Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Birds (1963)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Birds (1963)

In one of Alfred Hitchcock's landmark horror-thriller classics - an apocalyptic tale about an onslaught of seemingly unexplained, arbitrary and chaotic attacks of ordinary birds:

  • the first bird attack in Bodega Bay -- oblivious socialite Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) had just been discovered discreetly delivering a gold birdcage with two green, yellow-headed lovebirds inside, to the house of handsome, virile, bachelor attorney Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) - he was someone she had just flirtatiously met in a SF pet shop; as her skiff approached a dock where he was standing, a seagull "deliberately" and abruptly swept down from the cloudy sky and viciously pecked her in the forehead
  • the many scenes of birds hovering, gathering, and unexpectedly and randomly attacking everywhere in the California coastal town
  • the birthday party scene - held for Mitch's little sister Cathy (Veronica Cartwright) where the young guests were playing a game of blind-man's bluff - when a seagull pecked at Cathy's forehead; in the frightening sequence, other birds swooped down, causing the victimized children to scream and run for cover
  • the eerie scene of a single, out of place sparrow appearing on the Brenner's fireplace hearth during dinner - and then a stream of hundreds of sparrows and other birds infiltrated the room from the chimney to attack the family; Mitch overturned the coffee table, blocked the fireplace entrance, and beat at the birds in flight to confront the situation
Various Bird Attacks
Seagull Attack on Melanie at Bodega Bay
Cathy Brenner's Birthday Party
Brenner Fireplace
  • the scene of Mitch's widowed mother Lydia Brenner's (Jessica Tandy) drive to the farm house of neighbor Dan Fawcett, where she found chaotic damage - a row of broken teacups, bird feathers, two more dead birds, and a disordered bed; on the floor were two bloodied, bare feet sticking out from a pair of shredded pajama pants; in three jump shots that zoomed forward to his face, Dan Fawcett's lifeless body was seen propped in the corner of the room - both of his bloody, darkened eye sockets were empty - plucked out during the bird attack; she emitted an inaudible scream from her open mouth - her Ford truck backfired instead
  • the film's masterpiece - the scene of the silent amassing of birds on a jungle-gym outside a school in the adjacent playground (with children's voices heard singing a sing-song, repetitive nursery rhyme in the background, "Rissle-dy, Rossle-dy", derived from the Scottish folk tune "The Wee Cooper o' Fife"), while Melanie calmly smoked a cigarette when waiting on a bench in front of a white fence; a chilling wind blew in the scene; in a cutaway shot, a single blackbird fluttered and settled on the children's playground jungle-gym behind her; after a change of perspective and a shot of an unawares Melanie lighting her cigarette, four blackbirds were perched on the apparatus; a fifth bird landed, and she looked over her left shoulder - in the wrong direction, but saw nothing; afterwards, the birds seemed to steadily multiply like storm clouds, as Melanie looked twice more to her left without spotting them; then, her eyes noticed a single bird flying across the sky - her gaze followed it toward the jungle gym, now covered by hundreds of birds, with dozens of others perched on a fence and structure behind - before she realized the threat
  • the full-scale assault of birds upon fleeing school children heeding directions for an orderly fire-drill evacuation; the children quietly filed outside, where the semi-agitated birds were packed tightly together on the playground equipment; hearing the sound of the children's feet frantically running on the pavement down the hill, the flock of birds flew after them - filling the sky by rising up behind the school; the whooshing, flapping sound of the crows intensified the awe and terror, as they descended on the screaming, fleeing children and pecked at their heads; one red-sweatered schoolgirl (Morgan Brittany) fell, shattered her eyeglasses (shown in close-up), and desperately called out for help
  • the ominous warnings and pronouncements in the Tides Restaurant of beret-wearing, tweed-suited, cigarette-smoking, self-acknowledged ornithologist expert Mrs. Bundy (Ethel Griffies): "Birds have been on this planet, Miss Daniels, since Archaeopteryx, a hundred and forty million years ago. Doesn't it seem odd that they'd wait all that time to start a, a war against humanity"; she explained that birds of different species never flocked together: "The very concept is unimaginable. Why, if that happened, we wouldn't have a chance! How could we possibly hope to fight them?"
  • the scene in town when Melanie and other patrons-spectators watched helplessly and passively from the window of the restaurant as a bellicose traveling salesman lit a cigar; Melanie suspensefully anticipated his horrible fate: "Look at the gas. That man's lighting a cigar"; when they slid open the window, their symphony of warning screams were misunderstood; he burned his fingers with the lighted match, dropped it in the path of flammable liquid, set off an explosion at his car, and was suddenly engulfed by flames; as everyone watched with fearful paralysis, the fire streaked back toward the service station and exploded in an inferno
  • the impressive overhead aerial view of the town with gulls swarming and looking down on the fiery disaster below
Trapped in a Telephone Booth Sequence
  • the frantic, trapped telephone booth scene, when amidst flames and flapping, screeching birds, Melanie sought shelter in a telephone booth where she was trapped and powerless in a mechanism of communication - like a bird in a cage; a brilliant overhead shot captured her terror-stricken position as she beat her arms around (bird-like) in the enclosure, with birds assaulting her from every direction; a man blinded by the birds (that attacked him as he drove his car) plowed into parked cars and it burst into flames; firefighters arrived bringing firehoses - one out-of-control hose spewed water toward the booth enclosing Melanie and obscured her vision; two horses pulling a wagon without a driver galloped and careened through the street; one individual with a bloodied face and birds attacking his face leaned against the outside of the booth where Melanie was entrapped; two seagulls aimed for her - they smashed into and broke the glass on two sides of the booth
  • the scene of another attack on Melanie in the upper floor (attic) of the Brenner house, when she looked up and saw a gaping hole in the roof - her own mouth widened and she gasped; she raised her flashlight and its wide beam illuminated hundreds of birds - almost blinding her and paralyzing her with fear; as she defensively shielded her eyes and face with upraised arms and hands, the birds swooped down on her and began cutting into her flesh; ineffectually, she reached for the doorknob to escape; the flashlight waved uselessly as a weapon against them; the overpowering, brutal attack, similar to the one in Hitchcock's infamous shower sequence in Psycho, intensified as, in anguish and pain, she breathed heavily and surrendered to their tearing and pecking (there was no music in the scene, only flapping bird sounds); her cool-green outfit was torn apart as she collapsed unconscious next to the door, exclaiming: "Is Cathy in the...?"; Mitch called out for her at the top of the stairs, but struggled to open the door, now blockaded by her body; both Mitch and his mother fought off the birds as Mitch clawed for Melanie's arm and pulled her to safety; Melanie was left traumatized and bloody
  • in the final haunting and ominous ending scene, hundreds of birds sat everywhere as the main characters eased out of the house and carefully drove away - without Hitchcock's typical "THE END"; the Brenner home was infested with observant birds tyrannically claiming it, to imply an unending threat; the triumphant birds appeared to chatter and applaud their conquest

Bird Attack at the Fawcett's Farm House and Dan's Bloody Death

Birds Amassing on Jungle-Gym Outside School

Bird Attack at Schoolhouse

Ornithologist Mrs. Bundy in Tides Restaurant

Amassing of Birds on Town

Attack in Brenner Attic

The Ominous Ending


Greatest Scenes: Intro | What Makes a Great Scene? | Scenes: Quiz
Scenes: Film Titles A - H | Scenes: Film Titles I - R | Scenes: Film Titles S - Z