Bill Goodykoontz, the movie reviewer for the Arizona Republic, recently listed what he considers to be the best thriller films ever made. They are not in any particular order and I agree with him on some of them. I also think it is hard to pick from such a large selection so I will add a couple of my own to complement his list.
A word of warning: I lean toward older films as I think they have the best stories and acting plus I am a nostalgia freak. So, if you expect to see anything with Leonardo DiCaprio or Vince Vaughn you will be disappointed.
Three films on Bill’s list that I would immediately cross off are “Fight Club” (1999) with Brad Pitt, “Memento” (2000) with Guy Pearce and “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991) with Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster. All three were snoozers to me as they delved into psychological situations that I don’t look for when viewing a movie. As the great film producer Samuel Goldwyn (1879-1974) once said: “If you want to send a message, use Western Union.”
The rest I can agree with starting with “Touch of Evil” (1958). Orson Welles is great as a crooked police captain in a U.S.-Mexican border town (actually filmed in Venice, California). It’s great film noir stuff with a fine cast of character actors plus a gorgeous thirty-one year old Janet Leigh playing the wife of Mexican (Mexican?) narcotics officer Charlton Heston.
“Rear Window” (1954) with Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly, and Raymond Burr is classic Alfred Hitchcock fare and I hope everyone has seen it by now. Jimmy is a bit of a voyeur as he convalesces from injuries received while performing his job as a photo journalist. Kelly is beautiful; Burr is typical Burr of that era.
“The Third Man” (1949) with Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, and Alida Valli. Film noir mystery and espionage in postwar Vienna with great zither background music throughout. Valli is gorgeous!
Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck in
"Double Indemnity" (1944)
“Psycho” (1960) Low budget with Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Simon Oakland. Is there anyone who hasn’t seen this film? More classic Hitchcock with great musical score by Bernard Herrman. Plus, it relates to Phoenix although not one frame was shot there other than a few exterior shots (click here for more on that).
“Double Indemnity” (1944) Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson. Fred is insurance agent who falls for floozy Stanwyck and her scheme to kill her husband for insurance dough. Robinson should have gotten Best Supporting Actor for role as insurance investigator. Great 1940’s dialogue and music.
“Bullitt” (1968) What can I say other than it’s one of Steve McQueen’s best and has the car chase which thankfully didn’t really destroy that beautiful ’67 Dodge Charger!
“Dirty Harry” (1971) How can you not like a young, badass Clint Eastwood saying, “I know what you're thinkin', punk. You're thinkin' did he fire six shots or only five? Now to tell you the truth, I've forgotten myself in all this excitement."
Last but never least is “North by Northwest” (1959). It’s more Hitchcock but I think that when it comes to the thriller genre, he was the best. Great ending on Mount Rushmore and nice to know that Martin Landau overcame his fall off the mountain to continue his nice career!