced by questionable areas in pacing and dramatic storytelling that keep the final product from really standing out. The film starts out pretty promising in its subtle intensity, but as things progress, momentum dips, yet not so deeply that compellingness isn't salvaged time and again, from the depths of a small-scale, though still pretty worthy idea. A traditional story of a murderer dragging an innocent man into a major criminal situation upon misunderstanding his intentions in regards to a burden on the innocent man's life, this film's narrative may have only so much to its scale, but thematically, its ideas as a study on the dark depths of criminal investigation and, for that matter, humanity itself offer plenty of dramatic potential that, if well-explored by the storytelling execution, can transcend the natural shortcomings. The natural shortcomings are ultimately pretty palpable, as screenwriters Raymond Chandler, Whitfield Cook and Czenzi Ormonde don't seem to be inspired enough in the long run to obscure limitations to depth, and only make matters worse through the repetitious, melodramatic and conventional material, yet what they do right is done very right, with most dialogue being pretty clever, and certain dramatic set pieces being rather audacious in their tight attention to intrigue. There's a lot of wit and guts, even on paper, and that draws you enough into this intense drama, with well-rounded characterization that offers memorable leads securing the script's value, brought to life even by this character drama's driving forces: the characters' portrayers. Material is a little stale in retrospect, but for this time, the acting is pretty solid across the board, and that especially goes for the leads, with Farley Granger carrying both charisma and the dramatic depth that sells the anxiety of a man who fears that he might be at blame for a crime he didn't intend to be done, while Robert Walker, as the murderer, has enough subtle intensity and, if you will, charm to his presence to nail a sociopathic sense which defines the disturbed Bruno Anthony antagonist. When the performances really shine, they're revelatory, but they're never less than compelling throughout this film that is so heavily driven by its human factor, thus, a colorful cast carries a good deal of this drama, yet perhaps couldn't have done so if they weren't so well-orchestrated by a certain other talented performer. Indeed, the final product's engagement value is truly secured by Alfred Hitchcock's direction, whose style utilizes airtight framing and cinematographer Robert Burks' haunting plays on shadow-heavy lighting in order to chill, both aesthetically and in the context of biting substance that Hitchcock's quiet meditativeness treats with enough subtlety to steadily, but surely, immerse you into the full depths of this thriller. The well-done, but still pretty Hollywood script could have shaken the subtlety, grace and overall effectiveness of the final product, but Hitchcock's inspired performance as storyteller overshadows enough shortcomings to grip time after time, with enough style and substance to reward with yet another classic thriller. Bottom line, there's a certain minimalism to this story concept whose emphasis through moments of questionable pacing and dramatics, in addition to conventionalism, threaten the final product, whose story still has enough meat - brought to life by clever writing, solid acting and inspired direction - to make Alfred Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train" a slickly clever and biting, and altogether rewarding dramatic thriller. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Oct 03, 2013
    A chance meeting between two strangers leads to a proposition that they "trade murders." This is a fantastic thriller. The master of suspense unravels a compelling tale of a psychopath manipulating an average Joe into a complex murder plot. The one complaint I had with the film is that the characters are too black and white. There's never a chance that the "good guy" will yield to the "bad guy's" intentions, which would represent of a blurring of the "good" and "evil" lines and make for a more interesting character study. Overall, with Hitch's incredible eye for glittering set pieces, human psychology, and gripping suspense, this is one of the best suspense films of all time.
    Jim H Super Reviewer

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