49th Parallel is a 1941 British war drama film; it was the third film made by the British writer-director team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. It was released in the United States as The Invaders. Despite the title, no scene in the movie is set at the 49th parallel, which forms much of the US-Canadian border. The only border scene is at Niagara Falls, which is located farther south.
The British Ministry of Information approached Michael Powell to make a propaganda film for them, suggesting he make "a film about mine-sweeping." Instead, Powell decided to make a different film to help sway opinions in the still-neutral United States. Said Powell, "I hoped it might scare the pants off the Americans [and thus bring them into the war]." Screenwriter Emeric Pressburger remarked, "Goebbels considered himself an expert on propaganda, but I thought I'd show him a thing or two." After persuading the British and Canadian governments, Powell started location filming in 1940.
The original choice to play the German officer, Lieutenant Hirth, was Archers' stalwart Esmond Knight, but he had decided to join the Royal Navy at the outbreak of war. Anton Walbrook as "Peter" donated half his fee to the International Red Cross. Raymond Massey, Laurence Olivier and Leslie Howard all agreed to work at half their normal fee because they felt it was an important propaganda film. This is the only time that Canadian-born Massey played a Canadian on screen.
Critical reviews of 49th Parallel were generally favourable, with The New York Times reviewer effusing, "Tense action... excellent performances. An absorbing and exciting film!" and Variety concluding: "This is an important and effective film. Opening scenes promise much, and it lives up to expectations. Every part, to the smallest bits, is magnificently played...." The film won Pressburger an Academy Award for Best Story and was nominated for Best Picture and Best Screenplay (including Rodney Ackland for additional dialogue).