Box art for It Happened One Night

It Happened One Night

drama, romance

When heiress Ellie Andrews (CLAUDETTE COLBERT) weds gigolo King Westly, she's kidnapped by her unhappy father, who hopes to get the marriage annulled.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
  • Audience Score

common sense

ON for kids age 10
0 out of 5
1 out of 5
Positive messages
1 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
2 out of 5
Positive role models
0 out of 5
1 out of 5
1 out of 5

Still one of the best screwball comedies.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that in this funny and sophisticated early black-and-white romantic comedy, the behavior of the leading male and female characters reflects a gender inequality that was the norm for its time. The strong, dashing hero protects (and even babies) the vulnerable, needy "poor little rich girl." He calls her "brat," tells her to "shut up." She smiles and falls even harder for his brash charms. A fierce argument results in a father slapping his adult daughter in the face. There are flirtatious moments, "winks" to sexuality as the hero and heroine hang a blanket between them in a lodge room and undress on either side of it. Drinking and drunkenness are played for fun in several scenes, with slurred speech and back-slapping male camaraderie. Almost everyone smokes.

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about how comedies have changed and remained the same since this 1934 film. How has slang changed? Can you figure out the meanings of unfamiliar phrases or words?
  • What do you think about how men and women are portrayed in this movie? What kinds of stereotypes are present? How have things changed in society and in movies since 1934 when this film was released?

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

Top Critic Reviews

Fresh: This is Capra at his best, very funny and very light, with a minimum of populist posturing.

- Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader, Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Fresh: An old school classic.

- David Parkinson, Empire Magazine, Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fresh: This charming romantic comedy, while grounded in the context of the Depression, offered light fare that's uncharacteristic of Capra. It might have been the first true sleeper since no one involved anticipated such critical and commercial success.

- Emanuel Levy, EmanuelLevy.Com, Thursday, June 24, 2010

Audience Reviews

4 stars

Colbert and Gable hated making it and it ended up being one of Hitler's favorite films, but Capra's perfectly scripted romantic comedy has a stamp of glorious old-Hollywood quality.

- fb100001581602053, Tuesday, July 2, 2013

3 stars

With the company of a charming newspaperman, a woman flees her father to marry a man whom her father disapproves of. I've finally found a Frank Capra film that I don't find so saccharine that I found myself rolling my eyes all the way up into my cranium. This is not to say that this film has any great substance. It's a high-energy, madcap farce that has just enough pathos to keep it from becoming Bringing Up Baby and just enough fun to keep Capra from making great pronouncements of life and morality. I thought that the characters' changes, particularly on the father's part, were too convenient, and Peter's near-abuse of Ellie makes it odd that she would have any great affection for him. Overall, though the film often defies credulity, it is one of my favorite Capra films, and I'm glad that I can finally like one of his movies.

- hunterjt13, Tuesday, June 11, 2013

3 stars

Not as great as I was expecting. Ah well, I watched for the Hays Act effects.

- MeetMeinMontauk, Sunday, January 10, 2010