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Alfred Hitchcock Movies: A Top 10 List

By Skokie Staff Adult Services

Recommended by Cecilia Cygnar. This is my last list for the library, so I'm finally making the one I have been building up to for 17 years. Listed in order of my preference, this is a swan song for my colleagues and patrons in honor of my favorite director.

  • The Man Who Knew Too Much

    2000

    This tops the list not because it is necessarily the best Hitchcock film. It is my favorite, mostly because it's the first Hitchcock movie I saw and it started me on my passion for the "master of suspense." It is a fantastic thriller, as well as an excellent study on filmmaking, if you watch the 1934 film and then watch this 1956 version. Hitchcock was a relatively new filmmaker in the mid-'30s in England when he first tackled this story. After he became a true master of not only suspense but also the art of cinema, he tackled it again, correcting all of what he called his mistakes from the first version. Watching this movie proves how far he had come as a director and that he truly deserves the title of the master of this genre. The scene at the Royal Albert Hall alone proves that.

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  • Notorious

    2008

    Here's a film that used to get overlooked in Hitchcock's repertoire, but more recently, critics and fans alike have found it to be one of Hitchcock's finest. It's one of his best uses of romance, seamlessly weaving it with intense suspense like no other Hitchcock movie. Lacking much of Hitchcock's classic comic undertones, he focused instead solely on creating an atmosphere of heated, unrequited passion, along with a constant sense of menacing danger. This film also features one of my favorite Hitchcock shots, a long crane shot from the top of the stairs down to a close-up of the key in Ingrid Bergman's hand. Truly masterful!

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  • North by Northwest

    2009

    This is the quintessential Hitchcock movie. We have the wronged man, mistaken identity, lots of romance and humor, and suspense at every turn. Screenwriter Ernest Lehman said he wanted to write the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures, and he did. I have seen this movie probably more than 100 times, and each time I find something new that confirms my belief that Hitchcock was definitely the most creative director ever. Also, a few scenes are shot in Chicago, the only time Hitchcock immortalized the Windy City, so it has that element of local color to make it a must watch. Not that you need any other excuse to watch this one!

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  • Shadow of a Doubt

    2000

    Hitchcock often called this film his favorite, which makes sense, since it features what Hitchcock loves best: throwing a wrench into the idyllic. The idyllic here is the perfect sense of small-town America. Hitchcock even enlisted Our Town writer Thornton Wilder to co-write the screenplay. I'm sure the entire set smelled like freshly baked apple pie, and sounds of a baseball game on the radio could be heard in the background. But, alas, this is a Hitchcock movie, after all, so the "wrench" here is a beloved uncle coming to town who might or might not be the devil himself.

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  • Rear Window

    2008

    What can I say about Rear Window that has not already been said. Of the four films James Stewart did with Hitchcock (Rope, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Vertigo being the others), Stewart called this his favorite. Maybe because he had Grace Kelly as his co-star? Or maybe because it is a fabulous piece of cinema. Shooting on one of the largest soundstages created at the time, Hitchcock was meticulous about each of the separate apartments being perfectly set up so the viewers would feel just as intrusive as Stewart and Kelly. When Stewart is watching through his camera lens, we are also watching him, voyeurs watching the voyeur.

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  • The Lady Vanishes

    1998

    Definitely my favorite from Hitchcock's early, British films. Most say The 39 Steps is the best early Hitchcock film, but I respectfully disagree. The 39 Steps is all suspense. But this film is funny, romantic, and suspenseful, all qualities that, when merged, became the Hitchcock trademark. This movie proves that even early on, Hitchcock knew what type of film he wanted to make. And I feel this is an excellent first outing of what came to be a fantastic, magical recipe.

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  • Strangers on a Train

    2004

    What I love about this movie is that Hitchcock worked with what he had. His career was in a bit of a slump before this film. He had some duds at the box office. Some critics thought his day had come and gone. Well, this is one of the films that proved that he hadn't even hit his stride yet! Hitchcock worked with actors who weren't exactly superstars, Farley Granger and Robert Walker, who are both perfectly cast as the two men who meet randomly on a train, a meeting that leads to murder, tension so thick you can cut it, and a superb finale on a carousel.

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  • Psycho

    2013

    I had to have this film on the list or I would get kicked out of the Alfred Hitchcock Society (which doesn't really exist). That's not to say that I do not love it. I do. I so admire this film for being groundbreaking in its filmmaking. And groundbreaking on a budget. Hitchcock wanted to make a black and white film without the glitz and glamour of his recent previous movies (Vertigo, North by Northwest). So, he gathered together a crew mostly from his TV show (Alfred Hitchcock Presents) and cast lesser-known character actors (with the exception of Janet Leigh). And with those minimal tools, he created a movie that changed filmmaking forever.

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  • Frenzy

    2000

    Definitely my favorite of Hitchcock's later films. With Frenzy, he returned to shooting in London, something he hadn't done on a large scale since he left in the 1930s. The Man Who Knew Too Much has scenes shot in London, and several of his films are set in London (Stage Fright, Dial M for Murder), but this film was shot entirely in London. It's a dark, horrifying tale of a serial killer of young women and, in true Hitchcock fashion, mistaken identity. I find this movie much darker and even creepier than Psycho.

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  • Vertigo

    2008

    I do not think that this is Hitchcock's masterpiece. Nothing causes me more consternation than when a non-Hitchcock fan tells me this is one of the only films of the director's they have seen. Vertigo is a great thriller and was a very personal film for Hitchcock. But, it is not a film to watch without seeing most, if not all, of Hitchcock's more conventional thrillers. Vertigo is a film you watch after you find out what a conflicted type of man Hitchcock was. If you want thrills, watch North by Northwest. If you want a character study on Hitchcock, watch this film.

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