Vertigo: Not Just a Movie, an Experience

Vertigo deserves the top spot on the British Film Institute’s list of the 50 Greatest Films of All Time because of how it draws in its audience. The moving camera shots used to showcase Scottie’s acrophobia can make viewers experience some degree of vertigo themselves. The viewers see–experience–Scottie’s strange, surreal dream and are weirded out by it like he is (though not enough to land them in a mental hospital like Scottie). When he wakes up, he stares directly into the camera, as if to acknowledge the audience. When Scottie controls Judy, making her change into Madeline, the audience feels as uncomfortable as she does. Finally, Vertigo ends abruptly after Judy’s real death: Hitchcock intended to leave the audience in stunned silence, just as he left Scottie. Few films can effectively force audience participation like this, really making viewers feel the way the characters feel. Therefore, Vertigo deserves its current rating as the Greatest Film of All Time.

The famous staircase shot. We don’t just see what Scottie sees, we can also experience his dizziness.


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