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10 best Alfred Hitchcock movies, ranked

Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier as the Second Mrs. de Winter and Maxim de Winter embracing and looking to the distance in Rebecca.
United Artists

Alfred Hitchcock is among cinema’s most influential and revered directors. Known as The Master of Suspense, Hitchcock rose to prominence in the late 1920s, but achieved the apex of his fame throughout the 1940s and ’50s. He directed over 50 movies throughout his 60-year-long career.

Few directors can claim to be more prolific, revered, or successful than Hitchcock. Indeed, his best movies are still studied and analyzed today, with nine of his directorial efforts being selected for preservation by the National Film Registry. Hitchcock is behind some of the all-time best psychological thrillers and mystery movies in Hollywood’s history. These are Hitchcock’s best movies, timeless pictures that are testaments to his unique talent.

10 Rope (1948)

John Dall and James Stewart as Brandon and Rupert talking in Rope.
Warner Bros.

Hollywood everyman James Stewart stars in Hitchcock’s Rope, playing a rare role that highlights the actor’s secret, darkly sarcastic side. The plot follows two young aesthetes, Brandon and Phillip, who murder a former acquaintance as an exercise to prove their superiority by committing the perfect murder. As their apartment becomes the stage for a gathering, their crime threatens to be exposed by their victim’s clueless fiancé and their former teacher, Rupert Cadell, whose lectures inspired their actions.

Rope is noteworthy for its then-groundbreaking use of editing techniques that make it seem as though the film is made of four long, continuous takes. It also takes place in real time, further adding to the sense of tension and increasing dread overtaking the affair. Tight and psychologically daunting, Rope is among Hitchcock’s most noteworthy and singular efforts, a near-experimental exercise in precision that remains as fresh and revelatory today as it was back in 1948.

Rope is available to stream on Amazon.

9. Strangers on a Train (1951)

Farley Granger and Robert Walker as Guy and Bruno talking on a train in Strangers on a Train
Warner Bros,

Another of Hitchcock’s young-men-who-kill stories, Strangers on a Train is based on Patricia Highsmith’s eponymous novel. The film follows Guy Haines, a tennis star who wants to divorce his shrewish wife to marry a politician’s patrician daughter. On a train, he meets Bruno Anthony, a psychopathic young man who suggests they “exchange” murders: Bruno will kill Guy’s wife if Guy kills Bruno’s father. When Bruno actually goes ahead with the plan, Guy becomes involved with an increasingly unstable man while becoming a suspect in his wife’s murder.

In a classic case of the perfect material finding the perfect director, Strangers on a Train is right up Hitch’s alley. Like other films in the director’s career, Strangers on a Train has a heavy dose of subtext, from political to societal. Ideas of doubles, guilt, and consequence are also prevalent, and these themes can easily be identified throughout the director’s career. Tight, yet endlessly entertaining, Strangers on a Train is a thrilling ride benefitting from Hitchcock’s steady hand.

Strangers on a Train is available to stream on Tubi.

8. The Birds (1963)

Tippi Hedren as Melanie with a child running away from a group of birds in The Birds.
Universal Pictures

The seminal 1963 horror film The Birds ranks among Hitchcock’s most widely recognized efforts. Tippi Hedren stars as Melanie Daniels, a woman visiting Bodega Bay, California, which suddenly and inexplicably falls under the attack of violent birds.

Although the premise sounds admittedly bizarre, The Birds is among the best horror movies ever. Anchored by a strong performance from Hedren, arguably the definitive “Hitchcock blonde,” The Birds is a terrific exploration of the unseen and unstoppable dangers lurking in nature. The titular birds are formidable enemies: they’re everywhere and can’t be reasoned with or fought. Hitchcock turns the birds into the ultimate enemy: they have no reason to attack and no larger stake in the conflict. They simply are, and that makes them far scarier.

The Birds is available to stream on Amazon.

7. Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

Joseph Cotten as Uncle Charlie talking to a a scared-looking Teresa Wright as Charlie in Shadow of a Doubt,
Universal Pictures

The term “underrated” is commonly used, but few actors deserve it more than Joseph Cotten. One of his generation’s most interesting performers, Cotten played several noteworthy roles deserving of more mainstream recognition, including the sinister Uncle Charlie in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt. The plot centers on young Charlie, whose tranquil life is upended by the sudden arrival of her supposed Uncle Charlie, who she slowly realizes is a serial killer.

Shadow of a Doubt plays on classic Hitchcockian themes, including paranoia, hesitation, secrets, and double identities. Cotten is stupendous as the nefarious Uncle Charlie, a menacing, yet strangely alluring figure that ranks among Hitch’s best villains. Further elevated by an equally impressive Teresa Wright, Shadow of a Doubt is an intimate, yet disturbing portrayal of humanity’s primal states. It’s no wonder it was Hitchcock’s favorite.

Shadow of a Doubt is available to rent or purchase on Amazon and other digital vendors.

6. Notorious (1946)

Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in 'Notorious.'
RKO Pictures / Image via RKO Pictures

Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman were one heck of a pair. And together, they made one heck of a picture. Notorious centers on T.R. Devlin, a government agent who recruits Alicia Huberman, the daughter of a convicted Nazi. The plan is for her to win the affection of Alexander Sebastian (a spectacular Claude Rains), a Nazi hiding in Brazil. As Devlin and Alicia fall for each other, Sebastian’s feelings for her also develop, leading to a complicated and increasingly dangerous situation.

Simply put, Notorious is among the best films noirs in cinematic history. A pivotal project in Hitchcock’s career, Notorious marked a before-and-after in his directorial journey, marking a more narratively ambitious and challenging approach compared to his previous efforts. The cast is all-around incredible, but Rains nearly steals the whole thing with his layered portrayal of Sebastian. Equal parts romantic melodrama and intense spy thriller, Notorious is a genuine masterpiece and a high point in Hitchcock’s career.

Notorious is available to stream on Tubi.

5. Psycho (1960)

Janet Leigh as Marion Crane screaming in the shower in Psycho.
Paramount Pictures

It wouldn’t be an overstatement to call Psycho the single most recognizable and popular Alfred Hitchcock movie. The iconic picture follows Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), a young woman who steals a large sum of money and goes on the run. Seeking refuge from the rain, she stumbles upon the secluded Bates Motel, run by the meek, yet seemingly kind Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). However, Norman is hiding a few secrets, and Marion’s fortunes soon takes a drastic turn.

Psycho is among the most enduring and revered horror movies in American cinema. Nearly every aspect has been profoundly influential for the genre, from its iconic, often referenced score to its twist ending to its camera angles to its precise shots. Few movies can claim to be more influential or important for the development of the horror genre then Psycho. The film easily ranks among Hitchcock’s best, becoming the blueprint for countless psychological horror pictures to follow. It received several weak sequels and a wholly unnecessary shot-for-shot remake, but none of its spawns came even close to its pristine quality.

Psycho is available to stream on Amazon.

4. North by Northwest (1959)

Cary Grant as Roger Thornhill running away from a plane in North by Northwest.
MGM

The father of all spy thrillers, North by Northwest is arguably Hitchcock’s most exciting effort. Cary Grant stars as ad executive Roger Thornhill, who gets mistaken for a government agent and is pursued across the U.S. by the ruthless spy Phillip Vandamm (James Mason). His journey sees him crossing paths with the mysterious Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) while desperately trying to escape the web of deceit he stumbled into.

A direct precursor to the modern action sequences that dominate the cinematic landscape, North by Northwest is a thrilling, clever, and exhilarating classic. The film features one memorable scene after another, from Thornhill running away from a plane to him climbing Mount Rushmore. In many ways, North by Northwest is something of an outlier in Hitchcock’s résumé, but it still revisits many of his favorite themes, most notably mistaken identity. Purely enjoyable and endlessly rewatchable, North by Northwest is simply irresistible.

North by Northwest is available to stream on Tubi.

3. Rebecca (1940)

Joan Fontaine as the Second Mrs. de Winter with Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers behind her in Rebecca.
United Artists

Sir Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine star in Hitchcock’s Gothic romantic psychological thriller Rebecca. Based on the eponymous 1938 novel, the film follows an unnamed young woman who falls desperately in love with the dashing Maxim de Winter and quickly marries him. The new Mrs. de Winter travels to his estate, Manderley, only to realize she is haunted by the spectral memory of Maxim’s first wife, Rebecca, and by the manor’s sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers (a menacing Judith Anderson).

Rebecca is arguably Hitchcock’s finest effort. Elegant, sweeping, and enveloping, the film deftly balances unexpected romance with near-unbearable tension, resulting in a fascinating look into guilt and desire. Olivier is perfect as the cold Maxim, while Fontaine is a compelling and relatable lead. However, it’s Anderson as the wicked Mrs. Danvers who commands the movie, easily earning the top spot as the single best villain in Hitchcock’s movies. Rebecca is the only Hitchcock movie to win Best Picture, an honor it earned in every possible way.

Rebecca is available to purchase on The Criterion Channel.

2. Rear Window (1954)

James Stewart and Grace Kelly as Jeff and Lisa talking in Rear Window.
Paramount Pictures

When people think of Alfred Hitchcock, two movies probably come to mind. The first, Rear Window, stars James Stewart as Jeff, a photographer recovering from an injury that left him in a wheelchair. Confined to his apartment and visited only by his girlfriend and a nurse, he begins spying on his neighbors. The seemingly harmless exercise soon becomes dangerous when he becomes convinced he witnessed a murder.

Rear Window is among Hitchcock’s most stylish films, largely due to the stunning Grace Kelly, who plays Jeff’s socialite girlfriend, Lisa, draped in elegant Edith Head designs. As with many of Hitch’s films, Rear Window is an exercise in escalation, studying themes of voyeurism, privacy, and suspicion. Hitchcock takes his audience by the hand, turning them into unwitting witnesses to Jeff, much like he is a witness to his neighbor’s comings and goings. Adopting a surprisingly lighthearted approach to a morbid subject, Rear Window is nothing short of a masterpiece in planning and execution.

Rear Window is available to stream on Amazon.

1. Vertigo (1958)

James Stewart and Kim Novak embracing in Vertigo (1958)
Paramount Pictures

The second Hitchcock movie that instantly comes to mind is the psychological thriller Vertigo. James Stewart stars as detective John “Scottie” Ferguson, who retired following an incident that left him with acrophobia. However, he returns to the job after being hired by a former acquaintance, Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore), to follow his wife, Madeleine (Kim Novak), who has been acting strangely.

Widely considered by many to be among the best pictures ever made, Vertigo is a cinematic institution and Hitchcock’s most lauded effort. The film topped the 2012 Sight & Sound poll as the all-time best film and came in second in the 2022 version. In its 2007 list 100 Years, 100 Movies, the American Film Institute ranked it ninth, while the BBC ranked it third on its list of the 100 Best American Films. Such excessive praise cannot be a coincidence; Vertigo is a genuine masterpiece in every conceivable way, a triumph of the cinematic experience that cements Hitchcock’s place as a titan of the silver screen.

Vertigo is available to stream on Amazon.

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David Caballero
David is a Mexican freelance writer with a deep appreciation for words. After three years in the cold world of Marketing…
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