Stranger on the Third Floor (1940) - Rotten Tomatoes

Stranger on the Third Floor (1940)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Stranger on the Third Floor Photos

Movie Info

This small, interesting, film which is generally considered the first film noir, The Stranger on the Third Floor, directed by Boris Ingster, is the story of the story of a reporter's search for a murderer. Ward, (John McGuire) was the star witness in a murder trial that convicted Briggs (Elisha Cook, Jr.), but he begins to doubt his own testimony. When another murder is committed Ward begins to focus his suspicions on a mysterious stranger (Peter Lorre), and attempts to find the true killer in time to save Briggs. This film, beautifully photographed by Nicholas Musuraca, shows the German influence on the classic film noir with its deep focus, high contract, stylized photography. The tone of the film, with is Baroque nightmare scenes establishes the technique which will be later used to great effect in the entire genre.

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Peter Lorre
as The Stranger
John McGuire
as Michael 'Mike' Ward
Charles Waldron
as District Attorney
Elisha Cook Jr.
as Joe Briggs
Ethel Griffies
as Mrs. Kane
Alec Craig
as Defense attorney
Otto Hoffman
as Police surgeon
Paul McVey
as Lt. Jones
Harry C. Bradley
as Court Clerk
Greta Granstedt
as Chambermaid
Lynton Brent
as Cabdriver
Jack Cheatham
as Detective
Bud Osborne
as Bartender
Henry Roquemore
as Boss McLean
Jane Keckley
as Landlady
Bessie Wade
as Charwoman
Jim Farley
as Policeman
Ralph Sanford
as Truck driver
Betty Farrington
as Stout Woman
Dell Henderson
as Detective
Ray Cooke
as Drug Store Attendant
Bobby Barber
as Giuseppe
Gladden James
as Reporter
Donald Kerr
as Lunch Counter Seat Man
Don Kelly
as Policeman
Frank O'Connor
as Policeman
Emory Parnell
as Detective
Lee Phelps
as Cabdriver
Herb Vigran
as Reporter
Robert Weldon
as Reporter
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Critic Reviews for Stranger on the Third Floor

All Critics (7)

Thanks to its performances, all perfect, and its staging, "Stranger on the Third Floor" is a discovery that still surprises more than seventy years later. [Full Review in Spanish]

April 10, 2020 | Full Review…

... a paranoid murder thriller that, for all of its budgetary constraints, took viewers on a spiral of justified paranoia.

February 16, 2011 | Full Review…

This low-budget B film is thought by many to be the first true film noir.

February 12, 2005 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…

Pretty creepy suspenser with unsettling Lorre performance.

July 8, 2004 | Rating: 4/5

Audience Reviews for Stranger on the Third Floor


so it's a bit contrived and the lead actress is quite bad but this highly stylized film is considered the first noir with good reason: stunning art direction, especially the remarkable dream sequence, and great expressionist cinematography by nicolas musuraca. makes a powerful anti-death penalty statement as well

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

In "Stranger on the Third Floor," Michael Ward(John McGuire), a reporter, is the chief witness for the prosection in the murder trial of Joe Briggs(Elisha Cook Jr.), a drifter. During the trial, Michael's fiancee Jane(Margaret Tallichet) comes by to lend moral support. After Briggs is convicted of first degree murder and is likely to be sentenced to death, Michael starts to have second thoughts, especially after this strange dude(Peter Lorre) puts in an appearance. "Stranger on the Third Floor" is a dark little number with a very cool nightmare sequence. The movie is about how often appearances can be deceiving while taking a shot at the strict moral code of the time and this is an important lesson for Michael if he is to be a success at his chosen profession. However, the movie wraps a little too neatly and quickly, as more could have been done with the premise.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

A good little B-movie about a journalist whose eyewitness testimony convicts a potentially innocent man of murder. The journalist himself then becomes a victim of circumstantial evidence after his despised neighbour is murdered. The plot is contrived and overuses both flashback and voice-over, but there's an excellent expressionist dream sequence in the middle. John McGuire makes a dull hero but Peter Lorre walks away with the movie with his 10 minute contribution.

Stephen M
Stephen M

Super Reviewer

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