Dial T for telephone: an A-Z of phones on film

When the phone rings in Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder, it provides a killer’s deadly cue. To celebrate the rerelease of the original 3D version of this classic thriller, we flick through an A-Z directory of phones in the movies.

Samuel Wigley
Updated:

Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)

Director Michael Curtiz

Rocky Sullivan (James Cagney, right) accosts crooked lawyer Frazier (Humphrey Bogart) as he attempts to call out on a vintage ‘candlestick’ phone in one of the best of Warner Bros’ 1930s cycle of gangster films.

Brief Encounter (1945)

Director David Lean

Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson) makes a clandestine call to her lover in David Lean’s evergreen, buttoned-up romance.

Clueless (1995)

Director Amy Heckerling

Director Amy Heckerling updates Jane Austen’s Emma to modern Beverly Hills and a rich-kid world of cellphones and designer clothes.

Dial M for Murder (1954)

Director Alfred Hitchcock

Adapted from Frederick Knott’s stage play, Hitchcock’s thriller involves a jealous husband (Ray Milland) plotting to do away with his wife (Grace Kelly) with the perfect murder.

Ed Wood (1994)

Director Tim Burton

Johnny Depp plays legendary Z-grade filmmaker Edward D. Wood Jr in Tim Burton’s affectionate, black-and-white biopic.

From Russia with Love (1963)

Director Terence Young

A classic rotary-dial telephone modelled by James Bond (Sean Connery) in the second instalment of the superspy franchise.

The Godfather (1972)

Director Francis Ford Coppola

A tender moment with the young Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) and his girlfriend Kay Adams (Diane Keaton) in the first of Francis Ford Coppola’s Mafia trilogy.

His Girl Friday (1939)

Director Howard Hawks

The candlestick phones ring off the hook in the press room of Howard Hawks’s newspaper satire, starring Rosalind Russell as a retiring reporter landing one last scoop for editor Cary Grant.

The Insider (1999)

Director Michael Mann

A public payphone is only safe place to make a call for Al Pacino in Michael Mann’s conspiracy drama based on the true story of a tobacco industry whistleblower.

Jerry Maguire (1996)

Director Cameron Crowe

In a famous sequence of Cameron Crowe’s Oscar-winning drama, sports agent Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) is forced to bellow the phrase “Show me the money” down his office phone to prove his commitment to footballer Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr).

Klute (1971)

Director Alan J. Pakula

Alan J. Pakula’s brilliant 1971 thriller stars Jane Fonda as a prostitute who helps detective Donald Sutherland investigating a murder case.

The Ladykillers (1955)

Director Alexander Mackendrick

A motley gang of crooks lead by Professor Marcus (Alec Guinness) crams into one of London’s iconic red telephone boxes in one of the last (and best) of the Ealing comedies.

The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)

Director Nicolas Roeg

David Bowie plays Thomas Jerome Newton, an alien come to earth in humanoid form, in Nicolas Roeg’s visionary science-fiction drama.

Night Train to Munich (1940)

Director Carol Reed

Danger lurks in silhouette behind Margaret Lockwood as she makes a telephone call in Carol Reed’s espionage thriller – a film which was initially marketed as a sequel of sorts to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938).

Oh, Mr. Porter! (1937)

Director Marcel Varnel

In Will Hay’s best-known film, the comedian plays an inept stationmaster posted in the remote Irish village of Buggleskelly.

Pierrot le fou (1965)

Director Jean-Luc Godard

A gunrunner with a comically outsized walkie-talkie menaces babysitter Marianne Renoir (Anna Karina) in Jean-Luc Godard’s kaleidoscopic couple-on-the-run movie.

Quai des Orfèvres (1947)

Director Henri-Georges Clouzot

Bernard Blier play a mild-mannered husband who gets implicated in murder in this bleak melodrama directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, who would later gain attention for the truck-driving thriller The Wages of Fear (1953).

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Director Roman Polanski

Again, a public phone is the only safe place to call when New Yorker Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) becomes gradually convinced that the nice elderly couple in her neighbouring apartment are Satanists.

Scream (1996)

Director Wes Craven

“What’s your favourite scary movie?” comes the taunting voice down the line to high school student Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) in the opening moments of Wes Craven’s postmodern slasher film.

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

Director Norman Jewison

As millionaire businessman Thomas Crown, Steve McQueen models a fat cigar and a very 60s office phone as he plots the perfect bank heist.

Under the Skin (1997)

Director Carine Adler

In Carine Adler’s 1997 drama, Samantha Morton plays a daughter whose life spirals out of control after the death of her mother.

Victim (1961)

Director Basil Dearden

In Basil Dearden’s groundbreaking drama, Dirk Bogarde plays a successful London barrister who becomes the subject of blackmail after he re-encounters a working-class man he once had a romance with. 

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)

Director Pedro Almodóvar

Carmen Maura plays a depressed voice-over artist struggling to get over being dumped by her boyfriend in one of Pedro Almodóvar’s typically garish, hysterical and idiosyncratic early hits.

Xala (1975)

Director Ousmane Sembène

In Ousmane Sembène’s excoriating satire on the Senegalese middle classes, a wealthy businessman takes a third wife to help prove his wealth and power, but finds himself impotent come wedding night.

Les Yeux sans visage (1960)

Director Georges Franju

Disfigured in an automobile accident, Christiane Genéssier (Édith Scob) attempts a desperate call to her fiancée from the home of her doctor father, who is hiding her away while he attempts to source gruesome skin grafts for her new face.

Zodiac (2007)

Director David Fincher

In David Fincher’s gripping serial killer film, Jake Gyllenhaal plays crime reporter Robert Graysmith, embroiled in an unending investigation to unmask the Zodiac killer who’s stalking the streets of 60s and 70s San Francisco.

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