In the world of black and white classic thriller movies, one man towered above all his contemporaries, and that man was Alfred Hitchcock. This portly bald Englishman single-handedly defined virtually all the techniques for building suspense that are still used today.
He had a number of famous “trademarks”; his cameo appearance in each movie – sinister camera angles – zooming in and focussing on an important or suspicious object – and the use of the “MacGuffin” (which is an object that appears to drive the plot, but ultimately proves unimportant).
Hitchcock directed more than fifty feature films in a career spanning six decades. B&wm’s favourites of his black and white films are:
Strangers on a Train
A stranger on a train comes up with the perfect murder plan. What could possibly go wrong?
Cary Grant recruits Ingrid Bergman to go undercover and investigate a suspected Nazi (Claude Raines) who is up to no good.
Joan Fontaine marries Laurence Olivier and becomes the second Mrs de Winter. However, a sinister and hostile servant, and the memory of the first Mrs de Winter who drowned, threaten to drive them apart.
Janet Leigh embezzles money from her employer, and goes on the run. She stops at the Bates Motel, run by a young man and his domineering mother – and mother isn’t pleased!
There were other great thriller movies besides Hitchcock’s. Some are listed on this site under War Movies, or Film Noir, but we also want to tell you about the following:
The Spiral Staircase
A serial killer stalks his beautiful young victim in a spooky old gothic mansion.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce star as Holmes and Watson, engaged in a battle of wits with their nemesis Professor Moriarty.
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Bette Davis stars as the titular menopausal monster who torments and bullies her invalid sister, played by Joan Crawford.
Gregory Peck plays the family man menaced by an ex-convict (Robert Mitchum) who blames him for his incarceration.
Gary Cooper’s classic western, but High Noon is so tense and suspenseful that it feels more like a thriller.