11. Les Diaboliques (1955)
Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Screenwriter: Henri-Georges Clouzot and Jérôme Géronimi
Les Diaboliques, the classic shocker from acclaimed French director Henri-Georges Clouzot, was a trailblazer for every cinematic twist that has proceeded it. Back when third-act narrative bents were mostly unheard of, Diabolique (the film's common stateside title) sent audiences into cold, shivery panic attacks with one simple, slowly developed shot: the supposed to be dead body of philandering and abusive schoolmaster Michel Delassale (Paul Meurisse) emerging from a water-filled bathtub like he's in Weekend At Bernies II and there's music playing.
His wife, Christine (Vera Clouzot, the director's beautiful wife) thought she'd killed him in a murder plot hatched along with Michel's mistress, Nicole (Simone Signoret), but, after a series of sightings and paranoid feelings, Christine finds herself face-to-face with Michel's "corpse," and the fright gives her a fatal heart attack. The truth is, Michel and his side piece teamed up against Christine, faked his death, and planned on murdering her, but the sudden stopping of her blood-pumper thwarted their mission in the best, most effortless way possible. Who says cheaters never prosper? —MB