Alfred Hitchcock and Film Theory

Charlie Ritchie

Alfred Hitchcock’s work is crucial to the idea of cinema as a popular art form. His development as an artist and entertainer is integral to the progress of the medium itself as the dominant 20th century art form. Hitchcock’s films prompted the key movements in film theory, and have fundamentally shaped our understanding of visual and narrative language. This course looks at some of these key theories and considers them in relation to Hitchcock’s provocative creativity. Hitchcock was a theorist himself, and we will examine his own engagement with montage, expressionism, auteur theory, psychoanalysis, gender and spectatorship, as a portal to the different critical approaches he has inspired.

“I am interested not so much in the stories I tell as in the means of telling them”

From The Lodger (1926) to Frenzy (1972) Hitchcock’s work pushes at stylistic and ethical boundaries, and manipulates audience reaction, within a determinedly commercial aesthetic. He was very happy to describe, explain, and promote his films. We will discuss what they tell us now about how cinema works. The course will be accompanied by a short programme of full length screenings of key Hitchcock films which will cover the British, American, and ‘later’ Hitchcock.

This course is aimed at: anyone interested in understanding and enjoying popular cinema. It may be of particular interest to film/media majors but assumes no prior subject knowledge and offers an introduction to film analysis and critical theory.

Transferable Skills: taking this course will help develop skills of textual analysis, critical theory and debate.

Suggested Reading

Detelbaum & Poague (eds.), A Hitchcock Reader, Blackwell 2009.

Truffaut, Hitchcock, Simon & Schuster 1984.

Kapsis, Hitchcock: The Making of a Reputation, Chicago 1992.

Robin Wood, Hitchcock’s Films Revisited,  Columbia Univ. Press, 2002.



1 Final Essay (2,500-3,000 words): 50%

1 Final Exam: 50%

Lecture Hours: 12 x 1 hour 15 minutes (total 15 hours)

Seminar Hours: 8 x 1 hour 15 minutes (total 10 hours)