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North by Northwest Review

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 11+

Witty Hitchcock thriller piles on suspense and innuendo.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this Hitchcock classic includes suspenseful scenes such as a forced drunken car chase on windy roads and a crop duster chase with shooting and an explosion. Typical of the era, there's drinking of hard liquor and smoking, with a seductive lighting-up featured in one scene. More seductive elements include forward sexual banter and some kissing -- the clothes stay on but there's a mention that the main characters slept together in their train car. It's also worth noting that the main character undergoes a big transformation, from fast-talking and unscrupulous ad exec to a man who risks his own life to find out the truth that will exonerate him.

  • Families can talk about the lasting appeal of Hitchcock movies. What makes this film a classic? What are some techniques that he uses that you've seen used in other movies?
  • Talk about who Roger Thornhill is at the beginning and the end of this movie. Has the experience made him a better person? What is the underlying message of the movie?

The good stuff
  • message true3

    Messages: The transformation of the main character sends the message that people can change for the better and that sometimes there's more to someone's character than first appears.

  • rolemodels true2

    Role models: Thornhill is a twice-divorced ad exec who spouts his philosophy at the beginning of the movie as "In the world of advertising there's no such thing as a lie, there's only expedient exaggeration." When he's set up we see a big shift in his character -- he risks his own life for the truth and then for love. The CIA is shown as unscrupulous, willing to let Thornhill die to cover their tracks. Eve is played as mysterious and cunning and joked about as promiscuous -- but she's a damsel in distress ready to be saved by Thornhill in the end.

What to watch for
  • violence false2

    Violence: Roger Thornhill is kidnapped at gunpoint, then force-fed a bottle of bourbon (not shown) and put behind the wheel of the car, which he almost crashes numerous times on a windy road. A character gets knifed in the back. A crop duster fires shots and chases Thornhill, later exploding when it hits a truck. A death is faked by shooting and more shots are fired at the main characters as they dangle from a great height.

  • sex false2

    Sex: Some kissing with clothes on and the implication that Thornhill and Eve slept together in a train bed. Lots of forward sexual banter along the lines of "what can a man do with his clothes off for 20 minutes?" after Thornhill sends his suit to be pressed.

  • language false1

    Language: "Treacherous little tramp" is as strong as the language gets.

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not applicable

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false3

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Plenty of hard liquor drunk and mentioned. Some smoking typical of the era, including a matchbook with Thornhill's initials used to seductively light Eve's cigarette. Thornhill is force-fed bourbon then drives drunk to evade the bad guys, ending in a "funny-drunk" scene at the police station.

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