The Best Alfred Hitchcock Movie Never Gets The Credit It Deserves

By Brian Myers | Published

Alfred Hitchcock lifeboat

For more than six decades, master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock thrilled movie audiences with dozens of thrillers that are considered today to be cinematic masterpieces. The famed director is most remembered for the films Psycho, Rear Window, and The Birds, which have worked to overshadow many of Hitchcock’s earlier works. One such film that modern audiences haven’t truly appreciated is the 1944 war-time thriller Lifeboat, a movie that truly captures the essence of Hitchcock’s brand.

The Set Up

Alfred Hitchcock opens Lifeboat with the immediate aftermath of a sea battle between a U.S. Merchant Marine vessel and a German U-boat. The WWII carnage results in both of them sinking and a handful of the Allied ship survivors drifting in a lifeboat. The eight on board soon become nine when a German sailor from the submarine pops up from the waves and is pulled aboard the small craft, much to the disapproval of several of the survivors.

A Unique, Intense Situation

Alfred Hitchcock takes audiences on an intense drift at sea as the occupants of the lifeboat quarrel, conspire against one another, and try to figure out a way to survive long enough to be either rescued or safely land on the shores of nearby Bermuda. A needed leg amputation, a woman with a dead baby, and the presence of an enemy to the Allied forces on board weave a film together that is part war movie and all thriller.

A Volatile Environment

The environment in which Alfred Hitchcock brought Lifeboat to the theater screens was an intense one, with the German navy ruling much of the Atlantic and their aircraft dominating the skies over Europe. Hitchcock was able to take an already dark climate and cram all the anxiety and fear of war onto a single lifeboat, the only setting in the film. The claustrophobia, paranoia, and anger all merge together across the players on the boat, each one with complicated character sketches that add to the realism of the film.

It was Alfred Hitchcock’s first real use of a limited set, before Rope, Rear Window, and Dial M for Murder took this concept to the next level. But the director’s ability to create Lifeboat in such a way that the audience truly feels like they are trapped with the other survivors is what makes the film so extraordinary. When there is a verbal altercation or a physical confrontation, you’re sure to feel like a helpless observer to the action, a mark of the master of suspense at work.

Alfred Hitchcock lifeboat

Alfred Hitchcock didn’t receive the deserved accolades for Lifeboat during its theatrical run due to some critics running with the idea that the film cast a somewhat sympathetic light on the enemy. The author of the original source material the film was based on, John Steinbeck, denounced the film altogether.

Through the lens of time, modern critics and audiences are able to dissect Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat without the panic of a real war looming over their lives. At its core, Lifeboat is about the need for cooperation for survival, a lesson that is as vital in the middle of the sea as it is timeless.

Stream It Now

Alfred Hitchcock lifeboat


Alfred Hitchcock gets 4.0/5.0-stars for Lifeboat, putting the film on equal ground as Rear Window, North by Northwest, and Vertigo.

While you cannot stream the Alfred Hitchcock classic Lifeboat for free, the film is available On Demand with Vudu, Google Play, AppleTV, and Prime.