One of the worst years of our lifetime is coming to a close. We will have little reason to remember it in a positive light; it’s been a time of horrors. Perhaps if Alfred Hitchcock was still alive he could have made something out of the fear and isolation. 2020 was also the 40th anniversary of this master’s death. There is every reason to revisit his best films.
Here’s my list of favorites.
1960-U.S. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Cast: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles.
“The shower sequence is one of the most famous scenes in cinema history; meticulously designed, shot and edited, it features a quick series of cuts, nudity, brute force, the horrifying illusion of someone being attacked with a knife, and Bernard Herrmann’s ingenious, screeching score accompanying it.”
2 North by Northwest
1959-U.S. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Cast: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason.
“It is with mathematical precision that Hitchcock decides when to employ the ingredients of the film, when it needs humor, romance and spectacular excitement. He knew that because he had spent the previous four decades practicing. Ultimately, this movie really is the only education any mainstream filmmaker needs.”
1957-U.S. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Cast: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes.
“The movie ended up inspiring many other thrillers, almost all of them failing to match its brilliance.”
4 Rear Window
1954-U.S. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Cast: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey.
“Part of this film’s success is the way the director tells many different stories, including the ones in the apartment block, which turns into a dollhouse to us and the wheelchair-bound photographer; some of them even mirror and influence Jeffries’s own situation. You can analyze this film to death, but the beauty of it is that you can also just enjoy it as a simple thriller.”
1940-U.S. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Cast: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders.
“David O. Selznick was deeply involved in the postproduction, but there was one thing he demanded that Hitchcock made sure never happened. Selznick had an idea that could have turned the climax into a huge stunt, but Hitchcock defied him and made sure the scene had greater subtlety. In the end, Rebecca convincingly established Hitchcock as a great Hollywood talent.”
6 Strangers on a Train
1952-U.S. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Cast: Farley Granger, Ruth Roman, Robert Walker.
“The screenplay process was difficult, but it’s nevertheless a very exciting story and as a filmmaker Hitchcock added many personal touches that elevate it. Together with cinematographer Robert Burks (who received a well-deserved Oscar nomination), he created many outstanding scenes. “
1946-U.S. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Cast: Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains.
“The story of Notorious may be simple at its core, but the film’s release was certainly timely considering its themes. Both critics and audiences recognized it for what it was (and still is) – a supremely crafted thriller. “
8 The Lady Vanishes
1938-U.S. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Cast: Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas.
“The last scene plays to the strength of the film, combining tension with boatloads of charm and cleverness. This was Hitchcock’s last film in Britain before his Hollywood adventure and it’s a superb send-off, one that reportedly convinced David O. Selznick that enlisting this British filmmaker would pay off in spades. It certainly did.”
9 Foreign Correspondent
1940-U.S. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Cast: Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, Herbert Marshall.
“Joseph Goebbels once called this film a “propaganda masterpiece”. Allow me to simply state, at a stage when I have seen more or less every significant movie Alfred Hitchcock ever made, that it’s a pleasure to have experienced this film for the first time.”
10 The 39 Steps
1935-U.S. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Cast: Robert Donat, Madeleine Carroll, Lucie Mannheim.
“In 1934, Alfred Hitchcock had turned his first film for Gaumont British, a thriller called The Man Who Knew Too Much, into a hit. But his next endeavor for the studio and producer Michael Balcon would become his first truly great motion picture, an international hit that would transform the director into a household name all over the world.”
11 Shadow of a Doubt
1943-U.S. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Cast: Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotten, Macdonald Carey.
“David Mamet once called it Hitchcock’s finest and the director himself was particularly pleased with it. Perhaps not quite as memorable as some of the Master’s more talked-about works of the 1940s, it certainly makes all the right sinister moves.”
12 The Birds
1963-U.S. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Cast: Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, Jessica Tandy.
“The special effects are ambitious but don’t really convince me. Fortunately, there are other ingredients to savor in this film, the Jurassic Park of its day.”