The Most Entertaining Murder Witness Movies, From Rear Window to Riot

Sometimes, spying on your neighbors can have deadly consequences.

"I tell you, I saw him kill her!" Humble man or girl witnesses a horrific crime - strangled, stabbed, shot. They called the police, but when law enforcement arrived, there was no body, no weapon, and not a drop of blood. Everyone thinks the Witness is crazy, but the Witness knows what they saw and won't stop until proven right. It's hard not to like movies where the average Jane or John Doe sees something they shouldn't and then goes to great lengths, including risking their lives to catch the bad guy. Audiences love rooting for mild-mannered citizens who become superheroes in their own right, and here are some of the best movies showing ordinary people entangled in the extraordinary.

The Window (1949)

This well-crafted noir was one of the first to explore theme of witnessing a crime, a modern take on Aesop's The Boy Who Cried Wolf, but with an ending that offers redemption rather than contempt. Child star Bobby Driscoll stars as Tommy Woodry, a 12-year-old with a vivid imagination living in a 1940s Harlem neighborhood. His Arabian Nights and Xiaobai The lies cause no small amount of frustration for his hard-working parents (Barbara Hale and Arthur Kennedy), who have learned to ignore his fantastical stories. On a sweltering summer night, Tommy decides to escape the heat by sleeping on the fire escape outside his bedroom. While trying to fall asleep, he stares through the window of neighbors Joe and Jean Kellerson (Paul Stewart and Ruth Roman) as they stab a man to death with a pair of scissors. However, given Tommy's record of lying, neither his parents nor the police believed him when he told what he had seen and heard. The Kellersen family hears what Tommy said to the townspeople, and they set about making the boy their next victim. Though a low-budget "B-movie," "Windows" offers some genuinely creepy moments, and director Ted Tetzlaff makes the most of the gritty Manhattan set, with soup M. Escape from the murderous Kellersen family in a dark abandoned building. The success of this small film paved the way for similar stories with bigger budgets and more stars.

Rear Window (1954)

Five years after the success of Window, director Alfred Hitchcock took theme a little further Arguably the best film in the crime witness genre, Rear Window. Similar to Tommy Driscoll's films, this one also takes place during a hot, sweltering summer in Manhattan. Photojournalist L.B. "Jeff" Jeffries (Jimmy Stewart) spends his days spying on his neighbors, including mysterious traveling salesman Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr) and his bedridden wife. After hearing banging and screaming in the middle of the night and then noticing Mrs Thorwald was no longer in her bed the next day, Jeffries was convinced Mr Thorwald had killed his wife. Jeffries' socialite girlfriend Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly) thinks he's suffering from cabin fever. Until she looked out of the window and saw Mr. Thorwald going through his wife's purse. Lisa knew that no woman would go out with her favorite handbag, and soon she was convinced that Thorwald had chopped his wife to pieces.

But with no motive, body or shred of evidence, neither Jeffries nor Lisa can convince Jeffries' detective partner Tom Doyle (Wendell Corey) to investigate, so they decide to solve the case on their own. Although While Stewart's Jeffreys is at the center of this voyeuristic thriller, Kelly's Lisa is the real heroine, as she bravely climbs a fire escape and leaps through an open window into Thorwald's living room. Peep, all in her high heels, pearls, and dress. What makes Rear Window so interesting is that Hitchcock was able to put the audience in Jeffries' apartment with him, witness what he witnessed, and feel his same frustrations, disbeliefs, and fears—and his fear of prying eyes. A little bit of guilt from the neighbors, too.

Witness to Murder (1954)

Just a few months before Rear Window's release, this taut gem with a Rear Window-like plot device is unfortunately overshadowed by all the bright colors of the Hitchcock classic. In this rare 1950s feminist film, Barbara Stanwyck stars as Cheryl Draper, a single career woman living alone with a postwar in Los Angeles. One night, as she was about to close her bedroom window (yes, this is another "murder seen through a window" movie), she witnessed a man in the building across the street (George Saunders) strangled a woman to death. Cheryl called the police, but by the time they arrived the neighbor had already disposed of it any and all evidence. Sanders' character, Albert Richter, was a well-known and respected author, so the police were reluctant to believe Cheryl's story as Richter claimed to be innocent of. However, Stanwyck's Cheryl is relentless, and she alone proves that Richter is indeed the murderer. Thus begins a fascinating game of cat and mouse. Cheryl exposes Richter's Nazi past, and Richter, in revenge, tries to kill her and make her death look like suicide. What sets "Murder Witness" apart from its genre is Stanwyck's strong female characters. Smart, cunning and fearless, Cheryl confronted Richter in his own apartment in the film's final battle, showing audiences in the 1950s that women could just as well defend themselves without the intervention of men .

Night Watch (1973)

It is Rear Window meets Midnight Lace and Gaslight. This unexpected British import stars Elizabeth Taylor as Ellen Wheeler, who recovers from the spirit at their country home with her husband John (Laurence Harvey) and best friend Sarah (Billie Whitelaw). recover from a crash. Unable to sleep one night, she looked out the window (yes, we were looking out the window again) and saw what she thought was a dead body in an abandoned house opposite. When the police come to investigate, surprise! no body. John and Sarah blame it all on Alan's fragile emotional state, but Alan is convinced of what she's seeing and begins to suspect that her neighbor has committed murder and buried his body under a tree in his garden. In Ellen's search for the truth, she also comes to believe that John and Sarah are trying to drive her insane so they can put her back in a mental institution and continue their own romance. While much of its running time follows a predictable formula, it's the film's final scene that sets it apart. Without giving away anything, suffice it to say that Taylor's Ellen is more sane and resourceful than she first appears.

Foul Play (1978)

Chevrolet Chase and Goldie Hawn make their on-screen debut together in this disparate comedy/noir/thriller, directed by Colin Higgins (ages 9-5), which borrows heavily from Hitchcock The 1956 suspense film The Man Who Knew Too Much follows Gloria Mundy (Hawn). Gloria, a librarian in San Francisco, picks up a stranded driver on the side of the road on a whim and ends up He was found dead next to her at the cinema hours later. From there, Gloria is hunted by a horrific group of bad guys, including a man with scars and a villain named Rupert Stillskin, all in a plot involving the assassination of the Pope. Gloria has trouble convincing the SFPD that the bad guys are after her, but finds a soulmate (and romantic partner) in Detective Tony Carlson (Chase) assigned to her case. Combining slapstick comedy and thrilling suspense, the film culminates with an epic car chase through the city streets that rivals 1968's Bullitt. Foul Play sets a new standard for movies with both action and laughs, and Dudley Moore's sex-crazed character who can never score is hard to miss. Anyone who's seen this classic knows it's an "ahead of time" experience.

Blow Out (1981)

Brian De Palma's underrated thriller "Blowout" stars John Travolta as Jack, a Philadelphia man who makes a low-budget exploit Film sound engineers make a living. While recording a segment for his own file one night, he saw a car fall A bridge and a river. That car was carrying a presidential candidate who lost his life and his companion, a sex worker named Sally (Nancy Allen), whom Jack rescued from drowning. The scandal is covered up and the incident is officially explained as a tragic accident, but Jack is determined to prove that the "accident" was planned through the sound he recorded that night. DePalma deftly tweaks the rear-window voyeuristic theme, substituting patchwork noises for cracking the case (with a touch of Chappaquiddick political intrigue). Seek out one of John Lithgow's early Assassin roles and get ready for one of the most shocking and downbeat endings to a mainstream Hollywood production.

Disturbia (2007)

Proving once again that Rear Window is the quintessential crime witness film, Disturbia digs into Hitchcock's oeuvre, but uses an ankle monitor instead of a broken leg to set up the plot. Shia LaBeouf stars as Kale, a young man still grieving the sudden and tragic death of his father, who was under house arrest for beating up his high school teacher. Bored and upset after his mom (Carrie Ann Moss) took him While he's playing a video game, Kale picks up his binoculars and starts observing his mysterious neighbor, Mr. Turner (David Morse). It doesn't take long for Kale, his friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) and the girl next door Ashley (Sarah Roemer) to become convinced that Turner is murdering women and throwing their bodies in trash bags. Without solid evidence, Kale couldn't get the local police to investigate what happened across the way. Like Grace Kelly's Lisa in Rear Window, it's Kyle's friends who do the dirty investigative work under Kyle's watchful eye. Like Rear Window, Disturbia climaxes with Mr. Turner's invasion of Kale's house in an impressive final battle. Director D.J. Caruso does an admirable job of injecting youthful energy and tension into what could otherwise be a standard murder mystery.

The Woman in the Window (2020)

Talk about a mind-scrambling thriller! Amy Adams plays Anna, an alcoholic, drug-addicted agoraphobic who lives in a huge, creepy Manhattan brownstone. New neighbors Alistair and Jane Russell (Gary Oldman and Julianne Moore) move across the street, and soon Jane and Anna are friends. Then one night, during one of her drunken orgies, Anna looks out the window (yes, a window again) and sees Alistair stabbing Jane died in their apartment. Anna called the police, and the police rushed to the scene. Of course, nothing unusual was found, and Jane was still alive. The cops blame it on the crazy woman's love of booze and move on. Later, Alistair and Jane visit Anna's house, but what? Jane is now Jennifer Jason Leigh!

Anna believes she has lost her everlasting love. Until she found a photo she had taken that clearly showed Julianne Moore's version of Jane reflected in a wine glass. Games start! Throw in the Russells' lying son Ethan (Fred Hechinger) and Anna's tenant, the hypersexual David (Wyatt Russell), and you've got the most puzzling, twisted and Turn all conditions on one of the coolers. for a while. Unfortunately, the final product isn't quite the sum of its parts, and the film's ending unravels itself in some wacky interpretation of all the shenanigans that happened on West 121st Street. Still, at least for the first half, the movie is a fascinating variation on the "I saw what you did" theme, with all the main actors giving great performances actor.

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