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. (more…)
This is a cool year. There’s a lot of amazing stuff on this top ten. Just about every film in the top ten can be describes as being a “classic” in its respective genre. And the other one… well, we’ll get to the other one. It’s amazing.
The French New Wave began this year, and it marks a major upturn (which had been coming over the past couple years) of European cinema. International film industries had been growing since the war, but the 60s were the time when the films greatly started making their way over to America in a big way.
Otherwise, you look at this year — Billy Wilder, William Wyler, George Stevens, Otto Preminger, Douglas Sirk, Howard Hawks — it’s one of those years with all the auteurs making some of the absolute most classic films.
Pound for pound, this is legitimately one of the best years of the decade. (more…)
1958’s just a cool year. There’s nothing hugely specific that will define the year, but there are important things to talk about in terms of films. The noir genre basically ended this year, for example. Also, a film is now generally considered one of the actual two or three greatest films ever made was released. And there’s just a lot of cool shit about vikings, too.
What I like about this list is that it’s all over the map. Classic foreign film, suspense, campy horror, epic western, musical, classy drama, classic race film, ensemble, classic noir, and vikings.
Can you guys tell I’m really excited about the vikings? (more…)
The single best year of the 50s. My personal favorite is 1953, for sentimental reasons, but in terms of having the absolute strongest films, 1957 is your year. You’ll see what I mean below.
This top ten list goes 8 deep. The first 8 films on this list are generally considered among the greatest films ever made. And then the other two are just some great hidden gems that I love that generally aren’t very widely known among film buffs.
Really what makes me happy about this year is my #1 film, which is one of my twenty favorite films of all time. The rest is just icing on the cake.
Pay attention to this year in particular. It’s so deep that there are a larger number of true hidden gems out there for people to see and enjoy. (more…)
What we need to talk about for 1956 is the biggest thing in popular culture — rock ‘n’ roll. Music changed forever in the 50s, and this feels like the signature year to bring it up. Elvis’s first movie — Love Me Tender — came out this year, and there was a proliferation of films with rock ‘n’ roll stars in them performing their hits. This goes back to what I brought up in a previous year — teenagers were now the target audience. So they put all their favorite stars in the films. It’s actually a great time capsule, watching those films. You actually get to see these stars perform their hits.
The other thing — at least for me — about 1956 is the amount of straight up hidden gems that are in it. Sure, the big films are represented, as they should be. But my top ten has at least two films that most people haven’t heard of and another film that most people haven’t seen. And there’s also amazing stuff below that as well.
This is one of those years where just about every single movie going down to tier two is something I really enjoy. (more…)
Well, I guess there’s really only one thing to discuss for 1955 — James Dean.
Not necessarily Dean himself, though he did have an amazing, brief career, with three all-time classics as his only features in which he starred. We need to talk about both what he represents — method acting, the teen culture of the 50s — and also how it relates to the big cultural film of the year: Rebel Without a Cause.
The 50s started to represent a societal disconnect between adults and teenagers. This was the first time the term generational gap became a thing. Here you have adults that were raised on wholesomeness and here are these teens that are listening to rock ‘n’ roll, smoking cigarettes and all this other stuff. The disconnect between parents and children would be a major theme of the next few years. You can’t discuss 1955 without James Dean and the generational gap being front and center.
Outside of that, there are some real classics we’re gonna talk about here. There are heavy hitters all over the board, across every genre. (more…)
1954 is notable for having three of the absolute greatest films ever made in it. Straight up, when people rank the best of the best — these movies will show up within the first 150.
Now’s also a good time to talk about the big elephant in the room as it relates to the 50s — television. The rise of television, coupled with studios having to give up ownership of their theaters meant they were increasingly nervous about the future of their product. (That’s right, this has been going on for years.) So they started making these gimmicks to get people into the theater. First, it was CinemaScope. And Cinerama. And all the different variants. Then it was 3D. There are a bunch of movies that were originally released in 3D spread around the 50s.
The other thing they did was find things TV couldn’t offer, like exotic locations. There was an increasing trend in the 50s of “runaway production,” which was essentially going off and shooting films entirely in other countries. The big one in this era was Italy. A lot of movies were shot on location in Italy in the 50s. (more…)