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Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire ... see more see more... , Richard Chamberlain , Malcolm Atterbury , Susan Blakely , Norman Burton , Jack Collins , Susan Flannery , Jennifer Jones , Sheila Mathews , Maureen McGovern , Felton Perry , Gregory Sierra , O.J. Simpson , Olan Soule , Robert Vaughn , Robert Wagner , Dabney Coleman , Don Gordon , Ernie F. Orsatti , Mike Lookinland , John Crawford , Carlena Gower , Carol McEvoy

A skyscraper and an all-star cast go up in flames in Irwin Allen's classic disaster movie. To celebrate the construction of the Glass Tower, the world's tallest building, architect Doug Roberts (Paul ... read more read more...Newman) and builder James Duncan (William Holden) hold a gala bash on the highest floors. Trouble is, Duncan's son-in-law and electrical subcontractor Roger Simmons (Richard Chamberlain) installed faulty wiring throughout the 138-story behemoth to save money. While the guests -- including Doug's lady friend (Faye Dunaway), a rich widow (Jennifer Jones), a con man (Fred Astaire), and a politico (Robert Vaughn) -- enjoy the party, and a security guard (O.J. Simpson) wonders why his equipment is on the fritz, a burnt-out circuit breaker ignites some garbage on the 85th floor, swiftly turning the high-rise into, well, a towering inferno. With the guests trapped on the 135th floor, it's up to Roberts and Fire Chief O'Hallorhan (Steve McQueen) to find a way to stop the blaze. Though not the first all-star '70s disaster movie (1970's Airport and 1972's The Poseidon Adventure preceded it), The Towering Inferno was the most popular and the most spectacular. In a move that would become more common in late-'90s blockbuster Hollywood, The Towering Inferno's mammoth production was mounted by two studios; screenwriter Stirling Silliphant combined the two novels owned by the studios into one saga. 1970s "shake 'n bake" maestro Allen, with co-director John Guillermin (Allen did the action sequences), tapped into deep fears about the fragility of modern life in the face of extreme natural phenomena, as well as into the envies and insecurities of middle-aged professional men. The Towering Inferno packed theaters and earned eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture; it won for Cinematography, Editing, and Song. While its heroic, no-nonsense men provided some traditional comfort, The Towering Inferno still might provoke second thoughts about going into a skyscraper. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

Flixster Users

72% liked it

27,846 ratings

Critics

74% liked it

27 critics

DVD Release Date: March 9, 1999

Stats: 1,133 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (1,133)


  • November 24, 2012
    Starting up, you're praising the fun and beauty. By the end, you're praising that it's over.

    Full review at themoviefreakblog.com on 11/27
  • February 29, 2012
    The Towering Inferno is a clusterfuck of hammy dialogue, overly ambitious cinematography, and explosions aplenty. Meaning of course, that it is surely nestled in Roland Emmerich's home DVD collection, covered with semen stains.
    While I do give it credit for not bogging itself dow... read moren the plausible, it's nearly three hour running time really tests the patience of any sane viewer. The fact that the academy even threw this into the same league as The Godfather Part 2 & Chinatown is mind-blowing.
    Sure the cast is pretty stunning, but the material gives them nothing interesting to do. McQueen and Newman don't even seem into it. In fact, if you listen closely, you can hear them counting their cash in between their scenes. And pardon the pun, but Fred Astaire's performance shows that going down in a blaze of glory isn't always a good thing.
    However, all is not lost. There is one really ballsy scene in which a young Robert Wagner makes a nearly death defying escape, only to be thoroughly and violently torched. It is easily the best moment in a film that probably shouldn't have been made.
  • November 12, 2011
    Lengthy, yes, but it didn't feel at all lengthy to me. Before I knew it, I was 2 hours into the film, but remember thinking it only felt like 30 minutes...that's always a good sign of being really into a movie. "The Towering Inferno" laid the foundation for good disaster movies t... read moreo come, both in being huge budget and cast wise, and with great special effects that accompany a story that makes you glad you're not one of the people you're watching on the screen. It isn't as great as "The Poseidon Adventure," but it's still one of the classics of classics in its genre.
  • August 14, 2011
    Decent entry in the disaster genre, character development is obviously kept to a minimum. The two main reasons to watch this are the cast and the old school effects, which stand pretty damn well to this day.
  • August 8, 2011
    The Towering Inferno is one of the first of many disaster films that followed during the 1970's. The film is very thrilling and packed with suspense and action. The film has a great cast as well. However, I felt that the film at times was a tad too silly. For example, a guy and a... read more woman are trapped and he covers his head to protect himself from the engulfing flames only to get burnt to a crisp. That was actually a very funny scene and made me laugh because it was so stupid. That was one of the few examples of the silly parts in the film. I guess that in every film of this stature, you need something ridiculous. The film is thrilling and has a fairly good story despite the fact that it's fairly simple. The filmmakers prove that despite its simple story, they're able to turn out quite the exciting plot with so little. This film proves that you don't need an elaborate storyline to create top notch thrills, suspense and action. The basis of this film is the book the Glass Inferno by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson, (Robinson would later famously collaborate with gay rights activist Harvey Milk and write his speeches). The Towering Inferno, though not a perfect film, is definitely an entertaining one, and definitely delivers the thrills it promises. This is, along with The Poseidon Adventure, the best disaster film.
  • August 5, 2011
    A Classic film which I'm sure was a big Disaster film in it's day, it's the kind of film you can watch whilst doing other things as it's pretty slow moving and extremely lengthly.
  • July 24, 2011
    What can one say about The Towering Inferno that hasn't already been said? It's cheesy, it's bloated, but it amazingly all works. Most of my adoration for this stems from my adoration for both Paul Newman and Steve McQueen (in the same film, no less), but this is one of those mov... read moreies you just have to sit and suspend your disbelief. It's not perfect, nor an amazing piece of cinema, but it can be entertaining if you let it in. Just don't expect anything too marvelous and you should be fine. Just enjoy it.
  • March 5, 2011
    It took two major studios to create this incredible movie. It's big on every scale. Check out that cast list. McQueen, Newman AND Holden. Those are just your three leads. Each one representing a man in authority, but also out of his depth. The fireman, the architect, and the busi... read moreness man. Each one recognizes the danger, but understands each others point of view. The scene where McQueen removes his fireman's uniform in the elevator, to avoid a panic, is one of the great character moments that make this more than just a disaster film. Littered throughout the building are a number of characters that represent different sections of society and people with different moral values. Sometimes these characters are pigeonholed into one character trait, but here most people are three dimensional. The action scenes and slow build up are phenomenal. Each one unfolds with the kind of tension that doesn't exist today, due to loud music and quick cuts. Newman's slow disappearance throughout the movie, due to him having to have the same number of lines as McQueen, but arriving 43 minutes earlier, does sometimes make the film seem disjointed. But this is an incredible action film that sucks you in. I saw it for the first time when I was 8 or 9, and most of the images stayed with me.
  • March 3, 2011
    The ultimate in star powered chaos. Everyone is super glamourous and imperiled, a truly guilty pleasure.
  • December 31, 2010
    Literally about a giant tower that catches on fire, and the people have to get down somehow. This movie should have been a warning to architects, but no. It's a good disaster flick, it's very exciting.

Critic Reviews


Pauline Kael
January 15, 2013
Pauline Kael, New Yorker

The movie doesn't stick together in one's head; this thing is like some junky fairground show -- a chamber of horrors with skeletons that jump up. Full Review

Don Druker
February 3, 2012
Don Druker, Chicago Reader

Irwin Allen, the Busby Berkeley of natural disasters and other people's troubles, teams up with John Guillermin, a competent if undistinguished action director. Full Review

Variety Staff
September 22, 2008
Variety Staff, Variety

The Towering Inferno is one of the greatest disaster pictures made, a personal and professional triumph for producer Irwin Allen. Full Review

Geoff Andrew
June 24, 2006
Geoff Andrew, Time Out

A starry cast share out roles that are less like characters than places in a lifeboat. Full Review

Vincent Canby
May 9, 2005
Vincent Canby, New York Times

You may not come out of the theater with any important ideas about American architecture or enterprise, but you will have had a vivid, completely safe nightmare. Full Review

Roger Ebert
October 23, 2004
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

The Towering Inferno is a brawny blockbuster of a movie, by far the best of the mid-1970s wave of disaster films. Full Review

February 3, 2012
TV Guide's Movie Guide

The result is everything a disaster movie should be, a combination of soap opera and the spectacle of destruction. Full Review

February 3, 2012
Film4

Ironically, there's now something almost comforting about the way the film sticks to formula, but the action is still authentically thrilling. Full Review

Emanuel Levy
March 30, 2011
Emanuel Levy, EmanuelLevy.Com

Featuring an all-star cast (Paul Newman, Steve McQueen), the movie delivers the goods of a well-crafted disaster flick, but strangely, it was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. Full Review

Peter Canavese
July 28, 2009
Peter Canavese, Groucho Reviews

A Titanic tale of hubris...knot-in-the-stomach scary from the moment the fire gets out of control to the last-ditch heroics that come hours later. [Blu-ray] Full Review

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The Towering Inferno Trivia


  • Name the 70s disaster movie that starred Paul Newman and concerned a fire sweeping through a skyscraper full of party-goers  Answer »
  • I co-starred in the movies 'Roots', 'The Towering Inferno' and 'The Naked Gun'. Who am I?  Answer »
  • The 1st ever disaster movie to earn an Best Picture nomination!  Answer »
  • in which movie does Steve Mcqueen star as a fire fighter, and help people escape the flames of a building engulfed in flames?  Answer »

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