12 Underrated Alfred Hitchcock Movies Worth Watching

Alfred Hitchcock is one of the most important and influential directors in cinema history, and anyone aspiring to become a filmmaker should do themselves a favor and study his body of work. This one man pioneered numerous filmmaking techniques still used today, shot some of the industry's most famous scenes, elevated the thriller genre to new heights, and achieved so much more than can be crammed into this paragraph. In fact, there's an argument to be made that Hitchcock's genius is so great that simply watching his movies is a fine substitute for enrolling in an expensive film school.

With a career dating all the way back to 1925's "The Pleasure Garden" (although he did shoot other films before it, one of them is lost and the other he only directed half of), it's no wonder why Hitchcock has so many classic films to his credit. "Psycho," "Vertigo," "North by Northwest," "The Birds," "Rear Window" –- it's hard to believe that all of these iconic, diverse films and others came from the same mind. However, while those titles should be on the must-see list of any film lover, Hitchcock also made many other pictures that have largely flown under the radar. If you're interested in checking out Hitchcock's more underrated films, here are 12 to get you started.

Family Plot (1976)

Julia Rainbird is a wealthy old woman who feels guilty about pressuring her recently-deceased sister into giving her illegitimate son, Edward Shoebridge, up for adoption to avoid drawing negative attention to the family. Rainbird hires her psychic Blanche Tyler (who's actually a con artist) to track down Shoebridge and make him the heir to her vast fortune. Tyler and her con artist boyfriend George Lumley search for the missing nephew, eyeing the $10,000 reward Rainbird has in store for them. However, it turns out that Shoebridge is all grown up, and is quite the criminal himself. When he discovers that Tyler and Lumley are on his trail, he decides to take them out ... permanently.

Most of Hitchcock's films tend to lean more toward the serious and intense, but he possessed a wicked sense of humor, which is especially evident in "Family Plot." The movie has a complex plot, but Hitch handles the narrative twists and turns masterfully, juggling the many pieces without letting any of them fall. Barbara Harris and Bruce Dern are delightful as the criminal couple Blanche Tyler and George Lumley, respectively, while William Devane plays a surprisingly chilling Edward Shoebridge. This was Hitchcock's final film, and while it doesn't quite rank among his other career highs, the blend of dark comedy and intense crime thriller is the perfect way to cap off his impressive film career.

Strangers on a Train (1951)

Bruno Antony is wealthy but psychotic and harbors a deep hatred of his father. Guy Haines is an up-and-coming tennis player who wants to marry Anne Morton but is stuck in a marriage with his unfaithful wife Miriam. One day, Bruno and Guy meet on a train and engage in a friendly conversation that soon leads into a devious plan that Bruno has cooked up: the two men murder the other's object of their disdain to reduce the possibility of them getting caught. Guy laughs it off, but Bruno interprets the reaction as an agreement to the deal. He not only murders Miriam but expects Guy to uphold his end of the deal.

"Strangers on a Train" falls into a category of film that Hitchcock frequented quite a bit, that of "innocent man gets caught up in a criminal scheme and must find a way out of it." It's seen in both versions of "The Man Who Knew Too Much," "North By Northwest," and the aptly titled "The Wrong Man," and is put to great effect here. Robert Walker is a standout as Bruno Antony, somehow managing to be both charming and demented; his is not the stereotypical bloodthirsty murderer, but a killer who's just as charismatic as he is malevolently calculating. Also, Hitchcock pulls off the near-impossible by making Miriam's murder sequence a thing of beauty.

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

Bob and Jill Lawrence are on vacation with their young daughter Betty in Switzerland when a man they only recently met, Louis Bernard, is mysteriously shot and killed. Just before he dies, he gives the married couple a piece of vitally important information: a clandestine group intends to assassinate a European head of state soon. The leader of the group, Abbott, discovers that the couple knows about their plan, and kidnaps Betty to keep them quiet. Bob then sets out to recover his daughter while Jill heads to a concert at the Royal Albert Hall, where the assassination is set to take place, to save the life of the European consul.

Hitchcock would remake this film more than 20 years later (more on that in a moment), but this version is still more than just a curiosity in his canon. Some parts of the story don't make a lot of sense, and there are more than a few leaps in logic, but Hitchcock keeps the film moving at a brisk pace and delivers several sequences that are bound to put even modern audiences on the edge of their seats. One such standout sequence unfolds at the Royal Albert Hall, wherein Jill takes advantage of a momentary pause in the performance to let out a fateful scream. As a bonus, Peter Lorre is fabulous as the wonderfully sadistic Abbott.

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

Ben and Jo McKenna are on a trip with their young son Hank in French Morocco when they befriend the charming yet mysterious Louis Bernard. But before the McKennas can figure out what Louis' deal is, he's suddenly killed, and with his dying breath tells Ben about a plot to assassinate an important European politician in London. Hank is then abducted by the group, who plans to carry out the high-profile killing to keep the couple quiet. Aware that telling the authorities what they know will endanger their son, Ben and Jo set out to both retrieve Hank and prevent the assassination from taking place.

Yes, much of the plot was retained for this remake, but what's changed -– I'd even go so far as to say improved -– is Hitchcock's directorial style. While the original version of "The Man Who Knew Too Much" saw the director wring a fair amount of suspense from several key sequences, in this version rarely a minute goes by without a threat of something ominous about to happen. His recreation of the Royal Albert Hall scene is even more tense and climactic; one thing that Hitchcock was always great at was providing a sense of relief commensurate with the anxiety that preceded it. James Stewart and Doris Day are endlessly watchable as the McKennas, being both sympathetic and larger than life.

Rope (1948)

"Rope" opens with Brandon Shaw and Phillip Morgan murdering their classmate David Kentley as part of a bizarre intellectual experiment meant to demonstrate their perceived superiority over him. Of course, it's not enough for them to merely kill David. As part of their cerebral "exercise," they hide his body in a large wooden chest, which they then use to serve food on top of at a dinner party they're about to host. While Brandon keeps his cool throughout the engagement, Phillip gradually descends into panic, coming closer and closer to spilling his guts as he believes that the guests are beginning to suspect their crime.

Another of Hitchcock's many great attributes as a director was that he was always willing to try new filmmaking techniques, and even the worst of his films are marked by flashes of daring experimentation. "Rope" is one of his better experiments, wherein he makes a film that takes place in real time and in one large (mostly) unbroken take. While the film doesn't quite pull off the intended effect, as editing is such an essential part of a finished movie, it's still entertaining as hell seeing Hitchcock attempt to disguise the cuts with clever camera movements and meticulously planned actor choreography. It's a basic plot, yet Hitchcock still squeezes our considerable suspense whenever a dinner guest appears close to opening the wooden chest/David's casket.

The Trouble with Harry (1955)

It's a beautiful day in the small idyllic New England town of Highwater, Vermont. That is until the corpse of Harry Worp (Philip Truex) shows up just outside of town. With no suspect in sight, several wacky Highwater citizens start to think that they're the one responsible: Captain Wiles (Edmund Gwynn) assumes a stray bullet from his rifle is what did it; Jennifer Rogers (Shirley MacLaine) insists her hitting him in the head with a milk bottle killed him; while Miss Gravely (Mildred Natwick) is sure that she did the deed when she struck him with her boot after he surprised her in the woods. And so they, along with the eager and inquisitive artist Sam Marlowe (John Forsythe), hide Harry's body in different places around town to avoid being caught by Deputy Sheriff Calvin Wiggs (Royal Dano).

"The Trouble with Harry" is one of Hitchcock's few comedies, and it's a testament to just how talented a director he was that he was able to make death fun. You see, the joke of the movie is that no one in Highwater seems terribly bothered by the fact that a man they know inexplicably turned up dead. They all treat the presence of Harry's corpse as little more than a minor inconvenience. It reaches an almost absurdist level when a romance even blossoms between Rogers and Marlowe, and yet Hitchcock is able to stick the landing and make us accept the zaniness of the situation.

Saboteur (1942)

Barry Kane is an aircraft worker who becomes suspected of causing a major fire at his job that results in the death of another employee. Barry's innocent, of course, but he thinks the person who really did it is someone named Fry. Unfortunately, when he tells the authorities this, they can't find anyone by that name who works there, which only makes him all the more guilty in the eyes of investigators. Barry then goes on the lam to find the mysterious Fry and prove his own innocence. He soon learns that Fry is connected with a group of criminals that's plotting an imminent and major act of sabotage.

This is one of Hitchcock's earliest "innocent man gets caught up in a criminal scheme and must find a way out of it" movies. There are some rough edges in his directing style, and the plot has its share of holes. However, Hitchcock moves things along at a brisk pace in a fairly enthralling cross-country chase flick. The highlights are the action scenes set at famous American landmarks, including Boulder Dam and Radio City Music Hall, followed by a thrilling climax at the Statue of Liberty.

Torn Curtain (1965)

"Torn Curtain" follows U.S. physicist and rocket scientist Michael Armstrong, who seemingly defects to East Berlin during the tensions of the Cold War, much to his fiancée Sarah Sherman's shock. Unbeknownst to her, however, this is all part of a bigger mosaic that involves Michael ingratiating himself with the East German scientific community so that he can get close to prominent scientist Gustav Lindt, who holds key information about what the Soviet Union is working on. But as Michael comes closer to being caught before he can convince Lindt to share his anti-missile equations, Sarah is torn between defecting to East Berlin to stay with her fiancée or remaining loyal to America.

With spy thrillers becoming all the rage in the 1960s, it was only a matter of time before Hitchcock put his own spin on the genre. Paul Newman is equal parts dashing and intelligent as Armstrong, giving us a brainier version of the James Bond hero that was so popular in that era, and Julie Andrews is stellar as the hapless Sherman, representing the audience's POV as she's whisked from her normal life into one of double-crossing and Cold War tensions. "Torn Curtain" lags a bit during an extended middle sequence set on a farm in the countryside, but other than that the film grows delightfully tense when the net begins to close in on the protagonists.

Sabotage (1936)

"Sabotage" opens with someone pouring sand into a generator, causing a blackout in London. The man responsible is Karl Verloc, who owns a movie theater with his wife, Mrs. Verloc, and is in cahoots with a cadre of European terrorists. However, because the blackout didn't last very long and was even ridiculed by the public, Karl and his colleagues decide to make a bigger statement by placing a bomb in Piccadilly Circus. Scotland Yard is hot on Karl's trail, and orders Detective Sergeant Ted Spencer to befriend him to prove his guilt. Ted ingratiates himself with Mrs. Verloc and, after arriving at the conclusion that she's in the shadows about what her husband is up to, develops a romantic attraction to her.

One of the more frustrating elements of this film is that the terrorists' motives are never made clear, leaving the audience in the dark about why they were wreaking so much havoc in London. Still, plot issues aside, "Sabotage" is further proof of why Hitchcock was, is, and will forever be regarded as the Master of Suspense. In the film's most brilliantly tense sequence, Karl sends his wife's younger brother Stevie on an errand to deliver a package he claims is filled with projector parts. Unbeknownst to him but known to us, the package actually contains a bomb. Thus, every delay in his trip makes it all the more likely that the bomb will detonate before it reaches its destination.

Topaz (1969)

The plot kicks off when former Soviet Union intelligence Boris Kusenov renounces his allegiance to Russia and pledges his loyalty (somewhat) to America, along with his family. While reluctant to share too many Soviet secrets, he does cough up some info on the budding relationship between Russia and Cuba. Knowing that involving U.S. with Cuba is a bad move because of their tense rivalry, CIA agent Mike Nordstrom sends his friend and French intelligence officer André Devereaux to Cuba to acquire proof of what the Soviets are doing in Cuba. However, complications arise when André reconnects with his mistress, Juanita de Cordoba, who's affiliated with an underground resistance organization. Meanwhile, the French government is wondering what André is doing in Cuba.

It seems Hitchcock was eager to return to the world of Cold War espionage, this time in the form of the surprisingly topical (for its time, at least) "Topaz." The film features a pretty complex storyline that gets a bit convoluted at times and also dilutes the impact of the climax a bit. Still, there are plenty of brilliant Hitchcockian touches that proved that he was still exploring new territory even at this advanced stage of his career. For example, there are few death scenes in cinema history as beautifully rendered as when the villainous Rico Parra murders Juanita de Cordoba, with her flowing purple dress serving as a poetic substitute for blood.

The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)

A serial killer is on the loose in London, and the authorities are on the hunt for the culprit but so far have no clues. The killer, nicknamed the Avenger by the public, has a penchant for murdering young blonde women. A blonde model named Daisy Bunting develops an attraction to an alluring but mysterious man who recently moved into her family's home, much to the frustration of her current boyfriend, police officer Joe. The murders continue and seem to be moving closer to the area where the Buntings live. Joe begins to suspect that this new lodger is the Avenger, but Daisy's relationship with him only continues to deepen.

"The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog" is one of Hitchcock's earliest films, having been made before the advent of sound in movies. Even at this formative stage in his career, though, one can see several of the trademarks that would later characterize him as the Master of Suspense. Hitchcock's camerawork is amazingly expressive and gives us so much narrative detail without the use of sound or excessive title cards to tell us what's happening. While tame by today's standards, it nonetheless features an aura of forbidden sex and violence the director would explore further under more relaxed censorship codes. Even in the 1920s, Hitch pushed the boundaries of what could be shown on film.

Spellbound (1945)

Dr. Murchison, freshly retired from his position as the director of a Vermont mental hospital, is replaced by the distinguished Dr. Anthony Edwardes. Dr. Constance Petersen, a psychoanalyst at the hospital, is initially wary of Anthony because he's so young, but they become close and even engage in a romantic relationship. However, Constance notices several details about Anthony that don't make sense, prompting him to confess that he is an imposter and that he killed the real Dr. Anthony Edwardes and took his place. Because he suffers from amnesia, Constance believes that he's innocent, and is determined to help him uncover his past and determine his true identity.

Imposters is another trope that shows up quite a bit (for example in "Foreign Correspondent," "To Catch a Thief," and "Marnie") in Hitchcock's films, but here the director also manages to include a dramatic love story. Hollywood Golden Age stars Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck are dazzling as Dr. Petersen and Dr. Edwardes, respectively, delivering performances that blend elegance and obsession. Miklós Rózsa's score perfectly conveys the film's mix of romance and dread, and even Salvador Dalí lends his eccentric imagination to the proceedings with a wonderfully surrealistic dream sequence. The psychoanalysis elements may not have aged very well, but Hitchcock's mastery of tone and atmosphere will never grow old, and the Dali sequence needs to be seen to be believed.