The Best Alfred Hitchcock Movies: Ranking Every Feature Film by the Master of Suspense

That's a whole lot of innocent men on the run, icy femmes fatales, and MacGuffins.

Today, August 13, is the birthday of Alfred Hitchcock, the first film director whose name I ever knew. I was introduced to his movies as a child, during a summer I spent at my grandmother’s house in Illinois. One of the local TV stations ran a Hitchcock Week, five straight nights airing some of his most famous works: Rear WindowVertigoThe Man Who Knew Too MuchThe Birds, and North by Northwest. I was thrilled by these suspenseful and macabre (qualities now synonymous with the term “Hitchcockian”) stories that also featured moments of great humor.

I can rattle off the names of many more great filmmakers today, but Hitchcock remains among my favorites. Over the course of the last year, I took my relationship with the “master of suspense” to another level by viewing every one of his feature films. That’s a whole lot of innocent men on the run, icy femmes fatales, director’s cameos, and MacGuffins.

Hitchcock in a publicity shot for "The Birds," one of his most overrated movies.
Hitchcock in a publicity shot for “The Birds,” one of his most overrated movies.

Starting with his silent cinema work in 1920s England and then his move to Hollywood, I continued through the height of his powers in the 1950s and the semi-decline of his later years. With a couple exceptions, I watched these 52 films in the order in which they were produced.  Many I was already familiar with and adored, but most I’d never seen before. Some I’d never heard of before.

There were cases, as with Psycho, when I found myself unable to deny the greatness of a movie that I’d previously considered to be overrated. Likewise there were films, including Marnie, that I discovered weren’t nearly as good as I’d thought they were when I first saw them years ago. Most thrilling was discovering brilliant moments in his lesser-known works, like the fantastic crane shot in Young and Innocent that reveals the identity of the killer to the audience (though not to the protagonists) and the astonishing way in which Hitchcock builds tension in a scene from Sabotage by cutting between shots of a woman, her husband, and a knife. Only 1926’s The Mountain Eagle remains unseen, and that’s just because the film appears to be lost for good, unavailable anywhere.

And so, on Hitch’s birthday, here is my definitive ranking of his oeuvre. First presented in descriptive groups of similar quality, and then numbered individually, 1-52, the best to the worst.


The Essentials
Vertigo  — How marvelous that a film replete with old Hollywood glamour, featuring one of the biggest stars of the studio system,  contains such a kinky underbelly to its story of obsession. The ending devastates.

Rear Window  — This time through I was struck by how entertaining, and subtly told, are all the little stories Jimmy Stewart can see inside his neighbors’ homes, not just the frightening tale of Mr. and Mrs. Thorwald.

"Rear Window": Why would you spend time spying on your neighbors when you've got Grace Kelly in your apartment?
“Rear Window”: Why would you spend time spying on your neighbors when you’ve got Grace Kelly in your apartment?

Notorious  — A man and a woman must set aside their own romantic desires in the name of serving a cause greater than themselves. Echoes of Casablanca as a spy thriller, especially since Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains are on hand.

Psycho  — Never before had I fully appreciated the efficiency of this taut and horrifying story. Hitchcock at his most daring.

Strangers on a Train  — It’s Robert Walker’s turn as the greatest villain in any of Hitch’s films that makes this a twisted delight.


Most Underrated
The 39 Steps  
The Lady Vanishes  

Most Overrated
North by Northwest  
To Catch a Thief  
The Birds  

The best scene in the too-gimmicky "North by Northwest."
The best scene in the too-gimmicky “North by Northwest.”

Masterly Suspenseful
Shadow of a Doubt  
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
Dial M For Murder  
Stage Fright  
Family Plot  
The Trouble With Harry  
Secret Agent

Good and Hitchcockian Enough
Young and Innocent  
The Wrong Man  
Torn Curtain  
The Paradine Case  
The Lodger    
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
I Confess  
Foreign Correspondent  

That's TV's Beaver Cleaver (Jerry Mathers) discovering the "Trouble With Harry."
That’s TV’s Beaver Cleaver (Jerry Mathers) discovering the “Trouble With Harry.”

Good but Not-so-Hitchcockian
Rich and Strange
Mr. and Mrs. Smith
The Manxman

Not-so-Good but Hitchcockian
Jamaica Inn  
Number 17  
Under Capricorn  

"Torn Curtain", starring Paul Newman, is the better of Hitchcock's two 1960s Cold War spy thrillers. ("Topaz" is the other.)
“Torn Curtain” is the better of Hitchcock’s two 1960s Cold War spy thrillers. (“Topaz” is the other.)

For Completists’ Eyes Only
The Skin Game
The Pleasure Garden  
The Ring  
Easy Virtue
Waltzes From Vienna  
The Farmer’s Wife  
Juno and the Paycock  

The Complete Alfred Hitchcock, From Best to Worst 

1          Vertigo
2          Rear Window  
3          Notorious
4          Psycho  
5          Strangers on a Train  
6          The 39 Steps  
7          Shadow of a Doubt  
8          Rebecca
9          The Lady Vanishes  
10        Frenzy
11        The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
12        Blackmail  
13        Lifeboat
14        Sabotage
15        Dial M For Murder  
16        Stage Fright  
17        Family Plot  
18        The Trouble With Harry  
19        Rope  
20        Rich and Strange
21        Secret Agent
22        Mr. and Mrs. Smith
23        Murder!  
24        North by Northwest  
25        Young and Innocent  
26        Suspicion  
27        The Wrong Man  
28        Torn Curtain  
29        The Paradine Case  
30        The Lodger    
31        The Man Who Knew Too Much  (1934)
32        I Confess  
33        To Catch a Thief  
34        Foreign Correspondent  
35        Champagne
36        The Manxman
37        The Birds  
38        Saboteur
39        Marnie
40        Spellbound
41        The Skin Game
42        Jamaica Inn  
43        The Pleasure Garden  
44        Downhill  
45        Number 17  
46        Under Capricorn  
47        Topaz  
48        The Ring  
49        Easy Virtue
50        Waltzes From Vienna  
51        The Farmer’s Wife  
52        Juno and the Paycock  


Almost all of these films are available on DVD. For those that aren’t (and even some that are), this site has a good rundown of where you can stream them online for free.


  • Jefferson

    Great stuff. Well done.

  • Danielle Haynes

    I’ve always loved ‘Suspicion,’ particularly the tension in that final (one of the final?) scene when Grant and Fontaine are driving in the car. I think it could have been right up there in your top 5 had Hitchcock been allowed to film it as he originally intended and how the book was written.

  • Brandt

    See the Master of Suspense in FULL COLOR with scenes from his masterpieces In Memoriam on his birthday today at

  • Shane Orr

    Why is ‘Shadow Of A Doubt’ not on here?

  • sassygirlie

    it is. number 7

  • Chris Eshleman

    Solid work — this is generally a good list.
    Rope is way too low.
    Worst off, Psycho at #4, not #1 or #2? For shame!
    Otherwise an A-/B+ list. Thanks.

  • Jason Heid

    I admire a lot about ROPE. Not having seen it since I was a kid, I was surprised on rewatching it to realize that the film centers on a homosexual couple (though that fact is not overtly acknowledged, it’s made plain enough). Given that it came out in 1948, seems like a daring choice for the film.

    However, there a few gimmicks used in service of Hitchcock’s decision to have the action play out in real time that I found irritating enough to keep it out of the top tier of his work.

  • Jason Heid

    And if PSYCHO had found some way to avoid having to have a psychiatrist appear to explain the entire situation to the audience at the end of the film, it might have ranked above one of my top 3. But it didn’t, so it doesn’t

  • Alessandro Balbiano

    By far the best ranking I’ve seen, I would have not ranked exactly the same way but it’s also a matter of tastes and some movies are hard to compare.
    I agree 100% on the most underrated and overrated! I think “I confess” is also underrated, not a top-tier but it deserves a special honor for the original circumstances of the plot. I’m also a “Rope” fan and I believe “Strangers on a train” plot is a bit implausible to be in the top 5, but again… I wouldn’t change much, and you did a very professional job.

  • Rodrick Colbert

    The Birds is overrated? I suggest watching it again and pay close attention to the many brilliant yet subtle metaphors that Hitchcock sprinkles in. It is a profoundly existentialist movie about good vs evil with a backdrop of a greek tragedy. Just watch the trailer on Youtube, where the woman screams, “I think you are EVIL! EVIL!!!”

  • Sabor

    I personally thought Psysho was better than Notorious, but I’m glad that Rear Window was way up at the top!

  • Bobio

    I really like your list and appreciate ranking Frenzy so high. It is so often not appreciated. BTW, Mr. Heid-your not wearing your tie.

  • KMM

    How in the world could you rank “Torn Curtain” above “The Birds” and “Marnie”?

  • jasonheid

    “Torn Curtain” is far from great, but its justifiably most famous scene (the prolonged and difficult killing of Gromek in the farmhouse), makes up for a number of its flaws. Its worth the price of admission all by itself.

    And, unlike “The Birds” or “Marnie,” it contains no laughably ridiculous moments. “The Birds” has not aged well. “Marnie”‘s scenes of psychological drama are almost as bad as those in “Spellbound.”

  • leon

    Overated? Birds?

  • econprof

    Rope is about unraveling, on many levels. The script is brilliant. It should surely be in the top ten. regardless of how one feels about the jacket shots.

  • James Woehr

    North By Northwest isn’t over-rated at all. It’s one of the best films ever made!

  • Phillip Wood

    Yeah don’t get the hate for North by Northwest.

  • Jason Heid

    “Hate” is too strong a word. I like it just fine. I enjoy quite a bit about it. If I didn’t have it listed among the most overrated films, it would have slotted into the group I termed “Good and Hitchcockian Enough.”

    But it’s too gimmicky, and it rehashes too much material that can be found in other, superior Hitchock movies to deserve a place in his top tier. The love that gets showered upon it should instead go to the similarly plotted “The 39 Steps.”

  • Timothy Wilson