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Chinatown is a 1974 film directed by Roman Polanski. It uses many elements of the film noir genre to present a multi-layered story, part mystery and part psychological drama. more...

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The movie is highly regarded and won several high-profile awards, including an Academy Award in 1975 for Best Writing and Original Screenplay for Robert Towne.

Chinatown stars Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, and John Huston. It also features a brief cameo appearance by its director, Roman Polanski.

Chinatown is consistently listed in the top 50 on the Internet Movie Database's top 250 films and has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

A sequel, called The Two Jakes, was released in 1990. Jack Nicholson directed and starred in it. The screenplay was also written by Robert Towne.


A Los Angeles detective named Jake 'J.J' Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is hired by a woman claiming to be Mrs. Mulwray to spy on her husband. When Gittes' photographs of Mr. Mulwray, revealing an apparent affair, appear in the papers another Mrs. Mulwray, whom we discover is the real one, appears in his office threatening to sue if he doesn't drop the case immediately. Gittes pursues the case nevertheless, slowly uncovering a vast conspiracy around water management, state and municipal corruption, land use and real estate, and involving at least one murder, further complicated by the tangled emotional relationships between the primary characters in the film.

The plot is based in part on real events that formed the California Water Wars, in which William Mulholland acted on behalf of Los Angeles interests to secure water rights in the Owens Valley.

Selected Quotations

From the first meeting between Jake and Mrs. Mulwray:

Jake, to Mrs Mulwray: "There's no point in getting tough with me. I'm just..."
Mrs. Mulwray to Jake: "I don't get tough with anyone Mr. Gittes... My lawyer does."

Russ Yelburton, observing Jake's bandaged nose:

"You've got to be more careful; that must really smart."
"Only when I breathe."

Gittes bluffs his way past a few policemen:

"So, tell me Gittes, how'd you get past my guards?"
"Well, to tell ya the truth, I lied a little."

Mrs. Mulwray conversing with Jake in the restaurant:

"Look, Hollis seems to think you're an innocent man."
"Well, I've been accused of many things, Mrs. Mulwray, but never that."

Excerpt from a phone conversation:

"Hello, Miss Sessions. I don't believe we've had the pleasure."
"Oh, yes we have. Are you alone?"
"Isn't everyone?"

Final lines:

"As little as possible."
"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."


  • 1975 Academy Awards, Best Writing, Original Screenplay
  • 1975 BAFTA, Best Actor (Nicholson), Best Direction, Best Screenplay(male)
  • 1975 Golden Globes, Best Director (Motion Picture), Best Motion Picture (Drama), Best Motion Picture Actor (Drama), Best Screenplay
  • 1991 National Film Preservation Board


  • Chinatown and The Last Detail: 2 Screenplays by Robert Towne
  • Chinatown (B.F.I. Film Classics series) by Michael Eaton (brief critical analysis)


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