The Night of the Hunter

Watch The Night of the Hunter

"The wedding night, the anticipation, the kiss, the knife, BUT ABOVE ALL...THE SUSPENSE!"
  • NR
  • 1955
  • 1 hr 33 min
  • 8.0  (96,661)
  • 97

The Night of the Hunter is a 1955 thriller directed by Charles Laughton and starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, and Lillian Gish. Set in Depression-era West Virginia, the film tells the story of a manipulative, sociopathic preacher and his pursuit of a group of children. The movie opens with the arrival of Harry Powell (Mitchum) in a small town where he soon becomes a charismatic preacher. However, the town's residents are unaware of his violent and psychopathic nature. He claims he is searching for heaven and God's work as he rises to fame. However, his real purpose is only to find a stash of money hidden by a former inmate he met in jail. Ben Harper (Peter Graves), convicted of robbery and murder and awaiting his execution, has entrusted his children hiding the money under the family farm in a manner known only to them. As they do not reveal their knowledge of the money, the preacher, whose hatred of women (and widows in particular) drives him, tries to get closer to them through their desperate mother Willa (Winters) after her husband is executed.

After Willa is killed while trying to protect her children from Harry, the children escape down the river with the money. Powell lingers around the town and ultimately tracks the children to the farm of Rachel Cooper (Gish), a brave and determined woman committed to protecting the younger and innocent generations.

As the children struggle to stay alive, Powell begins hunting them down, displaying his insanity and skills as a master manipulator. What follows is a cat-and-mouse game of life and death which becomes increasingly tense and suspenseful in the hands of Charles Laughton, who proves himself a passionate filmmaker with a stark and mesmerizing visual style.

What sets The Night of the Hunter apart from other thriller films of its era is its artistic interpretation of the classic American folktales and fairytales, which creates a mythos-like atmosphere of dread and magic throughout the film. Laughton's use of shadow and light, close-ups, and unusual frames, accompanied by Walter Schumann's haunting score, is inventive and poetic, elevating the pulpy story into a powerful allegory for good and evil.

The cast delivers superb performances, particularly Robert Mitchum, who gives one of his finest performances as the deceiving and terrifying Harry Powell. Shelley Winters, as the fragile and desperate mother, brings a great balance between vulnerability and acting power to the role. However, it is Lillian Gish who steals the show, playing the role of Rachel Cooper, a savior of innocents caught in the conflict between the forces of good and evil. Her powerful presence and perfect understatement make her delivery of the film's best line - "It's a hard world for little things" - particularly memorable.

Overall, The Night of the Hunter is a must-see thriller that has become a cult classic in American cinema. With its dark, hauntingly beautiful visuals, a haunting score, and top-notch acting, the film will keep you on the edge of your seat and linger in your mind long after the credits roll.

The Night of the Hunter is a 1955 crime movie with a runtime of 1 hour and 33 minutes. It has received outstanding reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 8.0 and a MetaScore of 97.

The Night of the Hunter
Where to Watch The Night of the Hunter
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 33 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    8.0  (96,661)
  • Metascore