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My 5 Favourite Hitchcock Films, for now. (feature)

My 5 Favourite Hitchcock Films, for now.


It is no secret that I’m a huge fan of Alfred Hitchcock’s work. I first saw PSYCHO when I was 13 years old and since then I’ve never been able to take a full shower without peeking out to see if someone else was in the room with me. Seriously, that’s no joke. Not only did Hitchcock’s great masterpiece of suspense ingrain itself into my psyche, but it was my first real foray into understanding the language of cinema. And let’s be honest, it’s just a straight up fantastic movie. As I got older, I really began to appreciate Hitchcock’s plot twists and turns, and subtle sexual overtones that somehow manage to make their way into all of his films. From spy thrillers and horror, to gothic melodramas and yes, even a comedy, Hitchcock has delved into many genres while constantly experimenting with new filming techniques. One such example is DIAL M FOR MUDER (playing at the TIFF Bell Light Box this week) where he took the new technology of 3D movies and used it in a way that was so in your face that it almost feels like the opening credits are sitting right in your lap, or that Grace Kelly’s hand is reaching for you.

My favourite films of his often change over the years; some are constants but there are times when certain films mean more to me than others. Sure, there are some which have never made the list and probably never will (THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY) and some that I’ve included that others feel are among his worst. That’s the joy of a director with such a massive catalogue to choose from. With over 50 films to his name, there is definitely something for everyone. And yes, I’m sure even TOPAZ ends up on someone’s best of list at some point in time, although I’ve yet to see one.

This list is in no particular order, and it should be noted that films like PSYCHO and THE BIRDS don’t appear on it. It isn’t because I don’t love those films, because I truly do, I just feel that it’s so obvious that they don’t need to appear on a list. No, I’m not going to try and convince you to like TORN CURTAIN, but maybe you would reconsider giving something as great as STAGE FRIGHT a try.



First off, I have to admit that I am a huge Jane Wyman fan. Like, massive. Not only is she incredibly adorable, but she also stars in one of my all time favourite films, ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS, which is just pure visual bliss. STAGE FRIGHT stars Marlene Dietrich as a theatre diva whose husband has been murdered, and Wyman, a theatre student, tries to prove that her friend is innocent.  This is one of Hitchcock’s best uses of the unreliable narrator that I can think of. This is a film of lies, one after the other, to the point that you just don’t know what, or who to believe. Apparently this outraged moviegoers upon its initial release, but for me it is just one of the pleasures of watching this film. Not only is Wyman’s performance wonderfully comedic, but there is enough suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat too. When the final reveal comes, it almost feels like a let down, this admittance that we’ve been had, but this is Hitchcock’s world and we shouldn’t put too much stock into what characters say anyway.

FRENZY (1972)


Hitchcock’s 52nd film, his second to last, marks his return to England after many decades, as well as his only film to contain topless women. Could you imagine if PSYCHO had been made in the 70’s? That shower scene would have been so different. FRENZY is considered by some to be his last masterpiece, and I couldn’t agree more. After films like MARNIE and TOPAZ, it is hard to believe that the auteur could redeem his status again, but he does and it is a devilishly good time. FRENZY is about a serial killer in London that is raping women and strangling them with a necktie, and early on we see who the killer is, making this film one of Hitchcock’s finest and most fun “wrong man” movies. It contains one of the best continuous tracking shots he ever filmed; it begins as the killer and his next victim enter an apartment, the camera reverses down a set of stairs, past a window and out on to the busy London street. It begins as completely quiet but then the sounds of the street can start to be heard and we know exactly what is happening in the apartment above, without even seeing it. It is one of Hitchcock’s most chilling scenes in one of his finest late films.



This was Hitchcock’s third and final film with Grace Kelly, and his third with Cary Grant, so it has two of Hitchcock’s favourite stars working side by side. Grant, a retired cat burglar ventures back into his old line of work to help capture a new burglar who is robbing wealthy tourists along the French Riviera. Along the way he meets Frances (Kelly) who just happens to be in possession of some of the most expensive jewels in the area.  As he attempts to track down the other burglar, he begins a relationship with Frances that involves lots of beautiful scenery, fireworks and some great driving by Kelly. TO CATCH A THIEF is by far one of Hitchcock’s most fun films, in the same way that NORTH BY NORTHWEST is a non stop chase across America, this is full of thrilling chases across the Riviera that boasts some of Hitchcock’s most beautifully filmed scenery.

ROPE (1948)


A technical achievement even by today’s standards, ROPE was filmed in 10 different shots in real time. It is also Hitchcock’s first film in technicolor. The sets were on rollers so the crew could move the walls when the camera moved and the characters walked round the apartment. It also features an incredible window with a constructed view that has blown glass clouds pass by and the colours in the sky change from early evening into night. This movie is based off a play of the same name, and takes its story form actual events that happened in 1924 when two university students kidnapped and murdered a 14-year-old boy. John Dall and Farley Granger (another personal favourite) play the two killers with self-proclaimed superior intellect who murder their friend in what they think is the perfect crime. They then hide his body in a chest in their living room and invite all their friends over for a party, just to see if they can get away with it. Absolutely twisted and chalk-full of homosexual subtext, ROPE is absolutely one of Hitchcock’s more devilish films that for a long time was overlooked. If you haven’t seen this one, it is about time you treat yourself to a viewing of it, because you won’t be disappointed.

REBECCA (1940)


Starring the incredibly beautiful Joan Fontaine alongside Laurence Olivier in Hitchcock’s delicately subtle REBECCA, this film is not only a great work by the auteur, but also a classic gothic tale. Adapted from the novel by Daphne du Maurier, Hitchcock’s vision went on to receive 11 Academy Awards nominations, and won two for Cinematography and Outstanding Production. Resting somewhere between a love story, a haunted house tale and a story of female and male jealousy, REBECCA is sure to keep you guessing and a little frightened as well. A young and naive woman (Fontaine) marries an incredibly wealthy but aloof Maxim (Olivier) who is entering his second marriage. Given the mysterious circumstances of his first wife’s death, Maxim is incredibly secretive and often dismissive of her new wife. But Maxim has as many secrets to hide as the house itself. As the unnamed protagonist searches throughout the famed Manderley estate, you can feel the tension from not only the anticipation of a ghost popping up anytime, but from the antagonistic Ms. Danvers who gives this film undoubtable lesbian subtext. Manderley is a stunning set piece that feels alive, and if you’ve ever read the novel, Hitchcock did a fantastic job of making the house just as an important character as Rebecca. Gorgeously atmospheric from the opening shot to the final sequence, REBECCA is a perfectly creepy stormy night film.

DIAL M FOR MURDER 3D screens at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto on April 19 and 21. For more information and for tickets, please visit

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