Alfred Hitchcock is the king of suspense. A prolific filmmaker, Hitchcock directed 54 movies. Nothing to sniff at for sure, but more impressive is that most of his films are still loved by audiences today. That says a lot about his skill and talent. However, among these thrilling and suspenseful films, at least five stand out.
5 “North by Northwest”
Cary Grant heats up the screen again in 1959 as the lead character in “North by Northwest,” a thriller about an ad executive who is mistaken for a government agent by foreign spies. As if being the target of professional assassins isn’t bad enough, he’s framed for murder, setting the cops on his tail as well. The story follows their relentless 2,000-mile pursuit of Grant’s character, including his encounter with a hot blonde who helps him escape his pursuers. He later learns that she isn’t as uninvolved as she first seemed. The twists and turns in this film are truly genius. Full of breathtaking scenes and heart-pounding tension, “North by Northwest” has the viewer on the edge of her seat for the entire ride.
4 “Rear Window”
In “Rear Window” (1954), the main character, who is confined to a wheelchair, spies on his neighbors through his window and believes one of them is a murderer. It’s shown almost entirely from the point of view of the main character, played by Jimmy Stewart, and it makes you feel like a creepy-icky voyeur for watching along with him. The story forces you to question human nature and to face the fact that as a race, we’re pretty much the same—peeping Toms who like to view our fellow humans secretly. What makes this film notable is that the “moral” of the story is even more applicable today. Consider the popularity of reality and hidden camera shows. You see it?
In “Psycho” (1960) we meet a woman who steals from her employer and flees to a remote motel run by a young mama’s boy. Remote locations never mean good things in Hitchcock’s world. Norman Bates is hands-down one of the top five best villains ever created, and Hitchcock brilliantly cast handsome Anthony Perkins for the role. The woman is killed off almost immediately in the shower scene that now has a place in horror film history. Because of this scene, ladies still check and recheck the locks on their bathroom doors before stepping into the shower.
In “Vertigo” (1958), Jimmy Stewart plays an obsessive and disturbingly cold retired police detective named John “Scottie” Ferguson. He begins somewhat normal, although he suffers from acrophobia, a fear of heights. As he investigates the young wife of an old friend, he becomes obsessed with her. What follows is a confusing and disturbing nightmare that ends suddenly and tragically. It’s been said that the concept of remaking a woman to fit the image of another reflects Hitchcock’s feelings of abandonment caused by Grace Kelly. Whatever the inspiration, “Vertigo” is a masterpiece.
1 “The Birds”
Tippi Hedron plays the poor soul stuck in a town that has been taken over by birds in this classic and terrifying Hitchcock film, which debuted in 1963. Critics have dug to find the deeper meaning of this film, claiming the birds represent the counterculture of the ’60s, or that they are a symbol of female sexuality. But really, the why or what behind the making of “The Birds” is unimportant. It’s scary, and after watching the film, you’ll never look at a flock of pecky, evil winged creatures the same way again.