4 Alfred Hitchcock and James Stewart Movies

One of Hollywood's All-Time Great Collaborations

Having first built a reputation as a genial everyman with stammering folksy charm, James Stewart turned his persona upside down when he began a fruitful collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock in 1948. Though they teamed up for only four films, their work together proved to be one of the most highly regarded actor-director partnerships in Hollywood history, even greater than Hitch’s collaboration with ​Cary Grant.

Whether he was playing a wheelchair-bound photographer who believes his neighbor committed murder or a private investigator who becomes obsessed with a dead woman's doppelgänger, Stewart delved deeply into uncharted psychological depths, giving Hitchcock some of the best performances by an actor in any of the director's films. Here are their collaborations.

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'Rope' - 1948

James Stewart in 'Rope'
Universal Studios

The first of their four films together, the Leopold and Loeb-inspired "Rope" was also Hitchcock’s first color film—and it allowed the all-American Stewart to branch out into darker territory. Stewart plays Rupert Cadell, a college professor who unwittingly inspires two of his students, played by Farley Granger and John Dall, to commit murder as an exercise in proving one’s superiority over another. In fact, it is Cadell's discussion of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Übermesch theory that leads the two men to strangle a former classmate to death.

When Cadell suspects something is amiss, he is shocked to discover that his philosophical conversation with the two was used to rationalize murder. Though not Hitchcock’s best work, "Rope" is notable for Stewart's solid performance as well as for being shot almost entirely on a single set with long, continuous shots lasting up to 10 minutes in some cases.

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'Rear Window' - 1954

Rear Window
Universal Studios

Many film buffs believe that "Rear Window" is the best film Hitchcock ever made. It's difficult to argue otherwise, given the masterful way in which the director built up the tension and suspense, juxtaposing a radiant Grace Kelly’s cool-headed presence with Stewart’s increasingly obsessive voyeurism. In his second collaboration with the British director, Stewart plays L.B. Jeffries, a globetrotting photographer confined to his apartment after suffering a broken leg, leaving him nothing to do but watch his neighbors through a pair of binoculars and make up stories about their lives.

One day, Jeffries spies neighbor Lars Thorwald, played by Raymond Burr, doing something suspicious in the garden late at night. Jeffries suspects that Thorwald, a traveling salesman, has killed his nagging wife and buried her in the backyard. Unable to investigate himself, Jeff convinces his girlfriend, Lisa, played by Kelly, to sneak into Thorwald’s apartment and dig up evidence, triggering a chain of events that results in a chilling confrontation with the killer himself.

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'The Man Who Knew Too Much' - 1956

The Man Who Knew Too Much
Universal Studios

A remake of Hitchcock’s 1934 British-era thriller of the same name, "The Man Who Knew Too Much" features Stewart in the classic position of a good man entangled in a web of murder and deceit just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Stewart plays Dr. Ben McKenna, an American tourist on holiday in Morocco with his wife, Jo, played by Doris Day, and their son, Hank. While touring through the market, they witness the murder of a Frenchman they had befriended only hours before. Before dying, the man tells McKenna about an assassination plot that will occur during a concert performance at London’s famed Albert Hall. But the couple is unable to do anything about it because a group of mysterious foreign agents has kidnapped Hank in order to ensure their silence.

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'Vertigo' - 1958

Universal Studios

Collaborating for the fourth and final time, Stewart and Hitchcock pulled out all the stops for this thriller about sexual obsession. Stewart stars opposite Kim Novak, certainly one of Hitchcock’s more enigmatic leading ladies, to play Scottie Ferguson, a San Francisco-based private investigator who suffers from vertigo and a fear of heights after watching a police officer fall to his death during a rooftop chase.

Scottie is called back into action when an old friend, played by Tom Helmore, convinces him to follow his wife, Madeleine, played by Novak, because of her unhealthy obsession with a great-grandmother who committed suicide. As he follows Madeleine around town, Ferguson falls in love from afar, only to witness her tragic death when she seemingly jumps into the San Francisco Bay.

After discovering that Madeleine has a twin sister, Ferguson succumbs to his own obsessive desires while uncovering the mystery surrounding Madeleine's alleged death. Critically dismissed upon its release, "Vertigo" is now considered a masterpiece, not only one of Hitchcock's greatest films but one of the greatest films of all time.