Great Films from the 1950s

Great Films from the 1950s

1950s Movies You Don’t Want to Miss

The 1950s ushered in a new level of film making as directors sought to create more realistic and powerful stories using some of the greatest actors in Hollywood history. These are ten of the greatest films of all time.


Dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz – Betty Davis, Anne Baxter — Backstage story revolving around aspiring actress Eve Harrington. Tattered and forlorn, Eve shows up in the dressing room of Broadway mega-star Margo Channing, telling a melancholy life story to Margo and her friends. Margo takes Eve under her wing, and it appears that Eve is a conniver that uses Margo.


Dirs. Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen – Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds — A spoof of the turmoil that afflicted the movie industry in the late 1920s when movies went from silent to sound. When two silent movie stars’, Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont, latest movie is made into a musical, a chorus girl is brought in to dub Lina’s speaking and singing. Don is on top of the world until Lina finds out.


Dir. John Huston – Humphrey Bogart, Katherine Hepburn — After a religious spinster’s missionary brother is killed in WWI Africa, a dissolute steamer captain offers her safe passage. She’s not satisfied so she persuades him to destroy a German gunboat. The two spend most of their time fighting with each other rather than the Germans. Time alone on the river leads to love.

HIGH NOON (1952)

Dir. Fred Zinnemann – Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly — Former marshal Will Kane is preparing to leave the small town of Hadleyville, New Mexico, with his new bride, Amy, when he learns that local criminal Frank Miller has been set free and is coming to seek revenge on the marshal who turned him in. When he starts recruiting deputies to fight Miller, Kane is discouraged to find that the people of Hadleyville turn cowardly when the time comes for a showdown, and he must face Miller and his cronies alone.


Dir. William Wyler – Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn – Discontented princess Anne is touring Europe when she escapes her palace in Rome to have a night of freedom. Joe Bradley, an American newspaperman looking for a big break that will send him home, finds her asleep and decides to help her. Anne decides not to return to the palace the next morning but instead sight-sees around Rome with Bradley. Originally, Bradley plans to use Anne for his “big break” and Anne intends to leave Rome the next day, but will love change things?


Dir. Alfred Hitchcock  – Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly — A newspaper photographer with a broken leg passes time recuperating by observing his neighbors through his window. He sees what he believes to be a murder, and decides to solve the crime himself. With the help of his nurse and girlfriend, he tries to catch the murderer without being killed himself. [Warning: does not show anything, but implies a rather unpleasant murder]


Dir. John Ford – John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter — In this revered Western, Ethan Edwards returns home to Texas after the Civil War. After an attack on his family by Comanches, he vows to track down his surviving relatives and bring them home. Eventually, Edwards gets word that his niece Debbie is alive. Along with her adopted brother, Martin Pawley, he embarks on a dangerous mission to find her, journeying deep into Comanche territory. [Warning: can be intense at points]

12 ANGRY MEN (1957)

Dir. Sidney Lumet – Henry Fonda — Following the closing arguments in a murder trial, the 12 members of the jury must deliberate, with a guilty verdict meaning death for the accused, an inner-city teen. The jurors try to reach a unanimous decision while sequestered in a room, but one juror casts considerable doubt on elements of the case. Personal issues soon rise to the surface, and conflict threatens to derail the delicate process that will decide one boy’s fate.


Dir. David Lean – William Holden, Alec Guiness — Adaptation of the Pierre Bouelle novel about POWs in Burma forced to build a bridge to aid the war effort of their Japanese captors. British and American officers plot to blow up the structure, but the commander of the bridge’s construction has different plans. [Warning: WWII violence and intense prisoner of war scenes]

BEN HUR (1959)

Dir. William Wyler – Charlton Heston — Ben Hur is a Palestinian Jew who is battling the Roman empire at the time of Christ. His actions send him and his family into slavery, but an inspirational encounter with Jesus changes everything. He finally meets his rival in a justly famous chariot race and rescues his suffering family. [Warning: violence and bloodshed]

Made it Through the List?

Once you get through this list, don’t forget to check out our other movie lists: 1910s1920s1930s1940s, and our favorite Christmas movies. We’ve got family movie night covered for a while!

Learn the Principles Behind the Movies

Filmmaking from the First Directors teaches the basics of filmmaking and early film history. It takes students through a unique journey starting in the late 19th century when film was invented, then guides them through the steps first directors took in creating the modern language of film. It is also part of our Premium Membership—the best way to experience all we have to offer.

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