Creator: Alfred Hitchcock

“People believe that the cinema has to, by necessity, be horizontal in its form. That is, go to a great many places and locales. That is not so. It should be possible to make an interesting film in a closet with the door shut. The idea is to reveal human nature and behavior with your camera moves. This presupposes, of course, an interesting story and characters worth revealing.”
Alfred Hitchcock

The acknowledged master of cinematic suspense, Alfred Joseph Hitchcock (August 13, 1899 – April 29, 1980) is one of the most famous directors of all time, if not the most famous. Most people have probably seen at least one of his films at some time or another.

He also produced and hosted the television anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents from 1955 to 1965, although he actually only directed a handful of the show's episodes. Many of his films are adaptations of novels or short stories.

Although "Hitch" is now considered one of the greatest directors of all time, for much of his life he was regarded as a mere entertainer rather than a serious artist. The French New Wave critics, especially François Truffaut, played a major role in correcting this by propounding the "auteur theory", which holds up the director (rather than the producer, screenwriter, actors, etc.) as the key artist on a film. Hitchcock was regarded as the major exemplar as this.

Most people consider either Vertigo or Psycho to be his Magnum Opus, although Hitchcock himself regarded Shadow of a Doubt as his personal favorite. North By Northwest, Rear Window, and The Birds are also frequently cited as favorites among fans. Rear Window in particular is often used as a plot template in other media.

The Hitchcock style went on to typify a certain kind of thriller, one which was copied by others over time. The Stanley Donen-directed Charade, for instance, was referred to by one reviewer as "the best Hitchcock film that Hitchcock never made". Also, the Italian Giallo film movement essentially stemmed from the Hickcockian style. Hitchcock was also known for his frequent use of the 'MacGuffin' (a term he popularized) in his films.

To see a list of all of his movies, click here.

Hitchcock was knighted a brief four months prior to his death. He's also somewhat well known for making the shortest-ever acceptance speech at the Academy Awards (on receiving the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1968): "Thank you very much, indeed."

Works featuring fictional portrayals of Alfred Hitchcock

Tropes in the films of Alfred Hitchcock:

  • Absurd Phobia: According to interviews, he was afraid of eggs.
    "I’m frightened of eggs, worse than frightened, they revolt me. That white round thing without any holes [...] have you ever seen anything more revolting than an egg yolk breaking and spilling its yellow liquid? Blood is jolly, red. But egg yolk is yellow, revolting. I've never tasted it."
  • Action Survivor: There is a Hitchcockian pattern of an ordinary man or woman, through one bad turn, falling into extraordinary circumstances and fighting his or her way out: Shadow of a Doubt, Strangers on a Train, The Wrong Man, Vertigo, North By Northwest, The Man Who Knew Too Much.
  • All There in the Manual: The book-length interviews Francois Truffaut did with Hitchcock, generally known as Hitchcock/Truffaut was the first in-depth study on a film-maker pertaining to craft and technique and style. Several critics and film-makers like Steven Soderbergh consider it among the greatest books on films. It remains the starting point for all kinds of Hitchcock information, though later generations have tried to correct some of Hitchcock's tendencies for obfuscation.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Numerous villains, henchmen, thugs, goons and mooks in his films fall into this category, bearing in mind that these films were made in a different era of Hollywood and American culture. Cases in point: Rope, North By Northwest, Strangers on a Train.
  • Auteur License: Hitchcock was one of the few who achieved this in The Golden Age of Hollywood, though he had to struggle for it in his early years. Even in England, The Lodger had its ending change because of its dark story. In America, Suspicion where he hoped to cast Cary Grant in an unconventional role resulted in Executive Meddling. From Notorious onwards, Hitchcock served as his own producer even if he never actually took credit as producer, always favoring Directed by Alfred Hitchcock as his mantle.
  • Author Appeal: Most female main characters will be blondes, though this feature only comes in his 50s-60s films, where earlier actresses like Joan Fontaine, Teresa Wright, Ingrid Bergman, Sylvia Sidney tending to be Brainy Brunette. Hitchcock himself pointed out that his films were subversions and critique of the Dumb Blonde stereotype popular in the 50s, actresses like Grace Kelly, Eva Marie Saint, Janet Leigh and Tippi Hedren had vastly more complex motivations and Hidden Depths than other films of that time.
  • Black Comedy: Lots of darkly comic moments among the blood. Hitchcock himself considered Psycho a comedy.
  • Claustrophobia: Lifeboat, Rope.
  • Creator Cameo: He appears in every film in a nonspeaking role. This habit became so famous that he confined his appearances to the first fifteen minutes of his films so that audiences would not be distracted watching for him among the extras. In The Wrong Man, he appears personally in silhouette and introduces the film, apparently because it was based on a true story. In Lifeboat, since it's set entirely within the titular lifeboat, he appears in a weight-loss advert in a newspaper - he had recently lost a substantial amount of weight and was the model for both the before and after shots. In Family Plot, his last film, he isn't (technically) on screen at all - only his silhouette appears, cast on frosted glass, in a fashion reminiscent of the opening of Presents.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca, the Leopold and Loeb stand-ins in Rope, Bruno in Strangers on a Train, and Martin Landau's character in North By Northwest.
  • Dramatic Irony: He was the master of "suspense", this was his chief weapon in capturing and keeping the attention of the audience. Almost all of his films contain a situation where the viewer knows more than (some of) the characters, or can see something or someone coming that a character is unaware of. He also stated in interviews that he generally did not like "plot twists" (Psycho being one of the exceptions) and he regretted some of the gimmicks like the "lying flashback" in Stage Fright'' which he felt rested on fooling and deceiving the audience, and as such tended to get dated very fast
    • Rope for example is real time evening of an entire dinner party, held in the same room where there is a dead body in a cupboard. The guests are completely oblivious. Only the viewers and the two men who murdered him (their hosts) know it, which makes the seemingly normal conversation that takes place meaningful for us and them.
    • Hitchcock explained this trope during an filmed interview by describing a situation where he and the interviewer are talking about baseball while the audience can see that there is a bomb hidden beneath the table.
  • Enforced Method Acting: Ironic because Hitchcock actually disliked Method Acting or what was then known as Method Acting. He made more than fifty films over several decades, and generally did not make this a practice but some examples stand out.
    • In the attic scene in The Birds, Hitchcock had crew guys hurling real gulls and crows at Tippi Hedren...for five straight days of shooting. As a result, she was plagued by dreams of flapping wings. The birds themselves had been fed whiskey to make them more aggressive. Needless to say, this was long before the No Animals Were Harmed certificates.
    • The story of Rebecca called for Joan Fontaine to be nervous around the other actors, so Hitchcock told her that no one else on set liked her. Laurence Olivier did hate her, repeatedly telling Hitch, "She can't act, old boy!". This was more because of Joan Fontaine's inexperience at the time than anything else. For Suspicion, for which she won an Oscar for Best Actress, he relied on her more. Fontaine enjoyed working with Hitchcock on the whole.
    • For Vertigo, Kim Novak was not his first choice, and most of the costumes were selected for Vera Miles(she appeared in The Wrong Man and played Marion Crane's sister later in Psycho). So Kim Novak's stiffness and discomfort as Madeleine emphasized by costumes for another actress actually helped her in that role.
    • Hitchcock was a notorious practical joker and was never tired of making jokes and shocking his cast and crew. When filming The 39 Steps he needed a shocked reaction from Madeline Carroll. He achieved this by pretending to pull his cock out.
  • Freudian Excuse: Hitchcock was heavily influenced by Freud and probably defined a lot of popular conceptions about it. His films abound in visual gags and cues that are incredible, vulgar, Freudian jokes. That said, his genuine interest in psychoanalysis was sparked by his conversations with Joseph Stefano, the screenwriter of Psycho, who had undergone analysis and who later collaborated on Marnie one of the most sophisticated and interesting explorations of psychoanalysis in film history and truer to the source than most movies.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Examples are too numerous to list.
  • Info Dump: Some of his American films, since it still labored under The Hays Code was filled with heavy exposition scenes. Most famously, the psychologist's monologue at the end of Psycho.
  • MacGuffin: He was the Trope Namer and Trope Codifier. According to him, the screenwriter Angus MacPhail coined the term. He said in interviews that a MacGuffin was any object of interest all parties wanted but are actually not all that important to the characters. Some examples are The 39 Steps, Psycho (the money stolen from the office which becomes a nonissue midway into the film) and The Man Who Knew Too Much.
    • North By Northwest was regarded by Hitchcock as the ultimate MacGuffin. The hero is accused to be a spy by the villains but it turns out that not only is the hero not the spy but the spy does not exist but is in fact the product of a government disinformation campaign, and that the entire plot is fought for a pile of nothing.note 
  • Missing Episode:
    • Hitchcock's first film, a 1923 release called The White Shadow, was thought lost for more than 80 years—until its first three reels were found as part of a private collection in New Zealand.
    • 1927's The Mountain Eagle is not known to survive in any form, despite exhaustive searches of film archives. Check your attic. In his interviews with Truffaut, Hitchcock was dismissive of the film, insisting that it was not a very good film and that the succeeding film, The Lodger was his first major work.
  • My Beloved Smother: A common theme among his bad guys (and sometimes his heroes as well) is highly domineering mothers. Taken up to eleven in Psycho which defined this trope for all time.
  • The Oner: Notorious, Rope, Young And Innocent.
  • The Peeping Tom: The Lodger, Notorious, Rear Window, Vertigo, Psycho.
  • Pigeonholed Director: Perhaps the most famous tone, even today he is associated with the suspense thriller genre and all its tropes. This was a problem on some of the few films which departed on the formula. Under Capricorn was a 19th Century romance set in Australia (albeit filled with dark passion and emotional trauma), starring Ingrid Bergman, The Wrong Man was a Ripped from the Headlines story about a real case and was more a working class drama, while The Trouble With Harry was a genuine comedy (with some macabre and grotesque touches). All these films were box-office failures.
    "I'm a typed director. If I made Cinderella, the audience would immediately be looking for a body in the coach."
  • Police Are Useless: A traumatic childhood incident when his father used the local police to teach him a lesson worthy of J. Walter Wetherman caused him to enact revenge in all his films. Though Dial M for Murder and Frenzy are notable exceptions.
  • Production Posse: Amassed a sizable one over his long career.
    • His wife Alma Reville served as script supervisor on his first film and played a key role in all his films,
    • Joan Harrison was another important producer and was in charge of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
    • Robert Boyle was his preferred Production Designer
    • Robert Burks was his most common cinematographer (certainly in the 1950s)
    • George Tomassini was his editor until he died after Marnie
    • Most famously Bernard Herrmann and Saul Bass.
    • Actors to appear frequently in his films include James Stewart, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly and several other actors of course.
    • Several of the actors had Undying Loyalty to Hitchcock. A prime example of this is actor Norman Lloyd, who later went on to play Dr. Daniel Auschlander on St. Elsewhere and Dr. Isaac Mentnor on Seven Days, who worked for Hitchcock as an associate producer and director on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. At the time, Hitchcock was the only person willing to give him any type of gainful employment. Other than that, he had been blacklisted in the entertainment industry for refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee and identify suspected communists and as a result, had been branded as a communist himself.
    • Screenwriter Angus Mac Phail (who he credited for coining the McGuffin) had trouble with alcoholism and Hitchcock arranged him to work on The Wrong Man to help his friend out.
  • Scenery Porn:
  • Signature Style: No film director has a more recognizable and identifiable style than Hitchcock. His films were so unique that it was said you could tell it even if you missed the credits and promos.
  • Silence Is Golden: Even movies Hitchcock directed after the silent era occasionally manage to create drama without dialogue. Hitchcock was a painter and was very interested in visuals, almost to the point of expressing disdain for acting and dialogue.
  • That's What She Said: Yes, even Hitch wasn't above them. Possibly has the first FILMED instance of a "That's What She Said" joke.
  • Trope Namer: MacGuffin (via one of his screenwriters) and helped popularize "Fridge Logic" when describing a scene in Vertigo. note 
  • Vertigo Effect: He basically invented the Tracking Zoom technique.
  • Wrongly Accused: The Wrong Man. Also The Lodger, The 39 Steps, Strangers on a Train, I Confess, Dial M for Murder, To Catch a Thief, North By Northwest, and Frenzy. Subverted in Stage Fright and averted in Shadow of a Doubt.