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Chinatown Review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 5.0

    out of 100

    Universal acclaim
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 100

    out of 100


    An outstanding picture.

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  • 100

    out of 100

    ReelViews James Berardinelli

    A nearly flawless example of movie composition, with close examination revealing how carefully it was put together. For those who take a less studious and more visceral approach to movie viewing, it's also worth noting that Chinatown is a superior thriller - one that will keep viewers involved and "in the moment" until the final, mournful scene has come to a conclusion.

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  • 100

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    [Nicholson's] performance is key in keeping Chinatown from becoming just a genre crime picture--that, and a Robert Towne screenplay that evokes an older Los Angeles, a small city in a large desert.

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  • 100

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Ty Burr

    But it's Polanski who pries the genre open until it goes metaphysical.

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  • 63

    out of 100

    Chicago Tribune Gene Siskel

    As much as I admire the work of both (Roman) Polanski and (Jack) Nicholson, I found Chinatown tedious from beginning to just before the end. [15 July 1974]

  • 70

    out of 100

    The New York Times Vincent Canby

    Mr. Polanski and Mr. Towne attempted nothing so witty and entertaining, being content instead to make a competently stylish, more or less thirites-ish movie that continually made me wish I were back seeing "The Maltese Falcon" or "The Big Sleep." Others may not be as finicky. [21 June 1974]

  • 80

    out of 100

    Village Voice Jessica Winter

    In 1974 a director, a screenwriter, and a producer (Robert Evans, who for once deserves a few of the plaudits he's apportioned himself) could decide to beat a genre senseless and then dump it in the wilds of Greek tragedy. [Review of August 8, 2003 re-release]

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Pause for kids 16 & under

Great hardboiled detective film. Not for kids.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this film focuses on corruption within the government. The film presents many instances of mild violence (fistfights, gunplay, murdered bodies, etc.) and a more disturbingly violent onscreen killing of a major character. Parents should note that characters with whom viewers place emotional investment meet extremely unfortunate demises. The film also includes some sexually suggestive materials (post-coitus conversation, dirty jokes, implications of incest, etc.).

  • Families can talk about whether a grey area exists between right and wrong (the violent police, the crooked government, and the antihero detective). Did Evelyn Mulwray's abusive relationship with her father excuse her actions at the end of the film? How does Jake break his cardinal rule in his dealings with Evelyn, and how does that comment on his character? This film also lends itself to discussions about cinematic style (excellent harshly shadowed lighting) and issues of genre. How does the type of storytelling present in this film compare to current trends in television detective shows such as Law and Order and C.S.I.?

The good stuff
  • message true0

    Messages: While the main character is theoretically on the side of good, he too breaks rules to attain what he desires. The majority of the characters are liars, thugs, or otherwise criminals.

What to watch for
  • violence false3

    Violence: Includes off-screen drowning, a graphic on-screen murder, gunplay, a graphic cutting, slapping of a woman, and some extended fistfights.

  • sex false2

    Sex: Two sexually suggestive photos, a suggestive joke, a couple in bed together (after off-screen sex), implication of incest, very minor female nudity (in profile).

  • language false2

    Language: Some strong profanity.

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not applicable

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false0

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: A bit of social drinking .