Today is Alfred Hitchcock’s birthday. He was born in 1899 in London. I thought I would put together a ranked list of the ten films that I consider to be his best.
As you all know, I am a major fan of Hitch’s films, so it has proven to be quite a challenge indeed for me to only pick ten films of his to rank. I’d love to get your thoughts on these ten films. I’d also love to know what your own top ten Hitchcock list looks like. Please do leave your own choices in the comments below.
10. The Birds (1963)
Hitchcock proves he has a talent as a horror director with this film about birds attacking humans. A clever mix of real birds, fake birds and matte shots convince us that the bird attacks and mass gatherings are real.
Featuring a strong debut performance by Tippi Hedren. I also love this one a great deal because of the relationship which develops between Mitch and Melanie.
9. Sabotage (1936)
Sabotage is a suspenseful drama about the British police trying to prevent a terrorist attack in London.
The best remembered scene in this involves a London bus. This bus sequence is one of the most shocking and suspenseful sequences in any of Hitchcock’s films. The other standout sequence in the film is the dinner table scene, where the wife gives her evil husband quite the fright.
Sylvia Sidney is excellent as the young wife who slowly comes to realise that her husband is a cold and deranged murderer, and that he doesn’t care who gets hurt by his actions.
I think this is Hitch’s best British film.
Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman play against type in this thrilling film about spies, romance and murder. The daughter of a Nazi(who doesn’t share her father’s views) is asked to spy on a Nazi group who live in America.
She accepts the task and soon finds herself in great danger. She is also romantically torn between two very different men (Cary Grant and Claude Rains).
Cary is all toughness and cynicism as the American agent unwilling to admit he is in love with the woman he is sending into danger. Ingrid plays a disreputable, fun-loving woman, whose heroic actions redeem her self destructive behaviour. Superb support from the great Claude Rains and Leopoldine Konstantin.
7. Rope (1948)
I’d say this has to be the most macabre Hitchcock film. Two men murder one of their friends, put his body into a trunk, and then use the top of the trunk as a buffet table.
They invite a group of their friends(including the victims father and fiance)to dinner in the apartment to eat off the trunk. The suspense lies in whether or not the dead body will be discovered.
John Dall is chilling as the evil, cold and possibly psychopathic, Brandon. Farley Granger is equally excellent as the twitchy Phillip, who unlike Brandon, is actually unhappy about what they have done and is nervous about getting caught.
Rope is notable for seemingly having been shot all in one take, and also for the homosexual undertones to the relationship between Brandon, Phillip and their friend and former teacher, Rupert(James Stewart). The film was inspired by the real Leopold and Loeb murder case.
6. Shadow Of A Doubt (1943)
Hitch shows us that all is not as it seems in small town America. Joseph Cotten delivers a career best performance here playing Uncle Charlie, a charming serial killer who is being pursued by the police.
The film becomes a thrilling cat and mouse game once Charlie’s niece finds out his dark secret.
This film is all about shattered innocence, misperception and danger. The fascinating relationship between Charlie and his niece is something that has been much discussed and interpreted(the pair are almost like twins in some ways, and there is also a hint of a strange tension between them which could be sexual), and it is one of the most memorable aspects of the film. Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright both deliver excellent performances.
5. Vertigo (1958)
In my opinion this is Hitchock’s darkest and most fascinating film. The film also features the best Hitchcock score (in my opinion) composed by Bernard Herrmann. This haunting Noir is part suspenseful mystery, part twisted and tragic love story, and part eerie ghost story.
This is one that can be interpreted in so many different ways, which means that it is one that you can have a great deal of fun watching and analysing.
James Stewart and Kim Novak are both at their best as the ill-fated lovers, Scottie and Madeleine. This is one of the darkest and complex performances that James Stewart ever gave. Kim Novak convinces in a duel role as two very different women.
4. North By Northwest (1959)
This one is a real thrill ride from start to finish. The best of Hitch’s wrong man on the run films in my opinion. This film is part thriller, part comedy, part romance and part spy story. It looks gorgeous visually and the cast all look so stylish and glamorous.
The film features two of the most iconic moments in film history(the crop duster attack and the Mount Rushmore sequence). Cary Grant is at his best,and he is ably supported by Eva Marie Saint, James Mason and Martin Landau.
3. Rebecca (1940)
This gothic ghost story is expertly directed by Hitch. The film begins with a sweet love story, the film is also very brightly lit at the beginning and everything looks idyllic.
The mood and lighting of the film quickly become much darker once Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier’s characters return home to England.
All shadows and billowing curtains, this atmospheric and suspenseful drama features career best performances from Joan Fontaine and Judith Anderson. I love how Hitch makes us sense the oppressive presence of the dead Rebecca.
2. Psycho (1960)
The film that changed everything. Starting off as a film about a woman on the run, the film takes an unexpected detour into horror territory and makes film history in the process.
Featuring the scariest shower sequence ever filmed, one of the creepiest houses in film history, and a brilliant twist at the end which makes you reassess everything that you have just watched.
Scary, suspenseful and featuring a remarkable performance by Anthony Perkins. Strong support from Vera Miles, Janet Leigh, Martin Balsam and John Gavin.
And now for the number 1 Hitchcock film…
1. Rear Window (1954)
I struggled for a very long time over which film should be in first place. In the end I decided that this film should be number one.
I think it easily qualifies to be the best Hitchcock film as it so perfectly encapsulates what Hitchcock’s films are all about. The plot of the film and the way everything is all set up, means that this film is still effective and doesn’t feel dated when viewed today.
Rear Window is filled with suspense, murder, relationships, obsession, mystery, danger and thrills. Hitch also cleverly makes the audience obsessed voyeurs, just like Jimmy Stewart’s character is, by making us see everything from that characters perspective. Featuring terrific performances from James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter and Raymond Burr.