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

1957

An Affair to Remember (1957), 119 minutes, D: Leo McCarey
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The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), 161 minutes, D: David Lean
Acclaimed, all-time great WWII epic drama about British P.O.W.'s forced to construct a railway bridge in the Asian jungle of Burma, based on an outstanding, psychologically complex adaptation of Pierre Boulle's 1952 novel. In the Burmese jungle, British prisoner/solders, led by an obstinate commander Col. Nicholson (Alec Guinness), construct a rail bridge - and unwittingly aid the war effort of their Japanese captors and the camp commander Col. Saito (Sessue Hayakawa). A tremendously antagonistic battle of wills ensues between the two Colonels. Nicholson supervises the bridge's construction with a twisted sense of pride in his creation to show up the Japanese as inferior. In the climactic finale, British and American intelligence officers (Holden, Hawkins) conspire to blow up the structure. A Best Picture-winning film.

A Face in the Crowd (1957), 125 minutes, D: Elia Kazan
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Funny Face (1957), 103 minutes, D: Stanley Donen
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Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), 122 minutes, D: John Sturges
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The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), 81 minutes, D: Jack Arnold
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Jailhouse Rock (1957), 96 minutes, D: Richard Thorpe
A great black and white B-film, and considered the best, most popular, and most famous of Elvis Presley's musicals (his third film out of over 30 films from the late 50s through the 60s) - and slightly parallels the rocker's own life. Presley plays cocky, quick-tempered Vince Everett, who is serving a one-year jail sentence for accidental manslaughter. While in jail, his cellmate Hunk Houghton (Mickey Shaughnessy), a former veteran country singer, mentors him to learn guitar and sing, and persuades him to enter the prison talent show. After his release from incarceration, the budding rock star is introduced to the record business. Struggling to break into the music industry, he decides to form his own record label, and becomes an overnight sensation. After being seduced by the decadent lifestyle of a pop star, he becomes rebellious and unwilling to work with his former cellmate and Peggy Van Alden (Judy Tyler), his loyal and pretty girlfriend/talent scout/record promoter. [Judy Tyler (formerly Princess Summerfall Winterspring on the Howdy Doody TV show) tragically died in a car crash before the film was released.] This pre-Army film is filled with Presley classics, especially the wonderfully-choreographed set piece for "Jailhouse Rock," as well as the other memorable numbers including "I Want to Be Free," "Treat Me Nice," "Baby, I Don't Care," "You're So Square," and the two tender ballads: "Young and Beautiful" and "Don't Leave Me Now."

The Nights of Cabiria (1957, It./Fr.) (aka Le Notti Di Cabiri), 110 minutes, D: Federico Fellini
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The Pajama Game (1957), 101 minutes, D: George Abbott, Stanley Donen
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Paths of Glory (1957), 86 minutes, D: Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick's classic, powerfully bleak, anti-war drama on the hypocrisy of battle, based on Humphrey Cobb's factual novel. The film is an effective denouncement of self-seeking, pitiless WWI French military leaders whose strategy and mishandling of a failed mission are incomprehensible. During horrendous trench warfare on the French front (filmed with realistic tracking shots), a vain and pompous French General Mireau (George Macready) orders his hapless group of soldiers to suicidally attack an obviously-impenetrable German stronghold. When they predictably fail in the ill-conceived attack, he angrily commands his own artillery to fire on the 'cowardly' troops. Further, he arbitrarily picks three blameless men as scapegoats - at random - to stand trial and be court-martialed for cowardice - and face execution by firing squad. Infantry commander and dissenting Army lawyer Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas), aware of the disgraceful cover-up and episode, unsuccessfully defends the condemned men.

Peyton Place (1957), 162 minutes, D: Mark Robson
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The Seventh Seal (1957, Swe.) (aka Det Sjunde Inseglet), 96 minutes, D: Ingmar Bergman
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Sweet Smell of Success (1957), 96 minutes, D: Alexander Mackendrick
A caustic, dark film noir based on the short story by Ernest Lehman titled Tell Me About It Tomorrow, and filmed on location in NYC. MacKendrick's debut American film. Opportunistic, vicious, hustling, slimy press agent Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) provides publicity for showbiz clients, hoping for exposure in the syndicated columns. Ruthless, sadistic, monstrously-manipulative newspaper columnist J. J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) unscrupulously plots with Falco to disrupt and destroy the romantic relationship of his younger sister Susan Hunsecker (Susan Harrison) with a jazz musician Steve Dallas (Martin Milner). Unethical and immoral but desperate to please Hunsecker, Falco smears Dallas as a drug addict and Communist by planting evidence, but causes Susan to become suicidal. Ultimately vengeful, she walks out on her 'incestuous' and obsessed, overprotective brother, while a raging Hunsecker has Falco beaten up.

Throne of Blood (1957, Jp.) (aka Kumonosu Jo), 105 minutes, D: Akira Kurosawa
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12 Angry Men (1957) (aka Twelve Angry Men), 96 minutes, D: Sidney Lumet
Sidney Lumet's debut directorial film, a taut courtroom drama based on Reginald Rose's television play. In a hot summer courtroom in NYC, a teenaged Latino (John Savoca) is on trial for murdering his father with a switchblade knife, and faces the electric chair if convicted. The twelve jurors assemble together to decide the fate of the minority defendant after being given instructions from the judge about 'innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.' In a seemingly open-and-shut case, the jurors rapidly vote for conviction, but one lone liberal dissenter, Juror # 8 (Henry Fonda) holds out for innocence. In the sweaty, claustrophobic room, the tempers, prejudices and personalities of the cranky, smoking men are displayed as they examine the evidence and deliberate their verdict.

Wild Strawberries (1957, Swed.) (aka Smultronstallet), 91 minutes, D: Ingmar Bergman
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Witness For The Prosecution (1957), 114 minutes, D: Billy Wilder
Co-writer and director Billy Wilder's brilliant film, a convoluted, twisting courtroom mystery based on Agatha Christie's 1933 four-character short story and celebrated 1947 stage play about an aging, distinguished, near-retirement age London barrister Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Charles Laughton), with his overbearing housekeeper/nurse Miss Plimsoll (Elsa Lanchester, Laughton's real-life wife) tending to his near-failing health. The intelligently clever and incorrigible attorney is asked by solicitor Mayhew (Henry Daniell) to take on a perplexing case, the defense of the prime suspect - an unemployed, American expatriate inventor named Leonard Stephen Vole (Tyrone Power in his final film role) in the murder of wealthy widow Emily Jane French (Varden). The testimony -- and true identity -- of the mysterious, beautiful German-born 'wife' of the accused, Christine "Helm" Vole (Marlene Dietrich), holds the key to solving the case involving marital infidelities and deceit. She is his only alibi - but cannot as the defendant's wife be considered a credible witness, but she IS called as a 'witness for the prosecution' to testify against him and cold-heartedly betray her husband. When a mysterious Cockney woman calls Sir Wilfrid saying she has information to help his client, the film sets up the surprise ending. After Leonard has been acquitted (although he actually committed the crime), Christine shockingly stabs him to death for his double-crossing philandering! The film has crisp dialogue, a complicated and intriguing plot, unique characters and excellent acting performances.


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