18. The Wrong Man (1957)
Stars: Henry Fonda, Vera Miles, Anthony Quayle, Harold J. Stone
The Wrong Man is unique within Hitchcock's filmography: It's based on a true story, which represented a fascinating departure for a filmmaker who'd previously worked with fictional screenplays. It's easy to see why he was so attracted to author Maxwell Anderson's non-fiction book The True Story of Christopher Emmanuel Balestrero, which captured the same kinds of suspense and fearful identity issues that Hitch's films so often addressed.
In The Wrong Man, sticking as close to the real-life incidents as possible, Balestrero (played by Henry Fonda) is a New York City musician who, unfortunately, looks a lot like a bank robber. Witnesses accuse him of being the culprit, and, from there, The Wrong Man plays out as a much more subdued Hitchcock thriller, though no less tense. Key to the whole thing is Fonda's first-class performance, an adroit balance of vulnerability, desperation, and endearment.