Rear Window is the tale of a sad, impotent man named L. B. “Jeff” Jefferies. Currently, he’s recuperating from a broken leg he received while on assignment as a professional photographer. He finds himself confined to a wheelchair in his Greenwich Village apartment while he recuperates. The rear window of his place has a lovely view of a courtyard and several other apartments. There’s a record heat wave going on that allows him to watch his neighbors for a little entertainment since they need to keep their windows open to stay cool.
Across the way is a dancer whose milkshakes bring all the boys to the yard while her boyfriend is away. Jeff nicknames her Miss Torso. Next to her is Miss Lonelyhearts, a single middle-aged woman. We also have another middle-aged man who’s a composer / pianist / playboy. We see a newly married couple argue, a female sculptor sculpting, and a traveling salesman named Lars Thorwald who has a bedridden wife.
Jeff has a very beautiful socialite girlfriend named Lisa Fremont. She’s very doting, and visits him often. Also visiting him is his nurse, Stella. She encourages him to marry Lisa, but there’s some weird reason keeping him from doing so.
During a late night thunderstorm, Jeff hears a woman yell, “Don’t!” followed by the sound of a glass breaking. He goes back to sleep, but thunder wakes him again. It’s then he observes Thorwald across the way leaving his apartment. He then proceeds to repeatedly go back and forth from his apartment. Jeff also notices that he can no longer see Thorwald’s wife.
The next morning, Thorwald’s wife is indeed gone, and Jeff spots the guy cleaning a large knife and hacksaw. A bit later, some moving men come and haul a large trunk away. Excited, Jeff speculates what he saw to Lisa and Stella.
Now, Jeff believes Thorwald murdered his wife. He explains his new theory to his friend and New York City Police detective, Tom Doyle. He asks Tom to snoop around, but he doesn’t find any suspicious activity. In fact, he reports that Mrs. Thorwald picked up the trunk herself in upstate New York…kind of odd for a bedridden woman to do, don’t you think?
When a neighbor’s dog is found with its neck broken, the dog’s owner screams at all her neighbors for it. The commotion stirs everyone except for Thorwald. Instead, he sits quietly in his darkened apartment, casually smoking a cigar.
According to Jeff, Thorwald now has two killings under his belt. He has Lisa slip an accusatory note under his door, because what’s smarter than prodding an active killer? Jeff firmly believes Thorwald buried something that can incriminate him in the courtyard’s flower bed, and he killed the dog because it kept digging there.
To get Thorwald out of his apartment, Jeff phones him to arrange a meeting at a bar. Once he leaves, Lisa and Stella dig up the flowers, but nothing to find. Lisa then climbs the fire escape, and up to Thorwald’s apartment. She enters it through an open window. However, Thorwald returns early. He finds and grabs Lisa, so Jeff calls the police. They arrive, and arrest her for breaking and entering before Thorwald can break and enter her.
While the arrest takes place, Jeff spots Lisa’s hands behind her back. She wiggles her finger with Mrs. Thorwald’s wedding ring on it. Thorwald notices this too, and discovers she’s signaling to Jeff across the courtyard.
In a panic, Jeff phones Doyle and leaves him a message. Stella runs off to the police station to post Lisa’s bail. Jeff’s phone then rings, and he assumes Doyle is returning his call. He tells the caller that the suspect has left the apartment. Nobody replies. Jeff realizes Thorwald himself called, and he’s coming for him.
Thorwald enters Jeff’s apartment, but Jeff still has a broken leg. Alone, his only defense is to set off his camera flashbulbs to temporarily blind Thorwald. However, Thorwald is still able to grab Jeff, and push him out of the open window. As Jeff yells for help, the police arrive. They enter the apartment too as Jeff slams into the ground below. Luckily for him, some other officers are there to break his fall. Thorwald then confesses to the killings.
A few days later, Jeff tries to relax in his wheelchair, and stares out the rear window again. Now, he has casts on BOTH legs. The lonely neighbor is over chatting with the pianist in his apartment. The dancer’s boyfriend looks to have returned home from the army. The woman whose dog was killed now has a new one, and that newly married couple bickers away…yes, life has returned to normal.
Lisa, dressed in jeans, reads a book called Beyond the High Himalayas (which you can still buy here on Amazon once you solve your own murder mystery). When Jeff falls asleep, she puts the book down, and opens a fashion magazine.