Alfred Hitchcock has long been revered as one of the most influential filmmakers of all time. He also holds the unfortunate distinction of being one of Oscar’s biggest losers, with five Best Director nominations and no wins. Still, who needs an Oscar when you’ve impacted world cinema as significantly as “Hitch” has? Let’s take a look back at 25 of his greatest films, ranked from worst to best.
Known as “the Master of Suspense,” Hitchcock cut his teeth directing silent movies in his native England. With films like “The Lodger” (1927), he gained a reputation for helming tense and stylish psychological thrillers. With the invention of sound came an added element to Hitchcock’s work: a sly sense of humor.
He moved to America in 1940 to direct two films that earned Best Picture nominations: “Foreign Correspondent” and “Rebecca,” which took home the top prize. Hitchcock competed for directing “Rebecca,” but lost to John Ford (“The Grapes of Wrath”); he would contend four more unsuccessful times (“Lifeboat” in 1944, “Spellbound” in 1945, “Rear Window” in 1954, and “Psycho” in 1960). Surprisingly, only “Spellbound” and “Suspicion” (1941) earned Best Picture bids. Hitchcock was rewarded for his producing career with the Irving Thalberg Award in 1968, yet was never given an Honorary Oscar statuette.
Hitchcock became a celebrity director by hosting his TV series “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” which aired from 1955-1962. Audiences also got used to spotting him on the big screen through cameo appearances in his own films, which had to happen earlier and earlier due to viewers actively trying to pick him out of the crowd.
Tour our photo gallery above of Hitchcock’s greatest films, including a few for which he should’ve received Oscar nominations. Stars include Joan Fontaine, Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Janet Leigh, Laurence Olivier, Anthony Perkins, James Stewart and more.
25. SUSPICION (1941)
Screenplay by Samson Raphaelson, Joan Harrison and Alma Reville, based on the book ‘Before the Fact’ by Francis Iles. Starring Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Nigel Bruce, Dame May Whitty.
Hitchcock and Joan Fontaine followed up their Oscar success “Rebecca” with this psychological thriller about a shy heiress (Fontaine) who runs off with a charming playboy (Cary Grant). Yet she soon learns that her new husband is a penniless gambler who might be planning to kill her. Fearful of ruining Grant’s heroic image, RKO forced the director to abandon the novel’s chilling climax in favor of a more upbeat — and decidedly less plausible — resolution. Still, the first two acts are as good as anything Hitchcock has ever done. Fontaine won the 1941 Best Actress trophy, while the film also competed for Best Picture.
24. FRENZY (1972)
Screenplay by Anthony Shaffer, based on the book ‘Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square’ by Arthur La Bern. Starring Jon Finch, Alec McCowen, Barry Foster.
In his second to last film, Hitchcock returned to his hometown of London to deliver this frightening thriller about a maniac strangling women with a necktie. The police have a suspect (Jon Finch), but as per usual, it’s the wrong guy. “Frenzy” makes good use of the loosening standards on cinematic violence and nudity, making for some R-rated Hitchcock fun. Though the film reaped four Golden Globe nominations, including Best Drama Film and Best Director, it was snubbed completely at the Oscars.
23. DIAL ‘M’ FOR MURDER (1954)
Screenplay by Frederick Knott, based on his play. Starring Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings, John Williams.
In bringing Frederick Knott’s Broadway hit to the big screen, Hitchcock kept the action decidedly stage-bound with one notable exception: the use of 3D. While it’s fun to see the director making use of the new technology, it’s not essential to your enjoyment of this murder mystery. Ray Milland plays a successful tennis player who frames his unfaithful wife (Grace Kelly) for first-degree murder after she thwarts his own attempt to have her killed. 1954 also saw Kelly collaborating with Hitchcock on “Rear Window” and winning a Best Actress Oscar for “The Country Girl.”
22. I CONFESS (1953)
Screenplay by George Tabori and William Archibald, based on the play ‘Nos deux consciences’ by Paul Anthelme. Starring Montgomery Clift, Anne Baxter, Karl Malden, Brian Aherne, O. E. Hasse.
“I Confess” isn’t mentioned much in discussions about the Hitchcock cannon. Indeed, this drama about a priest (Montgomery Clift) who hears a murder confession and is wrongfully accused of the crime was largely overlooked upon its release. Yet the stark, black-and-white cinematography (courtesy of frequent collaborator Robert Burks) showcases some of the director’s most striking imagery and symbolism. Clift is brilliant as always as a man conflicted by commitment to his profession and commitment to his freedom.
21. ROPE (1948)
Screenplay by Arthur Laurents, story by Hume Cronyn, based on the play by Patrick Hamilton. Starring James Stewart, John Dall, Farley Granger, Joan Chandler, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Constance Collier, Douglas Dick, Edith Evanson.
This adaptation of Patrick Hamilton’s play is best known for Hitchcock’s attempt to film it all in one apparently continuous shot. (It’s also notable for being the director’s first Technicolor picture.) Inspired by the Leopold and Loeb case, “Rope” stars John Dall and Farley Granger as a pair of university students who strangle a classmate and hide him in their apartment. Cocky in the extreme, they invite the victim’s friends and family to a dinner party to show off the perfection of their crime. But one guest (James Stewart) just might outsmart them. While some of the attempts to fool the audience into thinking the film is taking place in real time are a bit obvious, you’ve gotta give Hitchcock credit for always being ahead of his time and paving the way for films like “Birdman” (2014) to attempt the same kind of stunt.
20. TO CATCH A THIEF (1955)
Screenplay by John Michael Hayes, based on the book by David Dodge. Starring Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Jessie Royce Landis, John Williams, Charles Vanel, Bridgitte Auber.
“To Catch a Thief” is one of Hitchcock’s most stylish efforts, the kind of movie where you can almost drink the scenery. Frequent leading man Cary Grant plays a retired cat burglar who must clear his reformed name by catching an imposter ripping off wealthy tourists in the French Riviera. Grace Kelly costars as his cool-as-a-cucumber love interest, who looks stunning with the help of Edith Head’s Oscar-nominated costumes.. Robert Burks won the prize for Best Color Cinematography, while the film also competed for Best Color Art Direction.
19. THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1934)
Written by Charles Bennett, D. B. Wyndham-Lewis, Edwin Greenwood, A.R. Rawlinson. Starring by Leslie Banks, Edna Best, Peter Lorre, Nova Pilbeam, Frank Vosper.
No, this isn’t the 1956 James Stewart/Doris Day caper (although we like that one too, as you’ll soon see). Hitchcock first told this story about a vacationing couple (Leslie Banks and Edna Best) whose child is kidnapped by assassins 22 years earlier during his early British period. In his book-length interview with French filmmaker Francois Truffaut, Hitchcock described the first film as “the work of a talented amateur,” while the remake was “made by a professional.” That might be the case, but the original is still worth seeing if for no other reason than Peter Lorre’s seriously creepy turn as the villainous Abbott.
18. MARNIE (1964)
Screenplay by Jay Presson Allen, based on the novel by Winston Graham. Starring Tippi Hendren, Sean Connery, Diane Baker, Martin Gabel.
When it was first released in 1964, “Marnie” was largely dismissed by critics as a melodramatic mess. And indeed, this romantic drama about a wealthy widower (Sean Connery) who marries a psychologically-damaged former thief (Tippi Hendren) is imperfect at best. Yet the chemistry between Connery and Hendren is undeniably steaming, aided by Bernard Herrmann’s lush score. “Marnie” may be trash, but at least it’s sexy, visually expressionistic trash.
17. SPELLBOUND (1945)
Screenplay by Angus MacPhail and Ben Hecht, based on the book ‘The House of Dr. Edwardes’ by Hilary Saint George Saunders and Francis Beeding. Starring Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Michael Chekhov.
In “Spellbound,” Hitchcock takes his obsession with abstract imagery to a whole new level. Ingrid Bergman stars as Dr. Constance Petersen, a bookish psychiatrist who falls in love with Dr. Anthony Edwardes (Gregory Peck), the handsome new chief of staff at her institution. But it turns out Dr. Edwardes is actually an imposter who has killed the real guy, and can’t remember what exactly happened due to a pesky case of amnesia. The film is best remembered for a dream sequence designed by surrealist maestro Salvador Dali and it’s Oscar-winning score by Miklos Rozsa. Hitchcock reaped a Best Director nomination, but lost to Billy Wilder (“The Lost Weekend”).
16. THE LODGER (1927)
Screenplay by Eliot Stannard, based on the book by Marie Belloc Lowndes. Starring Marie Ault, Arthur Chesney, June Tripp, Malcolm Keen, Ivor Novello.
During his lengthy period in England, Hitchcock cut his teeth directing many silent thrillers. The best of these is “The Lodger: A Story of London Fog,” which centers on a landlady (Marie Ault) who suspects her new lodger (Ivor Novello) may be a madman murdering young blonde women. In his third feature film, Hitchcock displays some of the stylistic touches and thematic obsessions that would become hallmarks of his work, most notably a predilection for blondes.
15. THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956)
Screenplay by John Michael Higgins, story by Charles Bennett and D. B. Wyndham-Lewis. Starring James Stewart, Doris Day, Brenda de Banzie, Bernard Miles, Christopher Olsen, Daniel Gelin, Reggie Nalder.
Hitchcock loosely reimagined his 1934 black-and-white thriller “The Man Who Knew Too Much” in glorious Technicolor, with a few other changes as well. James Stewart and Doris Day play an American couple vacationing in Morocco who must take matters into their own hands when their young son is kidnapped by assassins planning to executive a foreign prime minister. The film won an Academy Award for its original song “Whatever Will Be Will Be (Que Sera, Sera),” performed by Day in a pivotal scene.
14. LIFEBOAT (1944)
Screenplay by Jo Swerling, story by John Steinbeck. Starring Tallulah Bankhead, William Bendix, Walter Slezak, Mary Anderson, John Hodiak, Henry Hull, Heather Angel, Hume Cronyn, Canada Lee.
Among Hitchcock’s many confined space movies, “Lifeboat” is one of his most creative uses of telling a compelling story within a limited setting. Written by John Steinbeck and Jo Swerling, the film takes place entirely on a life craft launched from a sinking vessel following a World War II torpedo attack. The eclectic group of survivors suddenly realize that one of their passengers is a German sailor (Walter Slezak) who escaped the U-boat that sank them. Tallulah Bankhead is a standout as Connie Porter, a sharp-tongued newspaper columnist who keeps the German from being thrown overboard by the other passengers. Hitchcock competed at the Oscars as Best Director for the film, losing to Leo McCarey (“Going My Way”).
13. THE LADY VANISHES (1938)
Screenplay by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder; story by Alma Reville, based on the novel “The Wheel Spins” by Ethel Lina White. Starring Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas, Dame May Whitty.
One of the director’s most entertaining British-era outings is this mystery thriller about a rich young playgirl (Margaret Lockwood) who meets a charming elderly woman (Dame May Whitty) while traveling by train, then must find her after she mysteriously disappears. When the other passengers deny ever having seen the missing spinster, she enlists a helpful musicologist (Michael Redgrave) to search the train for clues. The film is of special note for introducing the characters of Charters (Basil Radford) and Caldicott (Naunton Wayne), two cricket fans who are worried about missing their match. The duo proved so popular that they appeared in three subsequent films: “Night Train to Munich” (1940), “Crooks Tour” (1941), and “Millions Like Us” (1943).
12. THE WRONG MAN (1956)
Screenplay by Maxwell Anderson and Angus MacPhail, based on ‘The True Story of Christopher Emmanuel Balestrero’ by Anderson. Starring Henry Fonda, Vera Miles, Anthony Quayle.
The wrongfully accused man was a favorite protagonist of Hitchcock’s, and in “The Wrong Man,” he finds a true life story to scratch that narrative itch. Henry Fonda stars as Manny Balestrero, a struggling jazz musician who needs money for his wife’s (Vera Miles) dental work. When he visits a life insurance company to borrow against her policy, he is mistaken for a man who has twice held them up and sent to prison. Robert Burks’ expressionistic, black-and-white cinematography creates a world that feels both nightmarish and authentic at the same time. This is Hitchcock stripped down, with the director shooting on location to capture the nitty-gritty of everyday life as opposed to the lush preciseness of his studio fare.
11. THE BIRDS (1963)
Screenplay by Evan Hunter, based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier. Starring Rod Taylor, Tippi Hendren, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette, Veronica Cartwright.
Hitchcock followed up the box office success of “Psycho” with this terrifying horror story about murderous fowls. Tippi Hendren stars as a wealthy San Francisco socialite who follows a potential boyfriend (Rod Taylor) to a small Northern California town. But her pursuit of love is interrupted when a variety of birds suddenly begin attacking people. Ub Iwerks scored an Oscar nomination for his groundbreaking visual effects. Although the film has become notorious for Hitchcock’s inappropriate behavior towards leading lady Hendren, there’s no denying the film’s power to make you afraid to visit a bird sanctuary.
10. FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940)
Screenplay by Charles Bennett and Joan Harrison, dialogue by James Hilton, Robert Benchley. Starring Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, Herbert Marshall, George Sanders, Albert Basserman.
The same year Hitchcock directed the Best Picture-winning “Rebecca” (1940), he helmed this wildly entertaining thriller about an American reporter (Joel McCrea) working to expose enemy agents in London on the eve of World War II. In his second American feature, the director shows off his ability to craft a meat-and-potatoes adventure with some spectacular set pieces, including one set in a windmill. “Foreign Correspondent” joined “Rebecca” in the Best Picture lineup and competed for five other prizes, including Best Supporting Actor (Albert Basserman) and Best Original Screenplay (Charles Bennett and Joan Harrison).
9. THE 39 STEPS (1935)
Screenplay by Charles Bennett and Ian Hay, based on the book by John Buchan. Starring Robert Donat, Madeleine Carroll, Lucie Mannheim, Godfrey Tearle.
The best of Hitchcock’s British-produced films is this spy thriller about an ordinary London man (Robert Donat) who stumbles upon a conspiracy when he tries to help a counterespionage agent. He goes on the lam with a beautiful blonde (Madeleine Carroll) in order to stop a spy ring from stealing top secret information. The man on the run storyline would serve Hitchcock well throughout his career, notably in his 1959 adventure film “North by Northwest,” and “The 39 Steps” is an early example of directors talent for balancing suspense, romance, and humor with a nimble and stylish touch.
8. NOTORIOUS (1946)
Written by Ben Hecht. Starring Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Raines, Louis Calhern, Leopoldine Konstantin.
Of all the Hitchcock leading ladies, none could compete with Ingrid Bergman for sheer sex appeal, wit, and cunning. In “Notorious,” she plays Alicia Huberman, the carefree daughter of a convicted Nazi spy who is recruited by government agent T. R. Devlin (Cary Grant) to infiltrate an organization in South America. The two quickly fall in love, sharing one of the longest and steamiest kissing scenes in movie history, but their affair is put to the test when Alicia is forced to marry her father’s former friend, Alex Sebastian (Oscar-nominee Claude Rains), in order to gain information. All is well until Sebastian’s overbearing mother (Leopoldine Konstantin) begins to suspect her daughter-in-law and starts poisoning her coffee. “Notorious” is one of the best examples of Hitchcock combining romance and espionage with humor, style, and suspense.
7. REBECCA (1940)
Screenplay by Robert E. Sherwood and Joan Harrison, adaptation by Philip MacDonald and Michael Hogan, based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier. Starring Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, Judith Anderson.
The only Hitchcock film to win the Oscar as Best Picture was this moody and atmospheric adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s novel. His first American feature (produced by David O. Selznick) stars Joan Fontaine as an unnamed woman who marries the charismatic aristocrat Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier). All is well until she moves into her new home, a gothic mansion haunted by the memories of Mr. de Winter’s late wife, Rebecca. Judith Anderson makes our skin crawl as the creepy Mrs. Danvers, a housekeeper devoted to her departed mistress. Despite receiving 11 nominations, including Best Director for Hitchcock and acting bids for Olivier, Fontaine and Anderson, the film walked away with only two prizes: Best Picture and Best Black-and-White Cinematography. Hitchcock lost his bid — perhaps the closest he ever came to winning — to John Ford (“The Grapes of Wrath”).
6. STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951)
Screenplay by Raymond Chandler, Whitfield Cook and Czenzi Ormonde, based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith. Starring Farley Granger, Ruth Roman, Robert Walker.
No Hitchcock romance is as complicated and seductive as the one between Robert Walker and Farley Granger in “Strangers on a Train.” OK, they’re not lovers per say, but there’s no denying the homoeroticism at the core of their scenes together. When tennis star Guy Haines (Granger) meets the charming socialite Bruno Antony (Walker) while lunching in a boxcar, he’s offered a proposal that’s too crazy to be believed: Bruno will murder Guy’s pesky wife if Guy will murder Bruno’s nagging mother. The only problem is, Bruno isn’t kidding. Walker gives a career-best performance as the lascivious and psychotic playboy who just won’t take “no” for an answer. The film’s climax — in which the two battle atop an out-of-control carousel — is a stunner.
5. SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943)
Screenplay by Thornton Wilder, Sally Benson and Alma Reville, story by Gordon McDonell. Starring Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotten, Macdonald Carey, Patricia Collinge, Henry Travers.
If you have any questions about “Shadow of a Doubt’s” quality, just ask Hitchcock himself, who often referred to this as the finest film in his career. Teresa Wright plays Charlie Newton, a bored teenager in small town Santa Rosa who’s excited by the arrival of her worldly uncle (and namesake) Charlie Oakley (Joseph Cotten). But young Charlie soon learns that her uncle might be the “Merry Widow Murderer.” Although the film ranks high in Hitchcock’s own opinion (and the opinions of his fans), the Academy largely overlooked it aside from Gordon McDonell in the now-defunct Original Story category. That’s a shame, because Cotten is magnificent as a man who is both charming and creepy at the same time.
4. REAR WINDOW (1954)
Screenplay by John Michael Hayes, based on the short story ‘It Had to Be Murder’ by Cornell Woolrich. Starring James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter, Raymond Burr.
Throughout his career, Hitchcock proved a master not just of suspense but of making good use of confined spaces. In “Rear Window,” he creates an entire world inside one apartment complex, as seen through the window of a photographer (James Stewart) confined to a wheelchair who passes his time spying on his neighbors. When he becomes convinced that one of them (Raymond Burr) murdered his wife, he enlists his devoted girlfriend (Grace Kelly) and sarcastic housekeeper (Thelma Ritter) to uncover the truth. In many ways, this story of a nosy neighbor works as a metaphor for the voyeuristic act of filmgoing itself. Hitchcock reaped a Best Director nomination at the Oscars, but lost to Elia Kazan (“On the Waterfront”).
3. NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959)
Written by Ernest Lehman. Starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Jessie Royce Landis, Martin Landau.
In terms of pure entertainment value, “North by Northwest” is a bonafide Hitchcock masterpiece. Cary Grant is at his best as a New York ad man caught up in a convoluted web of spies and intrigue. When he’s mistaken for a government agent, he races around the country trying to save his hide while romancing a mysterious blonde (Eva Marie Saint). Ernest Lehman’s Oscar-nominated script provides the director with some of his best set pieces, including a crop duster cornfield chase and a perilous climb down Mount Rushmore. “North by Northwest” may not be Hitchcock’s best film, but it’s perhaps his most fun.
2. PSYCHO (1960)
Screenplay by Joseph Stefano, based on the book by Robert Bloch. Starring Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Martin Balsam, John McIntire, Janet Leigh.
With “Psycho,” Hitchcock abandoned the polish and precision that had come to define his 1950s golden era output to make a lean, gritty exploitation film. The results sent shockwaves throughout audiences who were expecting another elegant thriller from the Master of Suspense. Filmed in black-and-white with the crew from his TV show, it tells the story of desperate secretary (Oscar-nominee Janet Leigh) who steals $40,000 from her boss’s client, goes on the run, and hides out at a motel run by the lonely Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) and his unseen mother. Before she can turn over a new leaf, she’s stabbed to death in the shower as Bernard Herrmann’s string score screeches. Even more stunning is our sudden shift in sympathy to Norman as he tries to clean up his “mother’s” mess. Almost 60 years after its release, “Psycho” remains a deeply disturbing, electrifying masterpiece. Hitchcock received his fifth and final Oscar nomination as Best Director, losing to Billy Wilder (“The Apartment”).
1. VERTIGO (1958)
Screenplay by Alec Coppel and Samuel Taylor, based on the book ‘D’entre les morts’ by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac. Starring James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes, Tom Helmore, Henry Jones.
It’s no small irony that the crowning achievement of Hitchcock’s career was also one of his biggest bombs. James Stewart subverts his everyman image as Scottie Ferguson, a police detective forced to retire after an accident leaves him with a crippling fear of heights. He is hired by an acquaintance to follow his wife (Kim Novak), and soon falls in love with the beautiful, mysterious woman. When she jumps off a bell tower, he decides to remake a strikingly similar lady (Novak in a dual role) in her image. Unapologetically perverse and weird, “Vertigo” might be Hitchcock’s most personal film, bringing forth his deepest, darkest fantasies and fetishes. It’s also, in many ways, a expose of movie directing itself, where a perfectionist shapes a piece of clay into an ideal image. Though overlooked in its time, “Vertigo” has re-emerged as a true Hitchcock masterpiece, even displacing “Citizen Kane” as the greatest film of all time on the latest “Sight and Sound” poll.