Alfred Hitchcock is among both the most renowned and most iconic directors in cinematic history. An English Director and producer, Hitchcock became a US citizen in 1955, after having spent over a decade working in Hollywood. His films often use similar depictions of crime and murder. He was responsible for both the name and popularity of the “MacGuffin” plot device (seeking something of unexplained importance at the start of a film, that later loses significance). He is also the innovator of many editing techniques that were revolutionary at the time. Most notably he is accredited with the use of camera to imitate human gaze (and thus force the viewer into the story as a voyeur), and the dolly zoom, or “vertigo effect.” Known for strong sexual undertones, twist endings, and psychoanalytic themes, Hitchcock’s works remain prominent to film scholars and movie fanatics alike to this day.
We have gathered the top 10 of his numerous works, Let us know in the comments what you think should have made the list!
Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
[ new page = 10: ‘To Catch a Thief’ ]
To start off at number 10 is To Catch a Thief. The film was released in 1955, the peak of Hitchcock’s best works. The romance thriller features Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. This was Grants last film with Hitchcock. Though slightly dated (Hitchcock had a soft spot for rear projection), the film is still noteworthy and worth the watch. Winning the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, To Catch a Thief is one of Hitchcock’s most romantic and sentimental works.
[ new page = 9: ‘Shadow of a Doubt’ ]
From his earlier years in Hollywood, 1943’s Shadow of a Doubt comes in at number 9. Considered by some to be his most American patriotic work, the film has his usual themes and plot involving suspicion and murder. Hitchcock had repeatedly declared this film his personal favorite.
[ new page = 8: ‘North by Northwest’ ]
North by Northwest Features Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, and Cary Grant. Grant’s character, Thornhill, is the “James Bond” of the time before James Bond. The films iconic scene depicts Thornhill dodging an attack from a crop-duster. A tale of mistaken identity, a chance affair, and cross-country adventure, the film comes in at number 8. (It also contains one of Hitchcock’s most “train in tunnel” reference, due to censorship of the time).
[ new page = 7: ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ ]
At number 7 is the 1956 film, The Man Who Knew Too Much. The film features legendary James Stewart and Doris Day. A thriller, the plot centers on an American family on vacation, which through a variety of incidents, have their son kidnapped and become involved in political spying. The film won an academy award for best song, with Doris Day’s performance of “Que Sera, Sera.”
[ new page = 6: ‘The Birds’ ]
At number 6 comes one of his best-known films, The Birds. The plot of birds turning on humanity is horrifying. With no scores, and only the occasional song sung by schoolchildren, the movie is an epitome of suspense.
[ new page = 5: ‘Rope’ ]
In the middle of our lists is Rope. Another film starring James Stewart, the plot is that of two young men committing the “perfect murder.” They strangle their classmate to death, and to show off their superiority in doing so, invite his father, fiancé, and others to dinner (which will be served upon the box his body is enclosed in). The experimental film is most famous for its non-traditional shooting techniques. With the set on wheels, crew running and rearranging constantly out of the shot, the film is shot as if one long scene, with virtually no editing.
[ new page = 4: ‘Rear Window’ ]
Rear Window, at number 4, features again the familiar faces of James Stewart and Grace Kelly. Hitchcock had a preference for lead characters to look a certain way. James Stewart stars as J.B Jefferies, a professional photographer. Left in a wheelchair after an accident, Jefferies spends his time recovering watching his neighbors through their windows. He is convinced that after an argument one of his neighbors killed his wife, and must prove the crime before becoming a victim himself. This film is considered by scholars to be one of Hitchcock’s finest, and it takes the typical voyeurism motif and makes it a large part of the narrative.
[ new page = 3: ‘Strangers on a Train’]
Breaking the top 3, in third place we have my personal favorite, Strangers on a Train. The film features many of Hitchcock’s signature themes, motifs, and devices. When two strangers meet on a train, one proves to be a psychopath. He pitches his idea of the “perfect murder” to Guy Haines, a famous tennis player. It’s been in the papers that Haines wants to be divorced so he can marry a senator’s daughter. Bruno Guy (our psychopath) tells Haines that he wants his father dead, and through miscommunication, believes they’ve struck a deal to swap murders.
[ new page = 2: ‘Vertigo’ ]
Psychological thriller Vertigo comes in at number 2. James Stewart plays Retired Police detective Scottie. Scottie is forced into retirement due to an onset of acrophobia and vertigo. He is hired by an acquaintance to follow his wife, whom he believes to be possessed. This is the film which popularized the dolly zoom and thus nicknamed the technique “the Vertigo effect”.
[ new page = 1: ‘Psycho’ ]
Finally, at number, is Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Probably his most iconic and influential film, Psycho is the most disturbing of his psychological horror films. The film was probably one of Hitchcock’s most violent, and pertained the heaviest sexual undertones.