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

Animal Farm (1954, UK), 72 minutes, D: Joy Batchelor, John Halas

The Barefoot Contessa (1954, US/It.), 128 minutes, D: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

The Caine Mutiny (1954), 125 minutes, D: Edward Dmytryk
Young Princeton graduate ensign Willie Keith (Robert Francis) told how he was assigned to a dilapidated and rusty minesweeper named the Caine, sternly captained by Lt. Commander Philip Queeg (Humphrey Bogart). The eccentric Queeg reprimanded the crew for messy shirttails, haircuts, and other petty things, and soon it was apparent he might be paranoid and mentally unbalanced (evidenced by his rolling silver metal balls in his hand). The captain began to demonstrate how incompetent he was, during a beach-landing incident in which he was dubbed "Old Yellowstain." The question arose: Could the naval officers take control of the ship, without being accused of mutiny? The last straw was Queeg's mis-treatment of an incident involving leftover strawberries in the officer's mess, and when Queen mismanaged the ship during a typhoon and executive officer Lt. Steve Maryk (Van Johnson) stepped in and took charge. Maryk and Keith were court-martialed for mutiny, to be defended by Barney Greenwald (Jose Ferrer). Lt. Tom Keefer (Fred MacMurray), the true instigator of the mutiny idea, testified that taking the ship from Queeg was in error, to save himself.
The prosecution's case faltered when Queeg was cross-examined, and he became frantic, paranoid, and blamed everyone for the Caine's problems, while nervously rolling the clanking steel balls in his hand. The two officers were acquitted.

Carmen Jones (1954), 105 minutes, D: Otto Preminger

Chikamatsu Monogatari (1954, Jp.) (aka The Crucified Lovers, or A Story From Chikamatsu), 102 minutes, D: Kenji Mizoguchi

Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), 79 minutes, D: Jack Arnold
This classic Universal horror film was by director Jack Arnold - originally shot in 3-D, and the last great prototypical classic from Universal Studios. The campy film told about an anthropological expedition led by Dr. Carl Maia (Antonio Moreno) and funded by Dr. Mark Williams (Richard Denning) to a Brazilian river in the Amazon, conducted by Dr. Maia, Dr. Williams, ichthyologist Dr. David Reed (Richard Carlson) and his dark-haired girlfriend/fiancee Kay Lawrence (Julia Adams), and scientist Dr. Edwin Thompson (Whit Bissell). There was fossilized and other gruesome evidence of an unusual, prehistoric, amphibious web-handed and footed humanoid-reptile. It was eventually discovered that the Gill-Man (Ben Chapman) was living in dark lagoon known as the "Black Lagoon" - in scary and superbly-photographed underwater sequences, the creature expressed 'Beauty-and-the-Beast' love interest in bathing beauty Kay, stalking and watching her from below as she swam above him in a white one-piece suit. After some deadly encounters with the Gill-Man when captured, it then kidnapped Kay from the boat, dove into the water and took her back to its swampy cave, but she was soon rescued - while the creature was shot, badly injured and sank into the deep lagoon.

Dial M for Murder (1954), 105 minutes, D: Alfred Hitchcock

Gojira (1954, Jp.) (aka Godzilla), 96 minutes, D: Ishirô Honda
The influential classic Japanese horror film, with effective special effects, was later released in 1956 as a shortened, re-edited Americanized version (with Raymond Burr as US reporter Steve Martin). The film served as an allegory for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks almost 10 years earlier. In the original, Godzilla was a dormant (but come-to-life) giant, fire-breathing, dinosaur-like, reptilian monster/creature. It had been awakened, irradiated and mutated by atomic H-Bomb tests in the ocean, revealed when ocean waters turned boiling hot. The radioactive Godzilla went on a destructive, terrorizing rampage, and destroyed a Japanese freighter. The superstitious villager-inhabitants of Odo Island thought the ancient legend of the creature had come true. The beast further rampaged through mid-50s Tokyo Bay and then the city of Shinagawa. The film's sub-text was about a devastating, dangerous weapon developed by Dr. Daisuke Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata) known as an "Oxygen Destroyer" - a WMD that could destroy Godzilla. The scientist reluctantly allowed the device to be used against the kaiju, but only after destroying his research documents and materials. He then deliberately sacrificed himself (to save humanity from further destruction if the horrible weapon's plans were revealed) when he detonated his device underwater and cut his own diving suit air-cord, killing both Godzilla and himself.

Johnny Guitar (1954), 110 minutes, D: Nicholas Ray

Journey to Italy (1954, It.) (aka Viaggio in Italia), 97 or 85 minutes, D: Roberto Rossellini

On the Waterfront (1954), 108 minutes, D: Elia Kazan
A compelling, evocative, gritty, Best Picture-winning drama about union corruption and violence on the New York waterfront and the struggle of an ex-prize fighter against it. Inarticulate ex-boxer champ Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) witnessed the murder of a fellow dock worker, a victim of gangster union boss Johnny Friendly's (Lee J. Cobb) oppressive hold over the longshoremen - punished for 'singing' to an investigation commission. When Terry began to fall in love with shy and frail Edie (Eva Marie Saint), the dead man's sister, his allegiances were challenged. Contained the famous Brando "I coulda been a contender" speech in the back seat of a taxi with his crooked, scheming lawyer brother Charlie (Rod Steiger). After his brother's murder, he defiantly stood up against the hoodlums on the waterfront.

Rear Window (1954), 113 minutes, D: Alfred Hitchcock
Hitchcock's voyeuristic masterpiece - a suspenseful, nail-biting thriller about a wheelchair-bound, immobilized photographer who believed he had witnessed a murder during his convalescence. During a hot New York summer, photo-journalist L. B. 'Jeff' Jeffries (James Stewart) recuperated in his apartment from a broken leg. He wiled away the time by observing - and spying on neighbors through his rear window (with binoculars and his telephoto camera), while being cared for by his fashionable girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly) and nurse-therapist Stella (Thelma Ritter). He experienced all of life's extremes - a honeymooning couple, dancer Miss Torso, spinsterish Miss Lonelyhearts, and the bickering, intriguing Thorwalds. Dissuaded by his police detective friend, Lisa, and Stella, he persisted with attentive observations and suspicions about Thorwald (Raymond Burr) killing his wife.

Sabrina (1954), 112 minutes, D: Billy Wilder

Salt of the Earth (1954), 94 minutes, D: Herbert J. Biberman

Sansho the Bailiff (1954, Jp.) (aka Sanshô Dayû), 124 minutes, D: Kenji Mizoguchi

Senso (1954, It.) (aka The Wanton Countess), 118 or 93 minutes, D: Luchino Visconti

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), 103 minutes, D: Stanley Donen

Seven Samurai (1954, Jp.) (aka Shichinin No Samurai), 207 minutes, D: Akira Kurosawa

Silver Lode (1954), 81 minutes, D: Allan Dwan

A Star is Born (1954), 176 minutes, D: George Cukor
A classic tearjerker, the first re-make of William Wellman's non-musical, classic 1937 film starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. It was inspired by What Price Hollywood? (1932) also directed by Cukor. The emotionally-intense psycho-drama also hinted at the real-life troubles and problems (five marriages) in the career of its female star - Judy Garland - a victim of the Hollywood studio system - during the film's making. It was Garland's comeback and self-referential film (after she had been dismissed from her lead role in Annie Get Your Gun (1950)), and then suffered from alcoholic binges and suicide attempts. Young aspiring newcomer-star Esther Blodgett's (Judy Garland) singing career was launched in Hollywood - as Vicki Lester, by a fading, alcoholic film star Norman Maine (James Mason) whose popularity was on the decline. Their marriage was tested by the tragic consequences of his personal self-destruction, disintegration and loss of fame, especially in the Academy Awards Banquet Ceremony scene when Norman accidentally slapped her. His stunning suicidal demise was inevitable (he committed suicide by walking into the ocean), but duly honored by his wife onstage at the Shrine Theatre when she proudly introduced herself as Mrs. Norman Maine. Included Garland's memorable songs: "The Man That Got Away" and the main production number "Born In a Trunk."

La Strada (1954, It.) (aka The Road), 94 minutes, D: Federico Fellini

Them! (1954), 94 minutes, D: Gordon Douglas
Noted as the first "Big Bug" Monster feature with great special effects and a convincing story - setting off a science-fiction trend. After atomic tests in 1945 in the White Sands area of the New Mexico desert near Alamogordo, a young Ellinson girl (Sandy Descher) was found wandering, in shock, by two state police troopers (led by Sgt. Ben Peterson (James Whitmore)) and brought to a police station. Her trailer camp (where she was staying with her parents and brother) had been attacked and destroyed, and they were missing. After FBI agent Robert Graham (James Arness) and two scientists (Dr. Harold Medford (Edmund Gwenn) and his daughter Dr. Pat Medford (Joan Weldon)) investigated strange pulsating sounds and formic acid in victims, it was determined that recent atomic testing had mutated a race of giant ants. The ants were traced to their nest and two queen Ants that had hatched and traveled into the storm drain sewers under Los Angeles to spread further destruction. The film ended with the statement: " When Man entered the Atomic Age, he opened a door into a new world. What we'll eventually find in that new world, nobody can predict."

Three Coins in the Fountain (1954), 102 minutes, D: Jean Negulesco

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