Hitchcock: the directors' cut

The best Hitchcock films as chosen by ten film directors including Stephen Frears and Joe Wright

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  • Rear Window (1954)

    Chosen by Mike Leigh

    ‘I’m not especially a Hitchcock fan, but I love “Rear Window”. For me, it stands alone among his movies for its warmth and humanity. Some have accused it of being voyeuristic, but that’s rubbish; all films are voyeuristic, in the sense that we’re being a fly on the wall, watching something we shouldn’t. This one just happens to be about people clocking other people.

    ‘The injured photographer, Jimmy Stewart, is incarcerated in his apartment, meaning that we are trapped in one place – and so is Hitchcock. He can’t move the story off to other locations, so we explore the lives of a wide range of folk who Stewart observes from his window – a fascinating microcosm of society. Ordinary lives and events, a possible murder and one story that moves me to tears every time I see it.

    ‘As splendid as Stewart and Grace Kelly are with their witty, quasi-naturalistic overlapping dialogue, the great unsung performance in this film is that of Judith Evelyn, who plays “Miss Lonelyhearts” – as Stewart and Kelly dub her. Watch her entertain an imaginary gentleman friend, and then crumple in sadness at the table. It’s devastating. Nowhere else in all his films will you find anything nearly so sympathetic, or so real.’

    Mike Leigh is the director of ‘Secrets & Lies’ and ‘Another Year’.

     Rear Window (1954)
  • Vertigo (1958)

    Chosen by John Carpenter

    ‘“Vertigo” exists somewhere outside of time, in your unconscious. It’s a dark film, a deep, dark nightmare. The techniques involved are unbelievable – the music, the editing, the colour, the slow, deliberate, dreamlike pace. I’m not sure if audiences in 1958 – me included, because I saw it at the tender age of ten – knew what was going on. Everybody who’s ever tried to do anything suspenseful has copied Hitchcock. As a matter of fact, everyone who’s ever put two pieces of film together has copied Hitchcock. That’s how it’s done.’

    John Carpenter is the director of ‘Halloween’ and ‘The Thing’.


    Vertigo (1958)
  • North by Northwest (1959)

    Chosen by William Friedkin

    ‘I directed the last “Alfred Hitchcock Hour” show on television in 1965. I was a very young man and Hitchcock was brought on the set to say hello to me. He extended his hand, which looked like a dead fish. I told him I was honoured to meet him. He looked at me and said: “Mr Friedkin, usually our directors wear ties.” I was in a T-shirt and sneakers. Saying that, whenever I speak at a film school, I tell them: “You don’t need to go to film school. Watch Hitchcock.” Among his films, “North by Northwest”, I’d say, is the very best he made about mistaken identity, a favourite topic of his.’

    William Friedkin is the director of ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘Killer Joe’.

    North by Northwest (1959)
  • Vertigo (1958)

    Chosen by Kenneth Branagh

    ‘This is mature Hitchcock at his most masterly. Style and performance are completely integrated, and the final twist remains genuinely scary. The music is a particular triumph, as is James Stewart’s creepily edgy performance. Sinister, hypnotic and artfully framed, this is a timeless example of a great psychological thriller.’

    Kenneth Branagh is an actor and the director of ‘Henry V’ and ‘Thor’.


    Vertigo (1958)
  • Suspicion (1941)

    Chosen by Joanna Hogg

    ‘“Suspicion” jumps into my mind straight away as one I’d like to watch again. I last saw it in the ’80s when I was going out with someone I was suspicious of – he wasn’t going to kill me, but I knew that he lied. Little details become significant when you’re suspicious… and one of Hitchcock’s tricks was to place a hidden light inside a glass of milk to make it glow. Is it poisoned or not?’

    Joanna Hogg is the director of ‘Unrelated’ and ‘Archipelago’.

    Suspicion (1941)
  • Psycho (1960)

    Chosen by Ben Wheatley

    ‘I really like the fact that “Psycho” was made with a TV crew as a reaction against big Hollywood movies. Hitchcock wanted to get out on his own, so he just went and did it. It’s such a modern film – structurally incredible, psychologically really interesting, and he wrote the book on misdirection by killing off Janet Leigh. I’d never try to rip him off. That kind of mastery is a long way off.’

    Ben Wheatley is the director of ‘Kill List’ and ‘Sightseers’.


    Psycho (1960)
  • Marnie (1964)

    Chosen by Mark Cousins

    ‘The Hitchcock film I think about most is “Marnie”. Maybe that’s because it’s the movie where Hitchcock’s instinctive anti-realism is least checked. It certainly seems to be made mostly out of unconscious material (sex, storms, irrational fears). And on a more technical level, I think its camera placement is just amazing.

    ‘But maybe it stays with me so much because of the human qualities: Tippi Hedren is in a kind of trance for most of it. I love this. She’s so often alone, especially in the incredible railway station scene at the start. The trancy quality, the uneasy solitude, and the emphasis on texture (of clothing etc) makes “Marnie”, for me, similar to the art of Louise Bourgeois.’

    Mark Cousins is a critic and the director of ‘The Story of Film’ and ‘What Is This Film Called Love?’


    Marnie (1964)
  • Notorious (1946)

    Chosen by Stephen Frears

    ‘I remember asking [the actress] Anna Massey what Hitchcock was like, and she said: “He can see through you.” He was just a very clever man. And of course he was always hiding his cleverness, concealing himself as a sort of fat clown. The interplay between the psychology and action in “Notorious” is brilliant. For a popular thriller, it’s so psychologically complex. As a director you become very aware of the tricks he plays. “Notorious” opens on Cary Grant’s back. I did a shot the other day, and I was constantly aware of how he had done it at the start of “Notorious”.’

    Stephen Frears is the director of ‘The Grifters’, ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ and ‘Lay the Favourite’.


    Notorious (1946)
  • Strangers on a Train (1951)

    Chosen by Joe Wright

    ‘This is the Hitchcock film I like the most – for its elegance, its simplicity and its formal experimentation. Also for Robert Walker’s performance as one of two men – the strangers – who agree to carry out separate murders. ’

    Joe Wright is the director of ‘Pride & Prejudice’ and ‘Atonement’.

    Strangers on a Train (1951)
  • Rear Window (1954)

    Chosen by David Cronenberg

    ‘I thought long and hard about it as I could probably talk about any of Hitchcock’s movies. I don’t think I’ve missed a single one of them. But I would point to “Rear Window” as the one that really affected me. It’s intense and full of erotic overtones.

    ‘Grace Kelly – blonde and elegant – has this cool sexuality. That’s the way Hitchcock liked them. I can see now that, in its constriction of space – Jimmy Stewart’s character has his leg in a cast and can’t move – it has inspired a lot of my films, especially “Cosmopolis” [much of which takes place in the back of a limo].’

    David Cronenberg is the director of ‘The Fly’, ‘Crash’ and ‘Cosmopolis’.

    Rear Window (1954)

Rear Window (1954)

Chosen by Mike Leigh

‘I’m not especially a Hitchcock fan, but I love “Rear Window”. For me, it stands alone among his movies for its warmth and humanity. Some have accused it of being voyeuristic, but that’s rubbish; all films are voyeuristic, in the sense that we’re being a fly on the wall, watching something we shouldn’t. This one just happens to be about people clocking other people.

‘The injured photographer, Jimmy Stewart, is incarcerated in his apartment, meaning that we are trapped in one place – and so is Hitchcock. He can’t move the story off to other locations, so we explore the lives of a wide range of folk who Stewart observes from his window – a fascinating microcosm of society. Ordinary lives and events, a possible murder and one story that moves me to tears every time I see it.

‘As splendid as Stewart and Grace Kelly are with their witty, quasi-naturalistic overlapping dialogue, the great unsung performance in this film is that of Judith Evelyn, who plays “Miss Lonelyhearts” – as Stewart and Kelly dub her. Watch her entertain an imaginary gentleman friend, and then crumple in sadness at the table. It’s devastating. Nowhere else in all his films will you find anything nearly so sympathetic, or so real.’

Mike Leigh is the director of ‘Secrets & Lies’ and ‘Another Year’.


Users say

10 comments
Sarfaraz
Sarfaraz

The first line made me pass this article 'I'm not specially a Hitchcock fan....'

andrew
andrew

yeah, the third still's neither vertigo, nor james stewart but cary grant in north by north west

tom
tom

Slide 3 photo of NBNW not Vertigo. Ooops!

spassky
spassky

Not one mention of 'Rebecca' ... this makes me sad.

spassky
spassky

Not one mention of 'Rebecca' ... this makes me sad.

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