Strangers on a Train
  • Strangers on a Train

As part of Doc Films’ typically stellar winter programming—check out the rundown that Ben Sachs posted to the Bleader—the venerable film club will screen Alfred Hitchcock’s dark comedy The Trouble With Harry. I’m eager to see the film, as it’s one of my most shameful blind spots.

Thankfully, I’ve seen the good majority of his oeuvre—how such a major work as The Trouble With Harry has evaded me, your guess is as good as mine—so I figure why not share my top five favorite Hitchcock films. Check it out after the jump.

5. Sabotage (1936, U.K.) Although Dave Kehr pegged this thriller as “ripe for reevaluation as the masterpiece of Alfred Hitchcock’s British period,” I still don’t think it quite gets its due cred. In adapting Joseph Conrad’s novel, Hitchcock carved out some of his most long-standing stylistic trademarks, illustrating concepts and ideals he’d deploy for decades to come.

4. Lifeboat (1944, U.S.) Another adaptation, this time from a novella by John Steinbeck, about the survivors of a sunken luxury cruise ship who find themselves lost at sea aboard a tiny lifeboat. Chiefly a formal exercise, the film is a virtual clinic in cross-cutting and geometric mise-en-scene, as Hitchcock is able to create increasingly diverse images from seemingly limited resources. Remarkable.

3. Marnie (1964, U.S.) Thanks to a string of revival screenings that hit the city, I was able to revisit this film, which I’d enjoyed previously but had never held in high regard. Suffice to say that things changed—I now see Marnie as perhaps the last masterwork Hitchcock made, a beguiling and abstract piece of expressionistic filmmaking that’s filled with small but revelatory surprises, provided the viewer is willing to search for them.

2. Strangers on a Train (1950, U.S.) Hitchcock’s most thematically dense film, a virtual goulash of all his pet narrative devices, including trains, doubles/doppelgangers, the transference of guilt, and psychosexuality. It may also be the most thoroughly entertaining of all his films, rich with intrigue and unabashed bad taste.

1. Rear Window (1954, U.S.) Not merely my favorite Hitchcock film, but one of my very favorite films by any director, ever. A rich marrying of form and content—although, when it comes to Hitchcock, it’s extremely rare that the two are ever separate—that offers sagelike insights into the way people perceive images. Perhaps more than anything, I appreciate the film’s attention to detail. The meticulously crafted set, the ambient soundtrack, and the naturalistic cinematography continue to astound.

Honorable mentions: I know, I know—where’s Vertigo (1958)? Truth be told, it’s not one of my favorite Hitchcocks, although I enjoy and appreciate it—enough to give it an honorable mention. But not only do I personally prefer each of these films to it, I also genuinely consider other films from that period, such as North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960), and The Birds (1963), to be outright better. And full disclaimer: I held this opinion long before Sight and Sound dubbed it the greatest film ever made, so any accusations of contrariansim on my behalf are unfounded. Other favorites include: The Lady Vanishes (1938) and Spellbound (1945).

Drew Hunt writes film-related top five lists every Sunday.