The Killers

1946 | Film Noir | In English


Two hitmen, Max and Al, arrive at a diner in Brentwood, New Jersey, with the intention of killing Pete Lund (known as “Swede”).  Swede supposedly double-crossed the mob boss, Big Jim Colfax, stealing a ton of money. Swede’s co-worker at the gas station suspects the worst and races to Swede’s apartment to warn him. Swede understands the situation but he refuses to run. The hit men find him and, as expected, gun him down. Jim Reardon, a life insurance investigator is assigned to find and pay the beneficiary of Swede’s $2,500 policy. Through flashbacks viewers learn that Swede was a professional boxer whose career ended when he injured his hand. Swede gets involved with a villainous crowd headed by Big Jim Colfax. At a party, Swede meets the sultry Kitty Collins and is smitten, even though he knows  Kitty is Big Jim’s girl. When Kitty is caught wearing stolen jewelry, the foolish Swede takes the rap and spends three years in jail. When he gets out, Big Jim  recruits Swede to take part in a big payroll robbery. The robbery nets them $250,000.  Kitty notifies Swede that he’s going to be double-crossed so Swede finds a way to grab the money and flees to Atlantic City. Kitty meets Swede in Atlantic City and she, in turn,  steals the money he’s holding.   The story twists and turns with many deceptions. The naive Swede doesn’t have the smarts to handle the devious Kitty and Big Jim and, as viewers have seen, ends up paying the ultimate price.

Burt Lancaster (Pete Lund/Ole “Swede” Anderson) / Ava Gardner (Kitty Collins) / Edmond O’Brien (Jim Reardon) / Albert Dekker (Big Jim Colfax) / Charles McGraw (Al) / William Conrad (Max)
Why Stream This Film?
Ernest Hemingway was outraged by the way Hollywood adapted his books. One exception was The Killers. He clearly emphasized to a reporter that The Killers is a good picture and the only good picture ever made of a story of mine.” He often screened the film at home when he had guests. There have been a few later adaptations. See the 1946 version.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 100%
  • 75th Venice Film Festival, Winner, Golden Lion
  • Ten Academy Award Nominations. Winner: Best Best Foreign Language Film, Best Director (Alfonso Cuarón), Best Cinematographer (Alfonso Cuarón)
  • Festivals: Venice, Telluride, Toronto, New York
  • Best Film of 2018: Time Magazine and The New York Film Critics Circle

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Featuring a great Burt Lancaster in his  screen acting debut, THE KILLERS is a moody and compelling noir-crime drama about an ex-fighter, loosely based on Ernest Hemingway’s short story. THE KILLERS is one of the few film noirs to earn so many Oscar nominations. It’s a genre, which is admired by critics and loved by  viewers, but is vastly underappreciated by Academy voters, perhaps due to its dark visuals and downbeat, pessimistic tone.
Emanuel Levy

Film Critic

All the classic noir staples are there in 1946’s THE KILLERS: Shadowy black-and-white cinematography, the sexy femme fatale, the doomed protagonist, and the dogged investigator. What makes it special is that once the intense opening scene is finished (which in itself concludes with a surprise), the movie darts around in time, constantly surprising and adding more depth to the character of the Swede.
Eric Melin


THE KILLERS became a template for the hard-boiled crime pictures of the sound era, with their clipped, confrontational dialogue. The film embodies an idea noted in Hemingway’s fiction, that a real man is one who can stare down his own death with honor and dignity; anyone who can’t is going to spend his entire time on earth either living in fear or living in denial.

The Chicago Reader

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