What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the theme of this classic, besides a neat little murder mystery, is voyeurism -- spying on peoples' private lives, customarily without their knowledge. Alfred Hitchcock depicted this tastefully, within the restrictions of the old Hollywood studio censorship code (unlike later R-rated movies like Sliver, Blue Velvet, or Hollow Man, in which guys watching in secret got the full eyeful of sex, nudity, and explicit perversion), and in some Canadian territories this got a "G" rating. Still, the viewer is made to take the POV of a character who likes to watch things he's not supposed to see. While suspenseful, the plotline is necessarily low on action (unlike other Hitchcock masterworks like North By Northwest and The Birds), but a pet dog is killed offscreen. You might tell kids this was the direct inspiration for the 2007 teen-bait thriller Disturbia.
- Families can talk about the alienation of urban life, about people living on top of one another in high-rises, yet remaining strangers. Jeff and his motivations are a big part of this movie's intrigue. As a photographer, he has to compose images for a living. When his broken leg means he can't do his job, can he be excused for continuing to habitually watch ordinary people? How do TV, Web sites, video blogs, and especially reality TV add to the movie's theme about the ethics of scrutinizing real people for entertainment?