Alfred Hitchcock: Breaking Down the Master’s Techniques

Alfred Hitchcock, filmmaking, directoral, master of suspense, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Sabotage, The Lady Vanishes, The Lodger, Vertigo, North by Northwest, The Birds, Psycho, Notorious, Rebecca, Marine, Alfred Hitchcock Presents,

Alfred Hitchcock: Breaking Down the Master’s Techniques

Alfred Hitchcock is the master of suspense. You’ll see what I mean. A hand draws back a shower curtain and a blade appears through the steam. A man descends a staircase, bearing a tray with a glass of milk that appears at once nurturing and suspicious. A young woman, alone in a museum, stares transfixed at a mysterious portrait.

“In feature films the director is God.” — Alfred Hitchcock

A man trips and falls, his vision deteriorating into a disorienting spiral. A woman boards herself up in a house, to escape the incisive beaks of the murderous creatures outside. A man and a woman press up against a windowsill, watching domestic scenes unfold as though on a television screen.

A woman enters a basement, spins around a rickety chair and finds herself face-to-face with a decomposing corpse. A brooding man wavers on the edge of a wild, windy cliff, before stepping back from the precipice. A prisoner raises his eyes to meet the camera directly, and breaks into a smile.

The Cinema of Alfred Hitchcock is such an integral part of the film canon that these descriptions instantly evoke iconic images. The blade in the steam has been reinterpreted so many times throughout the years that the image has taken on a life of its own, beyond the boundaries of the film Psycho.

Alfred Hitchcock’s classic titles feature in most critics’ Best Film shortlist. Indeed, since 2012, Vertigo has beaten Citizen Kane to the number one spot on the revered Sight and Sound critics’ film poll. Hitchcock’s position as film master is a well-deserved one. Yet in canonising – and parodying – his work, we often lose sight of how inventive it was. For the ‘Master of Suspense‘ taught us to question both the suspicious and the mundane. He taught us to see the danger not only in the blade through the steam, but in the empty night sky. He taught us to fear not only the suspicious stranger in the trench coat, but the husband with the glass of milk.

Related: Breaking Down David Fincher’s Directorial Techniques

Alfred Hitchcock is undeniably the world’s most famous film director. His name has become synonymous with the cinema, and each new generation takes the same pleasure in rediscovering his films, which are now treasures of our artistic heritage.

Alfred Hitchcock started out in the British silent cinema of the 1920s, which reached its peak with successful thrillers such as “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1934), “Sabotage” (1936) and “The Lady Vanishes” (1938). Recognized as a ‘young genius’, Alfred Hitchcock moved to Hollywood and set about reinventing cinematic tradition,combining the modern with the classic in films such as “Psycho” (1960), “North by Northwest” (1959) and “The Birds” (1963).

Hitchcock gave talented actors such as James Stewart and Cary Grant the chance to play enduring antiheroes and imprinted the public imagination with the myth of the ‘blonde‘, as embodied by Grace Kelly, Kim Novak and Tippi Hedren.

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Below I have complied over 9 hours of the master breaking down his own work as well as many scholars doing the same. As a HUGE Alfred Hitchcock fan I really enjoyed putting this post together. It’s truly like going to film school watching all of these remarkable videos. Enjoy!

96-Minute ‘Masterclass’ Interview with Alfred Hitchcock on Filmmaking 


Documentary on Alfred Hitchcock: ‘Living Famously’


Alfred Hitchcock – Masters of Cinema


Psycho – How Hitchcock Manipulates An Audience



Cinema: Alfred Hitchcock (1966)


Alfred Hitchcock – Reputations


How Alfred Hitchcock Blocks A Scene


Psycho Shower Scene – Art of The Scene

It’s a scene that pretty much defined “iconic” for decades to come. It’s the most memorable on-screen death in movie history, and it’s been constantly referenced, imitated, and parodied hundreds of times since. We’re talking today about THAT shower scene in ‘Psycho’.


Hitchcock Demonstrates Montage



Alfred Hitchcock Techniques Part 1

What is the big deal about Alfred Hitchcock? Why are his films considered to be so significant? In this documentary, Hitchcock scholar Jeffrey Michael Bays explores the camera and editing techniques that recur through Hitchcock’s films. With an emphasis on emotional faces and glances from his actors, he was able to paint his scenes in a way that drew his viewers into the minds of the characters.


Alfred Hitchcock Techniques Part 3



Hitch20 – Episode 1 “Revenge Unhinged”

Documentary web series exploring the film techniques of the twenty TV episodes Alfred Hitchcock directed.

Ep 1: During a time when TV was the new thing, iconic film director Alfred Hitchcock creates his own series. In “Revenge” he would experiment with camera styles and themes that he could later use in his full motion pictures.


Hitch20 – Episode 2 “Breakdown Broken Down”

Ep 2: Hitchcock experiments with a stream of consciousness narration, as a man faces paralysis. A look at the film techniques used in “Breakdown” of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.


Hitch20 – Episode 3 “The Pelham Compendium”

Ep 3: Through the cinematic interrelationship between actor and audience, Hitchcock builds anxiety in his rare attempt at science-fiction. A look at the film techniques used in “The Case of Mr. Pelham” of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.


Hitch20 – Episode 4 “Unpack Back for Christmas”

Ep 4: Suspense for Hitchcock is more than just delaying the inevitable; it’s a flirtatious dance of comedy, secrets, and thwarted plans. We examine “Back for Christmas” of Alfred Hitchcock Presents with a new model of suspense.


Hitch20 – Episode 5 “Wet Saturday Exposé”

Ep5: Hitchcock still has a strong influence over multiple generations of directors. Plus, how unpredictable characters can heighten tension for the audience, as in “Wet Saturday” of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.


Hitchcocked! – Pt. 1

Documentary about Alfred Hitchcock movies with Larry Cohen, Sean S. Cunningham, Joe Dante, Ernest Dickerson, F.X. Feeney, Carl Franklin, Keith Gordon, Stuart Gordon, George Kuchar, Drew McWeeny, Daniel Minahan, Victor Salva, David J. Skal, James Wan. Has clips from Rebecca, Saboteur, Shadow of a Doubt, Notorious, Rope, Rear Window, The Trouble With Harry, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Vertigo, Psycho, The Birds, Marnie, Frenzy.


Hitchcocked! – Pt. 2


Hitchcocked! – Pt. 3


Alfred Hitchcock interview – Hitchcock at the NFT (1969)

In his 70th year Alfred Hitchcock came to the National Film Theatre in London to talk to fellow-director Bryan Forbes , and to answer questions from an audience of film enthusiasts.


Alfred Hitchcock Tom Snyder Tomorrow Interview


Alfred Hitchcock interview on Fear, Death, Sex, Fairytales, & Film


If you liked Alfred Hitchcock: Breaking Down the Master’s Techniques, then you’ll love:
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  • Chris Muttaqi Donaher

    WOW! What an angle and topic! I haven’t seen it done like this before. You really have a great skill and instinct. I wish you all the best and look forward to reading more of your work!!!