USA Today - 06/30/2000
"...One of the most enduring courtroom dramas ever....Lee Remick enjoyed a career breakthrough..."
Sight and Sound - 03/01/2002
"...[An] immaculate courtroom drama....The performances of James Stewart and George C. Scott as opposing attorneys remain a benchmark in the genre..."
Uncut - 05/01/2005
"ANATOMY OF A MURDER from 1959, arguably Preminger's finest film, is also his most brazenly ambiguous."
Entertainment Weekly - 02/24/2012
"It's a daring, cynical gem." -- Grade: A-
Director Preminger thrives in tense legal showdowns and this is perhaps his best, mostly for Stewart's cagey performance as a deceptively wily small-town lawyer. The sensationalist trial revolves around an army lieutenant who shoots a bar owner for allegedly raping his wife, an ugly crime in which no one is wholly guilty or innocent. Based on Robert Travers' novel. Score (and onscreen appearance) by Duke Ellington. Academy Award Nominations: 7, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor--James Stewart, Best (Adapted) Screenplay.
Director Preminger thrives in tense legal showdowns and this is perhaps his best, mostly for Stewart's cagey performance as a deceptively wily small-town lawyer. An army lieutenant shoots a bar owner for allegedly raping his wife. A trial ensues, in which his attempts to convince the jury that the lieutenant is innocent of first degree murder because of he was the victim of an "irresistible impulse." The plot is complicated by the nature of the criminal and defendants, none of whom is purely good or evil, but who all have a complex relationship to the law and to society.
Joseph N. Welch, who plays the judge in the film, was the lawyer (he later became a judge) who defended the Army against Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1954 during his anti-communist witch hunt. The book on which the film is based was written by a judge, The Honorable Robert Traver.
At the time of release in 1959, the film contained some words that viewers found daring, such as "contraceptive" and "spermatogenesis."