Alfred Hitchcock: The Master of Suspense’s 13 Best Works on Film & TV

ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, Alfred Hitchcock, 1955-62
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Over his long career, Hitchcock has directed 59 films and surprisingly never received an Oscar. Here are some other films by “The Master of Suspense” that you may, or may not remember.

Psycho (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho has occasionally been referred to as the original slasher film. Filmed in black and white with the same crew he used for his weekly TV series Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the tale of a killer (Anthony Perkins) with a mother complex working the front desk of the Bates Motel had shocking levels of violence, sexuality and deviance for a mainstream movie. In one of the most terrifying moments ever caught on film, a traveler (Janet Leigh) is stabbed repeatedly in the shower by a figure who may or may not be poor Norman Bates’ bad mother. Hitchcock used fast cuts (seriously; 52 of them for the shower scene alone) and a shrieky score for string orchestra by Bernard Herrmann to keep viewers nearly off the edge of their seats.

PSYCHO, left: Anthony Perkins, top center: Vera Miles, bottom center: John Gavin, right: Janet Leigh, 1960

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Ever mindful of effects, Hitchcock did all the promotion for Psycho and even asked theaters to admit no one after the movie’s start. Psycho was the most successful film of Hitchcock’s career, earning $32 million worldwide. After his death in 1980, Universal Pictures released three sequels, a remake, a made-for-television spinoff and a prequel TV series set in the 2010s.

PSYCHO, Alfred Hitchcock, 1960

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The Birds (1963)

THE BIRDS, top: Alfred Hitchcock, center and bottom: Tippi Hedren on poster art, 1963.

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Seems a ridiculous premise… just how dangerous could birds be, anyway? Wouldn’t a movie about an army of sharks or tigers be more effective? But then you’re outside on a quiet day, and a crow is looking down at you, innocuously, from a phone wire. A few minutes later, you look up again, and five more have joined it, all looking down at you, seemingly less innocuously, almost with some sort of intent, as if they are communicating about you. While the Alfred Hitchcock classic didn’t win the Oscar for Best Effects, the film has stood the test of time as Tippi Hedren and Rod Taylor helped make birds some of the most terrifying villains in horror history.

Vertigo (1958)

VERTIGO, from left: Kim Novak, James Stewart, 1958.

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Teaming with one of his favorite leading men, Jimmy Stewart, who gives an un-Stewartlike performance as a sort of jerky guy obsessed with turning one woman into the exact image of his dead real love. This mystery is wonderfully complex, and the gorgeous shots combined with Herrmann’s hypnotic score lend a dreamy sense of dread to the film. Kim Novak also stars in this classic Hitchcock thriller about a detective with a neurotic fear of heights.

Rear Window (1954)

REAR WINDOW, Grace Kelly & James Stewart, 1954

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This is his strongest portrayal yet of a theme that turns up again and again in his works: We as filmgoers are voyeurs. We, in the dark, peer into the lives up on the screen and let them open up all their secrets to us. In Rear Window, we take that voyeurism one step further. Confined to a wheelchair as the result of a broken leg, photographer L.B. Jeffries (James Stewart) passes the time by watching his neighbors through binoculars from his window. What begins as a mere diversion becomes much more serious when he begins to suspect one of them of murder. Hitchcock also liked to work with Grace Kelly, who is great here — and Raymond Burr as Thorwald manages to give a quietly sad, yet sinister, performance.

North by Northwest (1959)

NORTH BY NORTHWEST, Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, Alfred Hitchcock, 1959

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Your irrational fear of crop dusters and Mount Rushmore can probably be traced to this action thriller. Cary Grant plays Roger Thornhill, an advertising executive who goes on the run after being mistaken for a spy and an assassin. He meets Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint), a real spy and double agent trying to foil a plot by Vandamm (James Mason) to smuggle a statue containing top-secret information on microfilm out of the country. “She’s the kind of girl that gets into a man’s blood, even if she has to shoot her way in,” Hitchcock says in the movie’s trailer.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-65)

ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, Alfred Hitchcock, 1955-62

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“Good Evening” is how famed horror director Alfred Hitchcock introduced each episode of this long-running anthology series that aired on CBS and then NBC. Besides Hitchcock’s dry wit and frequent ribbing of sponsors in his opening remarks, the series is also a cavalcade of recognizable faces (Vincent Price, Vera Miles) to future big stars (Robert Redford, Steve McQueen). Hitchcock, still making films like The Birds and Psycho during the run, typically directed one or two episodes a season but always brought his droll delivery to open every deliciously devious story.

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, on left, from left: Doris Day, James Stewart; 1-sheet poster, 1956.

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James Stewart plays an American doctor and while vacationing with his wife (Doris Day), a former singing star, witnesses a murder while in Morocco. Together they are drawn into a twisting plot of international intrigue when their young son is kidnapped. This is a remake of his own 1934 thriller.

Notorious (1946)

NOTORIOUS, top from left: Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, lower left: Claude Rains on 'Style A' half-sheet poster art, 1946.

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Ingrid Bergman stars as a woman living in post-WWII South America who marries a Nazi in order to save the man she really loves, an American spy portrayed by Cary Grant. This Hitchcock thriller also stars Claude Rains.

Rebecca (1940)

REBECCA, from left: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, 1940.

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This film has stood the test of time as a dark psychological thriller. It follows a young woman (Joan Fontaine) who marries a sullen aristocrat widower (Laurence Olivier) and settles in his estate — only to find that his first wife may have been murdered. Now she must live in the shadow of his former wife, Rebecca, as her ghost still controls the house.

Spellbound (1945)

SPELLBOUND, from left: Gregory Peck, Ingrid Bergman, 1945.

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Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman star in the classic psychological whodunit about a psychiatrist who tries to uncover the childhood trauma experienced by another doctor after he is framed for murder.

Strangers On A Train (1951)

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, center: Farley Granger, 1951.

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Robert Walker and Farley Granger star in this Hitchcock thriller about a psychopath and a tennis player whose meeting on a train leads to a murderous chain of events when they agree to kill each other’s least favorite person. Highlights include a murder reflected in a pair of eyeglasses and a runaway carousel. It also stars Ruth Roman, Leo G. Carroll and Hitchcock’s daughter, Patricia Hitchcock.

To Catch A Thief (1955)

TO CATCH A THIEF, Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, 1955

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This glamorous romp through the French Riviera, tells the story of a reformed jewel thief (Cary Grant) who must prove that he is not the perpetrator of a fresh series of robberies. Meanwhile, he becomes enchanted with a heiress with expensive jewels played by Grace Kelly.

The Wrong Man (1956)

THE WRONG MAN, Henry Fonda on UK poster art, 1956

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Henry Fonda stars as a man who is wrongly accused of robbery. His once quiet and humble life is ruined in this dark crime drama, masterfully produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, who based the film on a true story about a New York City musician.