Ranked: Alfred Hitchcock Movies, From Worst to Best

Like Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window, we've spent a lot of time watching.

by Rick Paulas

This Monday was National Alfred Hitchcock day. Between that and the recent news of Scarlett Johansson being cast as Janet Leigh in the upcoming behind-the-scenes dramatization Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho (Anthony Hopkins is, awesomely, set to star as the iconic director), we're on a Hitch kick. And what better way to honor an obsessive and meticulous director than with an obsessive and meticulous ranking of all his films? (Any non-attributed quotes come from Francois Truffaut's amazing book-length interview, Hitchcock.)

51. Waltzes from Vienna (1933)

This was "a musical without music" taken as a for-hire gig when Hitchcock had no other film projects and just wanted to keep busy. It shows. 

50. Easy Virtue (1927)

If anything, Easy Virtue is a disturbing look at the life of women in the not-so-distant past: the movie is about a woman who's "disgraced" when her terrible husband divorces her. 

49. The Manxman (1929)

The Manxman was Hitchcock's last silent movie before his first "talkie;" Hitchcock himself called it "a very banal picture."

48. Champagne (1928)

Made as an excuse to "do a picture with the title Champagne," this was a bomb upon release and is only notable now for showing a lot of British people acting drunk.

47. The Farmer's Wife (1928)

One of the first "light-hearted" Hitchcock productions, it's kind of an upstairs-downstairs portrayal of Britain in the twenties. But silent. And slow. And over two hours long.

46. The Skin Game (1931)

There's a really cool auction scene in this, but that's about it. 

45. Jamaica Inn (1939)

Hitch's final film before he moved to America was also his most profitable to that date, but that may have been due to Brits wanting to see why super-producer David O. Selznick had invited the director overseas. Jamaica Inn wouldn't give them much of an idea.

44. Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941)

This story, about a divorced couple who just can't seem to stop running into each other at the most inopportune times, is the only pure comedy Hitchcock made while in America. There's a reason for that. 

43. Downhill (1927)

While this story about a boy in boarding school accused of theft is generally a snooze, hints of the director's future visual style (especially in a memorable dream sequence) make it a point of interest for Hitch completists. 

42. The Paradine Case (1947)

This was a courtroom drama set in England, meaning everyone got to wear those strange white wigs. The story is decent, but ultimately a waste of Hitchcock's talents. 

41. Number Seventeen (1932)

You'd think a story about a detective on the hunt for a gang of thieves in London would be prime Hitchcock fare, but the chase sequence at the end is really the only worthwhile part of Number Seventeen

40. Juno and the Paycock (1930)

Based on the widely-popular play by Sean O'Casey — who would become the inspiration for the doom-sayer in The Birds — Juno and the Paycock isn't bad, but as a straight adaptation, it lacks the directorial flair of a "Hitchcock film." 

Commentarium (21 Comments)

Mar 16 12 - 12:26am

Vertigo is everything

Mar 16 12 - 12:39am

Frenzy before Notorious? That's risible.

Mar 16 12 - 1:51am

Thank you so much for creating this list! Alfred Hitchcock was the first director I admired. By the time I was 17, I had seen about 20 of the movies on this list! (I do realize that that I'm a crazy film geek). Anyway, thanks again!

Mar 16 12 - 9:25am

totally random and arbitrary list... putting Marnie - one of hitchcock's absolute worst - that high is just plain ridiculous... and Frenzy? Is that a joke? horrible list.

Mar 16 12 - 9:28am

Your attempt to rehabilitate the reputation of "Marnie" is ill-advised. It's dreadful. And you rate it better than "North by Northwest? Seriously.

Mar 16 12 - 10:14am

[outraged comment about the order of the films on this list]

Mar 16 12 - 11:40am

For the most part I really do like the list. I'm thrilled to see The Lady Vanishes placed so high, even as I'm tempted to winder whether it quite deserves it. And Vertigo is without a doubt his best film.

But Dial M for Murder places a little high in my estimation, and Marnie places EXTREMELY high. No. 17 places a little low, because that chase sequence at the end is riveting and should definitely place it above both versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much, which could really finish dead last as far as I am concerned.

Your mileage may vary, but I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone who wanted to sit through either version of The Man Who Knew Too Much. Except film students. Hipster film students.

Mar 16 12 - 12:16pm

I love these lists! I've always thought Vertigo was a tad bit over-rated. Lifeboat was better than I thought it'd be.

Mar 16 12 - 12:31pm

The fact that you think that The Trouble With Harry is about "citizens of a sleepy Vermont town as they attempt to figure out who killed 'one of their brethren' and, more importantly, what to do with the body." shows that you did not actually watch the film.

Mar 17 12 - 2:23am

I share Sarel's sense that the author of this piece hasn't watched very many of the films. (The dismissal, without a real comment, of the underrated Mr. and Mrs. Smith, for instance, seems suspicious.) These lists are obviously doing their job, though; even though they seem arbitrary and badly informed, I seem to end up reading them all.

Mar 20 12 - 1:37am

Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a snore-fest.

Mar 17 12 - 5:59pm

Young folks who think they don't like black and white films should still see "Shadow Of a Doubt" which I'd heard was Hitchcock's favorite of his own films, and "Strangers on a Train."
Film students and such cherish "Vertigo" for all of its technique and symbolism but for the uninitiated, "Rear Window" is probably more rewarding viewing.
Haven't seen some of the very poorly rated old ones here, but "Topaz" really was a meandering bore, and I've never been able to get through "Torn Curtain." Not even close.

Mar 18 12 - 10:52pm

North by Northwest should be much higher, and Rear Window should be at number one. Sorry, Vertigo is great, but a bit overrated.

Mar 19 12 - 10:10pm
Steve B

I agree with many others about the odd order here. But I want to make a point I never hear anyone mention: the climax of Strangers on a Train is one of the most unintentionally risible action scenes ever filmed by a major director. Culprits enter fairground full of kids, trailed by cops. Suspects jump on a getaway vehicle: a merry-go-round. Oh no! Cops begin firing wildly through crowd, plug merry-go-round operator, causing him to push lever to "centrifugal" setting. All merry-go-rounds have them. And of course they also explode. Must re-examine that feature.

Mar 20 12 - 2:13am

Shadow of a Doubt would have been my number 1, but only cause I got a thing for Cotten.

Mar 20 12 - 1:45pm

"While the story has been stolen countless times since, the original version is the best and still most effective. "

Actually, Rear Window is not "the original version". Hitchcock borrowed the story from Cornell Woolrich.

Mar 21 12 - 1:33am
unsexy ferret

Bravo! This list rocks. Vertigo IS everything.

Mar 25 12 - 1:44am

Frenzy as one of his best?

Um, no.

Jun 05 12 - 11:15pm

More evidence of lazy author: it is not the hero who dangles from the Statue of Liberty in "Saboteur," but the villain -- which Hitchcock agreed was one of his major mistakes.

Aug 17 12 - 5:52pm

A list that's close to many of my own sensibilities. Vertigo is Hitchcock's best, North by Northwest is a tad overrated and Shadow of a Doubt belongs very high on any list.

If I were to quibble about the list, I'd knock Psycho down a few pegs, move Rope way up and also put Lifeboat higher. But hey, they're all great movies. People can have their own opinions.

Sep 17 12 - 3:37am

Vertigo is a masterpiece, not just Hitchcock's best but all time best.