Mike’s Top Ten of 1950-1959

The 50s feels like a very insular decade. That is to say, it feels like a decade that is mostly unaffected by the outside world. At least, not the way the 30s and 40s were. The 30s is highly impacted by both the advancement of technology and complete upheaval of the norms of the silent era to sound, as well as the Depression. The 40s was obviously impacted by the war. But the 50s — what is there? Rock ‘n’ roll? TV? There are minor things that will affect certain pockets of the films, but overall, this feels like a decade that’s pure studio filmmaking.

This list was the toughest yet. Not so much in the first ten (though once you get to 8-10, you can easily swap them out for 3-4 other movies, easily). And 11-20 was just brutal. There’s so much stuff I wish I could have also included on this list. But, hey, that’s what happens. You gotta make the tough decisions. It only means there’s a lot of great stuff that’s on the actual lists that you should look at.

For methodology purposes, the way I compile these Top Tens of the Decade lists: I take my top ten for each year of the decade, throw them all together, and simply whittle it down until I find what I feel are my ten favorites from that decade. Not the best, my favorite. That’s really all it is. I feel like if I can figure out what my favorite films of all time are, then I can figure it out by specific decades.

Mike’s Top Ten Films of 1950-1959

The Cranes Are Flying (1959)

High Noon (1952)

On the Waterfront (1954)

The Quiet Man (1952)

Rio Bravo (1959)

Roman Holiday (1953)

The Searchers (1956)

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

The first half of this list was a no-brainer. Roman Holiday is a top 20 all-timer for me. The Cranes Are Flying is top 25. Singin’ in the Rain is a top 50. The rest are all top 100. Though it got tricky, since there are more top 100 films of mine than top ten entries. So a tough decision had to be made. Ultimately the decision was made to keep The Bad and the Beautiful off the top ten list and essentially have it be #11. That’s just how that one came out. There’s really nothing I’d want to take off that top ten whatsoever. So it is what it is.

This list spans almost the entirety of the decade. The only years not represented are 1950, 1955 and 1958. 1952 has three entries here, which is quite surprising, since I don’t usually consider that a particularly strong year on its own. ’55 and ’58 don’t surprise me at all. Those are the weak years of the decade. ’50 is an interesting one, but that’ll be even more interesting in a minute.

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  • 12 Angry Men (1957)
  • The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)
  • The Band Wagon (1953)
  • The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
  • Giant (1956)
  • Marty (1955)
  • North by Northwest (1959)
  • Rear Window (1954)
  • Stalag 17 (1953)
  • The Wages of Fear (1953)

1952 gets a fourth film on the list. The Bad and the Beautiful, as I said above, is essentially a #11. It only missed the top ten due to lack of space. 1953, a year I consider to be the strongest of the decade, makes its showing with three more films. 1957, the other great year of the decade, gets two more. Hitchcock gets two films on there.

Films-wise, almost all of these are films just outside of my top 100. The Wages of Fear, The Band Wagon and Giant are like, 101-125 for me. Bridge on the River Kwai and 12 Angry Men always seem to come in a pair. You gotta put the two Hitchcocks on there. Those movies are so great. And Marty I just love so much, it had to get on.

Really the only movie I’m surprised didn’t make it was Sunset Boulevard. Which brings me to the fact that 1950 still doesn’t make an appearance on this list. 1955 got one on, but 1950 did not. Leaving 1950 and 1958 as the only two films not to make an appearance on this list.

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