Hitchcock. He has a top 10 film, 10 films in the top 500 (the most) of all-time. Hitchcock is as good a candidate as any for the greatest artist of the 20th century (given cinema was one of the dominant art forms). I admire his craft as a technician, his filmography is second to none, and there is a consistency to his work that any non-auteur theory subscriber would have a hard time answering for. He’s clearly the artist. His archiveable career spanned over 45 years but the run he went on from 1958-1960 won’t be topped. He went Masterpiece, Masterpiece, Masterpiece with the 7th, 35th and 103rd best films of all-time in consecutive years.
Best film: Vertigo – #7 of all-time. The title sequence, the landscape shot of the golden gate bridge, the green-lit interior sequence, the 360-shot, the finale set-piece (and zoom-in, track-shot staircase shot). I actually enjoy the hell out of the loose noir in the 40-50 minute well-paced set up. It’s a meditation on obsession and Bernard Herrman’s score is simply one of best of all-time.
Total archiveable films: 31
top 100 films: 3 (Vertigo, Psycho, Rear Window)
top 500 films: 10 (Vertigo, Psycho, Rear Window, North by Northwest, Notorious, Strangers on a Train, Rope, Shadow of a Doubt, The Birds, The 39 Steps)
top 100 films of the decade: 16 (Blackmail, The 39 Steps, Murder!, The Lady Vanishes, Notorious, Rope, Shadow of a Doubt, Rebecca, Vertigo, Rear Window, North by Northwest, Strangers on a Train, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Psycho, The Birds, Marnie)
most overrated: The Birds at #176 of al-time on TSPDT. The Birds is a fantastic film but there are over 200 masterpieces in cinema’s rich history and I’m confident The Birds isn’t one of them so this is overrated. It’s #342 on my list. Also, anyone who tries to argue with you that Hitchcock’s 1930’s British period was his most artistically fertile…. is an idiotic—so do us all a favor and tell that person they’re incorrect.
most underrated: Rope at #832 on TSPDT and Hitchcock’s 13th best. I have it at #296 and at #7 for Hitchcock’s own top 10. You can’t tell the history of cinematography (Bordwell’s definition—not Out of Africa’s) without Rope nor can you discuss the great one-take films (Victoria, Russian Ark, Birdman—yeah sort of) or long-take scenes (Touch of Evil, Atonement, Children of Men, Nostalgia, Weekend, The Player, Hunger, Goodfellas, anything from De Palma) without it.
gem I want to spotlight: Blackmail. Britain’s first sound film is more than just a technological landmark- as I said in the review- it’s a damn fine film and worthy of the top 10 of the year with all the artistic ambitions Hitchcock packs into this man-hunt genre film. It’s not a top 10 film of his but you can tell here, even in the late 20’s, that we have a master in the making.
stylistic innovations/traits: Like many at the top of this all-time directors list there isn’t just one aesthetic that this auteur is dedicated to and known for. The 360-degree tracking shot in Vertigo is as good as it comes, the use of green lighting in the same film– sublime, the editing for the shower scene in Psycho. The set pieces he uses at the end of his films (North by Northwest, Strangers on a Train), long crane tracking shots in Notorious and Young & Innocent, perhaps the first freeze-frame in Champagne. The way he frames the tea cup in Notorious, Norman in isolation or about to attack in Psycho. Rear Window is a shot-reverse shot Kuleshov-effect treatise. Rope is a landmark is cinematography and camera movement. Thematically and narratively Hitchcock is the undisputed master of the suspense genre, a pop-artist master. He’s the key to film voyeurism, fetishism, there’s some surprising depth there when you look at his work on guilt/innocence/fate.
- Rear Window
- North by Northwest
- Strangers on a Train
- Shadow of a Doubt
- The Birds
- The 39 Steps
By year and grades
|1927- The Lodger||R|
|1935- The Thirty-Nine Steps||MS|
|1937- Young and Innocent||R|
|1938- The Lady Vanishes||HR|
|1939- Jamacia Inn||R|
|1940- Foreign Correspondent||R|
|1943- Shadow of a Doubt||MS|
|1951- Strangers on Train||MS/MP|
|1953- I Confess||R|
|1954- Dial M For Murder||R|
|1954- Rear Window||MP|
|1955- To Catch a Thief||R|
|1956- The Man Who Knew Too Much|
|1956- The Wrong Man||R|
|1959- North By Northwest||MP|
|1963- The Birds||MS|
|1966- Torn Curtain||R|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives