The Public Enemy
The Public Enemy (1931)

This film chronicles the making of a Prohibition-age gangster from childhood through a murderous, bootlegging adulthood and a grimly sobering sudden downfall. The seminal sound-era gangster film, with the performance that made James Cagney… More

Directed By:
Rated: Unrated
Running Time:
Release Date: September 11, 2001
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Critic Score: 100% Rotten Tomatoes™ Critic Reviews
Variety Staff

There's no lace on this picture. It's raw and brutal. It's low-brow material given such workmanship as to make it high-brow.

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Emanuel Levy

This early sound film, which made a star of James Cagney, remains one of the most influential crime-gangster films ever made, establishing the basic narrative format of the popular genre.

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Dennis Schwartz
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

The film's juiciest scene has the misogynist Tom squeeze a half a grapefruit in his nagging girlfriend Kitty's (Mae Clarke) kisser.

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Geoff Andrew
Time Out

Cagney's energy and Wellman's gutsy direction carry the day, counteracting the moralistic sentimentality of the script and indelibly etching the star on the memory as a definitive gangster hero.

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Josh Larsen

Crime may not pay, but The Public Enemy was one of the first pictures to recognize that it sure can be exciting to watch.

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Jake Hamilton
Empire Magazine

Still a classic of the gangster genre, showing neither glorifying the life nor pulling its punches.

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Dave Kehr
Chicago Reader

James Cagney's portrayal of a bootlegging runt is truly electrifying (he'd made five films, but this one made him a star), and Jean Harlow makes the tartiest tart imaginable.

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Steve Crum

Top notch Cagney gangster flick with memorable final scene.

Mark Bourne

Its success proved, if by then there was any doubt, that audiences will go for a charismatic lowlife over a dull hero any day of the week, a lesson Hollywood never forgot.

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More reviews for The Public Enemy

Flixster Audience Score: 85% Flixster User Reviews
xGary Xx
James Cagney's breaking role sees him as one of the original "hoodlums", tracing his steps from young tearaway to enforcer during the prohibition… More
danny d
this a a pretty decent flick. not as engaging or profound as many of the early gangster films were, but cagney was great as always and the movie had its bright… More
Aj V
Typical gangster story, predictable, but with an unexpected ending.
Ken Stachnik
Watch Jimmy Cagney and Jean Harlow do something amazing with a grapefruit. *snicker*
Lady D'arbanville
I am a fan of Jimmy Cagney and this one seems to be one of his very early works. Quite typical of the mob style films of it?s time, but for me not enough… More
Stella Dallas
cagney embarks on a life of crime and his presence cannot be denied. his breakout performance here burns right through the screen. harlow still needs some… More