The Washington PostThe Washington Post

'Vertigo' is still the best movie ever. Or the worst movie ever. Discuss.

By Ty Burr

10 May 2023 · 5 min read

Editor's Note

"Vertigo" is a great movie that can baffle the casual viewer, writes The Post's Ty Burr. Sixty-five years after its release, Alfred Hitchcock's weirdest thriller is as polarizing as ever.

There are classic movies that were unappreciated in their time, that took years or even decades to come into their own. "It's A Wonderful Life" was a flop until it turned up on TV every Christmas. "Duck Soup" was a Marx Brothers bomb until the counterculture kids discovered it in the 1960s.

And then there's "Vertigo," whose journey has been unlike any other in the canon. Once dismissed as a qualified misfire that narrowly broke even at the box office and won two "lesser" Oscars (for production design and sound mixing), Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 suspense thriller continues to blossom into fresh relevance with each new generation of film lovers. At the same time, this is the Great Movie that most daunts a casual viewer, especially since 2012, when "Vertigo" knocked "Citizen Kane" out of a half-century in the top spot on Sight & Sound's once-a-decade poll of the best films of all time. That's a heavy load to carry for an odd, dreamlike movie that doesn't seem to care about meeting an audience halfway and that only becomes richer, sadder and more profound with multiple viewings.

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