Rear Window – A captivating story of a Peeping Tom that keeps you guessing

Rear Window is a film that I had been aware of for many years but had only recently watched following my newfound love of films from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly, Rear Window tells the story of a wheelchair-bound photographer, L.B. ‘Jeff’ Jefferies (Stewart), recuperating at home following an accident.

Unable to leave his apartment, Jeff idles away the time watching his neighbours in between visits from his girlfriend Lisa (Kelly) and nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter). He thinks he sees a murder, but how can he be sure?

While perhaps not a very endearing quality, watching the comings and goings of our neighbours is something that many of us do. We make up nicknames and stories for the ones we’re not that close to and pass the time of day when we meet them on the pavement, trying to remember not to say: “Hi, Grumpy Gary!”

One of the joys of Rear Window is that it takes this mundane activity and elevates it, indulging our curiosity by presenting us with a comprehensive cast of characters in Jeff’s neighbours, ranging from a professional pianist to the lonely-hearted singleton who always lays the table for one.

Known as the ‘Master of Suspense’, Hitchcock keeps us guessing as to whether Jeff really did see what he thought he until the final scenes. This is after Jeff calls in favours with a local police chief, Wendell Corey’s Det. Lt. Thomas J. Doyle, to discussing his theory.

Lisa and Stella entertain his theory as well, eventually joining him on his quest to discover the truth. Ritter delivers some fantastic one liners and retorts while it’s fantastic to see Kelly in what almost feels like her first ‘active’ role, listening to Jeff’s musings and then being his legs to investigate further while he is confined to his apartment.

Rear Window delivers a captivating story that captures many human elements (curiosity, cunning, passion) and is carefully choreographed by a seasoned director and performed by stars at the top of their game. Watch this if you fancy a filmic masterpiece – or if you fancy indulging in some good old fashioned nosiness.


Rear Window (1954)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: James Stewart, Grace Kelly

“A wheelchair-bound photographer spies on his neighbors from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder.” – IMDb

  • Nominated for the 1955 Academy Award for Best Director, Best Writing – Screenplay, Best Cinematography – Color and Best Sound – Recording
  • Nominated for the 1955 BAFTA Award for Best Film from any Source
  • Added to the United States National Film Registry in the Library of Congress

8 thoughts on “Rear Window – A captivating story of a Peeping Tom that keeps you guessing

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  1. This is one of my favourite films not just favourite Hitch or Stewart film. So many people watch what goes on in the neighbourhood…except me because I truly don’t care. My hubby, well, he has my Opa’s binoculars!! He knows what everyone does in the neighbourhood. I will say that, when it is nighttime and we are driving home, I will always look into a person’s house if the drape are not closed. This film is excellent from the great set to each story with the voyeur, Jimmy and us, bent on finding out where the poor wife went to. One of my favs are the newlyweds whom we see briefly in love coming into their home and closes the blinds and, at the end, bickering.

    1. You know, I think it’s probably already in my top 50 list. It’s a very subtle, thought-provoking film that is not only of its time but resonates with contemporary audiences too.
      The newlyweds were a great addition!

      PS. The one time I really peep into windows is at Christmas so I can admire everyone’s trees and decorations 🙂

  2. Arguably one of my “new” favourite Hitchcock films. I only recently saw this for the first time, after hearing about it forevaaahhhh from everyone. As I mentioned in my Woman In The Window review, a concept film such as this lives and dies on whether you actually believe everyone living around you would keep their windows and curtains open so much – that film doesn’t achieve that level of suspension of disbelief, but this film achieves it superbly. That it’s so hot, there’s no airconditioning and everyone’s anger levels continue to rise and rise only makes the film’s cathartic final fifteen minutes so potent.

    TBH I don’t think I’ve had as pure chilling moment as when Raymond Burr’s cigar glows in the darkness in that final sequence, barely illuminating the rim of his glasses, and you just *know* things are about to go sideways for everyone. Pure chills, that moment.

    1. I’ve only come to Hitch’s work recently, but out of the ones I have seen, this is the one I enjoyed the most. That scene with Burr is fantastic and you really felt Jeff’s helplessness when Lisa is put in danger.

      It’s a brilliant film and one I think I will enjoy more on rewatches when I spot things I had missed on this first watch.

  3. This is definitely one of the best from Alfred Hitchcock! Glad you’re continuing to catch up with great classic films, Claire. Hope you’ll watch more Gregory Peck films in the future 😉

    1. It certainly is, isn’t it!
      I’ve seen two of Peck’s films so far: Roman Holiday and Cape Fear. I enjoyed them both but Cape Fear was just fantastic. Spot on casting for both Peck and Mitchum. I’ll try and write a review up on it.

  4. Such a great film, it’s my second favorite Hitch after Saboteur.

    A brilliant use of space and angles. While all that adds so much to the film along with Hitchcock’s master touch it really is the performers who put the film over. Credit can be given to Hitchcock for his sharp eye for proper casting but once they were there the actors are the ones who knew what to do to make the characters work. Hitchcock was famous for not giving a lot of direction feeling he had picked the right people and they should know what to do in most instances. He was spot on in this case with even the smallest role adding to the flavor of the film. But it’s that main trio-Jimmy, Grace and Thelma-who punch it across.

    If it wasn’t for Jimmy’s innate likability his cranky snoop could have been off-putting and creepy but he plays him as just an inquisitive sort stuck in an untenable situation and this is the best he can make of it. Grace balances her skepticism and curiosity well and flattens out some of Jimmy’s thornier qualities and is stunning while doing it. I think this is her best performance. I ADORE Thelma Ritter in everything but this uses her blunt directness to exactly the right effect.

    I was lucky enough to get to see this during a re-release in theatres after it had been remastered. Sitting in the dark with directed viewing added another element to the film.

    While I’m here I will throw out a recommendation for the aforementioned Saboteur. I’ll admit Rear Window is the better constructed film I just have a soft spot for the other. It’s a taut espionage thriller, not to be confused with his earlier Sabotage-also a very good film, that has a great finale. Hitch was apparently not happy with how it turned out partially because he couldn’t get his first choice of performers for the leads but I think it’s terrific and I love Priscilla Lane who plays the female lead.

  5. My favourite Hitchcock film. Such a simple concept yet so thrilling. I love how Grace Kelly appears to radiate light in this film – clearly Hitch adored her. And James Stewart is one of those actors you can’t help but root for. But the beauty of seeing the story play out from Jefferies’ perspective is what makes Rear Window such a joy. We really are part of the drama.

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