A man named Samuels is found beaten to death in his apartment. Detective Finlay (Young) first focuses on a young soldier, Corporal Arthur Mitchell, who had been seen in Samuels's company that night and whose wallet was found in Samuels's couch. Sgt. Keeley (Mitchum), leader of Mitchell's squad, doesn't believe that Mitchell could possibly be a killer, so he investigates the murder himself. Eventually suspicion shifts from Mitchell to another member of the unit, Montgomery (Ryan), who was also there that night and turns out to have his own motive for murder.
Crossfire was one of the first movies made in Hollywood to deal with anti-Semitism as a theme. Became something of a Dueling Movies example along with Gentleman's Agreement, the other major 1947 release that featured anti-Semitism as a theme.
- Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Keeley (Mitchum) is rather philosophical about the possibility that his wife may have stepped out on him while he was away at war.
- Action Prologue: Begins with the murder of Samuels.
- An Aesop: Anti-Semitism? Bigotry? They're bad.
- Bluffing the Murderer: Montgomery kills Floyd, the only witness to his murder of Samuels. Finlay, who has no hard evidence against Montgomery, devises a ruse. Leroy, another soldier, leads Montgomery to believe that Floyd is actually still alive, then shows Montgomery a paper with the address of the boarding house Floyd is at. Montgomery then shows up at Floyd's room, claiming to have been sent there by Leroy—except that Leroy gave him the wrong address. Montgomery's arrival at the right room proves that he was there before and catches him out as the murderer.
- B-Movie: Shot in 20 days for $500,000. The Other Wiki calls it the first B-Movie to be nominated for Best Picture.
- Bowdlerize: The motive behind the killing in the source novel is homophobia. This was changed to anti-semitism for the film due to The Hays Code outlawing any mention of homosexuality in films at the time.
- Chiaroscuro: Lots of moody, shadowy lighting throughout, setting a tense mood.
- Cigarette of Anxiety: Floyd, who was there when Montgomery killed Samuels, is very jittery and has trouble lighting his cigarette when Montgomery meets him at the boarding house.
- Flashback: Both Mitchell and Montgomery give their versions of what went down at the nightclub via flashback scenes.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: It's implied that Ginny (Gloria Grahame) is a prostitute, but all she does in the movie is encourage men to drink at the nightclub where she works.
- Hitler Cam: Used for a shot of Montgomery when Leroy picks up the piece of paper with the address that Montgomery drops at his feet.
- Impairment Shot: Done during Mitchell's flashback when he recounts getting very very drunk in Samuels's apartment.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Montgomery really really really hates Jews. This is all the motive he needed to kill Samuels.
- Posthumous Character: Samuels, murdered in the opening scene, pops up in both flashbacks.
- Satellite Character: Montgomery is the bad guy and Finlay is the detective. Keeley—has almost nothing to do, really. Mitchum's character could have been cut out of the movie without making big changes to the story.
- Sexy Backless Outfit: How Ginny is dressed when Mitchell meets her in a nightclub.
- Stranger in a Familiar Land: Another main theme. Samuels commiserates with Mitchell about how hard it is to go back to ordinary civilian life after having spent years fighting in the war. Mitchell himself is feeling alienated from his old career as an artist and is very nervous about seeing his wife again.