Hitchcock’s Classic ‘North by Northwest’ Is Getting a Limited 65th Anniversary Theatrical Re-Release

image from the 1959 movie
Courtesy Everett Collection
Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and Teddy Roosevelt in North by Northwest

Alfred Hitchcock’s classic and massively entertaining 1959 spy thriller North by Northwest originally opened on July 1, 1959, and just ahead of its 65th anniversary in 2024, the film is getting a brief theatrical re-release by Fathom Events.

Fathom’s North by Northwest 65th Anniversary screening is taking place on Sunday, May, 19, 2024, and Wednesday, May 22, 2024.

For more info, you can visit the Fathom Events website, or Fandango, or your local theater’s website to see if and when the film is playing in your area (where I am, at least, it is having an afternoon and evening showing on May 19, and just an evening screening on May 22). 

poster for the 65th anniversary theatrical re-release of the 1959 movie "North by Northwest." It is an illustration of the famous scene in the movie where Cary Grant is running and being pursued by a crop-dusting airplane, in the air behind him. On the road in front of him is the title of the movie, below which are the dates of the movie's release, May 19 & 22.

Courtesy Fathom Events

North by Northwest may be the ultimate Hitchcock film. Ernest Lehman’s Oscar-nominated screenplay has several of the major hallmarks and themes one often expects from a Hitchcock movie, notably a story that features an innocent man on the run, suave and sinister bad guys, and humor mixed in with the thrills.

That innocent man is ad exec Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant, as cool as ever, even when pursued by an attacking crop-dusting plane), who gets mistaken for a fictional American intelligence agent and finds himself pursued by enemy agent Phillip Vandamm (James Mason, giving one of his best charmingly smug villain performances) and his thugs (including Martin Landau as Leonard in an early supporting role). Thornhill unfortunately also becomes the target of American law enforcement after he is also incorrectly suspected as the murderer of a U.N. diplomat.

image from the 1959 movie "North by Northwest." Left to right are Cary Grant, standing in a grey suit; Eva Marie Saint, seated and wearing a red-and-black dress; James Mason, standing in a grey suit; and Martin Landau, standing in a black suit. They look to be engaged in a tense conversation, and Saint has an especially anxious expression.

Courtesy Everett Collection

This leads Thornhill on a chase across the country, where he gets into predicaments like that aforementioned crop-duster attack in the rural Midwest, one of the film’s most famous sequences.

The bad guys also try to get rid of him at one point by forcing a whole bottle of liquor into him, then putting him behind the wheel of a car and sending him along a treacherous road on a cliffside. But they greatly underestimate just how much booze a 1950s New York City adman can put away and remain not only awake and alive, but able to steer away from danger!

Along his trek, Thornhill also makes the company of Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint), who may not be what she initially appears, and the interplay between Grant and Saint is among the elements that gives North by Northwest such a fun, sophisticated and stylish feel amid its thrills.

image from the 1959 movie "North by Northwest." It shows a closing scene where stars Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint are embracing on a foldout bed on the train they are riding. Grant is wearing a white dress shirt and black trousers, Saint is in white pajamas.

Courtesy Everett Collection

At the center of all this fuss is a statue containing microfilm, but in the end, that is just one of those Hitchcock “MacGuffins” that exists without much of an importance aside from as an excuse to keep the action moving along.

That action all leads to an iconic climax atop a famed monument, Mount Rushmore, similar to how Hitch’s 1942 thriller Saboteur ended with the hero and villain hanging off the Statue of Liberty.

This ending alone is worth seeing North by Northwest on the big screen (even if it’s not in the original VistaVision format in which the film was shot).

Also worth seeing on a big screen is the movie’s opening title sequence, designed by the legendary Saul Bass, who also created the equally memorable titles for Hitch’s Vertigo (1958) and Psycho (1960).

That opening is accompanied by a fantastic musical score from frequent Hitchcock collaborator Bernard Herrman, and its sights and sounds really start the film off with an exciting bang, even before we are past the introductory roaring of the MGM lion!

The film also has great supporting performances from Leo G. Carroll as the government agent who eventually helps Thornhill (after initially just letting him fend for himself) and Jessie Royce Landis as Roger’s mother (even though Landis was only eight years older than Grant).

Fathom Events’ North by Northwest 65th Anniversary screening takes place on Sunday, May, 19, 2024, and Wednesday, May 22, 2024.