Alfred Hitchcock may be the most famous director in cinema history. And who knew — he also apparently has his very own holiday, Alfred Hitchcock Day, on March 12. While the choice of the date is cloaked in mystery — it is neither the date of his birth nor his death — it's still a fine time to pay tribute to the Master of Suspense.
And what better way to do so than to screen some of his finest films? We pored through the pioneering legend's vast filmography, which comprises more than 50 movies spanning more than five decades, and ranked his Top 10 classics. The list isn't just a primer on an unparalleled body of work that influences Hollywood to this day, it also stands as a master class in how to artfully turn thrills, chills, mischief and murder (not to mention a certain shower scene) into fiendishly giddy entertainment. See if your favorites line up with ours, and let us know in the comments, below.
1. Psycho (1960)
If you want to pinpoint it, this is where the modern horror movie begins. Anthony Perkins is creepy perfection as the ultimate mama's boy, Norman Bates — the seemingly mild-mannered proprietor of a fading motel where Janet Leigh's Marion Crane tragically decides to spend the night while on the run with a suitcase full of cash that she stole from the bank where she works. The infamous shower scene is a masterpiece of lurking suspense, primal terror and masterful quick-cut editing, ending with a close-up of a bloody shower drain that matches the lifeless victim's pupil. Sixty-year-old spoiler alert: By killing off the movie's heroine before the picture's halfway mark, Hitchcock let the audience know that from here on out, the old rules of cinema were as dead as Crane herself.
DON'T MISS THIS: Test your Hitchcock trivia IQ with our critics in our quiz, here: How Well Do You Know Psycho?
2. Vertigo (1958)
More than six decades after it was released, Vertigo still packs a kinky, transgressive punch. Often outpolling Citizen Kane as the greatest Hollywood movie ever made, this perverse, eye-candy melodrama stars Jimmy Stewart as a phobic San Francisco police detective who falls for a friend's wife, torments himself with guilt when she dies, and then becomes obsessed with a woman who looks just like her (Kim Novak). Some have argued that Vertigo is the closest Hitchcock ever came to putting his own erotic and psychological neuroses on film, but either way, it's a hell of a thriller that's both twisted and haunting. Bernard Herrmann's swooning score is the icing on the cake.
3. Strangers on a Train (1951)
A chatty sociopath in sheep's clothing (Robert Walker) shares a train compartment with a famous tennis player (Farley Granger), and as they begin to talk, he becomes convinced that they've made a vague pact to swap murders ("Crisscross"). He'll kill Granger's estranged wife if Granger will kill his domineering father. Surely, he must be joking, right? But when Granger's wife turns up dead, it's clear that he's now up to his neck in trouble. Thanks to Walker's deliciously unhinged performance, Strangers on a Train is one of Hitchcock's sickest sick jokes. The climax on a whirling carousel is worth the price of a rental alone.