Greatest Films of the 1950s
Greatest Films of the 1950s

Greatest Films of the 1950s
1950 | 1951 | 1952 | 1953 | 1954 | 1955 | 1956 | 1957 | 1958 | 1959


Title Screen Film Genre(s), Title, Year, (Country), Length, Director, Description

All That Heaven Allows (1955), 89 minutes, D: Douglas Sirk

Artists and Models (1955), 109 minutes, D: Frank Tashlin

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), 81 minutes, D: John Sturges
A suspenseful, powerful, 50's, Western-like drama, a mystery-thriller set in an isolated, southwestern desert town in 1945, and based on Howard Breslin's novel. A mysterious, one-armed veteran John J. MacReedy (Spencer Tracy) arrives in the tiny town of Black Rock by train, to fulfill a promise made to a Japanese-American soldier who died fighting in WW II. He searches for the whereabouts of the local Japanese-American father, Komoko, of his soldier/friend who saved his life, to bestow the deceased man's posthumously-presented medal of honor to the family - but encounters only a conspiracy of silence. His awkward questions cause the uneasy, hostile local inhabitants to confront their guilty consciences and threaten his life , led by menacing, sinister town boss Reno Smith (Robert Ryan) and his henchmen - a racially-prejudiced Coley Trimble (Ernest Borgnine) and Hector David (Lee Marvin). They retaliate with violence, putting his life at risk. Some town members, including a drunken sheriff (Dean Jagger), a doctor (Walter Brennan), and gal in town (Anne Francis), become the stranger's allies.

Blackboard Jungle (1955), 100 minutes, D: Richard Brooks

The Court Jester (1955), 101 minutes, D: Melvin Frank and Norman Panama

Diabolique (1955, Fr.) (aka Les Diaboliques), 114 minutes, D: Henri-Georges Clouzot

East of Eden (1955), 115 minutes, D: Elia Kazan
Director Elia Kazan's updated re-telling of the Biblical story of rival brothers, Cain and Abel and a paradise lost. A brooding James Dean - as the unappreciated son (Cain), vies against his dull, but favored stuffy brother (Abel) for the affections of their father. The maligned, misunderstood Cain character, representing the unlikeable and outcast director himself (for naming names before the HUAC Committee in 1952), becomes the sensitive hero of this film. As the poster stated, "Sometimes you can't tell who's good and who's bad!..." Writer Paul Osborn's screenplay adapted John Steinbeck's 1952 novel with the same title for this dramatic Warner Bros. film. [The film tells only a small portion of Steinbeck's work, leaving out the childhood of the parents and the Chinese character of Lee.] The CinemaScopic film, set in 1917 at a time just before the US entry into World War I, portrays the relationship between insecure, tortured, neurotic loner Caleb "Cal" Trask (James Dean, in his first major role and film) and his dutiful, favored brother Aron (Richard Davalos) - twin sons. Their father is a stern, hardened, devoutly religious, self-righteous man named Adam (Raymond Massey), a lettuce farmer living with his family in Salinas, California. The plot becomes emotionally charged when Cal expresses a liking for his brother's girlfriend Abra (Julie Harris), and then learns that his mother (Jo Van Fleet) is actually alive and operating a nearby brothel. One of the film's posters exclaimed: "East of Eden is a story of explosive passions and Elia Kazan has made it into a picture of staggering power."

Guys and Dolls (1955), 150 minutes, D: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Kiss Me Deadly (1955), 105 minutes, D: Robert Aldrich
A paranoid, suspenseful, noirish, melodramatic crime film brimming with apocalyptic, Cold War paranoia. Based on Mickey Spillane's pulp fiction novel. The nihilistic film opens on a dark night when flashy, sleazy, hard-hitting private eye Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) picks up an almost-naked, barefoot, trenchcoat-wearing hitchhiker Christina (Cloris Leachman), who is panting heavily and running down the highway. Villainous thugs force them off the road and gruesomely torture the mysterious girl to death (semi off-screen) as the detective lies semi-conscious. During his own brutal, pursuit of the criminals, recalling her haunting words "Remember me," Hammer - with the help of his limber secretary Velda (Maxine Cooper) who frames men for infidelity - pursues the trail to a strange young lady named Lily (Gaby Rodgers), the key to an atomic, 'glowing' box containing the Great Whatsit, and a sinister conspirator Dr. Soberin (Albert Dekker). In the controversial, fiery melt-down climax at Soberin's beach hideout, Lily greedily opens the Pandora's Box, releasing the deadly secret and incinerating herself, as a wounded Hammer frees the kidnapped Velda and stumbles with her into the cooling ocean waters.

Lady and the Tramp (1955), 75 minutes, D: Disney Studio

The Ladykillers (1955, UK)
, 91 minutes, D: Alexander Mackendrick

Lola Montes (1955, Fr./West Germ.) (aka The Sins of Lola Montes), 110 minutes, D: Max Ophuls

The Man From Laramie (1955), 104 minutes, D: Anthony Mann

The Man With the Golden Arm (1955), 119 minutes, D: Otto Preminger

Marty (1955), 91 minutes, D: Delbert Mann
The poignant, simple character study of lonely, 34 year-old Marty Piletti (Ernest Borgnine in an Oscar-winning performance), an ordinary, burly, heavy-set Bronx butcher who still lives with his love-smothering, widowed Italian mother Theresa (Esther Minciotti). It was a very different role from Borgnine's menacing, sadistic villains or murderous 'heavies' in From Here to Eternity (1953) and Bad Day at Black Rock (1955). He drags himself to the Stardust Ballroom on a Saturday night and meets a kindred soul. By the touching film's end, Marty and a homely, 29 year-old female wallflower and mousy high-school teacher Clara Snyder (Betsy Blair) are liberated - both are triumphant over their respective limitations. Its most famous line of dialogue, between Marty and friend Angie (Joe Mantell), emphasized Marty's endlessly boring despair: Angie: "What do you wanna do tonight?" Marty: "I dunno, Angie. What do you wanna do?" The film's screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky transformed his own original teleplay into a successful major motion picture - and the modest film remains one of the best examples of the cinematization of a television play. (The TV comedy-drama was originally presented on NBC-TV's "Philco-Goodyear Playhouse" series in May of 1953, with leads Rod Steiger and Nancy Marchand, during a period now recognized as the "Golden Age of Television.") As a feature film, it was one of the biggest 'sleepers' in Hollywood history, from the independent production company of Harold Hecht and actor Burt Lancaster. A modest, black and white film in an era of widescreen color epics, its critical acclaim and box-office success were phenomenal. It was the second Best Picture Oscar-winning film to also win the top prize (known as the Golden Palm (Palme d'Or)) at Cannes.

Mister Roberts (1955), 123 minutes, D: John Ford

Night and Fog (1955, Fr.) (aka Nuit Et Brouillard), 32 minutes, D: Alain Resnais

The Night of the Hunter (1955), 93 minutes, D: Charles Laughton
The only film directed by actor and stage director Charles Laughton. A stark, film noirish, black-and-white thriller, with a haunting, chilling lead performance by Robert Mitchum as crazed psychopathic Preacher Harry Powell prowling the Ohio River Valley. He personifies one polar end of the struggle between good and evil The killer of rich widows, with tattoos of LOVE and HATE on the fingers of both hands, weds a dead condemned killer's lonely widow (Shelley Winters), and then relentlessly hunts his own innocent step-children across the Depression Era Bible Belt to get at their father's stolen fortune of $10,000. The final segment pits the Preacher against Lillian Gish as a symbol of protecting Goodness, rocking at night on a porch with a shotgun across her lap, while he sings his perverse hymn in counterpoint: "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms." Unbelievably not nominated for any Academy Awards.

Oklahoma! (1955), 145 minutes, D: Fred Zinnemann

Ordet (1955, Denm.) (aka The World), 126 minutes, D: Carl Theodor Dreyer

Pather Panchali (1955, India) (aka Father Panchali), 115 minutes, D: Satyajit Ray

The Phenix City Story (1955), 100 minutes, D: Phil Karlson

Picnic (1955), 115 minutes, D: Joshua Logan

Rebel Without a Cause (1955), 111 minutes, D: Nicholas Ray
The classic, melodramatic film that made James Dean an anti-hero icon for generations to come - this was the second of his three films and the best 50s film of its kind regarding the generation gap. A story of rebellion and angst in the life of an unsettled, teenaged, new-kid-in-town Jim Stark (James Dean) who crosses paths with two other alienated, misfit youth - Judy (Natalie Wood) and Plato (Sal Mineo) - at a police station in the first sequence. The outcast trio of juveniles forms a strong bond against both their insensitive parents (completely unjust, dysfunctional, ineffectual, or callous) and their peers, and search for their identities. After a deadly drag race and a confrontation with his milquetoast father (Jim Backus), Jim spends the night with Judy and Plato in a deserted mansion. The adolescents find refuge and solace in their own company. In the tragic finale, Plato is killed by police when he foolishly brandishes an unloaded gun.

Richard III (1955, UK), 161 minutes, D: Laurence Olivier

The Rose Tattoo (1955), 117 minutes, D: Daniel Mann

The Seven Year Itch (1955), 105 minutes, D: Billy Wilder

Smiles of a Summer Night (1955, Swed.) (aka Sommarnattens Leende), 108 minutes, D: Ingmar Bergman

Summertime (1955, UK/US), 100 minutes, D: David Lean

To Catch a Thief (1955), 103 minutes, D: Alfred Hitchcock

Previous Page Next Page