This post will now present Part 3 of the 100 Best Movies Made Between 1946-1960, what I consider the best period of moviemaking in history as stated in a previous post. This listing is what I call The Next Level, but to clarify, this is not to imply that these movies listed are better than the ones listed in my previous posts. The thought all along has been to present the best movies made during that period. Rather, The Next Level is just in the sense of being more well-known than the others previously listed may have been, either the movie itself or the director or, in most cases, both. With that in mind, here they are, in random order:
(1) The Killing (1956) The story of a racetrack heist gone awry, it’s the movie that made a name for director Stanley Kubrick and clearly indicates the greatness to follow.
(2) Roman Holiday (1953, Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck pictured above) A lovely confection of a movie, with an Oscar-winning performance by Audrey Hepburn in her first starring role and the beginning of the iconic status she holds to this day. It also has one of the best bittersweet endings of all time.
(3) Spartacus (1960) The definitive swords-and-sandals epic, also directed by Kubrick. All together now: “I am Spartacus!” If you don’t know that line, see it and see why it’s one of the most well-known lines in movie history.
(4) The Heiress (1949) One of William Wyler’s best films, with an Oscar-winning performance by Olivia de Havilland, along with a stellar cast and one of the more memorable endings of any movie made then or now.
(5) Witness for the Prosecution (1957, Tyrone Power pictured above)) Billy Wilder with one of the greatest courtroom thrillers ever and another stellar cast led by Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, and the great Charles Laughton.
(6) I Want to Live! (1958) Susan Hayward at her scorned, suffering woman best in her Oscar-winning performance as the first woman executed in California’s gas chamber. Compellingly acted and directed.
(7) Written on the Wind (1956, Rock Hudson and Lauren Bacall pictured above) Director Douglas Sirk made some of the greatest movies of the 50’s and this is the best of them all. Positively bursting with melodrama and Technicolor it can’t fail to entertain a true movie fan of any era.
(8) Elmer Gantry (1960) Burt Lancaster in a powerhouse Oscar-winning performance as a shady traveling preacher in this gripping expose of tent evangelism in the 1920’s. With great support from Jean Simmons and an Oscar-winning turn by Shirley Jones, it still packs a wallop.
(9) The Magnificent Seven (1960) Director John Sturges and his most well-known Western and one of the best known Westerns of all time, with great action scenes, a great score, and a great cast. Still holds up well today.
(10) White Heat (1949, James Cagney pictured above) Unquestionably James Cagney’s best gangster film and one of the best gangster movies ever made. All together now: “Made it ma! Top of the world!”
(11) The Band Wagon (1953) From director Vincente Minnelli, one of the greatest musicals and Fred Astaires’s best MGM musical. If you want to see some of the best dance numbers ever put on film this would be a great place to start.
(12) The African Queen (1951) Humphrey Bogart’s Oscar-winning performance, a superb combination with Katherine Hepburn, excellent John Huston direction, and a torturous trip through the Belgian Congo all make for great entertainment.
(13) Out of the Past (1947) The template for any true film-noir in every way. If you’re looking for real noir, you can’t get a whole lot better than this.
(14) East of Eden (1955, James Dean pictured above) James Dean, in his first film and arguably his best performance, along with solid direction from Elia Kazan, helps to make this a movie of great power. Unforgettable performances by all.
(15) Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958, Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman pictured above) Some of the best acting of the era by an ensemble cast in this vivid version Tennessee William’s play. Still powerful today.
(16) The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946, Lana Turner pictured above) John Garfield and Lana Turner create combustible chemistry and ignite the screen in this, the best version of James M. Cain’s novel.
(17) The Quiet Man (1952) John Ford’s ode to the place of his birth is beautifully realized, with one of John Wayne’s more endearing performances, splendid scenery in Technicolor, and Maureen O’Hara in all her redheaded glory as the object of Wayne’s affection. A delight from start to finish.
(18) Ben-Hur (1959) Another great directorial effort from William Wyler and, despite others made at the time, the definitive Biblical epic in every way. See if any action sequence today is better than the non CGI chariot race in this film and you’ll get an idea why it has stood the test of time.
(19) Key Largo (1948) Edward G. Robinson in one of his last great gangster roles, along with Bogart, Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, and the great Claire Trevor in an Oscar-winning performance, combine under the sure directorial hand of John Huston to create this riveting classic.
(20) Born Yesterday (1950) The irrepressible Judy Holliday in an Oscar-winning performance as Billie Dawn, the quintessential ‘dumb blonde’ who winds up getting the upper hand, with Broderick Crawford and William Holden providing fine support. Director George Cukor’s light touch is evident in one of the best written comedies of that era or any other.
(21) Adam’s Rib (1949, Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn pictured above) The best of the Hepburn/Tracy pairings, with the added bonus of Judy Holliday, and once again under the direction of George Cukor, it’s one of the best comedies ever made.
(22) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1955, Kevin McCarthy and cast pictured above)) Creepy, scary, unforgettable sci-fi, imitated and remade, but none of that diminishes the power of this classic. Truly one of the best science-fiction movies ever made and a must-see. Don’t forget-“You’re next!”
(23) The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951, Gort the Robot pictured above) Another landmark science-fiction film of the era with a message that still resonates today. Though opposite in tone from ‘Body Snatchers’, it’s still a powerful film that is worthy of its cult status (“Klaatu barada nikto!”)and essential viewing.
(24) Giant (1956) Sprawling tale of wealth, prejudice, and love both realized and unrequited, all as big as Texas. With a great cast and starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and in his last film, James Dean, it’s one of the best and biggest widescreen movies of the era and is just as entertaining now as it was then.
(25) Inherit the Wind (1960) Fredric March and Spencer Tracy give peerless performances in director Stanley Kramer’s version of the famous play depicting the Scopes ‘monkey trial’ of 1925. From these two veterans alone you have one of the best acted films of all time.
These make up The Next Level. As far as what my next and final list on this subject will cover, I think the title says it all: The Masterworks. See you soon.