And your favourite Hitchcock movies are …

918b9bc25cdf82a32b6d287aa4df8ceeDrum roll please … Having gone through a week of voting for the favourite films directed by Alfred Hitchcock on a decade by decade basis, this was meant to lead to a top 10, though we ended up with a tie for the 1950s and so I decided to turn it into a top 11 instead!

And these are how those results got ranked – so in reverse order (to maintain, you know, some suspense, the results are …), and adding the original votes with the ones for the ranking (meaning that the film with the highest number of votes, Psycho, didn’t come at the top due to the final rankings), is as follows, beginning on the cusp of the switch from silent to sound cinema:

11. Blackmail (1929) – total number of votes cast: 21 in the first round, 0 in top 11 poll
This too little seen film, based on the play by Charles Bennett that had a short London run with Tallulah Bankhead (later the star of Lifeboat) in the lead, was started as a silent movie and then partly re-shot as a silent – both version are very strong and is one of my personal all-time favourites. You should check it out!

Blackmail

10. The Lodger (1926) – total number of votes cast: (38 n the first round, 0 in top 11 poll
Easily the most dynamic and flashy of the silent Hitchcock movies and the best-known, it is easy to get hold and is a terrific thriller very much imbued with the German Expressionistic style.

9. Notorious (1946) – total number of votes cast: 34 in the first round, 3 in top 11 poll
This is one of my favourites and I thought it might do better, with its exquisite performances by Cary Grant (never better), Ingrid Bergman (never more ravishing) and Claude Rains as the suavest of mother-dominated Nazis – it was, incidentally, remade without any acknowledgement as Mission Impossible II.

8. The 39 Steps (1935) – total number of votes cast: 41 in the first round, 3 in top 11 poll
The prototype for the Hitchcock man-on-the-run thriller, with Robert Donat making for a diffident but charismatic hero and Madeleine Carrol a very game and sexy Hitchcock blonde.

7. The Lady Vanishes (1938) – total number of votes cast: 47 in the first round, 4 in top 11 poll
Though Hitchcock inherited this one at the last-minute from a projected prepared for Roy William Neill (later the director and producer of the Rathbone and Bruce series of contemporary Sherlock Holmes films), this is a classic train movie and has remained a favourite ever since its original release, thanks to a superb cast and a classic script by the team of Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder which introduced the immortal, cricket loving duo of Charters and Caldicott (played to perfection by Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford).

Llady-Vanishes

6. The Birds (1963) – total number of votes cast: 40 in the first round, 4 in top 11 poll
After the success of Psycho, Hitchcock took a long time to come up with a follow-up – this scary and apocalyptic tale of an unexplained bird attack on a small village is full of memorable set-pieces and a dark and strange subtext involving a romantic triangle. it is far from perfect, but it is also a film that refuses to give up its secrets even with repeated viewings, which to me is always a good sign.

… and the top 5 are:

5. Shadow of a Doubt (1943) – total number of votes cast: 35 in the first round, 7 in top 11 poll
Hitchcock’s own personal favourite, and it is still easy to see why, a genuinely creepy movie about the dark underbelly found in a quiet, middle class American town. Joseph Cotten was never better.

4. Psycho (1960) – total number of votes cast: 50 in the first round, 9 in top 11 poll
Hugely popular, and with reason, this was a classy adaptation of Robert Bloch’s breakthrough novel and remains as good now as it was then, its black humour ever more evident with repeated viewings (“We all go a little mad sometimes”).

This leads us into a tie for second place and an exceptionally tight race to the top, with only 1 vote standing between an overall winner and a three-way split!

RW

2. Rear Window (1954) – total number of votes cast: 42 in the first round, 15 in top 11 poll
Easily one of the director’s finest film, a superb exercise in paranoia and voyeurism, mixing humour and suspense in sublime proportions, with James Stewart, Grace Kelly and Thelma Ritter perhaps never better than in this clever tale by Cornell Woolrich, scripted with great panache by John Michael Hayes.

2. Vertigo (1958) – total number of votes cast: 40 in the first round, 15 in top 11 poll
This was the one i voted for, a deeply romantic, poetic and pessimistic film about betrayal and lost love that remains utterly haunting and truly unique in the Master’s entire oeuvre.

1. North By Northwest (1959) – total number of votes cast: 40 in the first round, 16 in top 11 poll
A surprise winner for me, this most entertaining of spy thriller written by Ernest Lehman sees Cary Grant as the ultimate stooge, mistaken for a secret agent who doesn’t exist, and Eve Marie Saint as the foxiest Blonde in any Hitchcock movie, with James Mason and Martin Landau more than holding their own as the villains, all to the marvellously exciting score by Bernard Herrmann.

Thanks to all of you for voting – this has been a real thrill.

Hat-suede-fedora-icon

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This entry was posted in 'In praise of ...', Alfred Hitchcock, Boileau-Narcejac, California, Cold War, Cornell Woolrich, Ed McBain, England, Espionage, Film Noir, Film Poll, London, New York, San Francisco, Scotland, Spy movies, World War II. Bookmark the permalink.

51 Responses to And your favourite Hitchcock movies are …

  1. tracybham says:

    I also like Notorious a lot, it would have been my #2 pick overall. And North by Northwest was my top pick. But the top three are all very, very good. I suppose I will have to watch Psycho someday. I have seen enough pieces of it.

    This was great fun, Sergio, and thanks for going to the effort to set up the polls.

  2. Colin says:

    Oh, very tight in the end, but that’s satisfying in itself and also the fact that the top three all came from the best decade for Hitchcock. I’d still say Vertigo is the better film – deeper, darker and more layered – I can’t say the winner displeases me either. I think it actually best encapsulates the director’s career; it may not be as consistently deep and dark, though it has its moments, but then Hitchcock 50+ films, looked at as a body of work, weren’t either and many of the trademark themes and motifs are present.

    • Thanks for that Colin. As you say, i think it’s a film that is more likely to bring people together, along with rear Window, whereas other choices, such as Vertigo, Psycho and perhaps even Notorious (which i adore) might more easily have some dissenters.

      • Colin says:

        This, and of course the et piece moments are bigger and very memorable, and the score has an exciting vibe to it – a film like Vertigo goes to work in an entirely different, much more cerebral, way and can turn some off as a result.

        • Exactly – and I think the ‘irrationality’ of the plot of vertigo can be a real turn off – I had to watch it about three times before I realised it didn’t matter (to me)

          • Colin says:

            It’s a film that demands patience, and I mean that it requires a number of watches before it hits the spot. The first time I saw it (when it was shown again in the 80s after the restrictions on it were lifted) I’m pretty sure it left me cold – I was left more than a little confused, and of course I was also far too young to appreciate what was going on.

          • I had already seen De Palma’s Obsession by the time of the re-release in the mid 1980s and that partly deflated it from a plot standpoint (I actually think Obsession has the better story) but I saw it again at several screenings over the years (including a couple in San Francisco) and that made a huge difference. But it is probably an age thing too …

          • Colin says:

            The De Palma film was still in the future for me when I saw it first time so the plot was fresh and unknown to me. But the age matter has to be taken into account, the emotional themes were way over my teenage head and I’d say I was into my thirties before that aspect started to mean much at all.

          • Yeah, 15 for me was certainly to young to even approach to emotional complexity at its core – I remember being really frustrated by the reveal well before the end, now I think it’s a stroke of genius.

  3. Thank you, Sergio, for doing all of this work! It’s fascinating to see what the results were!

  4. le0pard13 says:

    I’m proud to say, this was my #1 choice, as well. Okay, after padding myself on the back, it’s an exceptional list of film for what many argue was one the greatest directors of the 20th century. Certainly one who influenced and enthralled so many filmmakers, moviegoers, and even TV-watchers. Wonderful series, Sergio. Thanks so much for taking it on, my friend.

  5. karabekirus says:

    I watched these movies when I was about 10 years old. Each one affected me in a different way. In The Rear Window I was leaning forward in my seat to view better the inside of the house across the garden. In Vertigo the portrait of the lady left me with awe… etc. I could tell I was growing up in a mysterious world.
    Thank you for this timely post.

    • Thanks very much – now that you mention it, not sure what my first Hitchcock was – Rear Window was the first at the cinema (when I was 15), on its 1980s re-release, I know that, but I may have seen Dial m for Murder first I think on TV, along with Psycho and Foreign Correspondent.

  6. Mike says:

    Well done Sergio. I like the way the voting system allowed for a cross-section of films from different eras to make it into the final poll, whilst also having the flexibility for three 1950s masterpieces to dominate. No huge surprises and number one is probably my number one – perfect entertainment, perfectly crafted; though I think Vertigo is the better film NbN is my favourite, if that makes sense. Not sure I would rate The Birds so highly personally, but here we enter the realm of personal taste and the vast majority of my picks are here. Wish I wasn’t in work today – a Hitchcock marathon for a wet Monday sounds like just the ticket!

    • Spot on Mike – I think you put that very well. Vertigo (my choice) is a great film, but is not much fun after all. For me I just might have preferred Rear Window but North By Northwest was hugely popular in its day and it still is – I would voted for just to listed to the Herrmann soundtrack!

      • Mike says:

        Agreed, the North by Northwest score has to be one of my all-time favourites, for me the best Herrmann produced (which is obviously saying something!) and it’s all just part of a picture in which everything comes together to sublime effect. Perhaps the criticism is that it’s about nothing really, that it’s all artifice and silliness, but I don’t have a problem with that and it completely hits the mark in my view.

        Mrs Mike would definitely opt for Rear Window as her favourite, and it deserves to be right up there of course. I suppose the mark for any of these films is their rewatchability, and most on that list – certainly your top three – are titles I could happily sit through over and over.

        • I think the top three provide a wonderfully varied look at his work – shame one of the British films didn’t get in there but I’m not too surprised …

          • Mike says:

            Yes, some brilliant entries there – 39 Steps, Lady Vanishes, does Frenzy count as British? – and some very good ones, especially Sabotage, Young and Innocent and of course The Lodger. Even so the top three will always be the top three, I reckon, with only Psycho perhaps upsetting their domination. It’s all been a nice reminder of a sterling body of work, though. Talking of which I’ve recently had a slight promotion at work, which of course translates into stacks more to do, but some Hitch viewing during the evenings sounds like a good wind down thing to do. It’s been a nice tonic and good fun to follow your retrospective here.

          • Well done on the promotion squire, very good going indeed! And yes, Frenzy must count as British – only the money came from Universal, all the other major contributors are from back in Blighty and none of it was shot in the US. The original score was meant to be by Henry Mancini but even he got replaced by Ron Goodwin, so I reckon it counts!

  7. Rosemary says:

    Phew! I’m delighted, of course, that my favourite won. As you know, I dithered between it and Rear Window, so good to know they are both up there. Surprised that Notorious was so low but perhaps, like me, the Cary Grant fans went for NBNW. Slight quibble (wouldn’t be me otherwise) – shouldn’t Lady Vanishes and The Birds be tied at 6? They seem to have same votes in final poll and, if you need a tie break, LV had more in the first round (similarly, you could put RW above Vertigo for same reason – but I wouldn’t want to push your favourite lower 🙂 ). Like others, this has been a great diversion from a stressful week. Many thanks for giving us such fun Sergio – and don’t forget to go and see 39 Steps in the theatre – and let me know what you think of it. Rosemary

    • I’ll let you know if we make the show when they arrive in July – be great fun I think! As for the final totting up, well, I had to maintain a sense of proportion based on the percentage of the votes per decade (which admittedly I didn’t publish) – still seemed better than listing 53 films and asking for people to vote for their favourites, but that might have been more sensible 🙂

  8. MarinaSofia says:

    I can never quite agree with myself which are my favourite Hitchcock films, so am delighted that practically all of the ones I voted for made it into the Top 10 and my favourites of favourites into the Top 5.
    Thanks for putting it all together and doing all the number crunching!

  9. Dave says:

    In my view, North By North West is the best movie ever.

    • Looks like you are in good company Dave 🙂

    • Rosemary says:

      Certainly, it, and Rear Window, are among my all time favourites – wit to make you curl with delight and stars at the top of their game, and so beautiful. An added bonus for me when I first saw it as a girl, was Leo G Carroll, already well-known to me in a similar role from the Man From Uncle, as the spymaster (I know that is wrong chronologically – did his role in this give the MFU producers the idea to cast him?) I do think the fifties is and underrated decade artistically. It seems to date much better than the 60s. Thanks again Sergio. Time to rip the plastic off my unopened DVD of Notorious.

  10. neer says:

    PSYCHO at No. 4!!!!!! Well well well but then STRANGERS did not make the final cut. So a poll full of surprises. Very interesting. Thanks Sergio for putting in so much of effort. Looking forward to more polls.

  11. Rosemary says:

    Noticed last night that BBC Radio 4 ran an episode on Hitchcock in their ‘Great Lives’ series on 5 and 8 April. It is still available on iplayer in case anyone is interested. Hope this link works: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b075pz7z Rosemary

  12. A fairly predictable list of favourite Hitchcock movies, I think. Almost any one of these could have made it to the top. Sergio, I forgot to mention that I did, in fact, watch STRANGERS ON A TRAIN a couple of months ago. I didn’t like the film very much because I thought the story was incredulous, especially the role of the man who approaches the reluctant young man for a murder quid pro quo.

    • Well, it has to be said, plausibility was not what Hitchcock was good at! Having said that, if you apply a kind of surreal dream logic then i find his work much more persuasive 🙂

  13. I’m please to see Strangers on a Train left off the list, because I never forgave Hitchcock for eliminating what, to me, is the most important (and most chilling) plot point. Would like to have seen Rope make the cut, though.

    • Rope did better than I thought overall to be honest, given the competition. But in making the film in 1951 under the Breen Office, and considering what had already happened ten years earlier on Suspicion, there is just no way that they were going to let both murders occur, right?.

  14. Kathy D. says:

    Well, I missed the voting, but I will chime in that my favorite Hitchcock films are Notorious and The Lady Vanishes. I can hear Claude Rains saying, “Mother, I think I’m married to an American agent.” And everything about The Lady Vanishes is just perfect. Actually many of the films are perfect, including Rear Window.
    I still can’t figure out Vertigo, although I like Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak. And have never seen Psycho. When we were teen-agers, my cousin saw that movie and told me about the shower scene. After hearing that, I didn’t take a shower for a week. So I know all about it but haven’t seen it for the best.

    • Thanks for that Kathy, so many great movies to choose from. I think Hitchcock suggested scared patrons could wash their hair in the washing machine … 🙂

  15. Tame00 says:

    No Marnie??…It would be my 3rd, after Vertigo and Psycho. It should have made at least the top ten here…You don’t care for Marnie, sorry folks you don’t know Hitchcock.

    • Well, the vote allowed only a top 2 per decade, so the votes for the 60s inevitably nearly all went for Psycho and The Birds – Marnie did pretty well actually but it has never been popular. The sexual politics alone alienate so many viewers that it is the one I always feel I have to make a special case for.

  16. vinnieh says:

    Interesting votes by everyone. Hitchcock was the master so it is pretty difficult to just choose one movie.

  17. Pingback: Getting Hitched! | Films on the Box

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