Wednesday, July 15, 2009

MASTER LIST #16: The 101 Best Films of the 1950s

Of course, a staggering array of masterworks hail from the 1950s--so much so that putting them in order of preference was like splitting an already split hair. One can really see that this was another monumental era for cinema, with Kurosawa, Bergman, Donen, Hitchcock, Huston, Ford, Kubrick, Welles, Fellini, Nicholas Ray, Anthony Mann, Max Ophuls, and Billy Wilder, among others, delivering many of their greatest works (it was a brilliant time for short films, too, with the Warner Brothers-based works of Chuck Jones garnering four spots among the eight short films mentioned). You can see the building blocks for the upcoming tumult of the '60s and '70s here, too (despite what some may think, it was not entirely a Leave It To Beaver decade; there are some seriously cynical movies on this list). It's also a decade of supreme sophistication and, at the same time, entertainment; here, The Seventh Seal and Sweet Smell of Success sits right beside 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Court Jester. And there's even room for George Pal and Ed Wood! So here, evaluated by (1) overall quality, (2) historical importance, (3) influence, and (4) personal affection, are my choices:

1) Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 58)
2) The 400 Blows (Francois Truffaut, 59 (France))
3) Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 57)
4) Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 54)
5) Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 59)
6) The Searchers (John Ford, 56)
7) Ikiru (Akira Kurosawa, 52 (Japan))
8) The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 55)
9) Singin' In The Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 52)
10) Umberto D (Vittorio De Sica, 52 (Italy))
11) Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman, 58 (Sweden))
12) Sunset Blvd. (Billy Wilder, 50)
13) Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 58)
14) La Ronde (Max Ophuls, 50 (France))
15) Nights of Cabiria (Federico Fellini, 57 (Italy))
16) Winchester '73 (Anthony Mann, 50)
17) Giant (George Stevens, 56)
18) Kiss Me, Deadly (Robert Aldrich, 55)
19) High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 52)
20) The Cranes Are Flying (Mikhail Kalatozov, 57 (Russia))
21) What's Opera, Doc? (Chuck Jones, 57)
22) The Seven Samarai (Akira Kurosawa, 54 (Japan))
23) Twelve Angry Men (Sidney Lumet, 57)
24) The Naked Spur (Anthony Mann, 53)
25) North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 59)
26) Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa, 57 (Japan))
27) Mr. Hulot's Holiday (Jacques Tati, 53 (France))
28) Pork Chop Hill (Lewis Milestone, 59)
29) The Big Combo (Joseph H. Lewis, 55)
30) The Quiet Man (John Ford, 52 (USA/Ireland))
31) Neighbours (Norman McLaren, 52 (Canada))
32) In A Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray, 50)
33) Ashes and Diamonds (Andrzej Wajda, 58 (Poland))
34) The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 57 (Sweden))
35) Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu, 53 (Japan))
36) Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 59)
37) The Wrong Man (Alfred Hitchcock, 56)
38) Mon Oncle (Jacques Tati, 58 (France))
39) The Killing (Stanley Kubrick, 56)
40) A Streetcar Named Desire (Elia Kazan, 51)
41) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 56)
42) Ace in the Hole (Billy Wilder, 51)
43) Les Diabolique (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 55 (France))
44) The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T (Roy Rowland, 53)
45) Bigger Than Life (Nicholas Ray, 56)
46) Shane (George Stevens, 53)
47) Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 50 (Japan))
48) A Face in the Crowd (Elia Kazan, 57)
49) East of Eden (Elia Kazan, 55)
50) Anatomy of a Murder (Otto Preminger, 59)
51) Curse of the Demon (Jacques Tourneur, 57 (Britain))
52) Duck Amuck (Chuck Jones, 53)
53) The Day The Earth Stood Still (Robert Wise, 51)
54) There's Always Tomorrow (Douglas Sirk, 56)
55) Lady and The Tramp (Geronimi/Jackso/Luske, 55)
56) Strangers on a Train (Alfred Hitchcock, 51)
57) Lola Montes (Max Ophuls, 55 (France))
58) The African Queen (John Huston, 51)
59) A Place in the Sun (George Stevens, 51)
60) Limelight (Charles Chaplin, 52 (Britain))
61) Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick, 57)
62) All About Eve (Joseph L. Manckiewicz, 50)
63) Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 54)
64) The Bad and the Beautiful (Vincente Minnelli, 53)
65) The Man From Laramie (Anthony Mann, 55)
66) Othello (Orson Welles, 55 (USA/Finland/France)
67) Summertime (David Lean, 59 (Britain/Italy))
68) The Tell-Tale Heart (Ted Parmelee, 53)
69) Fixed Bayonets! (Samuel Fuller, 51)
70) Wagon Master (John Ford, 50)
71) The Red Balloon (Albert Lamorisse, 56 (France))
72) On The Waterfront (Elia Kazan, 54)
73) A Star is Born (George Cukor, 54)
74) Rebel Without A Cause (Nicholas Ray, 55)
75) Executive Suite (Robert Wise, 54)
76) The Girl Can't Help It (Frank Tashlin, 56)
77) The Lavender Hill Mob (Charles Crichton, 51 (Britain))
78) The Tall T (Budd Boetticher, 57)
79) Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Stanley Donen, 54)
80) One Froggy Evening (Chuck Jones, 55)
81) Kanal (Andrzej Wajda, 57)
82) Sleeping Beauty (Clyde Geronimi, 59)
83) The Asphalt Jungle (John Huston, 50)
84) Funny Face (Stanley Donen, 57)
85) Day of the Outlaw (Andre De Toth, 59)
86) Mister Roberts (John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy, 55)
87) 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (Richard Fleicher, 54)
88) Beat the Devil (John Huston, 53)
89) The Diary of Anne Frank (George Stevens, 59)
90) Plan 9 From Outer Space (Edward D. Wood, Jr., 59)
91) Feed The Kitty (Chuck Jones, 52)
92) Bend of the River (Anthony Mann, 52)
93) The Caine Mutiny (Edward Dmytryk, 54)
94) Moonbird (John and Faith Hubley, 59)
95) Quo Vadis (Mervyn LeRoy, 51)
96) The Court Jester (Melvin Frank and Norman Panama, 55)
97) Summer with Monika (Ingmar Bergman, 53 (Sweden))
98) Bad Day at Black Rock (John Sturges, 55)
99) Guys and Dolls (Joseph L. Manckiewicz, 55)
100) Bus Stop (Joshua Logan, 56)
101) The War of the Worlds (George Pal, 53)


Lisa said...

I gotta tell you, I LOVE the '50s! Glad to see so many wonderful films that we both love. What a interesting decade it was...some very sophisticated films. I think this is my favorite decade, for sure.

Dean Treadway said...

I agree, Lisa! It was a magnificent time for movies. Just thinking about the technicolors, and the contrasty black-and-whites, the TRUE movie stars of the era, and the unmatched quality of costumes, sets, music, and scripts of the boggles the mind. Glad you liked my list!

Mark Hodgson, said...

Pleased to say that I've grown up at a time when many of these films played regularly on TV over the years. With so few black-and-white films on TV nowadays (is that fair?), it's now considerably harder, and expensive, to dent this this list.

I've also met resistance to watching black-and-white films from friends, let alone subtitles.

Very pleased to see you talking them up though. We have to keep on spreading the word...

T.S. said...

Awesome list, another great installment in your wonderful series. Of course it must be absolutely trustworthy as you have Rear Window above Vertigo. ;)

(Dear world: Nothing against Vertigo! I love, love, love the film, but Rear Window is simply one of my all-time favorites.)

Sam Juliano said...

And I join in with this chorus to say what a fantastic list you have put together here. One becomes breathless just reading through this scroll, with memory after memory taking root in your consciousness. My own favorite film of the decade is Mizoguchi's SANSHO THE BALIFF, but both Ozu's TOKYO STORY (which you list here as your #35) and Bresson's THE DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST push close. Of course VERTIGO, WILD STRAWBERRIES, MADAME DE , SINGIN IN THE RAIN, IKIRU an dUMBERTO DE among others would b ein th etop grouping.

Sam Juliano said...

Of course, REAR WINDOW did place #1 in our site's 50's poll, but I am with you Dean on VERTIGO.

Dean Treadway said...

Thanks, Sam! Of course, REAR WINDOW is easily Hitchcock's most entertaining and relevant 50s movie. VERTIGO is great, but it's a more cerebral and dreamy affair, and deserves the love that it gets; however, it's not a movie everyone can love the first time they see it. Still, it's obviously one of his greatest. But I'm a big proponent of THE WRONG MAN as one of Hitchcock's most distinctive 50s works--one that I very rarely see paid lip service.

I also have to say: in all these "Best of the 50s" lists--where are the Anthony Mann movies? WINCHESTER '73, THE NAKED SPUR, THE TIN STAR, THE MAN FROM LARAMIE, BEND OF THE RIVER, and MAN OF THE WEST. Has anybody seen these? It's funny. When it comes to westerns, it seems like even big-time movie fans stop at Leone and maybe Peckinpah and Ford. Mann, and even Hawks, Hathaway, Lewis, Boetticher, and De Toth have never been given their due. What's the explanation for this? Do they just not have the cool factor? I have to say, as much as I adore Leone, the cult that's followed his vision has colored my love for his movies. I think his films have unintentionally and unfairly eclipsed the movies that have inspired them. Thoughts?

Sam Juliano said...

Oh I do agree with that Dean. The Mann films definitely are major during this period, especially THE MAN FROM LARAMIE and THE NAKED SPUR. I have seen as of late a lot of attention being paid these film, especially at the blogsite 'Decisions at Sundown' which is written by some of best bloggers, Jon Lanthier, Ed Howard and Kevin Olson.
Those others ar emost fine too, and Allan Fish is a big fan of THE TIN STAR.
Landscape is like a character in all those film.

John said...

Dean - your list proves what a great decade the 1950's was for film. So many great directors were at or near their peak: Hitchcock, Wilder, Mann and Ray to name a few. A great job.