Of all the Alfred Hitchcock films, 1958’s Vertigo is often considered his greatest achievement.
"How many Alfred Hitchcock films have you seen?" If you, friends, or family are into cinema, then this is very likely a question you have been asked, or indeed, asked others. He has directed so many classic and iconic films, having gone on to become one of the most influential directors in cinema history. Often dubbed "the master of suspense", the filmmaker spent much of his life sculpting the perfect thrillers, but it’s actually a horror film which he is most famously known for. 1960’s Psycho is regularly regarded as one of the greatest efforts in horror history, but two years before that, he made Vertigo .
It was actually unavailable for decades, long considered one of the five lost Hitchcock films which cinephiles often referred to; its unfortunate availability was due to rights. However, since it resurfaced, it has gradually grown to become his most highly regarded piece of work. Vertigo currently sits atop BFI’s top 50 greatest films of all time list, relieving Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane of its lengthy reign. Over the last few decades, it has appeared on many "all time" lists, firmly cemented as the director’s crowning masterpiece. Is it? Of course, it’s all opinion. After all, it depends on how one determines "greatness". If we were to distinguish Hitchcock’s most historically significant piece of work, then it’s likely that Psycho would be put forth in every argument. However, he really has made so many films; he’s one of the great prolific directors. It does come down to personal choice, but as many of these lists are influenced by voters, it’s clear that Vertigo has become the popular favourite.
The film stars James Stewart as Scottie, an agoraphobic private detective hired to follow an old friend’s wife. As the plot thickens, his relationship with her becomes far more complicated. It’s best not to dig into the narrative details too much, as Vertigo prides itself on a wealth of shocking reveals. It’s best to go in clueless and leave stunned, as this tends to be the case for almost all first-time viewers who subsequently worship it. Visually it’s his most intriguing, narratively it’s his most engaging and on the whole it truly lingers like no other. It really is a masterpiece, and personally, it does stand out as his greatest achievement. On the other hand, other popular choices which many offer are 1954’s Rear Window , 1959’s North by Northwest and the aforementioned Psycho . These are all incredible pieces in their own right, but if we’re to offer our own personal choices, then there are two clear contenders.
Vertigo is the grandest, but both 1948’s Rope and 1954’s Dial M for Murder offer audiences Hitchcock at his most simplistic best. These films don’t feature any particularly innovative spectacle, but they showcase the master of suspense at his most consistently suspenseful. With a strict emphasis on dialogue driven, simmering tension, these two efforts are quintessential and absolutely deserve to be considered amongst his most prized works. Alfred Hitchcock really did make a lot of great films; we’ll never stop measuring.
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