The career of director Alfred Hitchcock spans more than five decades. As a director his brilliance and insight changed the way that films, especially horror films, were made forever. He was a famous eccentric and was as well known for his scandals as for his films. But he created some of the most notable classic films in history. Some of his films are still just as popular today, or even more popular today, than they were when they were first made. Film classes study his works and fans share them with family and friends all the time as examples of the best kind of filmmaking. When the American Film Institute compiled their list of the 100 best films of all time it’s not a surprise that Alfred Hitchcock’s films were included on the list. In fact, four of Hitchcock’s films were included in the AFI’s Top 100 Films of All Time list. Psycho, North by Northwest, Vertigo, and Rear Window were all selected by the AFI as some of the best films of all time. Hitchcock’s films also featured prominently on the AFI’s list of the Top 100 Thrillers of all time.
In today’s cinema world there are very few directors that have been able to create the kind of legacy that Hitchcock did. He started working on films in the early 1900s, and was directing films by the 1920s. He directed the infamous British silent film classic “The Lodger” starring Ivor Novello. The film was considered a flop at the time but later it was hailed as one of the best example of cinema from that era. It was also one of the earliest films in what is now the horror genre, since it was about a serial killer in London. The Birds was his last real success before he quit directing. In total he made more than 50 films during his many decades as a director and more than half of them are considered to be iconic films. Many of the films that people still watch today were made in the 1950s. Even though Psycho, which was made in 1960, is credited as his most successful film the films that he made during the 1950s are the most notable. Some of the classic films that he directed during the 50s are: Dial M for Murder, Vertigo, Strangers on a Train, North by Northwest, Rear Window, and The Man Who Knew Too Much.
Alfred Hitchcock is also considered to be one of the premier horror movie directors in film history. The horror genre still relies on the use of suspense that he mastered to scare people without using a lot of special effects or gore. The famous shower scene in Pyscho contained violence that at the time was shocking to audiences because most of the thrills in movies at that time came from the implication of violence or harm. Nothing was seen on the screen, it was all left to the imagination of the audience members. That technique was used again most successfully by the creators of modern class horror film Paranormal Activity. The original Paranormal Activity film was made for around $30,000 and used suspense and imagination to scare audiences. The film grosses billions of dollars and became an instant classic thanks in part to the storytelling techniques created by the master of horror, Alfred Hitchcock.
For ten years, from 1955 to 1965, Alfred Hitchcock also had a TV show called Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Just like his many films the TV show is considered to be one of the finest TV shows ever made and has received a lot of accolades and awards over the years. Originally the show was just 25 minutes long but as TV changed and programs became longer the show was expanded to 50 minutes. Hitchcock himself directed many of the episodes. The stories were dramas, thrillers and short horror stories that were similar in tone to his films. The opening sequence of the show is something that many people who grew up in that era still recognize. It features a silhouette of a very rotund Hitchcock overlaid with the March of the Marionettes playing in the background. Many people associate that music with Alfred Hitchcock to this day.
Because of the enduring impact that Hitchcock had on film and TV it would be impossible to ignore his contributions to media. His films have stood the test of time and when audiences watch them today the films are just as thrilling. His keen insight into human psychology draws in audiences with dramatic stories and flawed but easily recognizable characters. Exploring the psychology of criminal minds, as he did in his many films, is still something that is popular today. Most of the top shows on TV are crime dramas that have a psychological element like CSI and Criminal Minds.
Psycho, probably his most successful film, was recently given a new boost of interest by the A&E show Bates Motel. Bates Motel, starring Vera Farmiga as Norman Bates’ mother, is a prequel to the events of Psycho. It tells the story of Norman’s childhood and teenage years, giving fans some insight into how Norman became the disturbed killer that was presented in Psycho.
There is no way to measure the true impact that Alfred Hitchcock had on film and television. His influence can be seen in dozens of films and TV shows. He also influenced some of the most famous directors and writers who have created iconic films that audiences love. Today audiences still celebrate the work of Hitchcock throughout the year with film festivals and classes on his work. There is even a National Alfred Hitchcock day on March 12th, which is a great opportunity for fans of all ages to celebrate the work of a true film genius.
This year gather your friends for Alfred Hitchcock day and plan your own film festival. Watch some of the films that he created that occupy the AFI’s Top 100 list and see how many modern films you can think of that use the same techniques pioneered by Hitchcock.