Stars: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Martin Landau, Leo G. Carroll
If North by Northwest isn't Hitchcock's all-around greatest movie, it's arguably his most entertaining. Paced excellently, the 1959 action-thriller stars Cary Grant—one of Hitch's go-to leading men—as an advertising executive who's wrongly identified as a government operative by a group of spies. Without a chance to explain himself, Grant's Roger Thornhill goes on a cross-country run for survival, dodging bullets and even a dive-bombing airplane.
A box office success upon its July release, North by Northwest preceded the litany of like-minded Hollywood blockbusters that've achieved hardly half of its thrills with much larger budgets and CGI trickery. The aforementioned plane sequence alone, set in a wide open desert field, is a master's class in taut, nitty-gritty action shot practically.