Dial 555-CLASSIC Movie Phone Call Scenes

Ahoy! “The next best thing to being there” sometimes results in unforgettable moments in motion pictures. It’s time to dial up Movie Irv so we can chat about some of his favorite movie scenes involving telephone calls:

Before you hang up (is that even viable lingo anymore in the era of cell phones?), share your favorite movie moments involving phones in the comments!—whether the device is of the candlestick, rotary, push-button, or mobile variety.

  • Masterofoneinchpunch

    Taxi Driver: One of the key scenes in Taxi Driver is when Travis Bickle is talking to Betsy
    (Cybill Shepherd) on a payphone after a disastrous date and the camera pans to
    an empty hallway. It is as if Travis’s pain is too much for us to watch.
    Scorsese said that this was one of the most important shots in the movie.

    Once Upon a Time in America: while not a conversation, but the ringing of the phone that goes on and on. This takes on much more significance at the end of the film (we are talking the long version of the movie.)

    The Pink Panther Strikes Again: the hunchback disguise (the bells, the bells), the floating, the explosion and the nuns ahhh the nuns. A link to youtube would help to explain this.

    Scream: Do you like scary movies? This is one of the better horror ones. Reminds me I still need to see The Takashi Miike film One Missed Call.

    Taken: it isn’t just the phone call, but also the result of a phone call when Liam Neeson gets his revenge. “You don’t remember me? We spoke on the phone two days ago. I told you I would
    find you.”

    I’ll think of some more.

    • GeorgeDAllen

      Before someone else chimes (rings) in with it, I’m gonna mention that one of my personal favorites is the phone call near the end of Rear Window, when Stewart thinks it’s his detective buddy calling him back, says way too much (something like “I think Thorwald’s getting ready to pull out” or some such), and then realizes too late that he’s got Raymond Burr on the other end of the line. A really good goose-pimply moment.

      • Masterofoneinchpunch

        That is a good one. Hitchcock used the phone quite effectively in many of his films.

        The Conversation: the key scene which sets off Gene Hackman’s character.

      • Jan

        Don’t forget when Stewart is on the phone with the police friend while Grace Kelley is in Thorwald’s apartment.

    • jan

      In Taken – I also like the initial phone call when Neeson’s daughter is on the phone when the kidnappers are in the apartment looking for the girls. I can not imagine listening to my child on the phone in that situation and keeping my cool the way he does.

  • OZ ROB

    ” I`m in love with a voice Plaza 440033 ” sings Ella ( Judy Holiday) switchboard operator for Susanswerphone in Bells are Ringing 1960

  • Richard Blaine

    There was Bob Newhart in “Hell is For Heroes.” Although a serious war movie there was Bob doing his one-sided phone conversation with HQ. I imagine they adapted his comedy routine for the movie or perhaps he used it first here and then in his stand-up engagements.

  • Susan

    PILLOW TALK. When “Tex” (Rock Hudson) calls Jan (Doris Day) while they are both in their tubs. Their feet touch due to split screen and it’s a whole other conversation. Wonderful!
    Best ring tone is from the Flint movies with James Coburn.

  • Debbie

    “Sorry, Wrong Number” was pretty intense at the very end. So was “Experiment in Terror”. All that heavy breathing…

  • david

    Sorry, Wrong Number

    What Ever Happened to Baby Jane

  • williamsommerwerck

    Brokeback Mountain — Ennis’s conversation with Lureen

  • Joseph23006

    “Dial ‘M’ for Murder”, we saw the technology of the time making the connection, switches moving and connecting, not this digital silence, and then the silence as the Murderer died and not the victim!

  • Robert Armin

    Luise Rainer won an Oscar for her phone call in The Great Ziegfeld. Liza Minnelli earned an Oscar nomination for The Sterile Cuckoo.

  • Diane Carpenter

    I have always loved the phone scene from It’s a Wonderful Life! Very powerful! You can just feel the tension building up between Mary and George as he realizes how much he truly loves her.

  • Tom

    I am rather surprised only because the first two “old school” scenes I thought of were “Sorry, Wrong Number,” and “Dial M for Murder,” and in the newer genre, “The Departed.”

  • Tim

    “Meet Me in St. Louis” when the family, sitting around the table, watches and listens as Rose receives her long distance call from New York.

  • Beth Palladino

    I am completely surprised that you left out Luise Rainer in “The Great Ziegfeld.” That is the one scene that I think of when considering phone scenes in movies. She won an Oscar for that film.

  • Charlie

    “The Women” (1939) is filled with telephone scenes. Every star has at least one and the biggies, Shearer and Crawford, have multiple opportunities to show their acting chops against the instrument. My favorite is probably Crawford on the phone in Black’s Department Store when Virginia Grey is constantly making smart remarks and interrupting the whole time Crawford is trying to “persuade” Stephen Haines not to break their date for the evening.

    • Bruce Reber

      Nothing but a non-stop, tedious and utterly boring gabfest by MGM’s top female stars of the day. “Gossip Girl” 1939 style. And to think I once actually liked “The Women”!

  • laustcawz

    Why bother with one measley phone call scene when there’s the ultimate phone movie–


  • Jimbo

    Die Hard with a Vengeance, the third Die Hard movie, had Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson being sent all over New York chasing bomb scares via phone calls from Jeremy Irons.

  • Ron

    MIDNIGHT LACE…………….Sexy Rexy trying to drive our beloved Doris insane
    with frightening phone calls.
    “Is that you, Mrs. Preston?”

  • Bruce Reber

    In “Dial M For Murder”, when Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) calls his wife Margot (Grace Kelly) and overhears what he thinks is her murder, but then finds out different.

  • Bruce Reber

    The two teenage girls in “I Saw What You Did” playing phone pranks, calling up John Ireland at random and saying ” I saw what you did!”, unaware that he just murdered his wife, and now he’s coming after them!

  • Bruce Reber

    Two phone scenes involving Sidney Poitier: in “The Slender Thread” suicidal Anne Bancroft calls him on the crisis center hotline about 15 minutes in, and from then on the rest of the movie is him trying to keep her on the line long enough for the police to trace the call and find her. in “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” he calls his father from Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn’s house to tell him about his fiancee (the fact that she’s White, not Black), but his father doesn’t give him a chance to explain, setting up the movie’s poignant final scenes.

  • Bruce Reber

    President Murkey Muffley’s phone scenes talking with Russian premier Kissoff on the hotline from the Pentagon war room in “Dr. Strangelove” – “Uh, Dimitri! Uh, HELLO Dimitri!”

    • Bruce Reber

      In “Fail Safe”, the serious version of the “Dr. Strangelove” situation, the President (Henry Fonda) on a conference call with SAC headquarters in Omaha and the Soviet Premier/Chairman in Moscow in the bunker below the White House, desperately trying to avert WW3, with the interpreter (Larry Hagman) translating Russian to English and vice-versa.

  • Frank DeCavalcante

    the movie is trashy, but “An Eye for An Eye” starts with a harrowing scene with Sally Field telephoning her daughter who is at home preparing for a family birthday party. In the midst of the call, a depraved sexual predator, Kiefer Sutherland, enters the house and attacks the girl, brutally murdering her. Meanwhile, poor Sally is hearing this whole horrific act and cannot communicate with her daughter or get help for her. The scene is intense and frightening and probably too graphic.

    Another older film comes to mind, “Phone Call from a Stranger” puts forth the premise that Gary Merrill, during a plane stopover, becomes intimately involved with three other passengers who share their secrets with him. Unfortunately, the plane crashes and the other three are killed. Merrill feels obligated to share their secrets with their families. Two of the back stories are routine, but the third one features Bette Davis as a handicapped woman whose husband, Keenan Wynne, forgave her after she cheated on him and then became paralyzed while swimming with her boyfriend. The husband takes Bette back and becomes her loyal caretaker. When Merrill hears her story of abiding love, he realizes how much he loves his own estranged wife and returns to her. It is a small role for Bette, but one of her best, underplayed performances.

    • Laura D Young

      An Eye for an Eye is haunting – I have to agree completely. Chilling and of course Sally Field heightens the terror further with her incredible acting skills. Great choice.

    • Bruce Reber

      Was “Phone Call From A Stranger” made when Bette Davis and Gary Merrill were married? I’ve never seen it; sounds like an interesting movie.

      • Gary Cahall

        Bruce, Phone Call from a Stranger was a 1952 release, so it came fairly early in the 1950-60 Davis/Merrill marriage. It was also the couple’s third and last film together, after All About Eve and Another Man’s Poison.

  • Vann Morrison

    Mel Brooks and Madaline Kahn in High Anxiety. Mel is being strangled in a phone booth and Madaline thinks it’s an obscene phone call.

  • Bruce Reber

    Doris Day and Rock Hudson exchanging barbs on the party line in “Pillow Talk”. James Stewart and Doris Day listening to the kidnapper who’s abducted their son in Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much”. Lots of phone talking in “His Girl Friday”.

  • Carolyn Ferrante

    Barbara Streisand in “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever.” She finally discovers what her psychiatrist, played by Yves Montand, has been doing with her retro psyche. He phones his office; she’s there and picks up the phone; and in her most comical NYC Jewish accent, she tells him off and ends with…well, I don’t even know how to spell what she said. I think it was in Yiddish.

  • Laura D Young

    I am going to say Sidney Poitier and Ann Bancroft in, The Slender Thread. It’s all about the phone and the connection that builds between the two of them through that phone line. They can’t see each other and don’t know each other. That makes the movie and the story all the more gripping and real. They must build a level of trust using words and emotions – and that slender thread that connects them.