Best 20 Films of the 50's

  • To keep things reasonable, I decided to limit each director to one film, since Hitchcock, Wilder, Kurosawa, and others all had several big hits in the decade. Also, there is no attempt to rank these movies, which I think would be near impossible. And of course, I’ve had to see the film for it to make the list.
  • 1. The 400 Blows (1959). Great debut from Truffaut.
  • 2. The African Queen (1951). Bogie and Hepburn make a great tandem in this action-filled romantic comedy.
  • 3.All About Eve (1950). Absolutely brilliant films that hinges on the strong performances of Bette Davis and George Sanders, but equally on the soft acting job by Gary Merrill, as Davis' love interest.
  • 4. Anatomy of a Murder (1959). James Stewart cleans himself up in order to defend a murder suspect in this taut court drama.
  • 5. The Apu Trilogy. OK, I cheated here. These three films from the great Indian director Satyajit Ray include his film debut Panther Panchali (1955), Aparajito (1956), and The World of Apu (1959). It’s a touching and amazing set of films.
  • 6. The Band Wagon (1953). Great musical with Fred Astaire doing his thing.
  • 7. The Big Heat (1953). This is a great film noir with a cruel Lee Marvin, and surprises left and right. Maybe the best noir of the decade.
  • 8. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). William Holden at the top of his game, and Alec Guinness reminds you that he did more than the Star Wars franchise.
  • 9. From Here to Eternity (1953). The movie that showed that Sinatra had acting chops, as well as a crooner’s voice, as well as the great beach kiss scene. This also keeps High Noon from being on this list, unfortunately, but this is the much better film.
  • 10. Harvey (1950) One of my all-time favorite movies. Simple as that.
  • 11. Ikiru (1952). I’ve already mentioned that I think it’s Kurosawa’s best film.
  • 12. The Killing (1956). Kubrick’s first film with a real budget and studio backing is Sterling Hayden’s best performance.
  • 13. On the Waterfront (1954). This list wouldn’t be right without an entry from Elia Kazan and Marlon Brando, two stalwarts of the decade.
  • 14. The Quiet Man (1952). What can I say? I dig it.
  • 15. Rear Window 1954). Vertigo and North by Northwest may be his all time bests, and Dial M for Murder may be his most stylish, but this one has Grace Kelly and Raymond Burr.
  • 16. Rififi (1955). Cool caper flick defined the heist movie.
  • 17. Singin’ in the Rain (1952). Two of the songs, Kelly’s titular number, and the late Donald O'Connor's Make ‘Em Laugh, are enough to get this one in. Oh, it is a great movie too.
  • 18. Sunset Blvd. (1950). Just an awe-inspiring work.
  • 19. Touch of Evil (1958). Never thought a Charlton Heston film would make a list like this for me (I find his sci-fi stuff to be silly), but then he goes and does this for Welles.
  • 20. Wild Strawberries (1957). Just beats out Seventh Seal (which I like, but feels a little dated). This one, also starring Max Von Sydow, is stupendous.
Author Comments: 

Sleeping Beauty (1959)

nice list. Not a bad movie here. But nice to see Astaire get some love and the Apu trilogy is an amazing piece of work.

I know somewhere else you told of your love for the Quiet Man and your thinking it is Ford's best movie. I can not go along with that thinking (I am a huge Liberty Valance fan) but I do think it may be the quintessential Ford movie. Just enough machismo, humor and bullshit to make it ever viewable.

I think you hit it right on with Ford's Quiet Man. Valance is a great Western (I dig Marvin's badass the most), but Quiet Man is definitively Ford as much as The Searchers is.

The Quiet Man is a beautiful Comedy-drama. great acting, even from John Wayne. Great music, and an excellent fist fight. Maybe the best movie of 1952, although High Noon is a close second. But that's another matter.

Great to find The Band Wagon here. Main absentee is Kenji Mizoguchi- e.g Sansho the Bailiff.

That's a failing on my part; I haven't seen any of Mizoguchi's films. Tragic, I know.