Ranking the films of Alfred Hitchcock was always going to be an inevitable problem. At one point and time, the methodology was going to be to rank all of the films reviewed as part of the Hitchmania process. But cooler heads prevailed and the list has been narrowed down to the top dozen Hitchcock movies.
It should be noted that all 12 pictures should be considered part of the vital Hitchcock canon. They are all excellent films. They are all four-maple-leaf movies in the humble estimation of yours truly. Quarrelling about why so-and-so wasn’t higher than so-and-so is a matter of taste, but it’s important to remember these are all magnificent flicks that should be seen by anyone serious about cinema.
And that’s really what Hitchmania has taught me. The sheer brilliance of Alfred Hitchcock resists simple categorization and pointless lists that are all the rage online.
Another way to look at these Top 12 films is to look at them as recommendations. In other words, if you can only see a dozen Hitch flicks before the poison slipped in your holiday drink sets in and your life is at its happy end, these are the dozen to set your sights on.
So now that the “bottom” half has been dealt with, it’s time to untie the ribbon and unleash the top six selections:
Another of Hitchcock’s “confined” thrillers, this is among his most elegantly constructed films. With this outing, he stayed very close to the source material and tossed Grace Kelly in for good measure. She is stunning and magnetic, blasting through Ray Milland’s seemingly perfect plan with her will to live.
Hitch was very fond of the work of English author Daphne du Maurier. He turned three of her works into films and The Birds is the finest of them. In this picture, Hitchcock ratchets up the suspense through absurd comedy and some of the best sound design to resound in a thriller. This is a masterclass in audience manipulation.
This picture is perhaps the culmination of Hitch’s work in North America. It resonates with multiple themes, yet at the same time something about it suggests satire. Maybe that’s because Hitchcock initially wanted to include such silliness as Grant up the nose of Abraham Lincoln – just in time for a sneezing fit.
This is pretty much a flawless movie. It is the realization of Hitch’s dream of “pure cinema” and a chance to excite using the potential of the cinematic arts. It makes the audience into voyeurs and it uses this foundation to arouse and entice to an almost relentless degree. Plus: Grace Kelly.
The word masterful has come up often over the course of Hitchmania and it perhaps serves no finer purpose than with this movie. Vertigo took down Citizen Kane on Sight & Sound‘s 2012 poll and has been in the discussion for one of the greatest films of all time for a while now. For all the hype, this flick earns it.
So sue me. The film often cited as being the favourite of Alfred Hitchcock’s is also the favourite of the Canadian Cinephile. This is maybe the first movie that found the director in his groove, with a full complement of ideal writers and a cast to die for. Its themes are terrifyingly rendered and absorbing in their heft and disturbing nature. And the dinner speech is chilling as hell.