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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is hitchcock-notorious-crane-shot.jpg
crane tracking shot in Notorious

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.

masterful lighting in Vertigo

Total archiveable films: 31

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is hitchcock-ozu-shot.jpg
isolation through framing and mise-en-scene in Psycho

top 100 films:  3 (Vertigo, Psycho, Rear Window)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is hitchcock-rebecca-image-1024x802.jpg
gorgeous photography in Rebecca

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)

a moving set piece, all set up by a great use of silence in North by Northwest
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is hitchcock-strangers-on-a-train-glasses.jpg
photography reflection in Strangers on a Train

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is hitchcock-framing-in-psycho-1024x576.jpg
mise-en-scene brilliance

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is champagne-freeze-frame-hitchcock-1024x386.jpg
freeze-frame in Champagne

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.

meditations on voyeurism

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.

the landmark zoom-in, dolly/track out shot in Vertigo

top 10

  1. Vertigo
  2. Psycho
  3. Rear Window
  4. North by Northwest
  5. Notorious
  6. Strangers on a Train
  7. Rope
  8. Shadow of a Doubt
  9. The Birds
  10. The 39 Steps
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is hitchcock-psycho-shower-editing-sequence.jpg
one of cinema’s great editing sequence in Psycho
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is hitchcock-tea-in-notorious.jpg
framing and mise-en-scene work in Notorious

By year and grades

1927- The Lodger R
1929- Blackmail HR
1930- Murder! HR
1935- The Thirty-Nine Steps MS
1936- Sabotage R
1937- Young and Innocent R
1938- The Lady Vanishes HR
1939- Jamacia Inn R
1940- Foreign Correspondent R
1940- Rebecca HR
1941- Suspicion R
1942- Saboteur
1943- Shadow of a Doubt MS
1944- Lifeboat R
1945- Spellbound R
1946- Notorious MP
1948- Rope 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
1958- Vertigo MP
1959- North By Northwest MP
1960- Psycho MP
1963- The Birds MS
1964- Marnie HR/MS
1966- Torn Curtain R
1972- Frenzy 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