The real question is how can you choose just five Alfred Hitchcock movies, so many classics has the legendary director made. Beginning his career with silent movies before establishing himself as one of the Britain’s best early sound thriller makers and then relocating to the USA just in time for the golden age of Hollywood. So yes it is hard to just choose five Hitchcock flicks but the quintet below definitely scale the heights of greatness and also serve to give you a nice idea of the longevity of his career.
The Lady Vanishes (1938)
The high point of Hitchcock’s British films is a beguiling mystery story. A group of English travelers on a train across Europe includes a sweet old woman (Dame May Whitty) . . . for a while. Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave get pulled into a web of intrigue when, after Lockwood gets beaned on the head, the lady disappears, leaving only her name written in frost on the window. When they set out to find her, Lockwood’s memory and sanity are questioned, particularly by a scheming Lukas. The Hitchcock touches, the sly wit, the unsuspecting hero plunged into a baffling situation, are already apparent.
Cast: Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Dame May Whitty
In order to escape the oppression of her rigid, wealthy parents, Joan Fontaine embraces the attention of Cary Grant though she knows his reputation as a cad. When his friend Nigel Bruce turns up dead, Fontaine begins to think she’s next and frets about the nightly glass of milk Grant brings her. Her fears reach a crescendo on a careening drive on a twisting road. Academy Award Nominations: 3, including Best Picture; Best Score.
Cast: Joan Fontaine, Cary Grant, Nigel Bruce, Leo G. Carroll, Cedric Hardwicke
Rear Window (1954)
This thoroughly enjoyable mystery classic from Hitchcock pokes amiably at the inherent voyeurism of the movie audience. Restless magazine photographer James Stewart bides his time while confined to a wheelchair with observing the behavior of his neighbors from the vantage point of his rear window. His only other distractions during the day are visits from his model girlfriend, Grace Kelly and nurse, Thelma Ritter. After waking in the night, Stewart is convinced he sees thesalesman, Raymond Burr, disposing of evidence that would indicate a hideous murder, with his nagging wife the obvious victim. But when Stewart’s story doesn’t wash with a policeman pal, he sends Kelly into the apartment to search for more clues. As Stewart watches helplessly, Burr returns to his apartment. Now aware of Stewart’s snooping, Burr attacks the wheelchair-bound voyeur. Witty and beautifully produced (Hitchcock constructed the largest set of its time at Paramount – 31 full-scale apartments), this is an enduring popular and critical favorite. A restored version of this Hitchcock masterpiece (by the team that accomplished wonders with “Vertigo”) is due to be released in the fall of 1999. Selected for the National Film Registry. Academy Award Nominations: Best Director; Best Screenplay; Best Cinematography; Best Sound.
Cast: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Raymond Burr, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter,
North by Northwest (1959)
This is one of Hitchcock’s greatest, with suspense, action, and comedy in one non-stop motion picture. In one of his patented ordinary-man-in-exceptional-circumstances plots, advertising executive Cary Grant gets kidnapped from a business engagement and winds up in a baffling, twisting battle with enemy agents and on the run from both police and the agents. This technically superb film yielded some of Hitchcock’s best-known images: the crop duster bearing down on Grant in a remote cornfield, Grant and Eva Marie Saint dangling from Mt. Rushmore, Saint’s frank seduction of Grant on a train. Essential viewing. Academy Award Nominations: 3, including Best (Original) Screenplay.
Cast: Cary Grant, Leo G. Carroll, Josephine Hutchinson, James Mason, Philip Ober, Eva Marie Saint
The Birds (1963)
Hitchcock, the master of suspense, ventures into the realm of horror with the depiction of a world in which nature can go suddenly, terrifyingly mad. When Tippi Hedren appears in the idyllic coastal village of Bodega Bay with two lovebirds in tow, the local birds inexplicably begin to wage an all-out war on humans. Hitchcock’s follow-up to “Psycho” tops even that landmark for shock value. Loosely based on a Daphne du Maurier short story. Academy Award Nominations: Best Visual Effects.
Cast: Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor, Veronica Cartwright, Ethel Griffies, Charles McGraw,