Film: Night Moves

"Do you ask these questions because you want to know the answer, or is it just something you think a detective should do?"

1975 neo-noir film, directed by Arthur Penn (Bonnie and Clyde, Alices Restaurant) starring Gene Hackman, Jennifer Warren, and Susan Clark. Hackman plays Harry Moseby, a private investigator (and former pro football player) hired by an ex-Hollywood starlet to track down her wayward teenage daughter. Also features Edward Binns, Harris Yulin, Kenneth Mars, and early appearances from Melanie Griffith and James Woods.

Not to be confused with the 2013 movie of the same name with Jesse Eisenberg.


  • The Alleged Car: Paula tells Harry he can follow her to Tom's place, but that he should keep his distance because her car is spewing so much smoke.
  • The Bermuda Triangle: When Delly finds a wrecked plane underwater Tom Iverson mentions this.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Delly, though it's suggested her mother is the real problem.
  • Casting Couch: Arlene Iverson makes reference to this.
  • Chess Motifs: Harry takes a little chess board with him everywhere he goes, and references a game played in 1922 between K. Emmrich and Bruno Moritz in which Moritz could have won the game if he had seen a play requiring three knight moves, but he played something else and lost. (This is a metaphor for Harry's own inability to see the truth of the mystery unfolding around him.) The title of the movie references both this game and the fact that certain key scenes take place at night.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Paula.
    Paula: Oh, that's a beauty.
    Harry: Yeah, but he didn't see it. He played something else and he lost. He must have regretted it every day of his life. I know I would have. As a matter of fact I do regret it, and I wasn't even born yet.
    Paula: That's no excuse.
  • Detective Drama
  • Downer Ending: Paula is dead and Harry has been shot far out at sea and may never get back home, and he still doesn’t fully understand the mystery he was trying to solve.
  • Fille Fatale: Delly would like to think she is, but her naivete gets her killed.
  • Genre Deconstruction: Of Film Noir. Paula asks Harry if he's the kind of detective who never lets go of a case; he jokingly responds, "That was true in the old days. Before we had a union." It turns out it's still true, but it does him little good. Delly's death/probable murder pulls him back into the case, but he misses important clues, and even at the very end he doesn't really understand the crimes he's been investigating, and may not even make it through alive.
  • Meaningful Name: A non-human example: Tom Iverson's boat is named "Point of View," which within the movie is a reference to the glass bottom of the boat. But in a more symbolic sense it refers to the use of vision within the story, which both reveals and conceals crucial details. The glass bottom of the boat, in particular, shows a couple of important elements of the mystery.
  • Men Are Uncultured: "I saw a Rohmer film once. It was kinda like watching paint dry."
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl: Delly has little restraint in being naked in front of much older men.
  • Vapor Wear: It's the Seventies; none of the women bother much with bras. Ellen (Susan Clark) wears a particularly gauzy shirt at one point with nothing underneath.
  • White-Dwarf Starlet: Averted by Arlene Iverson. When she asks Harry if he ever saw any of her movies, he can't come up with anything. She just shrugs it off, admitting that she was never that big but she got the consolation prize: marrying a studio executive.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Ellen is having an affair behind Harry's back. After he finds out he sleeps with Paula.