Ranking all 52 surviving feature films directed by Alfred Hitchcock
“Give them pleasure. The same pleasure they have when they wake up from a nightmare.” ― Alfred Hitchcock.
Alfred Hitchcock, the famed film director and producer, is widely regarded as one of the most influential and pioneering filmmakers in the history of cinema.
Nicknamed the ‘Master of Suspense’, Hitchcock directed over 50 feature films through his prolific career which began in 1919 and continued to push the boundaries of the cinematic landscape right up until his death in 1980.
Hitchcock, given his impact on film, is one of the most heavily studied filmmakers in the history of the art. He was, however, a keen cinephile and student of the subject himself. “I depend on style more than plot,” he once explained. “It is how you do it, and not your content that makes you an artist. A story is simply a motif, just as a painter might paint a bowl of fruit just to give him something to be painting.”
He added: “I have a strongly visual mind. I visualise a picture right down to the final cuts. I write all this out in the greatest detail in the script, and then I don’t look at the script while I’m shooting. I know it off by heart, just as an orchestra conductor needs not look at the score.
“When you finish the script, the film is perfect. But in shooting it you lose perhaps 40 per cent of your original conception.”
Here, in one extensive list, we explore the 52 surviving films directed by the great Alfred Hitchcock.
All of Alfred Hitchcock’s films ranked:
52. Juno and the Paycock (1930)
Despite a jovial poster anybody expecting to find a lot of laughs in this film will be sorely mistaken. Juno and the Paycock quickly descends into depression. When hedonism makes way for reality the final ten minutes of this one sees a whole heap of action.
The film, famously based on the successful play of the same name by Seán O’Casey, stars the likes of Barry Fitzgerald, Maire O’Neill, Edward Chapman and Sara Allgood.
Official Film Synopsis: “During the Irish Civil War in 1922, a family earns a large inheritance and begin to lead a rich life, forgetting what the most important values are.”
51. Champagne (1928)
Part of five unhappy years at Elstree studios, Hitchcock’s Champagne is a vibrant reflection of 1920s high-life and is worth a watch if only for the historical documentation. Otherwise, a light romantic melodrama still offered Hitchcock to provide some sinister shadowy moments.
The silent comedy, starring Betty Balfour, Gordon Harker and Jean Bradin, was working from a screenplay based on an original story by writer and critic Walter C. Mycroft. Given the extensive battle to restore some of Hitchcock’s earliest works, in 2012 Champagne was part of the BFI’s £2 million ‘Save the Hitchcock 9’ and has since been viewed in a more positive light.
Official Film Synopsis: “A millionaire (Gordon Harker) pretends bankruptcy to teach his daughter (Betty Balfour) responsibility.”
50. Easy Virtue (1927)
Staying with the silent works of Hitchcock’s earliest creations, Easy Virtue is a romantic picture which was loosely based on the 1924 play Easy Virtue by Noël Coward.
The first half of the film, an addition detailing events only described in the play, is pure Hitchcock, aside from that the film is a more hackneyed effort. Far removed from his later work it sees the filmmaker at least beginning to know what he doesn’t like.
‘Virtue is its own reward’ they say — but ‘easy virtue’ is society’s reward for a slandered reputation.
Official Film Synopsis: “After divorcing her abusive husband, a woman has an affair with a painter, then marries a sweet young man who knows nothing of her past.”
49. Number 17 (1932)
Hitchcock’s comedy-thriller starring John Stuart, Anne Grey and Leon M. Lion, was based on the 1925 burlesque stage play of the same name by Joseph Jefferson Farjeon.
Another Hitchcock stage adaptation sees perhaps one of his most curious. A synopsis that would send most critics heads spinning, the crude craftmanship lets down the story a little. However, there are barrels of Hitchcockian references and a hint of the suspense yet to come.
Official Film Synopsis: “In an empty London house, a hobo named Ben (Leon M. Lion) looks for shelter yet instead finds a corpse. When Detective Fordyce (John Stuart) shows up, he questions Ben, but is interrupted when a girl (Ann Casson) falls through the roof.
“Her father has vanished, and she’s received an inscrutable telegram that mentions both the house and a missing necklace. Soon more suspicious characters turn up, all looking for the necklace, and none of them who they claim to be.”
48. The Skin Game (1931)
Back into some of Hitchcock’s early efforts that never really matched its stage production. What was billed as a classic comedic film, never really gets out the gates. It again shows the huge promise of a young and budding director in a compelling story which revolves around two rival families.
Hitchcock, showing his respect for the art of cinema from an early age, famously asked Edmund Gwenn and Helen Haye to reprise their lead roles from the 1921 silent version, to which they duly obliged.
Official Film Synopsis: “An English aristocrat’s wife (Helen Haye) blackmails a progressive (Edmund Gwenn) over a land deal.”
47. East of Shanghai (1931)
The film was adapted by Hitchcock, his wife Alma Reville, and Val Valentine from the novel by Dale Collins.
The film, also known as Rich and Strange, was a box office flop but it sees Hitchcock now fully immersed in his vision begin to enact his style ever so much more assertively.
Official Film Synopsis: “Accountant Fred Hill (Henry Kendall) and his wife, Emily (Joan Barry), lead lives of tedious regimentation—until a kindly uncle gives them a small fortune. Fred quits his job and they race off to Paris before embarking on a world cruise.
“Aboard ship and caught up in a luxurious new lifestyle, the Hills begin affairs—he with a mysterious princess (Betty Amann) and she with the suave Cmdr. Gordon (Percy Marmont)—that may drain their wallets and tear their marriage apart.”
46. The Farmer’s Wife (1928)
Back into some of his earliest works, this silent comedy starring the likes of Jameson Thomas, Lillian Hall-Davis and Gordon Harker, was adapted from a play of the same name by iconic British novelist, poet and playwright Eden Phillpott.
The feature film is a charming and rustic, semi-romantic comedy from the silent picture era. Though it may not be obviously apparent that it was made by the ‘Master of Suspense’, Alfred Hitchcock. The hallmarks of the acclaimed director are all there to be seen.
Official Film Synopsis: “After his daughter weds, a middle-aged widower with a profitable farm decides to remarry, but finds choosing a suitable mate a problematic process.”
45. The Pleasure Garden (1925)
This was Hitchcock’s first-ever film as a director to be completed and it is indicative of his huge talent and potential.
Despite its age, and therefore somewhat primitive production, the young Hitch does a superb job of telling the story of Patsy. Even in his earliest film, there were signs that greatness was only around the corner.
Speaking about his casting decisions, Hitchcock reflected: “Michael Balcon, who had conceived the idea of ‘importing’ American stars long before anybody else, had engaged Virginia Valli for the leading role. She was at the height of her career then – glamorous, famous, and very popular. That she was coming to Europe to make a picture at all was something of an event.”
Official Film Synopsis: “Patsy is a chorus girl at the Pleasure Garden music hall. She meets Jill, who is down on her luck and gets her a job as a dancer. Jill meets adventurer Hugh and they get engaged, but when Hugh travels out of the country, she begins to play around.”
44. The Manxman (1929)
The final silent feature film from Hitch was a doozy. A beautifully shot flick sees Hitchcock use two stars who would become more important to him in his career, with Carl Brisson and Anny Ondra taking starring roles.
Despite its age, the film still has a decidedly modern tone and even allows for more extensive thought regarding the idea of morality. There aren’t many better silent movies.
Official Film Synopsis: “The film tells the story of two close childhood friends, a handsome but poor fisherman, Pete Quilliam (Carl Brisson), and a well-educated middle-class lawyer, Philip Christian (Malcolm Keen); Both the young men are smitten with beautiful and lively Kate (Anny Ondra), the pub owner’s daughter.”
43. When Boys Leave Home (1927)
The idea of a classic melodrama is a bit silly to modern audiences. Despite a reduction of inter-titles looking back at silent films can sometimes feel a touch ludicrous. While some of that is in play for When Boys Leave Home, Hitch manages to sew it all up together and make it a suitably enjoyable watch to this day.
Hitchcock builds anarrative complexity with techniques and features that other silent film directors could only dream of.
Official Film Synopsis: “The life of a privileged boy sinks into mishap and bad luck after he takes the rap for a theft and is expelled from school.”
42. Waltzes from Vienna (1934)
If there was proof that Hitchcock was not here to mess around then Waltzes from Vienna is certainly it. Not only did Hitch adapt the film from a musical and remove all of the musical numbers, but he even changed the ending ensuring the baker’s daughter falls in love with the film’s anti-hero.
Also known fondly as Strauss’ Great Waltz, the film was born into a trend of ‘operetta films‘ made around the mid-1930s and starred the likes of Esmond Knight, Jessie Matthews, Edmund Gwenn and Fay Compton.
“Waltzes from Vienna gave me many opportunities for working out ideas in the relation of film and music,” Hitchcock said in reflection. “Naturally every cut in the film was worked out on the script before shooting began. But more than that, the musical cuts were worked out too.”
Official Film Synopsis: “After killing a man in self-defence, a young woman is blackmailed by a witness to the killing. After his daughter weds, a middle-aged widower with a profitable farm decides to remarry, but finds choosing a suitable mate a problematic process.”
41. The Ring (1927)
One of Hitchcock’s nine surviving silent films, and quite possibly the most famous, The Ring sees the director again working within a tight BFI framework. Yet he was able to enact his vision and employ some new techniques for crowd shots along the way.
The film, starring Carl Brisson, Lillian Hall-Davis and Ian Hunter, is remembered as one of Hitchcock’s best silent pictures and, upon release, it garnered positive results. The issue, however, began when box office sales flopped.
Official Film Synopsis: “Jack (Carl Brisson) is a carnival-employed boxer; patrons pay cash to take him on in the ring, and he earns the nickname ‘One-Round’ by giving them their money’s worth with a quick knockout.
“His many victories have given him a big head and a bigger mouth, so when heavyweight champion Bob (Ian Hunter) shows up in town, he decides to shut Jack up by challenging him to a match. As the fight nears, Jack’s fiancée (Lilian Hall-Davis) develops eyes for Bob, giving the bout a bitter edge.”
40. Under Capricorn (1949)
Only Hitchcock’s second film in technicolour, the historical thriller is another powerhouse production from Hitch.
Again adapted from a novel, this time from Helen Simpson, Hitch does a fine job of structuring the narrative and providing an enthralling watch. It also saw the director use his ‘The long take’ method but that couldn’t save it from Hitch disliking the film. A lot.
Official Film Synopsis: “Poison and passion in 18th-century Australia. A young man is shocked to find that his genteel cousin, married to a tough ex-con who has found wealth in the penal colony, has taken to the bottle. His efforts to restore her spirits turn into more tender affections, but the actions of a malevolent housekeeper spark a chain of events that climax with a shocking revelation.”
39. Jamaica Inn (1939)
Jamaica Inn, 1939 British thriller adapted from Daphne du Maurier’s 1936 novel of the same name, is the first of three of du Maurier’s works that Hitchcock adapted. The others, Rebecca and the short story The Birds, will make an appearance in this list shortly.
The film, written by a team of Sidney Gilliat, Joan Harrison, Alma Reville and the brilliant J. B. Priestley, famously celebrates Maureen O’Hara in her first major screen role in what is a period piece set in 1819.
Official Film Synopsis: “After the death of her mother, young Mary (Maureen O’Hara) travels to the Cornish coast seeking her Aunt Patience (Marie Ney). Stranded on a windswept, isolated road, Mary meets Humphrey Pengallan (Charles Laughton), who kindly escorts her to the Jamaica Inn.
“There, Mary meets her aunt and bullying uncle, Merlyn Joss (Leslie Banks)—who secretly leads a band of pirates that pilfers the goods from wrecked ships. Suspicious, Mary turns to Pengallan for help, only to discover another dark secret.”
38. Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941)
Written by Norman Krasna, Mr. & Mrs. Smith arrives as the only pure comedy that Hitchcock made in America.
Not particularly flattering about his project, the director later admitted that he only directed the film as a favour to lead actor Carole Lombard.
The project wasn’t short of big names, while Lombard was the lead alongside Robert Montgomery, the film also features Gene Raymond, Jack Carson, Philip Merivale, and Lucile Watson in a story revolving around a married couple living in New York City.
Official Film Synopsis: “When David Smith (Robert Montgomery) concedes to his wife, Ann (Carole Lombard), that he’s not quite satisfied with their marriage, the couple’s relationship spins into disarray. In the wake of David’s confession, Ann learns that because of a legal snafu, they’re not actually married.
“Ann uses her freedom to try the dating market, where she’s courted by Jeff Custer (Gene Raymond), one of David’s professional colleagues. David’s attempts to win her back lead to several humorous situations.”
37. Topaz (1969)
From comedy to espionage thriller in one quick swoop.
Topaz, a film which struggled at the box office upon release, is based on the 1967 Cold War novel by Leon Uris and explores the story of a French intelligence agent who is stuck amid a Cold War politics wrangle.
Famously starring the likes of Frederick Stafford, Dany Robin, John Vernon, Karin Dor, Claude Jade, Hitchcock was delighted in the casting in this project: “Jade is a rather quiet young lady,” he later said, “but I wouldn’t guarantee [that] about her behaviour in a taxi.”
Official Film Synopsis: “When a Soviet official defects to the United States, he brings with him claims that Russia is using Cuba as a staging ground for nuclear missiles. CIA agent Michael Nordstrom (John Forsythe) enlists the help of French spy André Devereaux (Frédérick Stafford) to find out if the official’s claims are true. Not only do the agents discover that the Soviet’s suspicions are valid, but they also find out that a French spy ring known as ‘Topaz’ is working with the Russians to uncover NATO secrets.”
36. Murder! (1930)
Based on a novel called Enter Sir John by Clemence Dane and Helen Simpson, Murder! arrived as a significant progression in Hitchcock’s legacy and arrived as the third motion picture with synchronised sound.
The screenplay was also one of many written alongside his wife Alma Reville and Walter Mycroft, loosely basing the project around a novel called Enter Sir John by Clemence Dane and Helen Simpson.
Official Film Synopsis: “Actress Edna Druce is found dead, and fellow thespian Diana Baring (Norah Baring) can’t explain why she’s holding the murder weapon. Diana seems destined for conviction and the death penalty, but juror Sir John Menier (Herbert Marshall) thinks she’s innocent.
“An actor himself, Sir John collects clues and revisits the crime scene in an attempt to clear Diana, but his noble efforts might finger another performer with ties to Edna and Diana’s touring company.”
35. Secret Agent (1936)
Secret Agent, starring the likes of Madeleine Carroll, Peter Lorre, John Gielgud, and Robert Young, remains a pop quiz question in the making after Hitchcock handed the great Sir Michael Redgrave a brief and uncredited appearance, cementing the foundations for a brilliant career.
In typically Hitchcock style, he adapted the work of Campbell Dixon’s play which, in turn, is based on two stories in the 1927 collection Ashenden: Or the British Agent by W. Somerset Maugham.
Official Film Synopsis: “British intelligence fakes the death of Edgar Brodie (John Gielgud) to send him on a mission in Switzerland, where as Richard Ashendon he is to locate and kill a Germany spy. Accompanying Brodie are fellow agents Elsa Carrington (Madeleine Carroll), who is to play Brodie’s wife, and an eccentric assassin known as The General (Peter Lorre).
“Locating the spy on a train, Brodie and Elsa have second thoughts about their mission just as an American (Robert Young) ingratiates himself with them.”
34. Torn Curtain (1966)
Again dipping his toe into the world of politics, Hitchcock tells the story of an American scientist who appears behind the Iron Curtain in East Germany during the Cold War.
While the film proved to be a commercial success, filming was riddled with controversy as the directed clashed with lead actor Paul Newman on set.
Official Film Synopsis: “American physicist Michael Armstrong (Paul Newman) shocks his friends and family by defecting to East Germany to work with the Soviets during the height of the Cold War. Even his fiancée (Julie Andrews) is surprised by the move, but when she follows him behind the Iron Curtain, she discovers that her husband-to-be isn’t a spy, but a double agent working to discover Soviet nuclear secrets. As they plot a way to escape back to America, his cover is blown, putting both of their lives in jeopardy.”
33. The Paradine Case (1947)
The Paradine Case sparked a major change in the production of Hitchcock’s output and arrived the last film made under the director’s seven-year contract with David O. Selznick.
According to his biographer Donald Spoto, “Hitchcock’s disgust with the content and method that were forced upon him conspired to produce an uneasy atmosphere from which Hitchcock could scarcely wait to extricate himself.”
Official Film Synopsis: “Attorney Anthony Keane (Gregory Peck) agrees to represent Londonite Mrs. Paradine (Alida Valli), who has been fingered in her husband’s murder. From the start, the married lawyer is drawn to the enigmatic beauty, and he begins to cast about for a way to exonerate his client.
“Keane puts Andre Latour (Louis Jourdan), the Paradine household servant, on the stand, suggesting he is the killer. But Keane soon loses his way in the courtroom, and his half-baked plan sets off a stunning chain of events.”
32. The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
Released by Gaumont British, The Man Who Knew Too Much arrived as a project which marked the most success during Hitchcock’s British period.
With positive reviews and box office sales, the film included Leslie Banks and Edna Best as well as featuring Peter Lorre.
Official Film Synopsis: “On a family vacation in Switzerland, Bob (Leslie Banks) and his wife, Jill (Edna Best), become friendly with a man staying in their hotel. When the stranger is assassinated in their presence, the vacation turns dangerous. Before dying, the stranger passes along a secret to Jill.
“Then, to keep the couple silent, a band of foreign assassins kidnaps their daughter. Offered no help by the police, Bob and Jill hunt for their daughter as they try to understand the information that they have.”
31. Family Plot (1976)
The final full length feature Hitchcock ever created, Family Plot, sees the director in a lighter mood as he adapted Victor Canning’s novel The Rainbird Pattern to create a dramatic comedy thriller.
While Canning’s work was the base for the picture, Hitchcock teamed up with writer Ernest Lehman who adapted it for the big screen. Starring the likes of Karen Black, Bruce Dern, Barbara Harris and William Devane, Family Plot is a story that revolves around two couples who encounter conflict amid the search for a missing heir.
Official Film Synopsis: “Blanche (Barbara Harris), a less than reputable psychic, and her equally shady boyfriend, George (Bruce Dern), are hired by an elderly lady to find her nephew Arthur (William Devane), who had been given up for adoption as a boy.
“With little information to go on, the pair track down the now-adult man in San Francisco. Arthur has had a colourful past, including murder and thievery with girlfriend Fran (Karen Black). So when he discovers he is being trailed, he assumes it’s for other reasons.”
30. Young and Innocent (1937)
Based on the 1936 novel A Shilling for Candles by Josephine Tey, Young and Innocent stars the likes of Nova Pilbeam and Derrick De Marney and is fondly remembered by cinephiles for the dramatic crane shot Hitchcock included to reveal the unveil murderer.
Most major Hitch fans will remember this picture fondly as it marked a significant technical decision from the director who famously created the elaborate crane shot towards the end of the film.
Official Film Synopsis: “When normal guy Robert Tisdall (Derrick de Marney) discovers the body of actress Christine Clay (Pamela Carme) washed up on shore, he is arrested for her murder.
“Having no confidence in the barrister assigned to him, Tisdall escapes from the police station and ends up hitching a ride with the police chief’s daughter, Erica Burgoyne (Nova Pilbeam). After being spotted together, the two are assumed to be in league and have no choice but to cooperate in order to uncover the real killer.”
29. Blackmail (1929)
It may well be known as the first sound picture Alfred Hitchcock or anyone else in Britain ever produced, there is a great deal more to Blackmail than purely historical evidence. It sees Hitchcock’s subtle creativity begin to find new avenues to explore.
Hitch kept the experience of Blackmail a unique one by employing silent film techniques while still experimenting with sound. Not all of this comes off but the film’s many positive features far outweigh these foibles.
Official Film Synopsis: “During a date, Alice White (Anny Ondra) has a fight with her boyfriend, Scotland Yard Officer Frank Webber (John Longden), and decides to leave with an artist named Mr. Crewe (Cyril Ritchard). Whey they get to the artist’s flat, Mr. Crewe attempts to force himself on Alice, and she kills him to defend herself. Frank investigates the case and, after realising Alice is the culprit, seeks to help her. However, a thief (Donald Calthrop) with blackmail on his mind complicates matters.”
28. Sabotage (1936)
This is a tense, atmospheric thriller, without much humour which makes it different from some of Hitchcock’s other films. It might be why it is often overlooked as one of the director’s better pictures and often not remarked on at all.
The film is part of a string of flicks that Hitchcock made during his last few years in England and uses the fine work of the great Polish-English writer Joseph Conrad and his novel to provide weight. For any fan of thrillers and Hitchcock; put this on your must watch list.
Official Film Synopsis: “A ring of saboteurs is causing havoc in London with a series of explosive terrorist attacks. Karl Verloc (Oscar Homolka) is part of the group, but he maintains a cover as a kind movie theatre owner.
“His wife (Sylvia Sidney) is beginning to suspect something, though, and so is Scotland Yard Detective Sgt. Ted Spencer (John Loder). What neither of them know, however, is that Verloc uses his wife’s little brother (Desmond Tester) to deliver the bombs in film canisters.”
27. The Trouble with Harry (1955)
The most un-Hitchcock film on the list. Anyone arriving to watch The Trouble With Harry who is expecting classic suspense or action will be disappointed. Instead, we have a warm and pleasant black comedy that fills the room with joy.
Known to divide the room we can’t help but fall in love with the lovingly crafted and meticulous shaped script and editing.
Official Film Synopsis: “When a local man’s corpse appears on a nearby hillside, no one is quite sure what happened to him. Many of the town’s residents secretly wonder if they are responsible, including the man’s ex-wife, Jennifer (Shirley MacLaine), and Capt.
“Albert Wiles (Edmund Gwenn), a retired seaman who was hunting in the woods where the body was found. As the no-nonsense sheriff (Royal Dano) gets involved and local artist Sam Marlowe (John Forsythe) offers his help, the community slowly unravels the mystery.”
26. Stage Fright (1950)
Not only does the film involve doe-eyed Jane Wyman, but the powerhouse performance of Marlene Dietrich. It’s a classic rainy day film capable of transporting you back in time.
A typically humorous murder story from Hitchcock as he adds another feather to his black comedy hat with Stage Fright. But, unlike his other films, this flick is sincerely driven by the characters and makes for a more modern structure.
Official Film Synopsis: “The police think actor Jonathan Cooper (Richard Todd) is a murderer, and now they’re on his tail. He asserts that it was his lover, the famous actress Charlotte Inwood (Marlene Dietrich), who killed the victim (not coincidentally, her husband).
“He seeks shelter with his ex-girlfriend Eve (Jane Wyman), a budding actress. Convinced Jonathan is innocent, Eve plays detective and assumes multiple disguises. But once she is entangled in a web of deception, she fears everyone, in fact, wears a mask.”
25. Saboteur (1942)
Sometimes referred to as ‘the American 39 Steps’ this film sees another man on the run, wrongly accused of crimes did not commit. Although Saboteur does share similarities with Hitchcock’s famous flick, it’s one of 11 Hitch created in the same vein and as enthralling as them all.
Starring the likes of Robert Cummings, Priscilla Lane and Norman Lloyd, Hitch worked alongside Peter Viertel, Joan Harrison and Dorothy Parker to forge this compelling plot.
Official Film Synopsis: Factory worker Barry Kane (Robert Cummings) is wrongfully accused of setting a deadly fire at an airplane plant in an apparent act of sabotage. Kane believes that the fire was set by another worker (Norman Lloyd), and he travels across the country to find the mysterious saboteur.
“Along the way he is forced to take Patricia Martin (Priscilla Lane) hostage, but as he begins to earn her trust, she turns from an unwilling captive to a willing accomplice in his quest to help clear his name.”
24. Marnie (1964)
When you have Sean Connery and Tippi Hedren leading the cast you know you’re in for a winner.
Despite a recent decline in popularity (perhaps because of the somewhat silly set design) the film still works as one of Hitch’s easier flicks to digest.
Official Film Synopsis: “Mark Rutland (Sean Connery) is a customer of one Mr. Strutt, whose business was robbed by his secretary, the mysterious Marnie Edgar (Tippi Hedren). When Marnie applies for a job with Mark, with the intention of stealing from him, Mark—who is obsessively in love with her—blackmails her into marrying him.
“However, he soon discovers that she has severe psychological issues regarding men, thunderstorms and the colour red, and resolves to help her come to terms with her past trauma.”
23. I Confess (1953)
Another overlooked gem, well to be fair there are 52 of them, I Confess is one of Hitchcock’s darkest films. Though lacking a little mystery it does have the incomparable Montgomery Clift, who took the intensity to new heights in the feature.
An inspiration to French New Wave cinema, I Confess is cool calm and collected while delivering a captivating watch. A clean and crisp American drama worth of a watch.
Official Film Synopsis: “Father Logan (Montgomery Clift) is a Catholic priest, but he finds his faith put to the test when he is accused of the murder of a wealthy member of his parish. The real murderer was Otto (O.E. Hasse), a poor German immigrant desperate for money, and Father Logan knows this because Otto confessed it to him.
“However, Father Logan is bound by the secrecy of the confessional and cannot share this evidence with the police, even if it means his own life.”
22. The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)
This is where things start to get serious.
We’re approaching the top 20 films and Hitchcock’s finest feature films. Many people would consider The Lodger to be the first real Hitchcock film. It’s the first time he begins to truly use all of his abilities, despite their fledgeling status.
The visual narrative is sumptuous and despite the ending being relatively poor this is still a must-see picture for any Hitchcock fan.
Official Film Synopsis: “When a landlady (Marie Ault) and her husband (Arthur Chesney) take in a new lodger (Ivor Novello), they’re overjoyed: He’s quiet, humble and pays a month’s rent in advance. But his mysterious and suspicious behaviour soon has them wondering if he’s the killer terrorising local blond girls.
“Their daughter, Daisy (June), a cocky model, is far less concerned, her attraction obvious. Her police-detective boyfriend (Malcolm Keen), in a pique of jealousy, seeks to uncover the lodger’s true identity.”
21. The Wrong Man (1956)
The film is based pretty much on actual events and the miscarriage of justice made prominent in Queens County, New York in the early ’50s. The names aren’t changed and to add an extra level of creepiness, the film is shot using the exact locations in question.
It might be a sad and cynical flick but it goes down as one the Master of Suspense’s most underrated feature films and in Henry Fonda has and incredible lead.
Official Film Synopsis: “Musician Manny Balestrero (Henry Fonda) needs money to pay for his wife Rose’s (Vera Miles) dental procedure. When he tries to borrow money from their insurance policy, someone at the office mistakes him for a man who had robbed them twice at gunpoint.
“After Manny is arrested, his defense attorney, Frank O’Connor (Anthony Quayle), works to demonstrate that Manny has an alibi for the crimes. The stress of the case, however, threatens to destroy Manny’s family before his name can be cleared.”
20. Suspicion (1941)
Sometimes regarded as a lesser Hitch flick, Suspicion starts off as a slow-moving number but soon enough Cary Grant’s charm takes over and runs away with it. Despite having a suave Grant at the helm it is Joan Fontaine who steals the show.
Once the silly romance is swept aside Suspicion soon becomes a captivating thriller and is another must-see for any Hitch fan.
Official Film Synopsis: “Charming scoundrel Johnnie Aysgarth (Cary Grant) woos wealthy but plain Lina McLaidlaw (Joan Fontaine), who runs away with him despite the warnings of her disapproving father (Cedric Hardwicke). After their marriage, Johnnie’s risky financial ventures cause Lina to suspect he’s becoming involved in unscrupulous dealings.
“When his dear friend and business partner, Beaky (Nigel Bruce), dies under suspicious circumstances on a business trip, she fears her husband might kill her for her inheritance.”
19. Frenzy (1972)
The story is typical Hitchcock as it sees an innocent man pushed into a world of intrigue and mystery as everyone believes him to be the infamous necktie killer. Jon Finch plays the innocent man with earnestness and is exemplary in his role.
Hitchcock, however, is the real star with his expert camera. Hitchcock makes the mundane spectacular with his camera and some great shots and spaces of silence allow the visual story to be told so effectively.
Official Film Synopsis: “London is held in the grip of a serial killer whose modus operandi is to murder his victims by strangling them with a necktie. When short-tempered ex-Royal Air Force officer Richard Blaney (Jon Finch) discovers his ex-wife (Barbara Leigh-Hunt) murdered, Blaney becomes a suspect.
“Forced to go on the run, Blaney attempts to take refuge with his best friend, fruit merchant Bob Rusk (Barry Foster), however Rusk may, in fact, be the necktie murderer himself.”
18. To Catch a Thief (1955)
Cary Grant opposite Grace Kelly makes for a Hollywood A-list explosion. While it’s fair to assume one could watch both of these fine performers in just about anything, Hitch turns his hand to the lighter side of life for this with devastating effect.
When the dynamic duo in front of the camera were combined with the snappy dialogue and sexual innuedno buried in the script, To Catch A Thief became a golden classic.
Official Film Synopsis: “Notorious cat burglar John Robie (Cary Grant) has long since retired to tend vineyards on the French Riviera. When a series of robberies is committed in his style, John must clear his name. Armed with a list of people who own the most expensive jewels currently in the area, John begins following the first owner, young Francie (Grace Kelly).
“When her jewels are stolen, Francie suspects John, destroying their tentative romance. John goes on the lam to catch the thief and clear his own name.”
17. Foreign Correspondent (1940)
It may well be the somewhat complex plot that puts people off Foreign Correspondent as it isn’t as well-loved as many of Hitch’s later films. But what the 1940 film lacks in star power it makes up for in wonderfully conceived storytelling.
A fast-paced thriller, the writing of the film really has a lot to say for itself capturing the viewer’s attention and never really relinquishing it. There’s everything you need from a Hitch film, action, suspense and, of course, a double dollop of humour.
Official Film Synopsis: “Crime reporter John Jones (Joel McCrea) is turning in nothing but dull copy. His editor, unhappy with his work, hopes a change of scenery will be the thing Jones needs to get back on track. Re-assigned to Europe as a foreign correspondent, Jones is very much out of his element.
“When he stumbles on a spy ring, he feels ill-equipped to unravel the truth alone and he seeks help from a beautiful politician’s daughter (Laraine Day) and an urbane English journalist (George Sanders).”
16. The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
Hitchcock’s original version of the film was the first time the director caught some attention outside of the United Kingdom. Admittedly because Hollywood found his paultry budget laughable in comparison. It was perhaps this that pushed Hitch to remake this film.
When he did, backed by a big Hollywood studio in Paramount, Hitch delivered a star-studded and glittering re-make of the film. Shining with on locations shots from London and Marrakech the film is an example of a remake gone right.
Official Film Synopsis: “Dr. Ben McKenna (James Stewart) is on vacation with his wife (Doris Day) and son in Morocco when a chance encounter with a stranger sets their trip, and their lives, on a drastically different course. The stranger, killed in front of the family in the marketplace, reveals an assassination plot to the Americans.
“The couple’s son is abducted in order to ensure the plot is kept secret, and suddenly the mother and father, with no help from the police, must figure out a way to get their child back.”
15. Lifeboat (1944)
Alfred Hitchcock, above all else, was always keen to experiment. It meant that some films of his will flop and some will always be emboldened by his artistic endeavour. Some won’t match his highest heights but Lifeboat ranks among one of his finer experimental films.
Not only does Hitchcock manage to squeeze a serious amount of different footage from one setting, but the director employed engaging and interesting characters as well as his usual suspense techniques. It makes this one of Hitch’s finer offerings.
Official Film Synopsis: “In this tense Alfred Hitchcock thriller, based on a John Steinbeck novella, American and British civilians who have survived the sinking of their ship by a German submarine struggle to reach land in a crowded lifeboat.
“When a German officer (Walter Slezak) is rescued from the water, the group allows him to board, but his presence only increases the tensions on the boat. Soon treachery ensues, and the population of the vessel gradually decreases as conflicts come to a head.”
14. Spellbound (1945)
Alfred Hitchcock weaves his spellbinding magic into this Francis Beeding novel adaptation. We’d argue this is one of Hitchcock’s best projects from the 1940s. Alongside powerful stars, there’s an engaging storyline that has you hooked until the very end.
Hitchcock is still the man driving the film, however. The director uses his expert eye to create some brilliant shots and provides the viewer with an extra treat too. One of the most engaging scenes is the dream sequence which was designed by the surrealist icon Salvador Dali himself.
Official Film Synopsis: “When Dr. Anthony Edwardes (Gregory Peck) arrives at a Vermont mental hospital to replace the outgoing hospital director, Dr. Constance Peterson (Ingrid Bergman), a psychoanalyst, discovers Edwardes is actually an impostor.
“The man confesses that the real Dr. Edwardes is dead and fears he may have killed him, but cannot recall anything. Dr. Peterson, however is convinced his impostor is innocent of the man’s murder, and joins him on a quest to unravel his amnesia through psychoanalysis.”
13. The 39 Steps (1935)
Trust and betrayal have played large parts in some of Alfred Hitchcock’s most notable works. The 39 Steps, made in 1935, has all the classic elements of the master filmmaker that set the standard for later Hitchcock films.
The 39 Steps is a classic Hitchcockian theme. It sees an average, innocent man caught up in extraordinary events which are quite beyond his control. Another institution Hitchcock takes aim at ios that of marriage, as the sexual frustration of the picture threatens to boil over.
This a thriller for the more discerning movie-goer and acts as the perfect introduction to everything great that Hitch did.
Official Film Synopsis: “While on vacation in London, Canadian Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) becomes embroiled in an international spy ring related to the mysterious ’39 steps’. Then he meets agent Annabella Smith (Lucie Mannheim), who is soon killed in his apartment.
“He must elude the police, who are hunting him for murder, while he tries to stop Professor Jordan (Godfrey Tearle) from sending secrets out of the country. Hannay is assisted by Pamela (Madeleine Carroll), an unwilling accomplice who discovers the truth.”
12. Rope (1948)
Undoubtedly one of the finer films Hitchcock made, Rope sees Hitch once again make giant leaps with his style. Not only does he captivate the audience with his intense and suspenseful shots, but he also adds layer upon layer of subtext.
Employing the long take technique, Hitch comprises the films of eight ten-minute takes and, because of it, the feature is rich in texture and realism, despite feeling as clean as crystal through every scene. Aside from the technical achievements of the film, the story is a harrowing and disturbingly true one about the murder of a young boy. Its intrigue and interplay deserves its place on the list.
Official Film Synopsis: “Just before hosting a dinner party, Philip Morgan (Farley Granger) and Brandon Shaw (John Dall) strangle a mutual friend to death with a piece of rope, purely as a Nietzsche-inspired philosophical exercise.
“Hiding the body in a chest upon which they then arrange a buffet dinner, the pair welcome their guests, including the victim’s oblivious fiancée (Joan Chandler) and the college professor (James Stewart) whose lectures inadvertently inspired the killing.”
11. Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
This is Hitchcock firmly in his stride. A tight and well-balanced film sees the director employ some of his more favoured techniques and makes the story about Uncle Charlie and his relatives in Santa Rosa one of the acclaimed filmmaker’s very best.
Managing to focus on the internal struggles that come with every family the final moments of this film are marked as some of Hitch’s finest on films. The whole picture makes for a nail-biting thriller and well worthy of watching, or re-watching.
Official Film Synopsis: “Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) visits his relatives in Santa Rosa. He is a very charming man, but his niece slowly realises that he is wanted for murder and he soon recognises her suspicions. Although one of the suspected murderers is killed and the case is considered closed, she still has her suspicions.”
10. The Lady Vanishes (1938)
We’ve made it to the top ten and, from now on, pretty much every feature film you see will be classed as one of the finest films of Hitch’s catalogue and, more than likely, of cinema in general. First up in the top ten is The Lady Vanishes.
Hitchcock may well have been widely noted for his flecks of comedic genius, but on The Lady Vanishes, the director goes one better and gives free rein for laughter. Down to that fact, it remains one of the finest pictures he made in Britain.
Charmingly cast, the witty and beguiling script mixes a 1930s romance patter with an increasingly suspenseful story. It was another marker of Hitch’s growing talent and a sign he was already destined for Hollywood greatness
Official Film Synopsis: “On a train headed for England a group of travellers is delayed by an avalanche. Holed up in a hotel in a fictional European country, young Iris (Margaret Lockwood) befriends elderly Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty). When the train resumes, Iris suffers a bout of unconsciousness and wakes to find the old woman has disappeared.
“The other passengers ominously deny Miss Froy ever existed, so Iris begins to investigate with another traveller (Michael Redgrave) and, as the pair sleuth, romantic sparks fly.”
9. The Birds (1963)
If there’s one film that is instantly recognisable it is, of course, Hitch’s masterpiece of ill-fitting special effects The Birds.
Easily one of Hitchcock’s most enigmatic and engaging films, The Birds is easily regarded as one of the finest motion pictures ever made and the horror-thriller genre has a lot to thank the director for. It was here that he made his statement of intent. Horror could always, always be a little bit funny.
So dry it has a chance it may chap your lips even talking about it, this film must be on everyone’s shelf. Hitch not only shows his technical wizadry but also his insatiable appetite for suspense.
Official Film Synopsis: “Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) meets Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) in a San Francisco pet store and decides to follow him home. She brings with her the gift of two love birds and they strike up a romance. One day birds start attacking children at Mitch’s sisters party. A huge assault starts on the town by attacking birds.”
8. Rebecca (1940)
Marked as Hitchcock’s first Hollywood film, the acclaimed director often looked back at Rebecca with a pained expression. Yet, looking back now, it’s hard to find fault with the 1940 film. We’ve watched it several times and yet we’re still shocked and spooked by the twisting and turning storyline.
Not only is it chock-full of suspense and brooding tension but the film, starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, might well be one of the most charming, romantic films in the 20th century. It’s what the publishing world would call a page-turner.
Not necessarily a lot here for film buffs to gorge over, perhaps that was part of Hitchcock’s distaste for the film, but as an entire project, it’s hard to fault.
Official Film Synopsis: “On vacation in Monte Carlo, wealthy widower Maxim de Winter (Sir Laurence Olivier) meets a young woman who is working as a lady’s companion to Mrs. Van Hopper (Florence Bates). They spend a good deal of time together and it leads to love and marriage.”
7. Strangers on a Train (1951)
A provocative premise and inventive set design light the way for Hitchcock and his devilishly entertaining masterpiece. One of Alfred Hitchcock’s suspense classics, tennis pro Guy Haines (Farley Granger) happens to meet wealthy wastrel Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker) on a train.
Despite only just meeting the two start to talk about the idea of “exchange murders” where one man would murder for the other and vice versa. A diabolical story then unfolds. It’s a more than an admirable showing of Hitch’s virtuosity within the suspense thriller sphere.
It’s as clear an image of the master at work as you’re likely to find.
Official Film Synopsis: “In Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s thriller, tennis star Guy Haines (Farley Granger) is enraged by his trampy wife’s refusal to finalise their divorce so he can wed senator’s daughter Anne (Ruth Roman).
“He strikes up a conversation with a stranger, Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker), and unwittingly sets in motion a deadly chain of events. Psychopathic Bruno kills Guy’s wife, then urges Guy to reciprocate by killing Bruno’s father. Meanwhile, Guy is murder suspect number one.”
6. Notorious (1946)
By way of introducing his stars at the beginning of the film, Hitchcock allows the absurdity of the plot to be given room to breathe. By using the actor’s star power against us, he alleviates the need for realistic integrity.
With this in play, Hitch can get round to telling the fascinating story of Notorious and he does so through some of his classic cinematic tropes: the blonde, the deep-seated sexual tension, a pathetic villain marred by their oppressive mother and of course, the powerful kiss and the happy ending.
Despite using some tried and tested techniques, that doesn’t take anything away from the power of Notorious. If you ever wanted to get someone hooked on Hitch, this is the film to do it.
Official Film Synopsis: “In order to help bring Nazis to justice, U.S. government agent T.R. Devlin (Cary Grant) recruits Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman), the American daughter of a convicted German war criminal, as a spy.
“As they begin to fall for one another, Alicia is instructed to win the affections of Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains), a Nazi hiding out in Brazil. When Sebastian becomes serious about his relationship with Alicia, the stakes get higher, and Devlin must watch her slip further undercover.”
5. Dial M for Murder (1954)
As we begin to reach the heights of Hitchcock’s finest films, the subtlety of difference between them would be ever so pleasing for the man himself. On Dial M For Murder, Hitch is again providing a delicate interplay between dark and light.
A great story is one thing but a great cast is needed to ensure any film goes off according to plan, this film is well represented throughout. Ray Milland is a wonderful actor and does a fine job of taking the story where it needs to go but Grace Kelly steals the show.
With this film, Hitchcock manipulates his audience like a true master. Each scene is gilded with realism but is forthright and pace-filled, unwavering and strong. Full-colour photography is perhaps more stunning while Tiomkin’s score make this one of Hitch’s finest.
Official Film Synopsis: “Ex-tennis pro Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) wants to have his wealthy wife, Margot (Grace Kelly), murdered so he can get his hands on her inheritance. When he discovers her affair with Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings), he comes up with the perfect plan to kill her.
“He blackmails an old acquaintance into carrying out the murder, but the carefully-orchestrated set-up goes awry, and Margot stays alive. Now Wendice must frantically scheme to outwit the police and avoid having his plot detected.”
4. North by Northwest (1959)
If there’s one film that sees Hitchcock at his sharpest it may well be North By Northwest from 1959. A commercial powerhouse, the film was still skillfully ladened with artist merit and has been seen as a moment of glory for the director.
A lot of credit can be directed at Ernest Lehman for his astoundingly smart script, but Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint are the clear bright speakers in this picture, despite a final cameo from the score, which may be one of the best ever recorded in cinema.
The film remains endlessly enjoyable to this day, some 60 years after it first came out. Even after repeated viewings, North By Northwest ranks as one of the finest thrillers you will ever see.
Official Film Synopsis: “This classic suspense film finds New York City ad executive Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) pursued by ruthless spy Phillip Vandamm (James Mason) after Thornhill is mistaken for a government agent.
“Hunted relentlessly by Vandamm’s associates, the harried Thornhill ends up on a cross-country journey, meeting the beautiful and mysterious Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) along the way. Soon Vandamm’s henchmen close in on Thornhill, resulting in a number of iconic action sequences.”
3. Rear Window (1954)
There are very few superlatives that haven’t been used to described Alfred Hitchcock’s suspense masterpiece Rear Window. Not only is it crammed to the brim with unstoppable performances, (see James Stewart and Grace Kelly’s career-defining performances) but it sees Hitchcock somehow take the lead role.
Often described as the filmmaker’s favourite film, Hitchcock employs so many techniques and nuances that it is hard to keep up—and you shouldn’t even try to. The real joy of filmmaking, after all, is watching the damn thing.
It is this simple premise which has always put Hitch above all artistically driven auteurs. Deep down, Hitchcock loved watching films as much as he loved making them. Rear Window is proof of that fact.
Official Film Synopsis: “The story of a recuperating news photographer who believes he has witnessed a murder. Confined to a wheelchair after an accident, he spends his time watching the occupants of neighbouring apartments through a telephoto lens and binoculars and becomes convinced that a murder has taken place.”
2 – Psycho (1960)
So, $40,000, a pretty young woman and a vulnerable man psychologically dominated by his own mother? Simple, unorthodox, brilliant—classic Hitch.
In 1960 Alfred Hitchcock created a cinematic masterpiece, opposing all advice and direction he was adamant that Psycho, based on the book by Robert Bloch, would be his next film, a risk following the staggering success of his previous work, North by Northwest.
This particular picture from the film industry’s one and only master of suspense took what were then viewed as obscene risks, using alternative techniques and visuals in order to make his film as intriguing and eye-catching as possible; a few of these techniques, however, baffled the contemporary audience.
The first introduction of a toilet in an American film, for example, caused confusion and controversy along with the suggestive nudity of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) in that oh-so-famous shower scene we all know and love.
Psycho is dripping in the brilliance of Alfred Hitchcock, a sheer masterpiece that has redefined the horror genre until this very day.
Official Film Synopsis: “Phoenix secretary Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), on the lam after stealing $40,000 from her employer in order to run away with her boyfriend, Sam Loomis (John Gavin), is overcome by exhaustion during a heavy rainstorm.
“Traveling on the back roads to avoid the police, she stops for the night at the ramshackle Bates Motel and meets the polite but highly strung proprietor Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), a young man with an interest in taxidermy and a difficult relationship with his mother.”
1- Vertigo (1958)
Alfred Hitchcock was a director whose films are recognisable as his iconic face, even without the use of odd or striking techniques, and even without creating his own plotlines or scripts. Hitchcock drew his ideas from other sources—quite often through the medium of novels—and seldom wrote his own screenplays, yet most film buffs know the look and tone of a Hitchcock film.
Vertigo showcases his style of directing spectacularly well. It is yet another horror film the director is well known for but it is a deeper, more psychological thriller than much of his work. It is, without doubt, his finest piece of cinema.
Vertigo may or may not be Hitchcock’s favourite creation, as some movie historians claim, but it is certainly one he put an inordinate amount of effort into. The idea of obsession fascinated him, and he was immediately drawn to the obsession-themed novel which is the basis for the film, D’entre Les Morts (published in English as The Living and the Dead). He had also expressed great interest in the horror potential with, confusing fantasy with reality—which Vertigo provides in ample amount.
Hitch contributed to the script, which took over a year to write and was closely involved with every aspect of the film’s production including the set design, costume design, and soundtrack. Every aspect of Vertigo expresses Hitchcock’s vision for the film.
More than any of Hitchcock’s other suspense movies, Vertigo finds the horror in some of the more frightening aspects of the human mind. It is a film that requires the viewer’s full attention, demanding that, if only for a little while, the story be the matter at hand.
Official Film Synopsis: “An ex-police officer who suffers from an intense fear of heights is hired to prevent an old friend’s wife from committing suicide, but all is not as it seems. Hitchcock’s haunting, compelling masterpiece is uniquely revelatory about the director’s own predilections and hang-ups and is widely considered to be one of his masterworks.”