High Angle Shots in Hitchcock's Movies

high angle shot Hitchcock Vertigo

High angle shots in Hitchock's films often occurs when the main character come to a realization of some terrible truth. They are also used to signify that a person is depressed or in a crisis. Often these two are combined, as in Shadow of a Doubt when little Charlie realizes that her uncle Charlie is a serial killer.




High Angle Shots: Examples from Shadow of a Doubt

Shadow of a Doubt: little Charlie realizes that her uncle Charlie is a serial killer. The ingenious high angle shot as the camera moves away from little Charlie.


Little Charlie. High angle shot in Shadow of a Doubt

Little Charlie is uncovering the truth about her uncle.

High Angle Shots: Examples from The Wrong Man

Henry Fonda

Henry Fonda has just made the same spelling mistake as the robber, writing "cash draw" instead of "cash drawer". The detectives are certain that he is the robber.

"Give me your right hand. Relax." Manny Balestreros is being booked for assault and robbery.

High Angle Shots: Examples from The Paradine Case

A humiliated Gregory Peck leaving the courtroom in The Paradine Case.

Categories of High Angle Shots in Hitchcock Movies

    In the library when little Charlie realizes that her uncle Charlie is a serial killer.
    The camera shows the dangerous situation the character is in, as it shares the view from a great height. Like when the drunk Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) is looking down in the abyss during his wild car ride (a parallell scene is in Family Plot). Or in Vertigo when Scottie (James Stewart) is looking down the stairs in the bell tower.
    The camera shares the character's view, like in The 39 Steps when Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) is looking down on the street seeing the bad guys who want to kill "Annabella Smith"".
    In The Birds Hitchcock wanted to show the exact topography of Bodega Bay, with the town, the sea, the coast, and the gas station on fire, in one single image (when the birds descend).

High angle shots: Examples from North by Northwest

"This matter is best disposed of from a great height - over water." (Referring to killing Eve Kendall by throwing her off an aeroplane.)

Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) is is given the opportunity to at least surviving the evening.

Roger O. Thornhill is running to a cab after Mr. Townsend was killed in the U.N. building.

"Goodbye, Mr. Thornhill - wherever you are." (The FBI agents knows that the innocent man Roger O. Thornhill will face his death soon.)



High Angle Shots: Examples from The 39 Steps

The villain is trapped in The 39 Steps

The Birds

Hitchcock to Truffaut about the high angle shot of Bodega Bay: I did that high shot for three reasons. The first was intended to show the beginning of the gulls' descent on the town. The second was to show the exact topography of Bodega Bay, with the town, the sea, the coast, and the gas station on fire, in one single image. The third reason is that I didn't want to waste a lot of footage on showing the elaborate operation of the firemen extinguishing the fire. You can do a lot of things very quickly by getting away from something.


In the last part of Hitchcock's career the high angle shots lost much of their emotional power, and were used too often.


High Angle Shots in Hitchcock


When Roddy (Ivor Novello) leaves the school after having been expelled, he is seen from above and looks small and depressed.

The 39 Steps

When Professor Jordan (Godfrey Tearle) is trapped, we see the stage he is on in a high angle shot.

Secret Agent

When the organ player is found dead in the church, we see this from the bell towrer where Ashenden and the Mexican is hiding.


When Lisa has spoken with the detectives after Beaky's death

Shadow of a Doubt

The high shot from the roof in Philadelphia when uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) has tricked the detectives and escaped their surveillance. Here the high angle shot illustrates that uncle Charlie is in total control.
After little Charlie has read the article at the library confirming that her uncle is the Merry Widower Murderer, the camera moves up to the roof, leaves little Charlie "down there" - she is devastated as she slowly walks out



"I am married to an American agent." (Notorious, 1946)

I Confess

Father Logan (Montgomery Clift) is seen from a high angle when he is on his way to turn himself in.

Dial M for Murder

When Tony is telling Lesgate hos the murder plan is to be set out.
When Lesgate arrives the apartement.
When Tony is asked by the police if he knows who committed the murder.
When the detectives are searching the apartement
Just befor Tony enters the apartemenet at the end, Margo and Mark is seen from above.

The Trouble With Harry

When Sammy (John Forsythe) and Captain Albert Wiles (Edmund Gwenn) is digging to get Harry out of the ground.

The Birds

A high angle shot of Bodega Bay occurs when the gulls descend on the town to attack.


When Kusenov is asked if he knows about the spy ring called Topaz, there are several high angle shots.


When Richard Blaney (Jon Finch) is put in his cell after the verdict has been read.
When Oxford is sitting alone in the courtroom thinking that they might have caught the wrong man.

Family Plot

When Fran and Adamson comes up from the cellar, they are seen from above (which includes the crystals in the frame)
During the funeral when Humley is following Maloney's mother to speak with her, we see this from a high angle.



Actors should be treated like cattle

There is a dreadful story that I hate actors. I can't imagine how such a rumor began. Of course it may possibly be because I was once quoted as saying that actors are cattle. My actor friends know I would never be capable of such a thoughtless, rude and unfeeling remark . . . What I probably said was that actors should be treated like cattle.
Alfred Hitchcock


Actors About Alfred Hitchcock or Working With Him

Janet Leigh

Hitch relished scaring me. When we were making "Psycho," he experimented with the mother's corpse, using me as his gauge. I would return from lunch, open the door to the dressing room and propped up in my chair would be this hideous monstrosity. The horror in my scream, registered on his Richter scale, decided which dummy he'd use as the Madame.