Friday, August 22, 2014

Top 10 Hitchcockian Films

When a movie is hailed as Hitchcockian, it should be taken as a badge of honor. Such a label means the film deserves to live in the shadow of Hitchcock’s revelatory tone and atmosphere. Below are my favorite Alfred Hitchcock films that Alfred Hitchcock never actually made. They’re ranked in terms of their “Hitchcockianness,” and they are just a few of many films to choose from. If I’ve omitted a Hitchcockian film you love, do feel free to share it.

Honorable Mention
Basic Instinct (1992)
dir. by Paul Verhoeven
Just hear me out. If ol’ Hitch ever ventured into the psycho-sexual side of suspense, I think he would’ve made something very similar to Basic Instinct. The melodramatic set pieces, the brazen music, the Dutch-angled cinematography – it all fits snuggly into the Hitchcock canon.

10. The Spanish Prisoner (1997)
dir. by David Mamet
The central conflict in many of David Mamet’s films is clearly influenced by Hitchcock. The Spanish Prisoner must be the best example. It’s a film about an innocent man trying to clear his name of an elaborate con. There’s a loyal woman involved, a crucial MacGuffin (an object, device or idea that serves as a trigger for the plot), and a twist ending. It’s Mamet at his best, and, certainly, his most Hitchcockian.

9. The Game (1997) & Panic Room (2002)
dir. by David Fincher
I couldn’t decide which David Fincher film to include here, so I’m offering two as examples. The Game is essentially the type of man-on-the-run thriller (with a modern twist) that Hitchcock loved so much, while Panic Room expertly captures the physical claustrophobia that Hitchcock was fascinated by. Both are often regarded as “lesser” Fincher films (though not by me), but, nevertheless, they feel right at home here.

8. Red Lights (2004)
dir. by Cédric Kahn
Cédric Kahn’s ingenious French thriller, Red Lights, never attracted much of an audience, but it’s one of the best Hitchcockian films made in the last decade. While a husband and wife drive through rural France en route to pick up their children from summer camp, his constant drinking and her incessant nagging force them to separate. He assumes his wife simply got frustrated and took the train. But what if something worse, something horrible, something deadly has happened? What if.

7. Wait Until Dark (1967)
dir. by Terence Young
Hitchcock popularized the concept of the MacGuffin, which, as I briefly explained above, is an idea, object or device that is used in part to motivate the plot of the film. The uranium in Notorious, the money is Psycho, the rope in Rope, the spare key in Dial M for Murder, and on and on. The heroin-filled doll in Wait Until Dark is one of my favorite MacGuffins not featured in an actual Hitchcock film. There is plenty more to love about Wait Until Dark (I think it contains Audrey Hepburn’s best work) but its use of the MacGuffin concept is dead-on Hitchcockian.

6. Dressed to Kill (1980)
dir. by Brian De Palma
Brian De Palma is by long and far the most Hitchcockian of contemporary filmmakers. His cinematic style so closely mirrors Hitch’s, often by making direct connections with just one of Hitchcock’s films specifically. Dressed to Kill, for example, is De Palma’s Psycho. And while De Palma’s film doesn’t nearly rival that Hitch masterpiece, Dressed to Kill is a damn worthy Hitchcockian thriller all the same.

5. The Vanishing (1988)
dir. by George Sluizer
One of my favorite Hitchcock films was one of his last, the London-set murder mystery, Frenzy. It’s unlike any film Hitchcock made, and arguably his most violent and brutal. It’s also a very callous movie, equipped with a distinct pessimism that reminds me of the fantastic Dutch film, The Vanishing. Had Hitch made The Vanishing, it would’ve been him at his most cruel, which is a quality I always enjoyed watching Hitch explore.

4. Charade (1963)
dir. by Stanley Donen
Charade is one of the few films on this list that was made and released during Hitchcock’s heyday. I can easily imagine Hitch snagging the rights to the material and bringing this film (about a widow on the run from three of her husband’s former colleagues) to life. Either way, Stanley Donen did a fine job, as Charade is a wildly entertaining film with excellent performances from Audrey Hepburn and Hitchcock vet Cary Grant.

3. Tell No One (2006)
dir. Guillaume Canet
Without question, Tell No One is my favorite modern Hitchcock film. Since discovering this film years ago, I’ve done everything in my power to get as many people to see it as I can. The movie tells the story of a man named Alex, whose wife was mysteriously murdered eight years ago. On one seemingly random day, Alex receives an email from his wife, saying she’s still alive. And we’re off and running. Tell No One is a man-on-the-run/whodunit hybrid that I absolutely adore. Seriously, this film is brilliant. See it as soon as possible (it’s currently on Netflix Instant!).

2. Body Double (1984)
dir. by Brian De Palma
Body Double is the most Brian De Palmaian film Brian De Palma has made, which is, of course, another way of saying it is the most Hitchcockian film of De Palma’s career. A perfect blend of Rear Window and Vertigo, De Palma spends much of Body Double simply observing his characters observing other people. Hitch always loved to spy, and Body Double is a worthy reminder of that.

1. Les Diaboliques (1955)
dir. by Henri-Georges Clouzot
As legend tells it, Alfred Hitchcock had every intention of turning Boileau-Narcejac’s novel “Celle qui n'était plus,” into a film, but he missed the opportunity when Henri-Georges Clouzot secured the rights to book mere hours before Hitchcock could. In Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques, a wife plots to murder her cruel husband with the help of her husband’s mistress. The film is a staple of suspense cinema, and damn near as fine as anything Hitchcock ever made. Would Hitchcock have done better with the material? My guess is the results would’ve been nearly equal, but hell, you tell me.

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42 comments:

  1. I've seen some of these films as I need to see more Hitchcock. What about High Anxiety by Mel Brooks? I know it's a spoof on Hitchcock but if Hitchcock did make a comedy, it would sort of be like that.

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    1. I did consider giving High Anxiety an honorable mention, but it is an out-and-out spoof, so I ultimately didn't include it. Funny damn flick though.

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  2. Thanks for posting this ... I could not ask for better fodder for my current movie viewing/blogging interests. I've seen a handful of these. Both The Hubby and I love Charade and Wait Until Dark. I just saw The Panic Room, for the first time, last night and was surprised by how much I liked it. You hit the nail on the head when you mentioned the Hitchcockian sense of claustrophobia. (Is "Hitchcockian" a word? If not, damn it, it should be).

    I saw Basic Instinct with my mom over 20 years ago, and I don't remember whether I liked it. Only one thing that stuck with me, aside from the infamous (and hilarious) interrogation scene. I commented on how much time Sharon Stone spent nude on screen, and Mom said, "If I had a figure like that, I wouldn't even own clothes." She was awesome. :-)

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    1. So glad you like the list! Hitchcockian HAS to be a word, right? It's so ingrained in the pop culture vernacular.

      Hhahah, that is so awesome that your mom said that. Made me laugh out loud. Perfect.

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  3. I really need to watch more Hitchcock to be honest. I don't care much for Basic Instinct (I don't have a problem with the subject matter, I just think it's cheesy and dull) but the rest of the pack that I've seen I do enjoy. Not a huge De Palma fan but the two you have listed here are definitely closer to the upper echelon of his filmography. Gotta love Charade and Wait Until Dark though. Two immensely great flicks, the former of which I think contains one of my absolute favorite Grant performances. Such great films. I'll definitely have to watch Tell No One, it's been in my Netflixs cue forever.

    I'm not sure if you could consider this Hitchcock-ian but I would throw in the film Stoker from a little while back. While perhaps not anywhere near as "playful" as a Hitchcock film, I think the tension and the darkness is definitely something I could see Park Chan-Wook lifting from the Master of Suspense.

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    1. Basic Instinct is definitely cheesy, but I think it intends to be. I'd say at least 60% of Hitch's films are cheesy as well (and probably only 5% of those intended to be).

      Please do check out Tell No One ASAP. It's so damn good; one I can revisit again and again. I love it.

      Stoker is essentially Chan-wook's Shadow of a Doubt. He's said he used that film as his main influence, he just added more psychosexual elements to his film. So, yeah, it's totally fair to call Stoker Hitchcockian.

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  4. Great list. I love this kind of films. I haven't seen all the films but I will surely do that since I am a big fan of mystery films. I knew Charade would be there. Love that no.1. By the way, what do you think of The Talented Mr. Ripley? In my opinion, it is definitely a hitchcockian film.

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    1. Thanks! The Talented Mr. Ripley is definitely drawing on Hitchcock as an influence, no question. The complex plot, man hiding his real identity, vast foreign landscapes, blonde dames, sudden murder - yeah, that's a pure Hitchcockian all the way.

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  5. Great list! There's a few on here that I definitely want to check out now. Wait Until Dark is fantastic, Audrey is brilliant in it and that jump scare towards the end is probably my favourite from any film.

    I recently watched Tom at the Farm and thought numerous times throughout it that Dolan was nailing the Hitchcokian tone perfectly.

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    1. Thanks man! I LOVE that scare at the end of Wait Until Dark. I was so happy to have an excuse to revisit that film. Whatta gem.

      Tom at the Farm is actually the last Dolan film I have to see (along with Mother), but I'm glad to hear it has the Hitchcock tone.

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  6. The only one on this list that I've actually seen is Charade, which I do remember was a lot of fun. It never occurred to me but now that you mention it that film was a bit Hitchcock-esque in atmosphere.

    The one that stood out in my mind (though I'm not sure if it counts) was the Mel Brooks movie High Anxiety. It's a hilarious parody of/homage to Alfred Hitchcock's style, complete with lots of references to his movies.

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    1. I love High Anxiety, but it was a little too purposefully, sarcastically on the nose for me to include it here. Still, it's one of my favorite Brooks films.

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  7. I haven't seen all films on this list but I am so happy to see quite a few movies on this list.

    Wait until Dark or The Nun's Story are the ones I usually direct people to when people come up with 'What's so great about Audrey Hepburn? She was just a pretty face' argument. And I have nothing for those who consider The Game as lesser Fincher, maybe except 'Watch it again. And maybe, this time really WATCH it.'

    DIabolique I only so earlier this year and was absolutely brilliant. Definitely deserves the top spot. Great list once again!

    P.S.: I really should watch early De Palma.

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    1. SO glad to hear your praise for The Game. It had the slight misfortune of being released between two of Fincher's genre-defining cult sensations, so I understand why some don't like it. I actually think it's one of Fincher's best psychological thrillers, very smart and very layered. Love it.

      I remember your Les Diaboliques review. LOVE that movie.

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  8. Awesome list! I have seen all of these films except for Les Diaboliques. It sounds like a very interesting film, and I will try to watch it ASAP. I love the fact that you have Wait Until Dark & Charade on your list. Not only do I need to have a Hitchcock marathon, but an Audrey Hepburn marathon as well!

    Even though it is a spoof, I think High Anxiety would be exactly the type of film that Hitchcock would make if he made a comedy.

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    1. Thanks so much! I think you'll really love Les Diaboliques. Very creepy and very effective. It fits so well into Hitchcock's world. I can't wait to hear what you think of it!

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  9. Oh, this is great. I haven't seen most of these, but you've got me really wanting to dig into this list. Anything that is related to Hitchcock in some way has to be worth a watch. Thanks for the tip on Tell No One -- just added it to my instant queue.

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    1. Nice man, so glad you added Tell No One to your queue. I really cannot recommend it highly enough. Probably one of my Top 20 (or 15...) of the 2000s.

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  10. O
    M
    G
    Your #1 is PERFECTION!!!!

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  11. Nice list - you have the best idea for these! I'd have to suggest Stranger by the Lake - great film, and every second review referred to it as "Hitchcockian" (often with some kind of pun on cocks, since, well, the film has a lot of cocks).

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    1. Also I kinda hated Dressed to Kill, partly because it felt so dominated by Hitchcock pastiche that it couldn't find an identity of its own (beyond "kinda silly and shlocky")

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    2. Thanks buddy! Stranger by the Lake is a great call, and definitely would've made the top 20 on this list. I think Hitch definitely could've ventured into a story similar to that one. (I LOVED that film, by the way.)

      I hated Dressed to Kill the first time I saw it. Actually turned it off then tried again about a year later. While far from my favorite De Palma, it does have a few set pieces that I quite enjoy.

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  12. I saw Panic Room again last night and I still consider it one of Fincher's worst but the Game is very good. Gone Girl is probably going to be the most Hitchcockian film of his, Hitchcock would have loved Flynn's novels especially this one - it's all about being trapped.

    The second part of Mulholland Dr. comes to mind too - with the murder plot, icy blonde and hostile city.

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    1. I do think Panic Room is one of his lesser efforts, but I still love the visual style of it, and it definitely does play as the most Hitchcockian of his films.

      Lynch had to be drawing on Hitch for Mulholland Dr. I love that damn movie so much. Has a distinctly Hitch vibe to it.

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    2. Well, Lynch has admitted to being a big Hitchcock fan, so that wouldn't be too great a stretch.

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  13. This is easily among your greatest posts. Seriously, man. I'm pretty sure that Alfred Hitchcock has been among the most influential filmmakers of all time (and there are many who regard him as the most influential). He was the definition of an auteur, in the "Cahiers du cinéma" sense of the word, establishing a style so distinctive that it can be immediately recongnized throughout most of his filmography. Luckily for us cinephiles, his precious cinematic legacy lives on and is celebrated by many filmmakers even after his death, in this day and age. Your whole list of The Hitchcockian films is truly incredible and I couldn't choose any other film than Clouzot's "Les Diaboliques" as my first choice. Every frame of this masterpiece seems to pay a tribute to "The Master of Suspense" and it is said that it even inspired Hitchcock to make "Vertigo". My personal list goes like this:

    1) Les Diaboliques
    2) Body Double
    3) Stoker
    4) Dressed To Kill
    5) Cottage to let
    6) Frantic
    7) The Vanishing
    8) The Game
    9) Charade
    10) Buried

    And the list goes on and on and on, of course, from "Tell No One" and "Wait until dark" to "Source code" and "What lies beneath". Your list fuckin' rocks, that's for sure. I've never a read a better list of Hitchcockian films and I've read a lot of them, trust me.

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    1. Damn man, thanks. You always have the nicest things to say! Love your comment and I adore your list. All of the ones on your list that didn't make mine were definitely considered. Stoker was such a great Hitchcockian film. Also love that you've even seen Tell No One. I love that damn film.

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    2. Yeah, man, "Stoker" was pure “Hitchcockianness”. Loved it. In regards to "Tell No One", I really star to wander sometimes which acclaimed French films of the last decade I haven't seen. French cinema rules, man, there's no doubt about that. You're not going to find someone who truly knows about cinema and tell you different. The free and creative spirit of French cinema that can produce a film like "Tell No One" feels like a paradox for American audiences. Such a shame. Canet is at his absolute best in "Tell No One" as a director. And his remake on "Les liens du sang" or "Rivals" as you probably know it, last year's "Blood ties" was not that bad either. "Little white lies" remains my second favorite film he directed. And it's like he keeps on searching projects that give him the opportunity to work again and again with François Cluzet. Can't blame him. Such an astonishing actor.

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    3. It really IS a paradox to American audiences - so well said there. I love much of Canet's work as well. Blood Ties, while not perfect, had its strong moments, and I too enjoyed Little White Lies a great deal. In fact, I need to rewatch that one soon. Been too long.

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    4. Oh yeah buddy, you really need to rewatch it. I rewatched it a couple of months ago and damn that was a fine, extremely well-acted and deeply touching film.

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  14. Yikes, I haven't seen the top 3 films on the list. Looks great though, agree with the others ones. I absolutely adore Charade and The Vanishing, so glad they are high up on your list. One I think you may have missed (what am I kidding, you've probably have seen it) is Stoker. Actually I think someone else mentioned it in the comments as well. Anyway one of my favorites too. Although this list, is awesome, also so glad Basic Instinct is a honorable mention. I don't know why, but I love that movie (yeah it probably has something to do with THAT shot). So happy you put that in there. A few more of my favorites would be Dressed to Kill, which you obviously also have on here, The Uninvited (the 1944 version, and I think that counts as a Hitchcockian film), does Shutter Island count? (not my favorite Scorsese movie but one that kept me guessing to the end). And Source Code which I really enjoyed. Anyway a few more of my favorites, it would be to hard to order them in any logical way, but those are some of my favorites. Once again great list, love Hitchcock and the Hitchcockian films, which by the way you should do a The Directors Piece on Hitchcock, it would be really awesome to see. Anyway back again great list, and I gotta try to find those top 3 films. Thanks so much and you have the best ideas for movie lists.

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    1. Oh I definitely considered Stoker, because that is one of the most obvious Hitchcockian films of recent memory. And a damn good one too. LOVE your praise for Basic Instinct - that movie rocks.

      The Uninvited and Shutter Island are solid picks, but I did stay away from any sort of supernatural film (like Source Code) because Hitch didn't really mess with sci-fi, you know? Been working hard on my Directors post on Hitch for the past month. Getting close to being done ;)

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  15. Love this list! Your top 5 is spot-on, and it's great to see Wait Until Dark and Basic Instinct on here as well. I still need to see Dressed to Kill, The Game, The Spanish Prisoner, and Red Lights.

    I'd probably add films like Shutter Island, Match Point, The Prestige, and Catch Me If You Can.

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    1. Thanks man! I think you'll really dig The Game and The Spanish Prisoner. Two great "wrong man" movies right there. Love all your picks as well. Catch Me If You Can is a really spirited choice. That definitely fits here.

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  16. It's funny. I have a controversial opinion on Hitchcock, but I love "Hitchcockian" films (and Rear Window). The Game is awesome, had me guessing at every scene. I feel like Jaws could be considered for this list. That has a few Hitchcockian elements to it. And with God (or, you know, whatever) as my witness, I will buy The Vanishing at Criterion's next sale.

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    1. Jaws definitely has the slow-brew tension of a great Hitchcock film, so that's a solid choice right there. The Vanishing is so damn haunting. It never does what you think it's going to do. Love it.

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  17. How about "Anthony Zimmer"?

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    1. Sounds really interesting. I'm going to check it out ASAP. Thanks for the reco.

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    1. Oh yeah, for sure. Nearly included it here.

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