Alfred Hitchcock was unfortunately neglected more than he deserved this month, but sometimes life happens. I have a feeling there will be another time down the road to examine Hitchcock’s works with more dedication. While I haven’t had time to review many of his films, I have been watching as many as I could get my hands on. I have seen a little more than half of his films, making sure that I had time for the ones that are universally considered to be classics.
Like most top 10 lists, I believe that there is no right order and everybody’s taste regarding the master of suspense are different. Some prefer his earlier British works before his obsession with blondes and big stars set in. Most prefer his later American classics when he had settled into a style that is definitive Hitchcock. I like a little bit of everything. Here are my top 10 Alfred Hitchcock films of all-time.
10) Dial M for Murder (1954)
This is one of Hitchcock’s true puzzle films that is fun to watch again and again. There are so many subtle hints as to what is going to happen and its fun to put the pieces together while you enjoy it. There are some excellent moments of suspense created because we know most of what is going to happen from the start. Then Hitchcock challenges our perceptions when things start to go wrong. The film also contains an excellent performance from Grace Kelly in one of her best roles ever.
9) Strangers on a Train (1951)
A fascinating twist on Hitchcock’s favorite type of story – the wrong man. This time it deals with a disturbing stalker and a pre-Psycho example of homicidal mental illness. The suspense is definitely there as well as a tinge of irony. Hitchcock presents with a scenario in which we are tempted empathize with the evil that occurs. He presents a victim that is so unsympathetic that it is almost tempting to applaud the murder until you realize just how crazy it really is.
8) The 39 Steps (1935)
This was Hitchcock’s first true masterpiece. It features a brilliant blend of his dry sense of humor and the emergence of his wrong man theme. The twist at the end is brilliant and the whole film is fantastical and fun to watch. He manages to make an empty Scottish countryside feel busy with action and packed with suspense. Hitchcock also creates a suave, everyman whose smoothness gets him out of tight spots in Robert Donat’s character.
7) Rear Window (1954)
In most of Hitchcock’s film, the audience is just a step ahead of most of the characters. Usually we get a glimpse into something that the protagonist is unaware of, which was one of Hitchcock’s most rudimentary methods of creating suspense. However, in Rear Window we know only what the protagonist knows. The suspense exists in the unknown and as the other characters in the film begin to question James Stewart’s protagonist, we as the audience begin to question ourselves.
6) The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
This is my Hitchcock guilty pleasure. It contains self-referential humor, inside jokes, and a great story of suspense and intrigue. The Hitchcock blonde has more power than usual in this film, as Doris Day’s character leads the way in the investigation. There is also one of my favorite Hitchcock moments in the concert hall where an assassination is about to occur. The Bernard Herrmann-led orchestra plays on as we wait for the moment of the cymbal crash, that we know is coming.
5) Rope (1948)
Hitchcock’s ultimate tracking shot, this film occurs entirely in real-time in one of the greatest filming stunts of all-time. The performances are brilliant from John Dall, Farley Granger, and Hitchcock favorite James Stewart (I just realized he’s in #5, 6, and 7) and the suspense is real. >> View the Rest of My Review
4) Psycho (1960)
Hitchcock’s attempt at a B-movie quickly became a cult classic and is one of the smartest psychological thrillers ever made. The master of suspense pulls a fast one as one of the major characters gets killed off rather quickly and all of the people who seem to get leads into the truth are disposed of. The cinematography in this film is particularly fascinating as Hitchcock experiments with camera techniques to make the film look faded and make the viewer feel detached.
3) Vertigo (1958)
This film features one of the most complex, bizarre murder plots in the history of film and the entire thing is so Hitchcock. This film features my favorite performance ever from the great James Stewart and some of the most memorable moments ever filmed. The protagonist’s fear of heights becomes the viewers fear as well as Hitchcock uses remarkable filming techniques and surreal images to inspire terror. This film also has my favorite score from legendary composer Bernard Herrmann.
2) Notorious (1946)
Only Hitchcock could command such subtle and brilliant performances from two stars that are larger than life – Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. This is one of Hitchcock’s most complex stories and the character depth is so strong. Beautiful camera work combines with an excellent editing to create a thrilling pace that seems to dance to the beat of the characters.
1) North by Northwest (1959)
Combine one of the greatest actors in the history of film, a great supporting cast, a flamboyant narrative full of fantastical complexities, a brilliant composer, hilarious comedy, all in the hands of the great Alfred Hitchcock and you get one of the greatest films of all-time. From the start Hitchcock uses his dramatic camera techniques to show us that we’re in for a theatrical spectacle. The final chase scene on the top of Mount Rushmore is a brilliant ending for this epic, comic, thriller masterpiece.
What are your Hitchcock top 10?