Good evening. Master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock was born on Friday the 13th back in August 1899, and while the great filmmaker’s movies and his TV shows have always been widely available for aspiring film students and classic movie lovers, Peacock has lumped many of his classics in one place. There are 14 of the director’s films now available to stream through NBCUniversal’s ad-supported service. The trick with Hitchcock is, even writing a top 10 list of the director’s best movies would be leaving off some great ones. So below is a list of his essential titles that best define his style and penchant for thrills, and check out a teaser video for all the titles here.
“Shadow of a Doubt” (1943) –
Peacock doesn’t have any of Hitchcock’s early films before he left Britain and his movies started getting Oscar buzz, but “Shadow of a Doubt” was one of his first fully American movies, with a cast including Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten that Hitchcock even described as his favorite film he made. A man and his niece, both named Charlie, meet and develop an instant bond until she realizes her uncle isn’t what he seems. It’s a film about being removed from the world you thought you knew and how everything looks grimmer from outside your protective bubble.
“Rope” (1948) –
“Rope” is an early example of an entire film shown in a single, unbroken take. The story involves two people who murder a man, hide his body in a trunk in the center of a room and then host a dinner party surrounding it to prove they’ve committed the perfect crime. Hitchcock felt the suspense would be lost if the camera cut away, so he wrote sections of the movie in chunks to correspond to the size of a reel of film and then would hide the edit as the camera passed behind a chair or person’s back. “Rope” remains one of Hitchcock’s most fascinating experiments, even if he once said that the experiment “didn’t work.”
“Rear Window” (1954) –
James Stewart plays a photographer confined to his apartment and wheelchair after suffering an injury when he spies something suspicious from his neighbor’s window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder. It’s a tense examination of voyeurism and how our suspicions can get the better of us. But it’s also one of Hitchcock’s most emotional films for the tiny details about how the lonely people Stewart watches go about their day, and it’s a great example of how Hitchcock uses editing and simple clues to drive our imaginations wild.
“The Trouble With Harry” (1955) –
As the tagline goes, the trouble with Harry is that he’s dead, and no one can seem to figure out what to do with his body. “The Trouble With Harry” is Hitchcock’s one straight comedy, a blend of screwball and deadpan, offbeat humor in which people are lustful, clueless or as suspicious as in any Hitchcock movie, but with a very different tone. The film also features Jerry Mathers before he was in “Leave it to Beaver” and Shirley MacLaine in her first film role.
“The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1956) –
Hitchcock’s greatest trope was of stories about innocent men wrongly accused and roped into something greater. And he told that story not once, but twice in “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” which he remade from his 1934 film as a more seasoned director with bigger stars and a bigger budget in 1956. Peacock only has the remake, but it’s as good of a place to start with Hitchcock as any, as it also features Doris Day’s performance of the Oscar-winning song “Que Sera, Sera.”
“Vertigo” (1958) –
“Vertigo” back in 2012 snatched the title away from “Citizen Kane” as the best movie of all time in a famous critics poll, and it’s in part because his surreal, psychological and thrilling head trip about two broken hearts combines all of the attributes that made Hitchcock’s films special. His movies often featured icy, blonde women who men were obsessed with, and the story of James Stewart’s obsession with Kim Novak in “Vertigo” most closely resembles Hitchcock’s own desires and controlling qualities as a director.
“Psycho” (1960) –
Hitchcock broke so many norms with “Psycho” that helped to change Hollywood movies forever. He proved you could get rid of the film’s top-billed star Janet Leigh less than halfway into the movie, he defied censorship standards by showing characters using a toilet on screen, and he shocked audiences with a fiendish twist, even putting in place a rule that prevented late entrants into a screening. But above all, he proved that with sinister lighting, framing and an anxiety-inducing score by Bernard Hermann alone, you can still make a terrifying masterpiece.
“The Birds” (1963) – “The Birds” was an early precursor for horror films like “Jaws” for its special effects and its economical thrills, with Hitchcock replacing a traditional score with bird sound effects that were even more chilling. But the film has some complex themes about love, sexuality and violence even if it seems like just a movie about killer birds.
“Frenzy” (1972) –
Hitchcock had lost some of his mojo by the ’70s when auteur directors were making hyper-violent, kinetic and artful statements of movies that did away with the Old Hollywood thriller staples. But “Frenzy” is Hitchcock returning to form with a murder mystery of another innocent man accused, and it’s a late-career gem that’s also easily his most violent film about a serial killer responsible for a series of “necktie murders.”
All of these films don’t even scratch the surface of Hitchcock’s best. Peacock also currently has “Saboteur,” “Marnie,” “Family Plot,” “Torn Curtain” and “Topaz” available for streaming, as well as his shows “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and “Alfred Hitchcock Hour.” And some of his other classics are available across other streaming services, including “North By Northwest” (HBO Max), “To Catch a Thief” (Amazon Prime) or “Strangers on a Train” (DirecTV).