Every Alfred Hitchcock movie, ranked
With 53 movies spanning over 50 years, Alfred Hitchcock is one of the most prolific and influential filmmakers to arise out of the 20th century. He began his career working on silent films in England, and eventually moved to the United States to create some of Hollywood's biggest movies of the 1950s and '60s. His films frequently feature espionage, mistaken identities, claustrophobic locations, and unnerving camera movements to maximize tension. It's clear from his strongest work that Hitchcock was fascinated by questions of morality, voyeurism, and human psychology — but which of his projects stand above the rest? Read on for EW's list of every Alfred Hitchcock movie, ranked.
53. <i>Juno and the Paycock</i> (1930)
Adapted from a play by Seán O'Casey, this film follows a working class family in Dublin during the Irish Civil War. Alfred Hitchcock deserves credit for putting his personal artistic flourishes aside to create a straightforward adaptation, undistracted by technical wizardry. Unfortunately, the film is essentially a vacuum with no sense of intrigue or urgency — there's practically no character development, thematic weight, artistic innovation, emotional resonance, or narrative thrust. It's never in the position to do anything wrong because it does almost nothing at all. Even if you've seen this movie, odds are good that you'll struggle to remember it.
52. <i>Rich and Strange</i> (1931)
Hitchcock seems stuck between eras here, with a few magnificent sequences that play out in total silence, including a gorgeously chaotic opening scene depicting the hustle and bustle of a London commute. Sadly, these visually striking moments are few and far between, as the film primarily focuses on the escapades of a horrible husband and wife (Henry Kendall, Joan Barry) bickering on holiday after they unexpectedly inherit a significant fortune. The director's handle on visual storytelling remains strong, but at this point, he hasn't quite figured out how to direct dialogue, which is a massive problem for a movie with so much talking. There isn't any particular weight to the conversational scenes, nor much sense of rhythm. And it doesn't help that the off-kilter editing makes for atrocious pacing.
51. <i>Number Seventeen</i> (1932)
This early sound crime-comedy tracks the hijinks of a few jewel thieves (Anne Grey, Barry Jones, Donald Calthrop) and the detective tracking them down (John Stuart), as well as a couple of civilians (Leon M. Lion and Ann Casson) who get sucked into the action. There's a messy but exciting set piece atop a train near the film's finale, but that's the only highlight of this early misfire. The majority of the movie takes place in a dark, abandoned house, and it's quite difficult to keep track of the characters and the spaces they occupy. The story is practically impossible to follow, the direction is imprecise, and the whole thing is visually dizzying.
50. <i>The Farmer's Wife</i> (1928)
One of Hitchcock's early silent films, The Farmer's Wife is a slow-moving romance about a farmer (Jameson Thomas) who repeatedly tries and fails to find a new bride after his first wife dies. It's technically competent but narratively sparse, with no humor or sense of urgency. Every scene feels as though it's 30 minutes long, which doesn't help its already lengthy runtime for a silent feature, with the latest restoration clocking in at almost two hours.
49. <i>Jamaica Inn</i> (1939)
Hitchcock's last British film before his Hollywood migration concerns a young woman (Maureen O'Hara) who investigates a series of shipwrecks overseen by a local squire (Charles Laughton), who employs a gang to loot the wrecked ships. Laughton, also a producer, supposedly forced the movie to reveal key information about his mysterious character far too early, which strips it of potential tension.
The film looks decent, though not as striking as any of Hitchcock's prior sound films. There is one worthwhile scene in which the sympathetic characters silently try to escape the gang of antagonists — it's effectively shot, edited, and performed to build a solid sense of excitement. But that sequence is surrounded by seemingly endless scenes of Laughton droning on about dull business that effectively have no impact on the plot, mood, characters, or themes.
48. <i>Under Capricorn</i> (1949)
The director's second color film (after Rope) revolves around a love triangle between a couple with a horrible secret (Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotten) and a man intent on making a fortune (Michael Wilding) in colonial Sydney. The melodramatic proceedings are too stuffy and bloated to make much of an impact. It's not without its strengths, however — Bergman delivers a charismatic performance, though not as strong as in Notorious or Spellbound, and there's gorgeous photography and production design in the film's rendering of 19th century Australia.
47. <i>Mr. and Mrs. Smith</i> (1941)
In an unusual deviation from his typical style, Hitchcock made this screwball romantic comedy about a husband and wife (Robert Montgomery, Carole Lombard) who discover that they're not actually married due to a legal technicality. For a rom-com, it's neither funny nor particularly romantic despite the actors' best efforts. There's one scene where two of the characters get trapped atop a carnival ride that evokes some momentary anxiety thanks to the high-flying camerawork, but the rest seems as though it could have been directed by anyone (which, for one of the century's most singular filmmakers, is a particular let down).
46. <i>The Ring</i> (1927)
The only movie for which Hitchcock claimed sole writing credit isn't particularly captivating — it's a relatively standard boxing movie with a textbook love triangle at its center. In a couple of fleetingly brilliant moments, the director visualizes characters' discombobulation with aggressive blurring and dizzying superimpositions. Every other element is competent but unremarkable, save for the unsettling racist undertones that make the whole thing more difficult to appreciate than his other films.
45. <i>The Paradine Case</i> (1947)
This movie hinges all of its conflict on the protagonist — a lawyer who is married, played by Gregory Peck — falling in love with his client (Alida Valli), who is being tried for murdering her husband. There's supposed to be enormous tension between his affection for his client and his commitment to his wife (Ann Todd), but neither relationship has any chemistry or development that convinces you he's remotely invested in either woman. The logistics of the case are somewhat entertaining when the courtroom drama picks up because Peck excels at rattling off legal jargon, as evidenced by his enduring performance as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. But this movie's attempt at a scandalous love triangle is so miscalibrated that it's extremely difficult to care about the stakes beyond the official legal proceedings.
44. <i>The Pleasure Garden</i> (1925)
Adapted from a novel by Oliver Sandys, Hitchcock's first surviving feature film follows the escapades of two performers (Virginia Valli, Carmelita Geraghty) at London's Pleasure Garden Theatre. The film opens with an excellent scene that signals great artistic potential from the young director — there's kinetic camera movement, intriguing perspective shifts, and a wonderful visual gag that all foreshadow his developing directorial style. But the rest of the movie doesn't live up to this opening, as it's shot relatively plainly, which does no favors to the melodramatic material. It would rank a little higher if it didn't end with a preposterous heel turn and a convenient resolution that feels completely unearned.
43. <i>The Skin Game</i> (1931)
Based on a play by John Galsworthy, this film focuses on a feud between two wealthy families who fight over land ownership. It's another one of Hitchcock's early stage adaptations that doesn't make much of an impact narratively or emotionally. It does have one wonderful sequence at an auction where the camera flies between bidders in unbroken takes, fitting nicely into the director's signature visual identity that becomes more prominent as he evolves.
42. <i>Downhill</i> (1927)
Released in the United States under the title When Boys Leave Home, Hitchcock's early silent film tracks the downfall of a young boarding school student (Ivor Novello) who faces expulsion after taking the blame for a mistake made by his friend (Robin Irvine). Downhill is a serviceable film, with an admirably minimal use of title cards, and it effectively shows how difficult life can become for the working class. The ending, however, is so upbeat that it substantially detracts from the sobering pessimism of the preceding movie.
41. <i>Mary</i> (1931)
The German-language version of Murder! (see #29) was shot simultaneously with the original film, using different actors to tell a nearly identical story. Mary removes about 20 minutes of material that's present in the English-language versions, leading to a rushed pace and compressed scenes. It's still pretty fun, but the Murder! does more justice to the concept with its lengthier runtime.
40. <i>Waltzes from Vienna</i> (1934)
Hitchcock's biography of composers Johann Strauss I and Johann Strauss II is based on a stage play that features musical numbers, but the film excludes the songs to maintain a more grounded tone. There's one great scene that brilliantly depicts the inspiration for one of the most famous musical compositions of all time, "The Blue Danube" (you'll know it when you hear it), and it's a delight to watch. The rest is decently crafted, but somewhat stiff and unremarkable.
39. <i>Easy Virtue</i> (1928)
Loosely adapted from a stage play by Noël Coward, Easy Virtue follows a young woman (Isabel Jeans) who tries to escape the media frenzy surrounding her divorce by adopting a new identity. The courtroom scene that opens the movie is both exciting and technically marvelous, cleverly integrating flashbacks to clearly communicate the misfortune the main character has endured. The domestic melodrama that follows isn't as flashy or fast-paced, but it's perfectly fine, highlighting the cruelty of the wealthy class.
38. <i>Champagne</i> (1928)
In this class comedy, an impulsive heiress (Betty Balfour) must adapt to a more conventional lifestyle after losing her fortune. Hitchcock's visual style continues to blossom here, with more camera movement than ever and inventive playfulness with perspective and point of view. The story and character work get the job done, but aren't likely to leave a lasting impression.
37. <i>Young and Innocent</i> (1937)
One of Hitchcock's lighter thrillers, Young and Innocent is a straightforward wrong-man film elevated by the chemistry of its leads, Derrick De Marney as fugitive and Nova Pilbeam as a young woman roped into his antics. Despite being relatively underwritten, their romantic dynamic crackles as the two easily find the comedy in every scenario without undermining the dramatic tension.
The pair reluctantly goes on the run from De Marney's murder charge together, but as they come across the family and friends of Pilbeam's character, the duo plays it as if they're lovers trying to balance their personal happiness with her loved ones' expectations. It's all fun and games until the finale, which hinges on one of the worst scenes of Hitchcock's career: we, the audience, identify a suspect as the camera slowly zooms in on him while he plays the drums in blackface. It's an uncomfortable sequence that's as poorly constructed as it is offensive, and it completely knocks the wind out of an otherwise enjoyable film.
36. <i>Secret Agent</i> (1936)
In this spy comedy, a novelist (John Gielgud) undertakes a secret mission to eliminate a German agent during World War I. Here, Hitchcock mines the espionage genre for more humor than thrills to mixed results. It's pleasant to see a story that highlights the pointless absurdity of war and espionage, although some of the jokes are pretty mean-spirited. The humor makes the whole scenario feel relatively weightless, save for a couple of tense standout scenes.
35. <i>Family Plot</i> (1976)
Hitchcock's final film is unfortunately one of his less elegant, but it's still solid fun, following two couples — one being a fake psychic and cabbie, the other being career criminals — whose quests for a missing heir leads their relationships to intersect. There are a few decent sequences and charming performances from Barbara Harris and Bruce Dern, though Family Plot never quite finds its narrative footing due to a convoluted premise and off-balance structure. It does, however, maintain a uniquely light tone that makes even its darkest moments seem somewhat breezy, but the ending feels abrupt and unearned.
34. <i>Topaz</i> (1969)
Hitchcock's espionage thriller explores the backdrop to the Cuban Missile Crisis, highlighting the agents and defectors who helped uncover the details of the near-cataclysmic international incident. Though one of his later films, Topaz suffers from unusual pacing that drags for long stretches, but it also features exemplary Hitchcock suspense sequences, including a brisk escape set piece in Copenhagen and an impossibly tense scene in Harlem.
33. <i>The Trouble with Harry</i> (1955)
Many of Hitchcock's works highlight the filmmaker's dark sense of humor, but The Trouble with Harry is one of the only ones that could be classified primarily as a comedy (though not always a successful one). The film follows several townspeople who try to decide what to do with a dead body. It has several meandering scenes that aren't particularly funny, but it also features hilarious comedic highs, including one ingenious visual gag near the climax. It's an unusual movie filled with offbeat, unpredictable characters, and its best moments are admittedly a joy to watch.
32. <i>Foreign Correspondent</i> (1940)
A journalist (Joel McCrea) uncovers an international conspiracy crafted by Axis spies during World War II in this political thriller. McCrea is not the ideal Hitchcock lead' –– there's a comedic lightness to his demeanor that doesn't quite match the gravity of this movie's material –– but that doesn't prevent the film from having some of the filmmaker's finest set pieces, including a pulse-quickening car chase, a tense investigation of a windmill, and a technically exquisite plane crash finale. The plot details in the middle get a little fuzzy, but it's an overall entertaining and relatively lighthearted espionage tale that manages to pull off an effective call to action by its conclusion.
31. <i>Blackmail</i> (1929)
The director's most literal signature elements are almost all on display in his first talkie — dizzying camerawork, endless staircases, and fast-paced chase scenes make the movie's best moments distinctly engaging. However, the addition of sound doesn't actually enhance Blackmail substantially, as its best sequences play out in silence (with a great score, of course). Hitchcock doesn't seem like he knows how to harness the benefits of audible dialogue here, as most of the movie's conversations play out at a sluggish pace without enhancing the movie's themes or fleshing out its characters.
30. <i>Torn Curtain</i> (1966)
Hitchcock's Cold War thriller would make a great double feature with Saboteur (further down the list) — they both follow fairly dull main characters on a journey that connects them with lively, energetically performed supporting characters as they try to escape arrest. There's fun action, solid photography, and excellent European location work, keeping a steady pace for its entire duration. Paul Newman and Julie Andrews are individually charismatic, though they lack the chemistry that could make this a stronger entry in Hitchcock's filmography, and the film never fully weaponizes their respective strengths as movie stars.
29. <i>The Manxman</i> (1929)
Hitchcock's final fully silent film is one of his greatest early works. The director fills this simple melodrama about a class-crossing love triangle with a ton of memorable imagery and clever transitions. The trio of lead performers (Carl Brisson, Malcolm Keen, Anny Ondra) are all skillfully understated for the silent era, broadcasting clear emotions without ever feeling over-the-top. The strength of these performances allows Hitchcock to minimize his use of title cards, as the story plays out almost exclusively on the actors' faces, further intensifying the sense of passion and tragedy at the story's heart.
28. <i>Shadow of a Doubt</i> (1943)
Built around an excellent premise — suspecting your favorite family member of unspeakable crimes — Shadow of a Doubt stumbles on the path to reaching its full potential due to spotty pacing and a subpar performance from Joseph Cotten. The film wants to operate in shades of gray, but its second lead seems transparently evil in every one of his scenes, including the ones where he's supposed to be playful and charming with his younger relatives.
A more thoughtful, intriguingly tense movie would make Cotten's character genuinely likable and charismatic when he's not showing his villainous hand to complicate our feelings toward him, in the same way that the attitude of the protagonist (Teresa Wright) is supposedly complicated. Instead, Hitchcock frames him as a slimy monster nearly every second he's on screen, so there's very little room for ambiguity. Though, the fact that Hitchcock considered Shadow of a Doubt to be his favorite of his many films counts for something, landing this entry in the top 30, respectively, though not enough to crack the top 25.
27. <i>Murder!</i> (1930)
In this crime thriller, a theater actor (Herbert Marshall) investigates the perplexing death of a young actress (Norah Baring). This is probably the closest Hitchcock ever came to making a traditional murder mystery movie, and while we know and love the auteur for his disorientating style best exemplified in his more famous works, it's satisfying in its own right to see him direct a straightforward procedural. After the introduction of the titular crime and a proto-12 Angry Men jury scene, the film becomes a playful meta-commentary on the inherent silliness of watching actors go through the motions of detective work, with numerous charming visual embellishments.
26. <i>To Catch a Thief</i> (1955)
This opulent crime-romance stars Cary Grant as a reformed cat burglar who investigates a copycat thief along with his companion (Grace Kelly) in order to clear his name. The film's pace is somewhat sleepy, lacking the suspense one would expect from a Hitchcockian cat-and-mouse chase, but it looks incredible thanks to immaculate cinematography by frequent collaborator Robert Burks and elegant locations on the French Riviera. It's one of the lightest affairs from the later chapter of the directors career, and makes for a largely pleasant viewing experience.
25. <i>The Birds</i> (1963)
Hitchcock's tale of avian terror is the closest he ever came to making a monster movie. The Birds is an exceptionally directed film with gorgeous color photography, razor-sharp editing, and magnificent locations around California's northern coast. The script leaves a lot to be desired, however, as the characters are forgettable and, frankly, often stupid. Most of their actions are just disappointingly foolish — you'll shake your head at the screen more here than in any other Hitchcock project — and the performances are largely mediocre. Still, it's a solid thriller with several excellent sequences, the best of which derive tension from silence or minimal use of diegetic music.
24. <i>Frenzy</i> (1972)
Hitchcock's nastiest film visualizes all the grimy perversion the filmmaker could only suggest for most of his career. Frenzy tells the story of a brutal serial killer from three rotating points of view: the wrong man (Jon Finch), the right man (Barry Foster), and the lawman struggling to crack the case (Alec McCowen). It has a sick sense of humor that's more overtly grotesque than the director's other movies, but still feels totally in line with the dark comedy that persists throughout his filmography (the best example is the sequence in which the killer tries to pry a piece of evidence from a corpse in the back of a moving truck full of potatoes). The film also interrogates the audience's relationship to crime stories — a hot topic in today's pop culture climate — as random side characters repeatedly imply that they're inexplicably rooting for the killer to get away with his crimes.
23. <i>Saboteur</i> (1942)
This wartime drama often feels more like a Frank Capra film than an Alfred Hitchcock picture. After he's falsely accused of burning down an airplane factory, another wrong man (Robert Cummings) embarks on a road trip through good-spirited Americana, crossing paths with a charming collection of kindhearted patriots who discuss civic duty, democracy, and the legal system. Hitchcock makes every scene look gorgeous the pace remains upbeat, the cast is strong across the board, and the climactic confrontation on the Statue of Liberty is one of the filmmaker's most exhilarating scenes, landing Saboteur solidly in our top 25 (though its plot resembles a lesser version of The 39 Steps).
22. <i>The Man Who Knew Too Much</i> (1934)
While this original film can't quite match the star power and grandeur of Hitchcock's own 1956 remake (see #10), this 1934 political thriller still succeeds thanks to his stylish direction, energetic set pieces, and a brisk pace. This is the first Hitchcock film that fully crystallizes his distinct sense of dark humor, which is one of the key elements that sets his thrillers apart from those of his contemporaries and imitators.
It's a movie that revolves around murder and kidnapping, but it never takes itself too seriously (in one pivotal moment, the protagonist launches into a chair-throwing battle with a group of assassins in a church, and in another, he fumbles with anesthesia to incapacitate an evil dentist). These thrilling moments double as comedic sequences, and the film would deflate without them.
21. <i>The Lady Vanishes</i> (1938)
One of Hitchcock's most beloved British films, this mystery-comedy follows passengers on a train who uncover a vast conspiracy after a woman mysteriously disappears from her compartment. Hitchcock offers solid condemnation of paranoid English nationalism on the brink of war, all under the guise of a compelling who-dun-it in one of the director's trademark locations, keeping all suspects in close quarters (and the true killer even closer). It's well-constructed and charmingly acted, but it all feels a little too proud of its cleverness to fully stand as one of his absolute best mysteries or comedies, though it's still an excellent chapter in a budding visionary's filmmaking journey.
20. <i>Stage Fright</i> (1950)
When the husband of a stage actress (Marlene Dietrich) dies under mysterious circumstances, another actress (Jane Wyman) attempts to solve the case and clear the name of her unrequited love interest (Richard Todd). The film playfully subverts the wrong-man archetypal elements that Hitchcock builds up in his many other films via well-deployed misdirects and unreliable narration. Stage Fright is subsequently tons of fun while also flirting with genuine darkness, and though there may be a few too many layers of deception, the complexity is also part of the appeal.
19. <i>Sabotage</i> (1936)
Titled The Woman Alone in the United States, Sabotage is far darker fare than the usual Hitchcock thriller — one of the main characters is a terrorist, many innocent people die, and the "justice" served at the end is tenuous at best. This bleakness makes for numerous memorably tense sequences, including a blackout, a bus ride, a rendezvous at an aquarium, and, bizarrely, a screening of an early Disney cartoon. But it also makes the underdeveloped romance feel even more arbitrary than usual, and the pacing feels a little off-kilter, too, though all under the umbrella of an absolute nail biter (thus, Hitchcock succeeds overall once again).
18. <i>I Confess</i> (1953)
In this small-scale thriller, disloyalty and passion are judged almost as harshly as murder. Montgomery Clift stars as a conflicted priest who's trying to balance his commitment to his parishioners and the bond he shares with an ex-lover (Anne Baxter). Matters are further complicated by a murder, of course. The performances are powerful, and there are several excellent stretches of silence where Hitchcock's visual storytelling prowess takes full control without necessitating any dialogue.
17. <i>Suspicion</i> (1941)
One of Hitchcock's many paranoid thrillers, Suspicion examines the struggle of a woman (Joan Fontaine) who suspects her husband (Cary Grant) of horrific crimes. Fontaine shines brightly (delivering the only Oscar-winning performance in a Hitchcock film), while she and Grant each add layers of complexity to their characters. You can always tell what the former is thinking, and it's impossible to fully understand the latter, as his movie star charm contradicts the implied desperation of the conflict.
Hitchcock's visual style meanwhile isn't as overwhelming here as it is in later works, but there are reliable bursts of flashiness and no shortage of beautiful compositions. The main element holding it back from the upper echelon of the director's works is its ending — which was supposedly dictated by the studio and totally contradicts the rhythm and tone that the rest of the movie builds toward — reversing the entire meaning of the film. It's unusually forced and out of character, and feels like a massive shrug compared to the darker conclusion you imagine a hundred times in the preceding scenes.
16. <i>Marnie</i> (1964)
Much more overtly disturbing than the average Hitchcock film, Marnie is a psychosexual power play about manipulation and trauma. Cruel characters (Sean Connery, Diane Baker) abuse a toy with the central figure (Tippi Hedren) in an attempt to control her person and her relationship with her dark personal history — and the suffering she endures in the present is as tragic as the past that she's trying to escape. It's distressing to watch, but well-acted, gorgeously composed, and uncomfortably powerful by its conclusion.
15. <i>The 39 Steps</i> (1935)
Hitchcock may be popularly known as the "Master of the Macabre," but he could easily be famed as a master of the "wrong man" thriller, as evidenced by previous entries on this list. The director used mistaken identity plots in a great many of his movies, yet they're (mostly) all still gripping and relentlessly entertaining despite their structural and thematic similarities, thanks to his mastery of suspense and effective direction. The 39 Steps is one of the earliest "wrong man" narratives in his filmography, preceded only by The Lodger and The Man Who Knew Too Much — and, unsurprisingly, it's an excellent on-the-run movie. Hitchcock packs it with memorable images, solid humor, and a tenuous romantic subplot that all work tremendously well.
14. <i>Dial M for Murder</i> (1954)
This claustrophobic film depicts a husband (Ray Milland) who conspires to kill his wife (Grace Kelly) after he discovers her extramarital affair. Like Rear Window, Dial M for Murder fixates on the intersections between romance, paranoia, and curiosity. The film sometimes gets caught up in its own logistics, and frequently tells information when it might be better to show — perhaps a byproduct of translating the material from the stage. But it still does a great job building tension with likable characters and fascinating conflicts, seeing Hitchcock once again pull off his amazing magic trick of making the audience want to see a murderer's plan succeed, even if we have no reason to sympathize with the character. He's an absolute master of piquing curiosity, drawing us into a story just so we can see where it goes (even if we morally or rationally shouldn't be attracted to it).
13. <i>Rebecca</i> (1940)
In this Best Picture-winning adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's novel, Hitchcock fuses melodrama and mystery to craft an elegant gothic romance with fascinating gender dynamics and a fixation on obsession. It follows a nameless young woman (Joan Fontaine) who lives in the shadow of her husband's deceased first wife, the titular and omnipresent Rebecca. Being a woman in the world of this movie is a nightmarish prison, even in the best case scenario where you're wealthy enough to grow weary in a lonely haunted castle. The film is full of gorgeously expressionist black-and-white photography, stunning otherworldly production design, and a subtle sense of foreboding throughout that's one of the best the director has mustered in his illustrious career.
12. <i>Spellbound</i> (1945)
A man (Gregory Peck) suffers from amnesia, prompting a psychoanalyst (Ingrid Bergman) to peel back his layers of repression to reveal his true identity — and his connection to a mysterious murder. The plot is ludicrous even by Hitchcock's standards, but there's so much to love in this psychological drama. Its wonderful central performances, sumptuous score from Miklós Rózsa, and staggeringly surreal dream sequences by one Salvador Dalí are all grandiose and enticing. It's a visually and narratively gripping film that's, well, spellbinding.
11. <i>The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog</i> (1927)
The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog is Hitchcock's third feature, second surviving work, and first film to feel like a Hitchcock movie. It solidifies a number of the director's signature motifs, themes, and techniques: creepy staircases, a suspenseful bathing scene, playful uses of light, and off-kilter camera angles that all foreshadow his future projects. (The Lodger is also the first to employ his "wrong man" plot device.) But while many of the director's later films use this concept to explore the paranoia and fear of the accused person, The Lodger turns its focus to the accusers, brilliantly demonstrating the destructiveness of suspicion. The movie simultaneously exploits and condemns our fear of the other — we suspect the stranger we know nothing about simply because we know nothing about him, and we almost hope that he's the killer because we so desperately want to be right.
10. <i>Lifeboat</i> (1944)
Based on a story by John Steinbeck, this brisk survival drama takes place entirely in a claustrophobic vessel after an American ship and a German U-boat sink each other. The characters are distinct, and the rapidly evolving conflicts pose troubling ethical questions. It's fascinating to see a wartime film about how quickly your morality can shift once you've experienced trauma, and how a unifying crisis can complicate class dynamics. Such limited square footage for the actors occupy would hinder a lessor director's vision, yet Hitchcock never shoots or blocks them the same way twice, making Lifeboat both a feat of production and an eerie window into human frailty.
9. <i>The Man Who Knew Too Much</i> (1956)
This remake of Hitchcock's 1934 film only loosely resembles the original — both films revolve around an ordinary couple whose child is kidnapped when they inadvertently become involved in an international conspiracy, but that's where the similarities end. The original film is quite small in scale, whereas this one features massive movie stars (Jimmy Stewart, Doris Day) and sweeping location work in Marrakech and London.
The film boasts some of the best dialogue of any Hitchcock film and makes substantial use of music. In its greatest set piece, one characters' speech is completely obscured by a diegetic orchestral performance, and the climax hinges on Day's performance of the Oscar-winning original song "Que Sera, Sera." Then tying it all together is Stewart's closing quote, the all-time great punchline "Sorry we were gone so long, but we had to pick up Hank!" (the joke lands in context, just trust us).
8. <i>Rope</i> (1948)
This gripping drama takes place in a single apartment and is designed to look like a lone, continuous take without any identifiable cuts. It's probably the best "one shot" movie ever made because it'd still be great without the gimmick (and it was the first of its kind!). Rope stacks tension upon tension with excellent acting and constant camera movement, making the viewer feel like an invasive ghost who's watching a dinner party and its aftermath in real time.
The camera seems like an active participant in the story, following two sinister scholars (John Dall, Farley Granger) who, upon strangling their former classmate (Dick Hogan) with a rope in a Nietzschean thought experiment, conceal his corpse in a buffet table just before hosting the victim's loved ones for supper. The clever script is overtly philosophical and cautions against destructive moral frameworks, but also warns against intellectual stimulation divorced from reality and tangible action.
7. <i>The Wrong Man</i> (1956)
Many of Hitchcock's best films utilize a mistaken identity to kick off a breezy adventure, but The Wrong Man uses a true story to explore the misery of suffering through such a mishap in real life. It's a pretty straightforward drama about an innocent man whose life crumbles around him after he's falsely accused of a crime, highlighting the glaring flaws in the American justice system — in particular, the way that testimonies and actions based on fleeting memories can condemn people to a lifetime of punishment. It's a troubling, moving film, emotionally performed by Henry Fonda and Vera Miles and beautifully shot once again by Robert Burks.
6. <i>North by Northwest</i> (1959)
This espionage film is Hitchcock's most purely entertaining project, and one of the primary templates for the modern action blockbuster — you can clearly see its DNA in everything from James Bond to Mission: Impossible to the Fast and Furious series take cues from North by Northwest. The Mount Rushmore chase and the crop duster showdown are the most famous set pieces, but the film has more exciting sequences than any other movie in Hitchcock's filmography: the drunk driving mishap, the United Nations confrontation, Cary Grant's climactic sneaking around the South Dakota mansion, and, on the sillier end of the spectrum, the auction house.
It's one of Hitchcock's most visually striking movies, emphasizing the grand scale of its iconic locations to frame its characters as tiny pawns in a massive game. Grant and Eva Marie Saint don't quite conjure the chemistry of Hitchcock's finest couples, but the film remains an excellent example of the director's skills as a pure entertainment auteur..
5. <i>Strangers on a Train</i> (1951)
The premise of this stylish thriller is simple: upon meeting a tennis star (Farley Granger) on a train, a charismatic psychopath (Robert Walker) proposes the perfect murder, wherein the two strangers swap victims so neither one can be traced to the crime — but matters get complicated when one decides to set off the exchange without the consent of the other. Granger is solid as the anxious, good-natured protagonist, but Walker is the star of the show, delivering a sly performance that's as intoxicating as it is disturbing — it's clear his character sees himself as the hero of the story, which makes him even more frightening. Every scene is suspenseful and beautifully composed, but the sequences at the carnival and the tennis matches are particularly sublime. Perhaps Hitchcock is teasing the audience by suggesting that innocent entertainment can harbor a frightening dark side.
4. <i>Vertigo</i> (1958)
Is Vertigo a film primarily concerned with unquenchable desire? Doomed romance? Sins of the past? Mental illness? There are so many different ways to read Hitchcock's dizzying noir. It's somehow a perfect-looking and perfect-sounding romantic mystery, a love letter to San Francisco, a cautionary tale in getting what you wish for, an exemplary case of curiosity killing the cat, a ghost story, and so much more. It may have been a perfect film, arguably even his best, if not for one exposition scene involving a letter that sours the final act, just barely knocking the film below the quality of Hitchcock's other masterpieces. But Vertigo nevertheless is still non-negotiably that, a masterpiece, and any top five Hitchcock film ranking would be foolish to not include it where it belongs: at the near-top.
3. <i>Notorious</i> (1946)
You can find some of Hitchcock's tensest sequences and most creative shots in this espionage drama, which follows a German-American woman (Ingrid Bergman) as she infiltrates a group of Nazis in Brazil. The champagne party sequence and the finale are especially thrilling, as the director uses unsteady cameras and wobbly focus to visualize an inebriated, shaky point of view. There are also a number of incredible long takes that roam around the sets to familiarize the audience with the space, further strengthening the sense of tension with an innovative perspective, especially by 1946's standards.
Ingrid Bergman is once again fantastic, this time as a nervous secret agent who nonetheless presents as confident in most of the key moments, and she's also strikingly funny in a few lighter sequences. Cary Grant is a little underutilized, and the central relationship could benefit from more time to develop. But this is a spy thriller afterall, and not a strict romance. In other words, in Notorious, Hitchcock again hits the nail biter on the head with expert blendings of intrigue and artistry — and it remains one of his strongest entries to this day.
2. <i>Psycho</i> (1960)
Hitchcock's back-to-the-basics, infamous thriller essentially invented the horror slasher subgenre, and it playfully upends our expectations about cinematic perspectives, points-of-view, and just how far a film's narrative can go to pull the rug out from under audience expectations. The revolving door of protagonists keeps us on our toes, but also implicitly conditions us to root for the villain, the kindly but slightly off Motel keeper Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), during their time in the spotlight. It helps that Perkins gives one of the most natural performances in Hitchcock's filmography — he's magnetic in every single frame, likable even, yet it's at times hard to discern when quirky could meet downright crazy.
Bernard Hermann's strings-exclusive score is more effective and chilling than most full orchestral soundtracks (or any horror backdrop in the last 60-plus years of cinema), whileHitchcock finds innovative, dynamic methods for shooting everything, including about twenty different ways to present a standard staircase. It makes sense that the '90s remake opted to follow the original shot for shot, because how could anyone possibly do it better? (Spoiler alert: they didn't even come close.)
1. <i>Rear Window</i> (1954)
Hitchcock's greatest film is a perfect thriller that interrogates our obsession with observing the lives of others. It follows wheelchair-bound photographer Jeff (Jimmy Stewart) who snoops on his apartment complex's neighbors through the lens of his camera, and soon uncovers a confounding mystery. Stewart and Grace Kelly deliver endlessly charismatic performances, the cinematography is beautiful and precise, and the immense sets are staggeringly detailed.
It's a thrill to witness Jeff's neighbors go about their lives from afar — Hitchcock gives such careful attention to each of their actions, and the director reveals each of their strengths and flaws without harsh judgment (though still through the rush of voyeurism). Rear Window then feeds on our complex fascination with the human instinct to spectate, and neither Jeff nor the audience comes away completely innocent.