1944 | Film Noir | In English | 107 minutes
Walter Neff, a successful insurance agent, is in his office dictating a confession for a crime he committed. The whole story is now revealed in flashback. It begins with Neff visiting the Dietrichson home to remind the husband to renew his automobile insurance. Mr. Dietrichson is not home but his sexy wife, Phyllis, is very much at home. She flirts with Neff and has him hooked with her sexual seductiveness. She talks Neff into writing a life insurance policy on her husband with a double indemnity clause. If the death is accidental, the amount on the policy is doubled. Phyllis and Neff then find a way to kill her husband and make it look like an accident. Barton Keyes, the claims adjuster, refuses to approve payment, suspecting that Phyllis and an accomplice murdered her husband for the insurance money. Keyes feels it was not an accident. Complicating matters, Neff finds out that all along Phyllis was having an affair with a guy named Nino Zachetti. A distraught Neff confronts Phyllis about her affair, and he shoots and kills her. Back in his office, Neff confesses everything in his Dictaphone machine. Keyes, overhears him and now knows the whole story. Keyes has great fondness and respect for Neff. The revelation breaks his heart.
Why Stream This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 96
- Metacritic Score: 95
- Academy Awards: Double Indemnity was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Actress. But Paramount preferred to push Going My Way, which took most of the honors that year.
- American Film Institute (AFI) 100 Best American Films: Double Indemnity was #29.
- The film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
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This shrewd, smoothly tawdry thriller, directed by Billy Wilder, is one of the high points of nineteen-forties films. Barbara Stanwyck’s Phyllis Dietrichson—a platinum blonde who wears tight white sweaters, an anklet, and sleazy-kinky shoes—is perhaps the best acted and most fixating of all slutty, cold-blooded femmes fatales of the film-noir genre. With her bold stare, her sneering, over-lipsticked, thick-looking mouth and her strategically displayed legs, she’s a living entrapment device.
The puzzle of Billy Wilder’s DOUBLE INDEMNITY, the enigma that keeps it new, is what these two people really think of one another. They strut through the routine of a noir murder plot, with tough talk and cold sex play. But they never seem to really like each other all that much. Standing back from the film I see them engaged not in romance or theft, but in behavior. They’re intoxicated by their personal styles.
Who would have thought a movie about an insurance guy could be so bitter, so suspenseful, so heartbreaking. I love DOUBLE INDEMNITY because it’s about a couple who are cheap and greedy, but achieve a kind of heroism. And it also has a trio of three superb performances.
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