Drum 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, 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 talkie. Both versions are very strong and both are one of my personal all-time favourites. You should check it out!
10. The Lodger (1926) – total number of votes cast: 38 in 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 of 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 project 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. It 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).
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!
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 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.