AFI Movie Club: WHITE HEAT – American Film Institute
White Heat Film Still - James Cagney and Edmond O'Brien



WHITE HEAT ranks #4 on AFI’s 10 Top 10 list of cinema’s great gangster films, and its star James Cagney was the second person to be honored with an AFI Life Achievement Award in 1974.


DID YOU KNOW? WHITE HEAT marked James Cagney’s first film back at Warner Bros. after he broke with the studio to start his own company. Cagney made his comeback in WHITE HEAT despite disputes with Jack Warner and his reluctance to be typecast as a gangster.

DID YOU KNOW? Virginia Kellogg’s original story for WHITE HEAT was nominated for an Oscar®. She initially imagined the film as a biopic of the real-life Ma Barker, whose sons were leaders of the infamous Barker-Karpis gang.

DID YOU KNOW? WHITE HEAT marked the first feature film release for writing partners Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts. The team may be best remembered for creating the hit television series CHARLIE’S ANGELS.

DID YOU KNOW? James Cagney collaborated with his close friend Humphrey Bogart on the dialogue for the film, but neither actor was given onscreen writing credit.

DID YOU KNOW? The climactic line “Made it, Ma! Top of the world!” – ranked #18 on AFI’s 100 YEARS…100 MOVIE QUOTES list and has popped up throughout popular culture, including episodes of CHEERS and BREAKING BAD.

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.

Click Here to Find Out How to Watch WHITE HEAT Now

WHITE HEAT – Reelgood


The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Discussion Questions

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

  • WHITE HEAT is often hailed as a quintessential gangster film, but it was actually an offshoot of the pre-Code, classic era of gangster movies released in the early 1930s. Can you name any of these early gangster films?
  • WHITE HEAT is also seen as a precursor to film noir. What do you notice about WHITE HEAT that lends itself to this genre?
  • Does the character Cody Jarrett remind you of any other film anti-heroes? What makes him partially sympathetic?
  • Why do you think the movie is called WHITE HEAT?
  • How would you rate WHITE HEAT?


AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies. See all of the titles programmed for AFI Movie Club here. Each day’s film is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly discussion points and material from the AFI Archive to enrich your viewing experience. Learn more in our FAQ section.

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