- Award Snub: Went 0 for 3 at the Oscars. Editing and Art Direction lost to Ben-Hur, while Original Screenplay lost to Pillow Talk. Amazingly, it was editor George Tomasini's only Oscar nomination, while it was the second of five screenplay losses for Ernest Lehman (who finally got a lifetime achievement Oscar in 2000).
- Awesome Music: Bernard Herrmann strikes again.
- Crazy Awesome: Vandamm, the guy went as far as sending a crop duster to try to kill Thornhill when he could have just shot him.
- Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory: As with most Hitchcock films, it's been subject to this. There's talk of Roger as a Messianic Archetype (Thornhill=Jesus wore a crown of thorns on a hill), Eve and how her name symbolizes temptation and femininity, and a villain who has the word "damn" (well, "damm") in his name.
- Genius Bonus: Roger calling the statue with the microfilm in it "the pumpkin" seems like a Non Sequitur, unless you're familiar with the Alger Hiss case, which hinged on the discovery of microfilm that Hiss had given to his former colleague Whittaker Chambers. Chambers had kept the film in a hollowed-out pumpkin on a pumpkin patch on his farm. It was still a current-enough reference in 1959 that most of the audience would've gotten the joke.
- Idiot Plot: The plot of the movie wouldn't have happened if the bad guys had just shot Roger the first time they wanted to kill him instead of hatching a complex scheme to get him in a car accident. Later, they get another opportunity to assassinate him, but they again ruin their own plan by using a loud, highly visible crop duster that gives him ample warning time instead of just doing something simpler like planting a sniper.
- Just Here for Godzilla: Who came just to watch the cropduster scene?
- Misaimed Marketing: It's acquired the reputation of being Hitchcock's most family-friendly classic, probably because it's in color, has a good blend of action and comedy, doesn't focus on a murder (like Rear Window) and doesn't delve into complex psychological themes (like Vertigo). Of course, it also has several scenes where people are stabbed or shot at, clear insinuations that Roger and Eve had sex on the train, and a rather intense ending. It was featured on the Turner Classic Movies program Essentials Jr., which is marketed towards families and younger viewers, and usually features softer fare. There's also at least one DVD that carries the rating "all ages" without any warnings. This even goes back to when it was released: Movie theaters reportedly gave children coloring pages of such scenes as Roger getting chased by the crop duster and Eve hanging off of Mount Rushmore.
- Moral Event Horizon:
- Vandamm crosses it early on when he refuses to listen to Thornhill insisting that he is not the man Vandamm thinks he is and decides to simply kill him despite his protests, as if implying that whether Thornhill is telling the truth or not, it makes no difference to him.
- Leonard crosses it in the climax when he steps on Thornhill's hand, the one he's holding precariously on to the cliff by (Eve is holding on to his other hand), after Thornhill asks him for help. A Karmic Death follows moments later.
- Poor Man's Substitute: Eva Marie Saint for Grace Kelly as the classic Hitchcockian blonde.
- Retroactive Recognition:
- "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: A modern viewer who has never seen the film before can recognize trope after action movie trope, perhaps unaware that it was a defining film in that genre and that films like James Bond and Indiana Jones were heavily influenced by it.
- Signature Scene: Two words—crop duster. Not just the Signature Scene of this film, but arguably the Signature Scene of Hitchcock's whole career (the Psycho shower scene is the other possibility).
- Spiritual Adaptation: James Bond was still a popular book series when this film came out, but it essentially codified many of the elements that typify Bond. Morally ambiguous Femme Fatale spies, Affably Evil supervillains, sexually ambiguous dragons, use of Monumental Battle and wild action sequences. Likewise, Sean Connery's turn as Bond, as a more suave individual than his literary counterpart was based on Cary Grant's performance in this film. Indeed, Hitchcock who initially considered adapting James Bond was upset that Albert Broccoli (who he knew personally) ripped off his film for many of the early Bond films.
- What an Idiot!: Roger Thornhill goes to the UN in New York to speak with Lester Townshend and find out who was impersonating Townshend. One of the Big Bad's mooks throws a knife at Townshend, causing Townshend to collapse into Thornhill's arms.
You'd Expect: Thornhill to leave the knife as-is, and yell out, "Get a doctor! He's been stabbed! Someone threw a knife at him!"
Instead: Thornhill yanks the knife out of Townshend's back, getting his prints all over the knife and looking very much like he'd done the deed. A photographer catches his picture while he's holding the knife.
Even Worse: Thornhill bolts from the building and goes on the lam, making his innocence look even more in doubt.
However: The whole scene played out so quickly that Thornhill's reactions seemed to be purely instinctive rather than based on any kind of reasoning.
YMMV / North by Northwest