The Asphalt Jungle (1950) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Asphalt Jungle1950

The Asphalt Jungle (1950)



Critic Consensus: The Asphalt Jungle is an expertly told crime story with attention paid to the crime and characters in equal measure.

The Asphalt Jungle Photos

Movie Info

The Asphalt Jungle is a brilliantly conceived and executed anatomy of a crime -- or, as director John Huston and scripter Ben Maddow put it, "a left-handed form of human endeavor." Recently paroled master criminal Erwin "Doc" Riedenschneider (Sam Jaffe), with funding from crooked attorney Emmerich (Louis Calhern), gathers several crooks together in Cincinnati for a Big Caper. Among those involved are Dix (Sterling Hayden), an impoverished hood who sees the upcoming jewel heist as a means to finance his dream of owning a horse farm. Hunch-backed cafe owner (James Whitmore) is hired on to be the driver for the heist; professional safecracker Louis Ciavelli (Anthony Caruso) assembles the tools of his trade; and a bookie (Marc Lawrence) acts as Emmerich's go-between. The robbery is pulled off successfully, but an alert night watchman shoots Ciavelli. Corrupt cop (Barry Kelley), angry that his "patsy" (Lawrence) didn't let him in on the caper, beats the bookie into confessing and fingering the other criminals involved. From this point on, the meticulously planned crime falls apart with the inevitability of a Greek tragedy. Way down on the cast list is Marilyn Monroe in her star-making bit as Emmerich's sexy "niece"; whenever The Asphalt Jungle would be reissued, Monroe would figure prominently in the print ads as one of the stars. The Asphalt Jungle was based on a novel by the prolific W.R. Burnett, who also wrote Little Caesar and Saint Johnson (the fictionalized life story of Wyatt Earp).

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Sterling Hayden
as Dix Handley
Louis Calhern
as Alonzo D. Emmerich
Jean Hagen
as Doll Conovan
James Whitmore
as Gus Ninissi
Sam Jaffe
as Doc Erwin Riedenschneider
John McIntire
as Police Commissioner
Barry Kelley
as Lt. Ditrich
Anthony Caruso
as Louis Ciavelli
Teresa Celli
as Maria Ciavelli
Marilyn Monroe
as Angela Phinlay
Dorothy Tree
as May Emmerich
Brad Dexter
as Bob Brannon
John Maxwell
as Dr. Swanson
James Seay
as Janocek
Thomas Browne Henry
as James X. Connery
Alex Gerry
as Maxwell
Don Haggerty
as Andrews
Raymond Roe
as Tallboy
Henry Rowland
as Franz Schurz
Ralph Dunn
as Policeman
Pat Flaherty
as Policeman
Jack Shea
as Policeman
John Cliff
as Policeman
Ray Teal
as Policeman
Frank Cady
as Night Clerk
Strother Martin
as Karl Anton Smith
Henry Corden
as William Doldy
Benny Burt
as Driver
Fred Graham
as Truck Driver
Alberto Morin
as Eddie Donato
Howard Mitchell
as Secretary
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Critic Reviews for The Asphalt Jungle

All Critics (35) | Top Critics (6)

Armed with a beautifully constructed screen play, John Huston has fashioned an exciting picture that avoids all the pitfalls of most crime movies.

April 1, 2019 | Full Review…

This tale of a jewel theft gone wrong is notable for its gritty procedural detail and an emphasis on the inner lives of the small time crooks, expertly played by Sterling Hayden and Sam Jaffe.

November 11, 2006 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
Top Critic

One of The Asphalt Jungle's strengths is that the crims seem about as thick as you suspect they would be in real life: no Cruise or Clooney-style braniac super-athletes here.

November 4, 2006 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

John Huston's greatest noir thriller.

June 24, 2006 | Full Review…

A preeminent example of tough-guy cinema.

May 3, 2005 | Full Review…

Asphalt Jungle is a realistic, well directed, well written story of the underworld.

September 2, 2020 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Asphalt Jungle


What makes this classic noir/heist film so engrossing is the deliberate and unemotional way it takes us through the minutiae of a plan that involves a large group of characters, and even more interesting is how it manages to keep these characters as its primary focus.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

I was expecting Dix to start talking about our precious bodily fluids at any moment. Like other noirs, it inspired far better movies, and this one gets a bit too preachy regarding the "greater good" of the police and what not. Ok flick, not Huston's best.

Tsubaki Sanjuro
Tsubaki Sanjuro

Super Reviewer

John Huston's highly influential heist/noir The Asphalt Jungle resonates so profoundly because of the way its director invests each crew member with personality and motivation. A low-life hooligan with the heart of a farmboy (Sterling Hayden), a German career-con who's really a romantic with a penchant for senoritas, and safe-crackin new father, team up for a jewel caper. Of course crime doesn't pay, but when a film's lawless hoods are as human as these you sure as hell wish it did.

Bob O'Reilly
Bob O'Reilly

Super Reviewer

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