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


Greatest Films of the 1950s
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1959

Anatomy of a Murder (1959), 160 minutes, D: Otto Preminger
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Ben-Hur (1959), 211 minutes, D: William Wyler
Renowned, Best Picture-winning Biblical epic of enormous scale about adult enmity between boyhood friends, filmed in Italy. The 1880 novel by Lew Wallace had previously been made in 1927 as a silent film with Ramon Novarro. A character-driven, action-filled, star-studded extravaganza and one of the cinema's greatest epics -- a compelling human story of revenge, bitterness, redemption and forgiveness. Charlton Heston is the Prince of Judea, Judah Ben Hur, who confronts the conquering Romans and tyrannical boyhood friend Messala (Stephen Boyd). His actions send him and his family (Martha Scott and Cathy O'Donnell) into banishment and slavery - and an inspirational encounter with Jesus. As a galley slave, he saves the life of Roman nobleman/admiral Quintus Arrius (Jack Hawkins), is adopted and becomes a respected citizen and a famed chariot racer under the tutelage of an Arabian horse racer (Hugh Griffith). Heston finally meets his rival Messala in a justly famous chariot race - often regarded as one of the most exciting action sequences ever filmed. Upon his return to Judea, Ben-Hur also rescues his suffering, leprous family and witnesses the crucifixion of Jesus - on his way to Golgotha, and is inspired to convert to Christianity.

Black Orpheus (1959, Braz./Fr./It.) (aka Orfeu Negro), 100 minutes, D: Marcel Camus
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Compulsion (1959), 103 minutes, D: Richard Fleischer
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The Four Hundred Blows (1959, Fr.) (aka Les 400 Coups, Les Quatre Cents Coups, The 400 Blows), 97 minutes, D: Francois Truffaut
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Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959, Fr./Jp.), 90 minutes, D: Alain Resnais
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Imitation of Life (1959), 125 minutes, D: Douglas Sirk
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North by Northwest (1959), 136 minutes, D: Alfred Hitchcock
Hitchcock's great suspense thriller, another mistaken-identity case involving a Madison Avenue ad executive Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant). He is targeted as a US government agent (who doesn't actually exist) by international spies, abducted, framed for murder, and chased cross-country. On the run throughout the entire film, he is pursued by the foreign operatives, the head of the spy ring Philip Vandamm (James Mason), the CIA, the police, and a mysterious blonde Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint). A literal plot-twisting cliff-hanger, with superb sequences including the famous cropduster scene in an open field, and the chase across the face of Mount Rushmore.

Pillow Talk (1959), 105 minutes, D: Michael Gordon
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Rio Bravo (1959), 141 minutes, D: Howard Hawks
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Room at the Top (1959, UK), 115 minutes, D: Jack Clayton
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Shadows (1959), 81 minutes, D: John Cassavetes
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Sleeping Beauty (1959), 75 minutes, D: Disney Studio
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Some Like It Hot (1959), 120 minutes, D: Billy Wilder
Wilder's wonderfully-satirical, funny comedy. Two unemployed, 20's era Chicago jazz musicians, Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) accidentally witness the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, and must flee from gangsters. They masquerade as women - Jo-sephine and Daphne - and join Sweet Sue's all-girl band with luscious, voluptuous singer Sugar Kowalczyk (Marilyn Monroe) heading for Florida to elude the pursuit of retaliatory bootleggers. Joe also disguises himself as a wealthy, impotent, Cary Grant-like yacht owner to attract the loving attention of fellow band member Sugar, while Daphne (impressed with his own new sexy image) distracts the real millionaire - a smitten, oft-wed Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown). The Chicago hitmen, with dime-flipping, spats-wearing ringleader Spats Columbo (George Raft) arrive at the Florida hotel for a convention, disrupting their gender-bending escapades. With the greatest fade-out line in film history: "Nobody's perfect."

Suddenly, Last Summer (1959), 114 minutes, D: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
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