What a decade! It was the era of Cinemascope, the continued predominance of the Hollywood studio system, early 3D gimmicks, the US blacklisting of 'leftist' actors & directors, and the creeping influence of television. Very difficult to pick a Top 15, there are just so many great films. But here goes:
- All About Eve (Mankiewicz)
- Sunset Boulevard (Wilder)
- Singin in the Rain (Kelly)
- Rear Window (Hitchcock)
- Vertigo (Hitchcock)
- North by North West (Hitchcock)
- Tokyo Story (Ozu)
- The Seven Samurai (Kurosawa)
- Sansho the Bailiff (Mizoguchi)
- Apu Trilogy (Satyajit Ray)
- Some Like It Hot (Wilder) - Le Salaire de la Peur (The Wages of Fear) (Clouzot) - A Bout de Souffle (Breathless) (Goddard) - The Ladykillers (Mackendrick) - La Dolce Vita (Fellini)
Hollywood dominated for sure. All About Eve, Sunset Boulevard, Singin' in the Rain would have to be in there. Hitchcock was at the top of his game and, really, I'd have to include three of his ten or so from that decade - Rear Window, Vertigo and North by Northwest. I could have easily chosen three Brando films - The Wild One, On the Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire. It was fairly easy not to go for James Dean's angsty trilogy nor Elvis's light musical romps. But I could have gone for a couple of westerns, High Noon and Gunfight at the OK Corale, along with Peck & Hepburn in Roman Holiday and Kirk Douglas in Lust for Life... Or Touch of Evil, House of Wax, Baby Doll, Mitchum in Night of the Hunter, From Here to Eternity, The Big Heat, The African Queen, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness... Charlton Heston's bliblical blockbusters Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments, some more musicals - An American in Paris, OIklahoma!, South Pacific and The King and I... and the last decent Chaplin film (Limelight).
And then there was Marilyn Monroe. Some Like It Hot was probably the best, but I could have chosen The Asphalt Jungle, Bus Stop, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Niagara, How to Marry a Millionaire, The Seven Year Itch, whatever. Oh and some cracking sci-fi films: Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The War of the Worlds, Forbidden Planet, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Incredible Shrinking Man, the immortal Plan 9 From Outer Space etc etc... And not forgeting a few good Disneys in Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty.
It was also the decade when Japanese film-makers hit the international stage. I've picked three but could happily have picked half a dozen others, including Kurosawa's Rashomon & Ikiru, Ozu's Early Spring, Late Spring and Tokyo Twilight, Kinoshita's charmingly sad Twenty-Four Eyes and of course the first of the Godzilla series.
The Wages of Fear and Breathless top a very good decade of French films. Could have included Les Enfants Terribles, Vadim's And God Created Woman, Truffaut's The 400 Blows, La Ronde, Les Diaboloques, Resnais's Hiroshima Mon Amour, Lamorisse's short film The Red Balloon or two Tati's - Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday or Mon Oncle.
Other notables: Fellini's La Strada and La Dolce Vita (the latter just within the 50s and gets into the Top 15), Bunuel'sThe Young and the Damned, Bergman's The Seventh Seal, Tarkovsky's first, The Killers... Oh and this is cheating, but I must include Satyajit Ray The Apu Trilogy, if not Mehboob Khan's Mother India.
There were quite a few decent Brit films, notably the Ealing Comedies; The Ladykillers makes the Top 15, but on any other day it could have been The Lavender Hill Mob or The Man in the White Suit. Then there was The Dam Busters, Look Back in Anger, the first of the Hammer Horror films (The Quatermass Xperiment, The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula, Mummy) and that strange early animated version of George Orwell's Animal Farm. But perhaps not the early St Trinians or Carry On capers.
Some of these I would have watched in re-release in the cinema (La Dolce Vita at the Everyman in Hampstead, Plan 9 from Outer Space at the Scala, Hiroshima Mon Amour at the Duke of York in Brighton...) but most, sadly, would have been on the small screen. Some of them - Wages of Fear, The Apu Trilogy, Mother India etc - I only saw quite recently on DVD.