Living amidst a pandemic, one can catch Covid-19 unwittingly these days. A visit to a hospital or an unexpected meeting at office or just any occasion which necessitates your going out can expose you to this dreadful virus and you may be advised by your doctor to self-isolate yourself at your place to protect yourself and others.
Anyone who has lived in a strict-quarantine knows how difficult to spend even a day without human contact and how horrible to even pass time. This movie recommendation list – containing films which many consider as timeless classics – is for you. if you are in self-isolation and looking for options to feel cheerful and positive.
Not only are these movies highly engrossing, but, they also offer great discussion opportunities with other film buffs. These are all available on YouTube, and yes, they are all FREE !
1. The Lady Vanishes (1938) – starring Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave.
This is one of the Alfred Hitchcock‘s most renowned British films and its timelessness had ensured that it remains popular till date.
Margaret Lockwood, traveling across Europe by train, is shocked that an elderly fellow traveler has disappeared and none of the co-passengers are even willing to believe that an elderly passenger ever existed. Another traveler, Redgrave offers to help her, and amidst all the danger-laden adventure, romance blossoms between the two. Not to be missed because, Hitchcock is at his cleverly entertaining best here.
“The Lady Vanishes exhibits Director Alfred Hitchcock, England’s portly master of melodrama, at the top of his form.” – Time Magazine
Trivia: The tune that Michael Redgrave is humming is the early twentieth century standard ‘Colonel Bogey March’, later made even more famous in the movie The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957).
2. Jamaica Inn (1939) – starring Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara
This is British adventure thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, adapted from Daphne du Maurier’s 1936 novel of the same title. This complex, but highly entertaining drama with great acting and musical score continues to enthrall audiences even after so many years.
“Superb direction, excellent casting, expressive playing and fine production offset an uneven screenplay to make Jamaica Inn a gripping version of the Daphne du Maurier novel.” – Variety
Trivia: Hitchcock made three movies adapting the novels of Daphne du Maurier, this being the first one. He filmed 2 more after going to the States based on the works of du Maurier: Rebecca and The Birds.
3. Rebecca (1940) – starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” is the iconic opening line of the popular novel ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier and it picks up the pace then on and never loosens its grip on the reader. Naturally, Hitchcock, master of the craft of suspense thrillers, was interested in making this story into a movie !
This is the first American film directed by Alfred Hitchcock with producer David O. Selznick. (His British film, based on a du Maurier novel was Jamaica Inn). Despite creative differences between Selznick and Hitchcock, they managed to produce a film that garnered 11 nominations in the academy awards and won two: Best Picture, and Best Cinematography.
This romantic psychological thriller, with Laurence Olivier as the aristocratic Max de Winter and Joan Fontaine as the unnamed young woman (unnamed in both the book and the movie) entering his life , remains an evergreen favorite that makes for an utterly riveting watch.
“Hitchcock has succeeded brilliantly in his initial Hollywood venture. In his Individual fashion, he has re-told in his own creepy, colorful way Miss du Maurier’s forbidding, fascinating story of life and death, malignancy and murder.” – Mildred Martin in Philadelphia Inquirer
Trivia: Joan Fontaine and her sister, Olivia de Havilland, are the only set of siblings to have won ‘Best Actress’ Academy Awards.
4. Suspicion (1941) – starring Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine
A young woman succumbs to the charms of the debonair playboy and marries him only to discover that he is a penniless fraud and he intends to lead a life of luxury, with her father’s money. Taut, gripping, and the ending of this movie leaves the viewers hoping for more answers. Alfred Hitchcock is at his devilish best in this romantic psychological thriller.
“At times even the audience believes as the woman does. At other times doubt intrudes. This is where Suspicion shines as especially deft and adroit, and loyal also to Hitchcock precedent for keeping both characters and spectators guessing.” – Edwin Schallert, Los Angeles Times
Trivia: Joan Fontaine did not get Oscar for her performance in Rebecca, but, for this picture, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1941. This happens to be the only Oscar-winning acting performance in a Hitchcock film.
5. The Woman in the Window (1944) – starring Edward G. Robinson and Joan Bennett
According to Wikipedia ‘Film noir (/nwɑːr/; French: [film nwaʁ]) is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations.’.
It is said that the term ‘film noir‘ originated as a genre description, in part, because of this highly entertaining movie.
“Nunnally Johnson whips up a strong and decidedly suspenseful murder melodrama in Woman in the Window. The producer, who also prepared the screenplay (from the novel Once off Guard by J.H. Wallis), continually punches across the suspense for constant and maximum audience reaction. Added are especially fine timing in the direction by Fritz Lang and outstanding performances by Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Raymond Massey and Dan Duryea.” – Variety
This film was included among the American Film Institute’s 2001 list of 400 movies nominated for the top 100 Most Heart-Pounding American Movies. You still want to know why you should watch this 1944 movie?
Trivia: This movie was loosely based on ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma,’ a concept widely analyzed in game theory.
6. Spellbound (1945) – starring Gregory Peck, Ingrid Bergman and Michael Chekhov
The master of suspense, director Alfred Hitchcock, is at it again: producing yet another thriller but exploring a new ground of psychology, starring the fabulous looking Gregory Peck and the gorgeous looking Ingrid Bergman.
Apparently, this movie was the result of producer David Selznick’s desire to spread the word about psychoanalysis and today this film is hailed as the one of the earliest Hollywood movies to deal with the then emerging field. One more reason to watch : the dream sequences designed by the surrealist painter Salvador Dali.
“A fascinating, grim, exciting motion picture, based on the currently popular interest in psychiatry, and illustrating a new method of crime detection. It is a “whodunit” raised to a de luxe intellectual plane.” – Marjory Adams, Boston Globe
Trivia: The Dali dream sequence was shot originally to run twenty minutes, but ended as only two.
7. Notorious (1946) – starring Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, and Claude Rains
Three reasons why you should watch this film: Alfred Hitchcock, Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman.
When you are hooked into following the sparkling chemistry between the two great-looking lead pair, you might be also wondering: Is this a love story, psychological drama or a spy movie? You won’t care which one it is when you are cheering for the coming together of the love-torn Ingrid Bergman and the indifferent, apathetic Cary Grant. There are tangles at unexpected corners, but Hitchcock disentangles everything with a deft touch.
Oh, let’s add two more reasons to watch this one: music and cinematography.
“It’s completely hypnotic: from the twisting strands of a plot defying us fully to trust anyone, to those Hitchcock specials, the shots and scenes where the camera too is a lethal conspiracist.” – Nigel Andrews in Financial Times
Trivia: During the period when this movie was made, there was Hayes Code which meant kissing scenes cannot be more than 3 seconds. So Hitchcock devised a method of off-on kissing by the lovers.
8.The Paradine Case (1947) – starring Gregory Peck, Ann Todd and Alida Valli
Alfred Hitchcock, for a change, shifts tack from planning a murder and framing an innocent to creating a courtroom drama where the lawyer – who is in love with the lady accused of no less than murder – must win the case so that he can save his marriage. Not the usual Hitchcock nail-biting tale of intrigue and suspense, but, watch it for just for the dashing Gregory Peck.
“Hitchcock’s penchant for suspense and unusual atmosphere development get full play. There is a deliberateness of pace, artful pauses and other carefully calculated melodramatic hinges upon which he swings the story and players” – Variety
Trivia: This was Alfred Hitchcock’s last film under contract with David O. Selznick. They were constantly at loggerheads with each other.
9. Strangers on a Train (1951) – starring Farley Granger, Ruth Roman and Robert Walker
Alfred Hitchcock exhibits his mastery over keeping his audience’s pulse racing with yet another thrilling drama, that starts with a seemingly innocuous exchange between two strangers on a train that inevitably changes both their lives.
The movie has a tennis match sequence apparently inserted for two purposes: for Hitchcock to display his wicked sense of humor and just to get on your nerves.
“Hitchcock was a classical technician in terms of controlling his visuals, and his use of screen space underlined the tension in ways the audience isn’t always aware of. He always used the convention that the left side of the screen is for evil and/or weaker characters, while the right is for characters who are either good or temporarily dominant.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Times
Trivia: The actor who portrayed the bad guy excellently, Robert Walker, died eight months after filming finished from an allergic reaction to a drug used to treat his alcoholism.
10. The Million Pound Note (1954) – starring Gregory Peck and Jane Griffiths
What would you do if you are suddenly in possession of a Million pound note? In this charming British comedy – based on a Mark Twain story, directed by Ronald Neame – Gregory Peck tells of his travails and how he manages to survive the disaster of becoming insanely rich overnight.
“A fun feel good film with good redeeming features that just goes to show how silly society can be when it comes to money.”– Audience review
Trivia: The plot for the 1983 comedy ‘Trading Places’ starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd was loosely based on this film.
11. Indiscreet (1958) – starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman
This film is an endearing romantic comedy directed by Stanley Donen with two great actors, Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. Utterly watchable movie just for the delectable dialogue exchange between the leading stars.
“Though tedious in its opening reels, the production warms up in direct relation to the heat of the love affair and, in the end, manages to fade out in a blaze of playful merriment.” – Variety
Trivia: Director Donen, when asked by the producers to take up this movie said he would do it only if they could get Cary Grant as the hero. Cary Grant said he’d do the movie only if the co-star was Ingrid Bergman (with whom he had acted before in Notorious). Bergman said she’d do the film only if it was shot in England. All the conditions were met, and we have this beguiling love story to savor!
12. Fear No More (1961) – starring Mala Powers, Jacques Bergerac and Anna Lee Carroll
Directed by Bernard Wiesen, the movie takes off immediately and keeps you hooked till the end. The heroine, Mala Powers is so pretty that you wonder why her name is not spoken in the same breath as some of her other contemporaries.
Trivia: Mala Powers trained directly Michael Chekhov, one of the early proponents of Method Acting.
13. Charade (1963) – starring Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn and Walter Matthau
When you listen to the catchy music at the beginning of the movie (by a dude called Henry Mancini), you know you’re on to a good thing.
This is a romantic comedy mystery film directed by Stanley Donen…..how can a movie that has Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn be anything but supremely entertaining?
Trivia: The producers of the movie failed to add the symbol © and word ‘Copyright’ and the movie entered into the public domain in US.
14.Mirage (1965) – starring Gregory Peck, Diane Baker and Walter Matthau
This is an adorable American neo noir thriller film with a stellar cast led by the unnecessarily handsome Gregory Peck. Tagline of the movie, directed by Edward Dmytryk, says it all: A physiochemist suffers memory lapses, finds bad guys after him, and has no idea why.
Walter Matthau and George Kennedy, who appeared in Charade also star in this mystery thriller. Watch out for the score of Quincy Jones.
“In brisk, colloquial, occasionally humorous style, this exercise in mayhem, murder, mental instability and moralizing about the scientist’s place in an atomic world, evolves as an interesting, fairly taut, if not especially credible, chase-mystery” – The New York Times
Trivia: Gregory Peck was so happy with the quality of the film, that he gave screenwriter Peter Stone a Rolls-Royce as a post-production gift after the movie came out.
15. Frenzy (1972)
A British thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Jon Finch and Alec McCowen. You can watch the movie for its suspense, and for its British humor (ex: the scenes between the chief of police and his ‘masterchef’ wife); if you aren’t keen on both, watch it just to get a glimpse of the craft of film-making masterfully displayed by Hitchcock, who as Roger Ebert said,”was smacking his lips and rubbing his hands and delighting in his naughtiness.”
“Armed with a superior script by Anthony Shaffer, an excellent cast, and a top technical crew, Alfred Hitchcock fashions a first-rate melodrama about a man hunted by Scotland Yard for a series of sex-strangulation murders.” – Variety
Trivia: The tag line for this movie was ‘Hitchcock’s Last Masterpiece!’. He made just one more movie, Family Plot, before he died in 1980.