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Top 10 Favourite Films of the 1950s

The 1950s were an era of both prosperity and great conflict. After World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in a series of conflicts collectively known as the Cold War. The Soviet Union began the Space Race with the launch of Sputnik 1, while Fidel Castro became the first Communist leader in the Western hemisphere after the Cuban Revolution. The landmark Brown v. Board of Education court decision ruled that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, and the Civil Rights Movement was born. Joseph Stalin died, the Vietnam War began, and Elvis Presley turned rock 'n' roll into the most popular music genre in the world.
Replica of Sputnik 1. Fidel Castro. The Vietnam War. Elvis Presley.
The 1950s changed Hollywood as well. As a result of the introduction of television, studios were desperate to attract audiences back to the theatres and resorted to such exotic techniques as CinemaScope and 3D film. The Cold War era zeitgeist translated into a renewed interest in science and outer space, and lent itself to the golden age of science-fiction. James Stewart and John Wayne revitalized the western, while Marlon Brando and James Dean popularized method acting. These are my top 10 favorite films of the 1950s. Please bear in mind that this my own personal opinion, which of course is limited to the films that I have thus far.

10. Harvey (1950)
Directed by Henry Koster | Starring James Stewart, Josephine Hull and Peggy Dow

James Stewart plays an eccentric middle-aged man named Elwood P. Dowd, whose best friend is an invisible tall rabbit named Harvey. What's not to like?

Directed by Leo McCarey | Starring Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr and Cathleen Nesbitt

Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr are two strangers who fall madly in love on a cruise ship. They agree to meet again in six months' time, but she's gets struck by a car on the day of their rendezvous and is told by doctors that she will never walk again. It takes a while for Cary Grant to realize what's happened, but it's all good in the end. «If you can paint, I can walk. Anything can happen, don't you think?» she says to him. Corny, I know, but wonderful.

8. Some Like It Hot (1959)
Directed by Billy Wilder | Starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe

Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon disguise themselves as women to hide from the Mafia. Tony Curtis disguises himself again as the heir to Shell Oil and ends up falling in love with Marilyn Monroe, and Jack Lemmon earns the affection of Joe E. Brown. Joe E. Brown asks Jack Lemmon to marry him, but he refuses because he's a man. But that's okay, because nobody's perfect.
7. Rear Window (1954)
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock | Starring James Stewart, Grace Kelly and Thelma Ritter

James Stewart plays a voyeuristic photographer (some would call him a creep) who discovers that his neighbour killed his wife, but Grace Kelly and Thelma Ritter think he's going nuts. Turns out, he was right all along. I guess the lesson we can take from this is, never doubt a man who spends his days spying on his neighbours through the lenses of his camera.
6. Roman Holiday (1953) 
Directed by William Wyler | Starring Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck and Eddie Albert

Audrey Hepburn is an European princess who becomes infatuated with Gregory Peck (I mean, who wouldn't? Have you looked at him?) and experiences the joys of living for the first time. There's Vespa scooters, haircuts, pranks and all kinds of frolicking in gorgeous 1950s Rome.
Directed by Billy Wilder | Starring William Holden, Gloria Swanson and Erich von Stroheim

William Holden is a struggling Hollywood writer who takes advantage of Gloria Swanson, a fading movie star, in order to advance his unsuccessful career. She eventually falls in love with him, but he could not care less about her. So, in the end Gloria Swanson kills William Holden (spoiler alert!) and goes cuckoo afterwards. No, this is not a comedy.
Directed by John Huston | Starring Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr

Robert Mitchum is a U.S. Marine who gets stranded on a beach in the South Pacific during World War II. Deborah Kerr plays a nun who happens to be stranded on the same beach. They get really infatuated with each other, but cannot consummate their love because she doesn't want to forsake her religious vows. Girl, you're stranded on a deserted island with Robert freakin' Mitchum. Literally no one cares about your vows. (No disrespect intended.)
3. Born Yesterday (1950)
Directed by George Cukor | Starring William Holden, Judy Holliday and Broderick Crawford

Judy Holliday is a brassy showgirl tied up to Broderick Crawford, a brute who doesn't appreciate her. William Holden comes along and teaches her a thing or two about history and literature and politics and law, and she blossoms in front of our eyes. She falls in love with William Holden, then tells Broderick Crawford to drop dead, and lives happily ever after with her one true love.
2. Pillow Talk (1959)
Directed by Michael Gordon | Starring Doris Day, Rock Hudson and Tony Randall

Rock Hudson is a renowned playboy who tricks prim-and-proper Doris Day into falling in love with him by masquerading as a Texas rancher. She discovers his deception, but ends up falling into his arms anyway. I mean, it's Rock Hudson. Who in their right minds would say no to him?
Directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen | Starring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds

Gene Kelly is a silent film superstar who begins a romance with aspiring actress Debbie Reynolds. Jean Hagen, his vain, conniving and shallow leading lady, becomes blind with jealousy and tries to ruin their career. But don't worry; there's nothing between them. There has never been anything between them, just... air. Oh, and did I mention Gene Kelly is in it?

There you have it. These are (as of now) my top 10 favorite films of that wonderful decade that was the 1950s. What are some of your favorites movies of the '50s?


  1. Great List! Tied for number one for me would be Roman Holiday, White Christmas, and Rio Grande. They are also in my top 5 pre-1970 movies of all time. I love Judy Holliday but for some reason can't get myself to watch Born Yesterday! And it comes on TCM all the time! Maybe this year will be the year I finally watch it. I also haven't seen Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison despite really wanting to.

  2. Some excellent films here! I'm glad to see my all favourite on your list (Some Like It Hot)!


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