11 Hitchcock Movies That Were Inspired by Books

Cary Grant and Alfred Hitchcock in To Catch A Thief

Alfred Hitchcock, the British Director, who created iconic suspense-filled movies searched for ideas from the literary world. He turned novels into films and made it his own with his unique style.

Hitchcock films are full of cynical and ambiguous heroes and archetypes. His use of shadows and silhouettes to highlight the grittiness of the scene or the darkness that consumes the character. His subtle take on sensuality or focus on frailty adds to the allure of watching his movies. Even decades after these films came out, his influence can still be felt.

The Master of Suspense frequently used his brand of storytelling to hook and excite his audience. He famously said, "If it's a good movie, the sound could go off and the audience would still have a perfectly clear idea of what was going on." 

His casting of highly successful and well-respected actors in his films didn't deter him from showing off their flaws and vulnerability onscreen. He had his favorites, his blond muses, who he cast repeatedly in his films.

With a career spanning fifty years, he never won an Academy Award even after being nominated five times (Hitchcock never won an Oscar).

After purchasing the rights to a particular book, he took great liberties on the plot lines, themes, and even characters. Often than not, the only thing left of the book was the title and concept. 

Hitchcock loved to tease his audience and his trademark cameo appearances were something that moviegoers expected when watching his films. He would normally appear onscreen in the first few minutes so it wouldn't distract from the main movie.

Going through the movies that he made since the 1930s until the 1960s, I was able to come up with a list of movies that were inspired by the written word. Hitchcock even if described as a misogynist didn't discriminate when it came to getting his materials from various authors. 

The 39 Steps 

In his novel, Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger showed his admiration for the film when his protagonist Holden Caulfield said that The 39 Steps was a favorite of his and his sister's.

The 1935 movie, that starred Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll, was based on John Buchan's 1915 work. 

Spies, assassins, a manhunt from the Scottish Highlands to London propelled Hitchcock's fame and attributed to his entry to Hollywood. 


A storyteller whose name was never disclosed, wives, hidden secrets, and a revengeful loyal servant were the center of the intrigue in Manderley owned by Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier). Joan Fontaine played the second Mrs. de Winter in this adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's gothic tale.

The 1940 movie version earned a total of 11 Oscar nominations. 


Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine headlined this 1941 romantic psychological thriller derived from Francis Iles novel, Before the Fact (1932).

Grant is a handsome penniless playboy named Johnnie Aysgarth who married a rich single woman, Lina McLaidlaw. Joan Fontaine won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of the vulnerable heroine.


Acting powerhouses Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck find themselves falling in love in the most unusual place, an asylum. The 1945 movie was inspired by "The House of Dr. Edwardes" written by John Palmer and Hilary A. Saunders. 

The dream sequence scene was designed by Salvador Dali. 

Stage Fright

After years of producing films in Hollywood, Hitchcock goes back to his origin and directs Jane Wyman and Marlene Dietrich in this tale of murder. The costumes worn by Dietrich were designed by Christian Dior. 

The plot was based on 'Man Running' by Selwyn Jepson. The 1950 film featured a different murderer compared to the one in the original story.

Strangers on a Train

Patricia Highsmith's novel of the same name came out in 1950. Hitchcock immediately bought the rights and started production within the same year. The movie came out in 1951.

The concept of exchanging murders to avoid suspicion has been repeatedly used as a plotline over the years. Farley Granger, Robert Walker, and Ruth Roman skillfully maneuvered through the fast-paced scenes.

Rear Window

James Stewart is a professional photographer who is holed up in his Greenwich apartment because of a broken leg. He spends the time spying on his neighbors and finds himself caught up in a mysterious disappearance.

His socialite but ever-supportive girlfriend is portrayed by Grace Kelly and the 1954 movie also starred Thelma Ritter, Wendell Corey, and Raymond Burr.

This mystery thriller was taken from a short story by Cornell Woolrich, "It Had To Be Murder". 

To Catch A Thief

Perennial Hitchcock favorites, Cary Grant and Grace Kelly starred in this 1955. This movie was also Kelly's last collaboration with Hitchcock as she married Prince Rainier and retired from Show Business.

David Dodge's 1952 novel of a retired cat burglar in the French Riviera was the perfect plot for Grant and Kelly who were both sophisticated and had impeccable chemistry which oozed onscreen.


Sultry Kim Novak plays the femme fatale in this 1958 psychological thriller. James Stewart's character John 'Scottie' Ferguson who suffers from acrophobia and vertigo is inadvertently pulled into a web of intrigues. 

This was the second attempt of Hitchcock to acquire a novel of Pierre Bolieau and Thomas Narcejac. The 1954 D'entre Les Morts (From Among the Dead) provided material for this engaging movie.


After filming in Color for the past decade, Hitchcock went back to basics. He chose to produce this movie in Black and White. Based on the 1959 book by Robert Bloch, an eccentric motel manager and a scheming woman find their lives intertwined.

Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, John Gavin and Vera Miles will forever live in a moviegoer's memory as the cast of this groundbreaking film.

The Birds

Hitchcock asked his screenwriters to change the plot and add more characters to this Daphne du Maurier story. This 1963 film was Tippi Hedren's debut movie. 

Maybe it's time to plan an Alfred Hitchcock movie marathon. Have you read any of these books as well?