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Rear Window Review

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 12+

Hitchcock masterpiece stars peeping Jimmy Stewart.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Rear Window, considered a classic Alfred Hitchcock mystery, reflects the social and ethical values of the 1950s when it was made. Characters drink and smoke frequently; the men often leer at pretty women; and the film is set in an all-white urban neighborhood. The theme of the film, however, has currency. It's about voyeurism -- spying on unaware neighbors, jumping to conclusions about those neighbors, and acting impulsively. One suspenseful scene finds the wheelchair-bound hero in physical jeopardy from an attacker who may be a murderer who dismembered his wife. A dog is found dead with its neck broken. 

  • 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?
  • What would be different if this movie was made today?
  • 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?

The good stuff
  • message true0

    Messages: Mixed-messages. Though the ethics of eavesdropping and spying are topics of the characters' conversation in a number of scenes, the outcome eventually validates the act of eavesdropping and spying. And though the protagonist at times seems nosy, interfering, and is very much a Peeping Tom, the behavior is validated when he becomes a hero.

  • rolemodels true0

    Role models: Traditional 1950s roles: men are photographers, cops, salesmen; women are caregivers, ballerinas, and work in the fashion industry. The female lead tries to break the mold and take part in the action, however, she ends up having to be rescued. The only person of color in the film is a stereotypical African-American voice at the other end of a phone call.

What to watch for
  • violence false2

    Violence: Several suspenseful scenes when characters get too close as they investigate a possible murder. One scary stalking sequence results in a scuffle during which the hero's life is violently threatened. A dog that the audience has come to know is found dead, its neck broken. After a crash and scream are heard, there's talk of possible murder and dismemberment.

  • sex false1

    Sex: Many romantic kisses, embracing, cuddling -- no nudity or actual sexual activity. A ballerina, in scanty clothing obliviously frolics in her apartment as men observe her on numerous occasions. It is implied that a newlywed couple makes love from dawn till dark.

  • language false0

    Language: Not an issue

  • consumerism false1

    Consumerism: Life Magazine, General Motors.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false2

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: As was typical of movies made in the 1950s, there is an easy, unquestioning consumption of alcoholic beverages in various social situations: at dinner, while visiting, at parties, and while relaxing alone. Two minor characters are shown drinking excessively. Several characters smoke.

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