The Birds

1963

The Birds

Critics Consensus

Proving once again that build-up is the key to suspense, Alfred Hitchcock successfully turned birds into some of the most terrifying villains in horror history.

95%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 55

83%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 176,422
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Movie Info

The story begins as an innocuous romantic triangle involving wealthy, spoiled Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), handsome Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor), and schoolteacher Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette). The human story begins in a San Francisco pet shop and culminates at the home of Mitch's mother (Jessica Tandy) at Bodega Bay, where the characters' sense of security is slowly eroded by the curious behavior of the birds in the area. At first, it's no more than a sea gull swooping down and pecking at Melanie's head. Things take a truly ugly turn when hundreds of birds converge on a children's party. There is never an explanation as to why the birds have run amok, but once the onslaught begins, there's virtually no letup. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast

Rod Taylor
as Mitch Brenner
Tippi Hedren
as Melanie Daniels
Suzanne Pleshette
as Annie Hayworth
Jessica Tandy
as Lydia Brenner
Veronica Cartwright
as Cathy Brenner
Ethel Griffies
as Mrs. Bundy
Ruth McDevitt
as Mrs. MacGruder
Charles McGraw
as Sebastian Sholes
Joe Mantell
as Salesman
Doodles Weaver
as Fisherman
John McGovern
as Postal Clerk
Alfred Hitchcock
as Man in Front of Pet Shop with White Poodles
Richard Deacon
as Man in Elevator
Doreen Lang
as Mother in Cafe
Bill Quinn
as Farm Hand
Morgan Brittany
as Schoolchild
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News & Interviews for The Birds

Critic Reviews for The Birds

All Critics (55) | Top Critics (10) | Fresh (52) | Rotten (3)

  • Hitchcock prolongs his prelude to horror for more than half the film, playing with audience suspense with comedy and romance while he sets his stage. The horror when it comes is a hair-raiser ...

    Mar 28, 2017 | Full Review…
  • The true genius of the film, based on a 1952 short story by Daphne du Maurier, is the way Hitchcock makes the malevolent birds seem like manifestations of his characters' mental unease.

    Sep 29, 2015 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • Drawing from the relatively invisible literary talents of Daphne DuMaurier and Evan Hunter, Alfred Hitchcock has fashioned a major work of cinematic art, and "cinematic" is the operative term here, not "literary" or "sociological."

    Jan 18, 2013 | Full Review…
  • Few films depict so eerily yet so meticulously the metaphysical and historical sense of a world out of joint.

    Oct 9, 2012 | Full Review…
  • Hitch's much misappreciated follow-up to Psycho is arguably the greatest of all disaster films -- a triumph of special effects, as well as the fountainhead of what has become known as gross-out horror.

    Oct 9, 2012 | Full Review…
  • The movie flaps to a plotless end.

    Oct 7, 2008 | Full Review…
    TIME Magazine
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Birds

  • Sep 17, 2015
    One weird film that has inspired countless works after its release. It's another amazing Hitchcock, no surprise there, but his females in this one have a unique weight and character. The birds look a little silly at times, especially on the latest blu ray print, but the overall effect is still pretty potent. The final shots are flawlessly executed.
    Paris S Super Reviewer
  • Mar 09, 2014
    "A-well-a, everybody's heard about the bird, b-b-b-bird, bird, bird, bird is the word!" Man, these birds are bad enough, so one can only imagine what chaos would befall society if the bees got in on this killing spree, John Burroughs. Seriously, I've heard of California going to the birds, but this is ridiculous. I can torture you all with this nonsense all night, but in all seriousness, there are so many trite things involving birds that I can't believe this seemingly uncreative title wasn't taken, like, a couple hundred times before and after this film. Well, I can understand why no one wanted to try and evoke thoughts of a film this big by naming his or her film "The Birds", and even why no one made a film before this one that was titled "The Birds", because this film actually came out a couple months before "Surfin' Bird", and it doesn't get any older than that. I joke, but this was Alfred Hitchcock's last huge hit, insinuating that he had time to make huge hits prior, and that would be great if this film was by any means "soaring" (Ha-ha-ha-caw!), being an unreasonably two hours reasonably well-spent, but not especially smoothly. The film is plenty well-developed, with its characters, and its settings, and even its themes, but not with, of all things, it's conflict, for although I can understand the ambiguity behind the birds' mania, and although they attempt explanations way late into the body of the film, it's hard to get all that invested in a conflict so underdeveloped. Well, the conflict at least seems underdeveloped, compared to the other aspects of this narrative, whose build-up segment runs for way, way too long, until it begins to feel aimless, just as the relatively tighter body gets to be draggy itself. Running two hours in length, the film is simply too long, and that's perhaps my biggest problem with it, as the film is all too often all too meandering to be all that engaging, and would be more compelling during its lulls in conflict if it was more genuine. The script is decent, but it holds problems extending beyond the uneven pacing, particularly within its dramatics, as the personal character conflicts feel a touch too Hollywood in their being histrionic, and working to manufacture some depth to a story of limited weight. Alas, screenwriter Evan Hunter can't quite overshadow the limitations in depth within this Hollywood thriller, which are all but overpowered by inspiration to storytelling, sure, but don't do a whole lot at all, much less anything all that uniquely. The film wasn't especially refreshing even for its time, no matter, how much it tried, at least at times, when it wasn't getting too lazy, if not overblown with its exposition and conflicts to truly reward. The film is kind of underwhelming, but it's not as underwhelming as I feared it might be, being bland in more than a few areas, but effective enough in others to impress just fine, particularly on a technical level. The bird effects have, of course, become rather dated over the years, even with often their being presented in a frantic fashion that is ostensibly intended to give you only so much time to see the seams, yet they hold up just fine, and when their sheer business go accompanied by unique and disturbing sound effects, a sense of pandemonium is sold, and augmented by the staging of the action sequence. As you can imagine, it's a long while before tensions begin to rise, but when they do, the technical value, alone, however dated, thrills, viscerally and as a reinforcement of a sense of consequence to substance. As for the substance, I won't so much so that it's lacking, as much as I would say that it is, in fact, kind of overblown, being dragged out and histrionic, as well as formulaic, although that isn't to say that there isn't still something limited to the weight of this drama, and yet, with that said, the story concept, even for the time, is not as silly as it could have been, holding a chillingly believable primary conflict, behind interesting themes regarding natural tragedies, and even the depths of humanity in times of terror. The more human side of the film is really sold by the performances, which aren't graced with all that much material, but surprisingly stand out when the plot begin to thicken, with most everyone nailing a sense of sheer emotional distraught and human anguish that, when backed by layered chemistry, sell the many conflicts seen in a terrorized community with a convincing intensity that may have been beyond the time, at least in Hollywood affairs. Again, the dramatics get a little too Hollywood histrionic, but in plenty of areas, this film was gutsy enough to transcend traditional, watered down Hollywoodisms, and such audacity still rings true today in its graphic emphasis on disaster and human flaws, sold by the solid performances, both on the screen and off. What truly defines the effectiveness of this film is, of course, Alfred Hitchcock, whose directorial skills are limited by a questionable script, but are inspired enough to play an instrumental role in getting the film as far as it goes, playing up quietness just right to prevent dullness and establish genuine suspense, while placing a harsh attention to violence and claustrophobia in order to really drive the intensity that in turn drives this thriller, at least at times. The film takes much too long to pick up, and it ultimately fails to reward on the whole, but there are plenty of moments that really are more audacious and effective than one might fear, and in between them is a film that entertains enough to join the thrilling highlights in establishing a very decent, if a touch overblown Hollywood thriller. When the flock has cleared the air, little development to the ultimate conflict and too much development to an overdrawn build-up segment, with the help of some Hollywood melodrama, conventions and narrative thinness, wear the film down until it slips into underwhelmingness, but not so deeply that strong effects and action, interesting thematic depth, strong acting and effective direction aren't able to drive Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" close enough to a rewarding point to intrigue adequately as a flawed, but classic portrait on extreme natural disaster. 2.75/5 - Decent
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Sep 19, 2013
    In an isolated California town, birds mysteriously begin attacking people. It's often said that a Hitchcock film has two plots: in the beginning there is an innocuous plot, but then something unexpected happens that overtakes the film. For example, Psycho is about a woman stealing money from her employer until Norman Bates appears thirty minutes later. Notorious is about a love story between Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman until it becomes a spy flick about thirty minutes later. The Birds follows this formula, but the problem is that the initial story is so damn boring. The love story between Mitch and Melanie gathers no steam, and the Breaking Bad credits have more chemistry than Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren. Once the birds start pecking away at people's eyes, I had already given up on caring about these characters. Also, the film refuses to answer why the birds go nuts, and while I don't think it's necessary that the film answer this question, the film's steadfast apathy for wherefores got overbearing when a character asked why for the fourth or fifth time. What I can say about the film is that Hitch's work changes the way people look at the world. The Birds is not a strong film, but I did notice myself paying closer attention to birds as I drove to work. It's irrational but also the mark of director who can affect his audience in mysterious ways.
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • May 16, 2013
    Melanie sitting outside the school. She is listening kids singing in the classroom. As they are singing, more and more crows are perching on the climbing frame behind Melanie ready to attack. The image of grotesque... That scene alone is enough to prove that Alfred Hitchcock is true and only Master of Suspense! At the end he leaves this movie in mystery as there is no conclusion. But why to spoil the perfect movie with an explanation?!
    Mate M Super Reviewer

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