Rotten Tomatoes
Cancel Movies Tv shows Shop News Showtimes


Released Jun 20, 1929 1h 31m Drama List
70% Tomatometer 10 Reviews 37% Audience Score 100+ Ratings
A condemned criminal (George Bancroft) plots revenge on the young man (Richard Arlen) who stole his gal (Fay Wray) and landed next to him on death row. Read More Read Less

Critics Reviews

View All (10) Critics Reviews
Richard Brody New Yorker With streaks of shadow and jolting contrasts of light to match the film's eccentric lurches between violence, comedy, and onscreen musical performance... Sternberg evokes a nerve-jangling city of macabre menace. Mar 18, 2019 Full Review Geoff Andrew Time Out A museum piece, then, for Sternberg completists only. Oct 3, 2013 Full Review Mordaunt Hall New York Times There is nothing edifying about this production, and it is hardly an entertainment. Rated: 1.5/5 Oct 3, 2013 Full Review Matt Brunson Film Frenzy Thunderbolt was Josef von Sternberg's first talkie (a silent version was also produced) and nabbed George Bancroft his only Best Actor Oscar nomination. Rated: 3/4 Jul 24, 2021 Full Review Michael E. Grost Classic Film and Television Brilliantly filmed tale of romance and the underworld. Nov 21, 2017 Full Review Dennis Schwartz Dennis Schwartz Movie Reviews The first talkie by Josef Von Sternberg. Rated: B- Oct 29, 2015 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

View All (9) audience reviews
Louisa E I loved this movie! While the sound wasn't perfect, the music was well done. The costumes were great. What I loved most was the lighting which gave it such a great criminal filter. I thought the actors had progressed in their skills. I prefer George in this than Underworld, and I could grasp the character development and the revelation of his good heart throughout the movie. Richard Arlen was also very good, and I feel he acted better than in Wings. My favourite actress in the movie was Eugenie Besserer. I didn't really like her as the mother in the Jazz Singer, but she did a fabulous job here. I wish she had been nominated for it. I couldn't guess all the plot points in this movie, and I enjoyed watching it, even more so as the last few I've watched have been rotten. George deserved his nomination. I think Eugenie Besserer should have been nominated. Robbed. Also, I think it definitely should have been nominated for Best Picture. 8/10. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 05/08/23 Full Review Audience Member The movie comes off a bit old fashioned, lacks music and it makes it seem a bit too quiet. Some acting is a bit stilted and this was not at all unusual for 1929. The film has some good things going for it, particularly mobster talk. It's tough and fun. Bancroft's performance is also entertaining. The movie's plot is still tough to believe even with its old fashioned style and bizarre scenes. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 02/08/23 Full Review Audience Member A pretty disappointing gangster films that slows down considerably in its second half. The first half of this picture has a slightly interesting love triangle with some impressive camerawork for it's time, especially in the nightclub. However, after George Bancroft starts crawling in the floor and shakes his arse to imitate a dog, the film gets pretty dull and illogical. The only highlight of the second half was the warden's performance which was so over the top it became pretty entertaining. Bancroft frames his ex-girlfriend's new man, who is put in a cell opposite him. However, when Bancroft admits he was framed, the new boyfriend becomes very thankful which makes no sense for man who was trying to kill him and then tried to have him framed. Bancroft was undeservedly nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for this film. His performance is OK at the beginning but, for some reason, he talks at such a slower pace as the film progresses and the last scene where he laughs hysterically is ridiculously over-the-top. I haven't seen the other Best Actor performances from that (where one of the films is now sadly lost) but there must have been other performances that were more deserving of a nomination, even back in 1930. Overall, a pretty boring film with some entertaining performances but not much else. Rated 2.5 out of 5 stars 02/11/23 Full Review steve d Nothing really here to recommend . Rated 2 out of 5 stars 03/30/23 Full Review Audience Member A significant picture for two reasons, 1. The first all talking picture of Josef Von Sternberg & 2. An unofficial follow up to Underworld 1927. The story of Mob Boss played by George Bancroft who is mad about his girl, but his girl is a getting friendly with cute young Bank Teller. Bancroft is charged for murder & sentenced to death row but is adamant on getting revenge on the Bank Teller & frames him for a murder so they are both on death row. Due to being made on the cusp of sound the dialogue & performances are a little squeaky but this film has a terrific concept & could be remade today no doubt. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 01/31/23 Full Review Audience Member von Sternberg's first US talking picture. Rated 2.5 out of 5 stars 01/21/23 Full Review Read all reviews

My Rating


Cast & Crew

The Lost Squadron 100% 46% The Lost Squadron Coquette 44% 25% Coquette Safe in Hell 100% 38% Safe in Hell As You Desire Me 86% 54% As You Desire Me The Way of All Flesh 88% 50% The Way of All Flesh Discover more movies and TV shows. View More

Movie Info

Synopsis A condemned criminal (George Bancroft) plots revenge on the young man (Richard Arlen) who stole his gal (Fay Wray) and landed next to him on death row.
Josef von Sternberg
B.P. Fineman
Charles Furthman, Jules Furthman, Herman J. Mankiewicz, Josef von Sternberg
Paramount Pictures
Production Co
Paramount Famous Lasky Corporation
Original Language
Release Date (Theaters)
Jun 20, 1929, Wide
1h 31m