As a pioneer of many of the revolutionary filmmaking techniques that today’s moviegoers take for granted and the gold standard for directing suspenseful sequences that grip the audience, Alfred Hitchcock is one of the most legendary directors who ever put his stamp on Hollywood. He’s responsible for more timeless, virtually flawless classics than can be counted on two hands, and he’s influenced every great director who followed him, from Martin Scorsese to Brian De Palma, Steven Spielberg to Quentin Tarantino, and every great director who followed them. So, here are Alfred Hitchcock’s 10 Best Movies, According To Rotten Tomatoes.
10 TIE: Strangers on a Train (98%)
The simplistic premise of Strangers on a Train has been “homaged” by a dozen movies since then — from Horrible Bosses to Throw Momma from the Train — but it’s never been done as effectively as Hitchcock’s 1951 classic. It tells the story of two strangers who meet on a train, one a naive, mild-mannered tennis player and the other a suave psychopath, who each want someone dead. They decide to kill each other’s targets, so that neither has a detectable motive. But obviously, since this is a Hitchcockian crime thriller, it’s not as simple as that and the plot promptly thickens.
9 TIE: Notorious (98%)
Starring three of the finest actors of its era — Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, and Claude Rains — 1946’s Notorious is one of the greatest film noir movies ever made. The spy plot is just the facade to introduce us to the characters and their world.
The real substance of Notorious is its love triangle, and it’s one of Hollywood’s earliest examples of a romantic plot that feels genuine, and not just a bunch of literary clichés hashed together within a convenient runtime. Notorious was made by a Hitchcock at the height of his powers, and marks a shift in his career into artistic maturity.
8 TIE: The Lady Vanishes (98%)
This was the movie that pushed Alfred Hitchcock into the big leagues. He’d spent his career making British movies, and by the time he made The Lady Vanishes, he’d recovered from three successive box office bombs. If The Lady Vanishes didn’t hit, that would’ve been it for the Master of Suspense. Thankfully, it was a success, both with critics and moviegoers, and it put Hitch on Hollywood’s radar. Before long, he was getting calls from American producers like David O. Selznick and moving out to Los Angeles. The film is about an old lady who suddenly goes missing from a train headed across Europe.
7 North by Northwest (99%)
In many ways, North by Northwest was a Bond movie before Bond movies existed. It has all the hallmarks of a 007 film: an espionage plot, an eccentric villain, a love interest, an extravagant and beautifully designed opening title sequence (created by the legendary Saul Bass), an ultimately irrelevant MacGuffin, a location-hopping plot, and a climactic, action-packed third-act battle that raises the stakes significantly — which takes place atop Mount Rushmore and is a breathtaking sequence. The screenplay by Ernest Lehman, who set out to write “the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures,” tells a devilishly complex tale of mistaken identity.
6 TIE: Rebecca (100%)
The only Alfred Hitchcock movie to ever be given the Academy Award for Best Picture, Rebecca is a riveting romantic thriller about a woman who marries an aristocrat and finds herself haunted by his previous spouse. It lacked mainstream appeal due to its harrowing psychological drama, but with compelling lead performances from Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier, it’s hard to resist the movie’s charms. As always, Hitchcock handles the movie’s suspenseful moments with a strong command of the filmmaking craft, while the musical score by Bride of Frankenstein’s Franz Waxman combines creep with class. Rebecca is an all-round spectacularly made movie.
5 TIE: Shadow of a Doubt (100%)
An early example of a psychological thriller, with the tropes and motifs of the film noir, Shadow of a Doubt is considered by many — including Alfred Hitchcock himself, who reiterated this notion during several interviews throughout his career — to be the director’s all-time greatest movie. And with Oscar-nominated storytelling brought to life by Joseph A. Valentine’s groundbreaking cinematography, it’s difficult to argue. It’s the story of a teenage girl who begins to suspect that something shady is afoot with her visiting uncle. Teresa Wright sells all of her character’s emotions with ease in the lead role, while Joseph Cotten brings a suitable menace to Uncle Charlie.
4 TIE: The Ring (100%)
This is not the horror movie about the videotape that signposts its viewers’ deaths. It’s a silent movie from Alfred Hitchcock’s very early days as a filmmaker. Only nine of these movies still exist, and this one was originally released in 1927 and restored in 2012. It was one of the first ever sports movies, focusing on a pair of boxers who are both rivals in the ring and rivals for the affections of a woman.
The movie takes audiences through its love story at a quick and breezy pace, setting the stage for such classics as Rocky and Raging Bull in the years to come.
3 TIE: Young and Innocent (100%)
Released in 1937, Young and Innocent is a thriller about a man who is falsely accused of murder and has to go on the run. Along the way, he enlists the help of a woman who must risk her own safety to get him out of his wrongful criminal charge. Young and Innocent is famous for its convoluted crane shot, which Alfred Hitchcock elaborately staged for the end of the movie to reveal who the true killer was after all. As with all of Hitchcock’s best works, this one pioneered a cinematographic technique, which has since been used by dozens of filmmakers.
2 TIE: Sabotage (100%)
Loosely adapted from the Joseph Campbell novel The Secret Agent, Sabotage is a spy thriller about a woman who discovers that her husband, who she previously thought was just a harmless theater owner, is working for a terrorist cell. The plot is genuinely riveting, building up to a climax that’ll have you on the edge of your seat. Sabotage is often confused with the similarly titled Saboteur, which was also directed by Hitchcock and features a scene where a character falls from the Statue of Liberty’s torch, which is viewed by many as a precursor to North by Northwest’s Mount Rushmore-set finale.
1 TIE: Rear Window (100%)
The mystery of Rear Window is apparent, but the intrigue comes from the fact that its lead character is confined to a wheelchair. Stuck in his house, watching people through a pair of binoculars to pass the time, James Stewart begins to suspect that his neighbor is a murderer. Even by Hitchcock’s standards, this is a tremendous film. The tension is obvious. If he’s right and it’s discovered that he knows too much, he won’t be able to go very far. Even after the countless parodies that have followed, Rear Window still has the same impact it had on audiences in 1954.