Double Indemnity Discussion Questions

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

'Double Indemnity' is a 1944 classic film by director Billy Wilder about an insurance salesman who sells a policy to the husband of the woman with whom he is having an affair. This asset provides discussion questions for this movie.

Double Indemnity

Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity is a suspenseful crime film about an insurance salesman who plots to kill the husband of his romantic interest after selling him an insurance policy with a double indemnity clause. The film examines the influence of sex and money on morality and criminality. The questions contained in this resource are designed to lead a class discussion about this film.

Filmmaker Techniques and Main Characters

  • Describe the structure of the film. Why do you think the filmmaker chose to begin with Neff's confession? How does the soundtrack contribute to the suspense in this film? What are some other methods the filmmaker uses to build suspense and engage the audience?
  • Describe Walter Neff. What is Neff's first impression of Phyllis Dietrichson? What are some ways that Phyllis gets Neff's attention? What is your first impression of Phyllis? Explain your answer.
  • Why does Neff suspect Phyllis wants to murder her husband? How does he respond? Why does Neff change his mind? What are some specific manipulation tactics Phyllis uses to make Neff think the murder is his idea? Why do you think Phyllis chose Neff? How do you recognize when someone is trying to manipulate you? How can you avoid being a target?

Plotting the Murder

  • Describe Neff's relationship with Keyes. How does their relationship contribute to Neff's confidence that he can commit the perfect murder? How does their relationship prevent Keyes from being able to accurately investigate this claim? Connect this to a time when someone you are close to disappointed you in an unexpected way.
  • Explain the details of the murder plan. What are some things Neff did not consider? How would modern investigative techniques interfere with these plans? What are some factors that make committing a perfect crime impossible?
  • What adjectives would you use to describe Lola? What are some ways Phyllis and Lola's relationship is typical of a step parent/step child? How is it different? Are Lola's suspicions about Phyllis justified? Explain your answer. What would you do if you were Lola?

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