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6 Alfred Hitchcock thrillers that are a must-watch

Here are 6 of Alfred Hitchcock's famous thrillers that are just the suspenseful rides you need to beat the daily monotony.

Hia Datta
Jul 18, 2021
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It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that Alfred Hitchcock, often referred to as the ‘Master of Suspense’, could churn a suspenseful story out of thin air. In his career spanning about 50 years, he mastered the nuances of filmmaking and put them together neatly like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to create dark, intense, unsettling and largely revelatory thrillers that birthed the very genre of Hitchcockian thrillers in film culture. Freudian undertones and basic human traits of guilt, jealousy, betrayal and motifs such as voyeurism, fear of heights, murder and so on are signature Hitchcockian tropes. His thrillers have suspense as the unifying logic, with chaos seething to erupt from the calm of everyday life, making them every bit as thrilling and all-consuming as they are deemed to be.

Here are 6 of his famous thrillers that are just the suspenseful rides you need to beat the daily monotony.

A still from Shadow of a Doubt

Shadow of a Doubt

Released in 1943, three years after Rebecca, this one is Hitchcock’s personal favourite. The plotline centres around Charlie (Teresa Wright), a young woman bored with her mundane life in the suburbs until her uncle arrives with a dark twist under his sleeves. She gradually discovers that her uncle, who is her namesake and hence also called Charlie (Joseph Cotten) is a serial killer. The dark, slow-burn suburban thriller that is laced with Hitchcock’s signature tropes of serial killing, suspicion, deceit, international spying with an undercurrent of sexual tension is edgy and thick with suspense. Teresa not only plays Hitchcock’s most unguarded heroines but also the most quick-witted and able ones of his oeuvre that either goes into the extremes of helpless murder victims or temptresses. Hitchcock, who had a knack for upturning audience expectations, deconstructs the on-screen persona of Joseph Cotten as a charming, amiable leading man at the time to terrifying impact. Without any shadow of a doubt, this one is a must-watch.

A still from Psycho


Released in 1960, this cult film is still looked at as the reference point for the very genre of modern thriller. It is perhaps Hitchcock's Most popular and well-known thriller. The events unfold in a shady, remote motel manned by the outwardly courteous proprietor Norman Bates, played by Anthony Perkins, where Janet Leigh’s Marion Crane decides to spend a fateful night, while caught up in a personal situation. The motel is seemingly peaceful, until it turns into the site of horrifying, bizarre incidents. The tricky plot, full of unexpected twists and turns, makes for a delightfully chilling watch for first-time audiences. The thrill is only elevated by the climax. Hitchcock packs in a perceptive observation of warped human psychology. Watch how he builds up the progressively eerie atmosphere through effective use of a terrific background score, backed by the brilliant acting by Janet Leigh, who won a Golden Globe. Although it created a huge controversy at the time of its theatrical release, it later won entry to the Hall of Fame - Motion Picture, of the Online Film & Television Association. 

A still from Vertigo


This film stars James Stewart with Kim Novak and Tom Helmore in key roles. A police officer, James Stewart, leaves his job as he develops a fear of heights and a distortional vision of imaginary rotational movement (vertigo) because of a rooftop accident. He is approached by a man from his former college life, to spy on his mentally unstable wife. Thus he is caught up in a whirlwind journey of mystery, uncertainty, fear, and perhaps hope and love. The complex plotline is full of unexpected developments and changed perspectives, enthralling the audience all the way to another unpredictable Hitchcockian climax! One of the earliest and most successful psychological thrillers, the film uses a special effect of distorted use of zoom. Vertigo is considered Hitchcock’s best by some critics and is often cited on various lists of the greatest films ever made. 

A still from Strangers On a Train

Strangers on a Train

This gem of a film is the quintessential Hitchcock film, true to his style of suspense, codes, and motifs. It revolves around a young tennis player who is mired in webs of fear while on a train journey. A seemingly innocent dialogue about persons worth murdering leads to a sinister path of homicide and chase. Starring Farley Granger, Ruth Roman, and Robert Walker, the film transforms everyday places of the city into scenes of terror and suspense and gains in lethal speed, until it darts into the high-key climax. Remarkably, Hitchcock weaves the notion of "doubling" throughout the structure of the film. There are two strangers, two cities, two detectives...and so on. It is uniquely evocative of its theme of double-crossing, which, in a deeper sense, suggests a darker theme of a criminal alter ego. Strangers on a Train is a dark, unmissable entertainer tailor-made for every lover of thrill and suspense. 

A still from Rear Window

Rear Window

A highly intriguing film, this is considered to be the most experimental of Hitchcock’s creations. In this 1954 colour film, his hero, a photographer played by James Stewart, is confined to a wheelchair in his bachelor's apartment with a broken leg. Although his girlfriend regularly visits him, as does his nurse, he feels bored and doesn't hesitate to spy on the activities going on in the backyard of his apartment and other apartments across the yard. With a heatwave on, the windows of other apartments are usually open, offering a convenient opportunity to the peeping Tom to satisfy his morbid curiosity. And when you are into a Hitchcockian plot, a murder is surely on the offing. How is it sensed and how is the mystery solved is what makes the film. Along with Hitchcock’s direction and attention to details, James Stewart carries the film on his shoulders with his scintillating screen presence. Some consider the film as Hitchcock’s very best. 

A still from Dial M for Murder

Dial M for Murder

Grace Kelly plays Margot, a wealthy socialite wife whose jealous husband and ex-tennis pro Tony Wendice (Ray Miland) wants her finished off to lay hands upon her inheritance. On knowing about her affair with a writer (Robert Cummings), he devises the perfect plot to off her, but everything goes perfectly haywire. There’s a scene featuring Grace Kelly that is markedly reminiscent of an iconic scene from Psycho, equally awe-inspiring in the technical aspect except that it reverses the trope. This 1954 film verges more on the commercial side of Hitchcock’s thrillers but is wholly entertaining albeit garish, with the motifs of blackmail and adultery thrown in the mix. 

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