Thursday, March 16, 2017

Best movies of the 1950's.

About six months ago I did a ten part blog series in which I revealed my top one hundred favorite movies of all time. I have since grown dissatisfied with the list, not feeling that it accurately reflects my ever changing palate. I have a major problem when it comes to recency bias, the list was filled with movies that I had seen so recently. The problem with this is that as I had not given some of those movies time to marinate, and I realized they didn't measure up to some of the other movies I love so much. So, consider that first blog a first draft. As I am re-figuring my list, I would like to publish my top ten of the decades. So, here is part 2: My favorite movies from the 1950's!

So, now that introductions have been introduced and disclaimers have been disclaimed, here are my top ten movies from the 1950's.


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10. Ben Hur (1959)
Image result for ben hur movie poster 1959

One of the most epic movies ever made. Breath-taking chariot racing, gigantic ship wrecks, compelling drama, and rich spiritual content make Ben-Hur a worthy winner of its record holding 11 Academy Awards. This is one of Hollywoods finest examples of pure entertainment.


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9. On The Waterfront (1954)
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Marlon Brando gives an electrifying performance as Terry Malloy, in the movie that earned him his first, and well deserved Academy Award. The movie stands on its own as a compelling and emotional journey towards redemption and restoration. With stunning direction from Elia Kazan, and powerful supporting performances from Eva Marie Saint, Rod Stieger and Karl Malden, On The Waterfront is one of the best acted and directed movies every made.


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8. Rebel Without A Cause (1955)
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James Dean only did 3 movies before his tragic death. Yet, he is one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood history. He is also the only actor in Hollywood history to receive 2 Oscar nominations after his death. His success goes unprecedented to this day. Rebel Without A Cause is one of the most important depictions of youth I've ever seen. It captures the rage, depression and pressures that often came with being a youth in the idealistic 1950's, Rebel Without A Cause spoke to a generation, and continues to speak to generations, about what it's like when you don't fit the mold the world tries to force you into.



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7. Rear Window (1954)
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Alfred Hitchcock was known as the master of suspense; this is the movie that sealed the deal on that title. Featuring James Stewart playing against type as a grumpy, commitment-phobic guy bound to his apartment facing a horrific circumstance. Funny and intense, filmed with plenty of patience and craft; Hitchcock's talent is exemplified in every frame.


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6. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)


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As Stan Kowalski, Marlon Brando introduced to the world a style of acting that would change the landscape of the profession forever: Method acting. These days, method acting means actors who stay in character, behaving like intolerable freaks, for their entire shoot. But that's not what it used to mean. Method acting is when you pull from personal experiences or memories or imagination to make yourself actually feel what the character might actually be feeling. Method actors don't fake the emotion behind their characters, the idea being it naturally flows out of them. Brando was the first to draw major attention to it, and movies would never be the same again. Add to it an equally impressive Vivian Leigh as the iconic Blanche DuBois, as well as Kim Hunter and Karl Malden in explosive supporting roles, and you have one of the most groundbreaking movies to ever come out of Hollywood.

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5. Touch of Evil (1958)

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Terrorism, murder, rape, heroin overdoses and crooked authority figures... No this isn't a Martin Scorsese picture, it's the film noir movie to define all film noir movies. Touch of Evil was Orson Welles message to Hollywood that his overrated but extremely successful Citizen Kane was no fluke. Featuring career best performances from both Welles and Heston (yes it is tremendous white-washing, but Heston had the sense to not attempt a Hispanic accent, and does his most natural and emotive work) Touch of Evil is breathtaking film making, and the stage is set by the most thrilling first fifteen minutes in film history.



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4. High Noon (1952)

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In the time of McCarthy era black listing,  director Fred Zinnemann responded to the abusive powers at be in the best way possible: He made art. High Noon is a western for people who don't like westerns. Gary Cooper's lone hero in a town of cowards serves as an allegory for the American cowardice to rise up against the despicable methods of Joseph McCarthy. Cooper delivers a commanding and layered performance (one that landed him an Oscar), and Fred Zinnemann directs one for the ages. This is an OG as far as protest movies are concerned, and it's magnificent.

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3. Some Like It Hot (1959)
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This Billy Wilder directed masterpiece is a broad and sophisticated comedy that has lasted the ages. Some Like it Hot has withstood the test of time, not because of poignant social consciousness or groundbreaking methods, but on the gigantic shoulders of these three legendary leads. The chemistry of Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marylin Monroe is excellent, the writing is still hysterical and the directive vision is remarkable. This is not an overrated movie, it's one of the funniest of all time.



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2. The Night of The Hunter (1955)
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A hidden gem for the decade, The Night of the Hunter is a movie unlike anything I've ever seen. Firstly, it is directed to haunting perfection by Charles Laughton, and it features the best performance of Robert Mitchum's career. Secondly, this serves as a combination of cinematic realism and German expressionism, it combines the factual and the mythical elements of love and hate. It exposes the physical and mystical components to good and evil, innocence and corruption. It is a horror movie about a psychopath, but it is also a spiritual movie about new beginnings. The Night of the Hunter is everything I look for in a movie.



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Honorable Mentions



 Harvey
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 East of Eden
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Shane
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North By Northwest
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Roman Holiday
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1. Vertigo (1958)

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Upon its initial release, Vertigo was panned as a miserable failure for Hitchcock, and is blamed for ruining the friendship and partnership between Hitch and Jimmy Stewart. However, sixty years later it is heralded as Hitchcock's masterpiece. This is a dark exploration on obsession, fear and human connection. The haunting score merely complements the master of suspense' wizardry, and while this may not be Stewart's most iconic performance, it is certainly his best. Vertigo is an impossibly good movie.





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