- Peter Lorre as Hans Beckert. M was Lorre's first major starring role, and it boosted his career, even though he was typecast as a villain for years after in films such as Mad Love and the film adaptation of Crime and Punishment. Before M, Lorre was mostly a comedic actor. After fleeing from the Nazis, he landed a major role in Alfred Hitchcock's first version of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), picking up English along the way.
- Otto Wernicke as Inspector Karl Lohmann. Wernicke made his breakthrough with M after playing many small roles in silent films for over a decade. After his part in M, he was in great demand due to the success of the film, including returning to the role of Karl Lohmann in The Testament of Doctor Mabuse and he played supporting roles for the rest of his career.
- Gustaf Gründgens as Der Schränker (The Safecracker). Gründgens received acclaim for his role in the film and established a successful career for himself under Nazi rule, ultimately becoming director of the Staatliches Schauspielhaus (National Dramatic Theatre).
- Ellen Widmann as Mother Beckmann
- Inge Landgut as Elsie Beckmann
- Theodor Loos as Inspector Groeber
- Friedrich Gnaß as Franz, the burglar
- Fritz Odemar as Cheater
- Paul Kemp as Pickpocket with seven watches
- Theo Lingen as Bauernfänger
- Rudolf Blümner as Beckert's defender
- Georg John as Blind balloon-seller
- Franz Stein as Minister
- Ernst Stahl-Nachbaur as Police chief
- Gerhard Bienert as Criminal secretary
- Karl Platen as Damowitz, a night-watchman
- Rosa Valetti as Innkeeper
- Hertha von Walther as Prostitute
- Hanna Maron (uncredited) as Girl in circle at the beginning
- Heinrich Gotho as passerby who tells a kid the time
- Klaus Pohl as Witness / one-eyed man (uncredited)
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