What are Your Favorite Films from the 1940s and 50s?


With my local movie theater charging $12.50 per ticket, and with all of the expenses that come with planning my upcoming nuptials (as I commented below on C.J.’s post, I wish we had opted to elope), I’m determined to avoid the cinema this summer.  Instead, I’m raiding the public library for every 1940s and 50s film I can get my hands on and plan to write a series over at Acculturated on the selections I watch.  While plenty has changed in the sixty to seventy years since these films were produced, the basic human themes of love, truth, happiness, meaning, forgiveness, and mutual understanding are as relevant now as ever.

My first selection, which I write about here, was the 1947 film Gentleman’s Agreement, directed by Elia Kazan and starring Gregory Peck.  It’s a great movie, if at times a bit on the preachy side, that treats the subject of anti-Semitism.  Not the blatant, kill-the-Jews strain of anti-Semitism of Hitler’s Germany or Ahmadinejad’s Iran, but rather the passive and incredibly pernicious strain of anti-Semitism prevalent in postwar America. 

My next selection will be on the 1950 film Sunset Boulevard, starring William Holden and Gloria Swanson.   Member Adrian has already sold me on Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront, which I plan on reviewing as part of my series, but I welcome your recommendations for other outstanding films from the 1940s and 50s that stand the test of time and remain relevant for today’s generation.

Published in General
Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 89 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Profile Photo Member

    My favorite movie is 1947’s The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.  Gene Tierney, Rex Harrison, and a blasted monkeypuzzle tree.

    • #31
  2. Profile Photo Inactive

    All About Eve, The Great Dictator, 12 O’Clock High, Roman Holiday, Mister Roberts, Life with Father …

    I could just go on and on. Most of the movies I watch are pre-1965.Sometime after that, movies stopped being made for adults.

    • #32
  3. Profile Photo Inactive

    Well, I love Hitchcock and most of the others that have been mentioned. But especially:

    Anything Kurosawa: He is most well known for his samurai films but check out those made immediately post-war. e.g.: Drunken Angel, Stray Dog and One Wonderful Sunday.

    Post-war British Comedies: Most think of this in terms of those wonderful TV series but, beginning in the mid-forties right up to the mid-sixties, the Brits turned out dozens and dozens of the most intelligently funny movies ever. e.g.: The Belles of St. Trinians, Tight Little Island (aka Whisky Galore) and School for Scoundrels. The last one is currently a Netflix instant movie.

    The Umbrellas of Cherbourg: made in the early sixties so I’m cheating a bit. An enchanting love story with all dialog sung to the melodies of Michel Legrand. No spoken dialog at all. Not an opera or a musical. It may sound strange but watch it and see for yourself.

    • #33
  4. Profile Photo Member

    Harvey – a delightful Jimmy Stewart movie.

    • #34
  5. Profile Photo Member

    Even if you are not a Sci Fi fan, you may get a laugh from Forbidden Planet which is a take of The Tempest by Shakespeare but set on another planet. It is racy and Lesley Nielson is in it, but without his jokes. You will see Star Trek’s doors and techie equipment. Maybe even Captain Kirk’s inter alien embraces were inspired by this movie?

    • #35
  6. Profile Photo Inactive

    Was this the best era for the movies?  I know that the correct film snob answer is the ’70s, but in which period’s movies would you prefer to immerse yourself for a week?  Me, I’d prefer a week straight of nothing but ’00s and ’10s super hero sequels and reboots and remakes and movies based on video games.  Oh, my.  Where is Hitchcock?  Grant?  Lean?  Bogart?  

    • #36
  7. Profile Photo Inactive

    Roman Holiday, Love Is A Many Splendid Thing, Double Indemnity, Winchester 73, Shadow of a Doubt, Laura, The Defiant Ones, Anatomy of a Murder, A Place In the Sun, High Noon, Strangers On a Train, Giant, The Paleface, Witness For the Prosecution, Written On the Wind, Dial M For Murder.

    • #37
  8. Profile Photo Inactive

    Rio Bravo…can I say that again?  Rio Bravo. 

    Some Like it Hot, Ben Hur, Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, Anatomy of a Murder, The Devil’s Disciple (Patriotic Classic), House on Haunted Hill, Pillow Talk, On the Beach (Depressing but Great), Operation Petticoat, The Hound of the Baskervilles (Hammer Films version), The Mummy (Hammer), The Tingler, Pork Chop Hill, No Name on the Bullet…and many more just in 1959.

    • #38
  9. Profile Photo Member

    Twelve Angry Men with Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb

    Mr. Smith Goes to Washington with Jimmy Stewart

    The Big Sleep with Bogart and Bacall

    White Heat with James Cagney

    Casablanca with Bogart and Bergman

    Sergeant York with Gary Cooper

    ….The list is way too long

    • #39
  10. Profile Photo Member

    The Seventh Veil with James Mason from 1945.

    • #40
  11. Profile Photo Member

    And for a bit of fun: The Prisoner of Zenda from 1952.  (James Mason is also in this movie as a dashing bad guy.)

    • #41
  12. Profile Photo Inactive

    Citizen Kane (and someone already mentioned The Third Man).

    The Wolf Man

    Destination Tokyo

    She Wore A Yellow Ribbon

    Mr. Roberts (one of my favorite movies of all time)

    The King and I

    Rio Bravo

    The Caine Mutiny

    Julius Caesar

    Curse of Frankenstein

    • #42
  13. Profile Photo Inactive

    Reading these comments, I have to think that movies these days just aren’t that good in comparison. If you watch movies from the 1930s-early 1960s, you realize that Scorsese, Coppola et al. aren’t that great. Their films say “Look at me, I’m a GREAT FILM,” (please excuse the capitalization) yet so many earlier films were just as profound and fun to watch.

    No, they don’t make ’em like they used to.

    • #43
  14. Profile Photo Thatcher
    Paul A. Rahe: Let me suggest something from 1981 that I just watched — the eleven-hour BBC seriesBrideshead Revisited.

    While recuperating further, I will join my wife in watchingForeign Correspondent,North by Northwest, andThe Third Man.

    We recently watched To Have and Have Not(the movie where Lauren Bacall says to Bogart, “You know how to whistle, Steve, you just put your lips together and blow) and Key Large(the return of Bogart and Bacall). · 1 hour ago

    D’oh!  Wrong movie!  Sorry about that.

    • #44
  15. Profile Photo Member

    Ikiru (1952, Akira Kurosawa) is probably my favourite film of all. No point watching it before you’re 40 though, Diane. You need to be old and wistful. Seven Samurai is a good guy film

    • #45
  16. Profile Photo Inactive

    Starting in 34 for The Thin man series for the delights of Loy and Powell enjoying each other for all those years and the wit..”They never came near my Tabloids” Nick Charles …

    All About Eve for Bette Davis.. 

    My Darling Clementine and Stagecoach f0r westerns and Ford..

    The Lady Eve for the brillainace of Preston Sturges who proved you could have it all.. bought it today just by chance $19.99 at Criterion sale

    Five Graves to Cairo and Run Silent Run Deep for Wilder in the North African desert and a great submarine picture Cable and Lancaster.. not forgetting The Enemy Below in 59. Twelve O’Clock High for the drama and not an actress in sight.. just the drama unfolding..

    Plus the Hitchcock and the rest.. Great actors and actresses, great writers and directors just making good flicks and telling stories well..

    • #46
  17. Profile Photo Inactive
    Diane Ellis, Ed.

    Whiskey Sam: Hitchcock put out a lot of great movies in that period, but Vertigo, for me, is still the best movie ever made by anyone. · 0 minutes ago

    I do really love old Hitchcock films.  I envy the person who still hasn’t seen them all because of all the hours of awesomeness they have in store there.  I watched Hitchcock’s Mr. & Mrs. Smiththis weekend, which was a cute one on the theme of marriage (one of his only non-suspense flicks).  And one of my recent favorite Hitchcock discoveries is Foreign Correspondent. · 1 hour ago

    Foreign Correspondent is definitely one of Hitchcock’s best.  Although, I love Shadow of a Doubt.  

    But my choice is Bridge on the River Kwai.  No one makes movies like that any more.  

    • #47
  18. Profile Photo Inactive
    Erik Larsen: No vote for “12 Angry Men” yet?

    I strongly disagree.  Well made, yes, but they let a murderer go free.  Sure, they poke a few holes in the prosecution’s case, but not enough to establish a reasonable doubt.  To believe that kid didn’t kill his father, you have to believe the following:

    1.   He had an argument with his father, who hit him (nothing calls this into dispute), and then left the apartment;

    2.  He went out and bought a switchblade (again, this is not disputed).

    3.  He almost immediately lost the switchblade.

    4.  Within hours of the fight (while the kid was at a movie the title of which he could not remember only a few hours later), someone else entered the apartment and stabbed his father with exactly the type of knife the kid lost (Henry Fonda shows only that it was not a particularly rare knife, but, please, the exact same type of knife the person with a motive bought and lost on the same night?).

    That gets a thumbs down from me.

    I’m all for movies with the number 12 in the title, but I vote for 12 O’Clock High.

    • #48
  19. Profile Photo Inactive

    It Happened One Night (1934) with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert is fantastic!  I first encountered it in a film class at Michigan State in 1991.  Considered the first “screwball comedy,” it led to other great films such as Bringing Up Baby (1938) and The Philidelphia Story (1940) that continue its madcap attitude.  The backstory on the movie is almost as good as the film itself.  The studio (Columbia) was on its last legs, the leads hated it (Claudette Colbert commented on the last day of shooting, “I just finished the worst picture I’ve ever made.”) and Ms. Colbert, although nominated,skipped the Academy Awards to head out on vacation.

    • #49
  20. Profile Photo Inactive

    Oh wait, did you say ’40s and ’50s?  Do’oh!

    • #50
  21. Profile Photo Inactive

    I know this is outside of the requirements, but W.C. Fields in 1934, “It’s a Gift”.  I could quote altogether too much of this movie, and its a bit of a family tradition, my father and his brothers born in the late 40s, early 50s.  Hope I can imbue my kids with an appreciation for it, as I’m not sure my brothers share my love for it.

    Of that specific range, Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune are my favorites.  Although the aforementioned Ikiru is an excellent example of Kurosawa’s other great actor, Takashi Shimura.

    • #51
  22. Profile Photo Inactive

    The Thin Man, The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, Gilda, The Lady from Shanghai, Stagecoach, Sunset Boulevard, Rio Bravo, The Wages of Fear, The Grand Illusion, The Rules of the Game, Rififi, The Charlie Chan movies, the Mr. Moto series, M, Red River, Out of the Past, The Thin Man (et seq.), To Have & Have Not, The Big Sleep, Arsenic & Old Lace, The Philadelphia Story, and all the Univeral monster movies from the 1930s. Sorry if these repeat. I haven’t read the comments.

    • #52
  23. Profile Photo Inactive

    American: Stalag 17 (1953).  Japanese: Rashomon (1950).  French: A Man Escaped (1953).

    • #53
  24. Profile Photo Member

    Mr. Kennedy mentioned Witness for the Prosecution, and I would second his recommendation (Tyrone Power, Charles Laughton, and Marlene Dietrich: an unbeatable trio).  But, add, also,

     To Catch a Thief, Cary Grant and Grace Kelly

    Kim, Errol Flynn and Dean Stockwell

    Captain Horatio Hornblower, Gregory Peck and Virginia Mayo and

    Captain from Castile, Tyrone Power and Jean Simmons

    Twelve o’Clock High and Pork Chop Hill, two of the finest films about war ever made, already mentioned by someone else.  

    Charade with Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, and Walter Matthau, and

    Torn Curtain, with Julie Andrews and Paul Newman get you into the 1960’s, but both are superb entertainment.

    I think that, with selections like these, you will have an enjoyable summer.

    • #54
  25. Profile Photo Inactive

    Nic already alluded to it: Seven Samurai.


    • #55
  26. Profile Photo Member

    The Awful Truth with Cary Grant, looking like a million bucks and absolutely hilarious, and the one-of-a-kind Irene Dunne.  Mr. Smith (Skippy) is just the best puppy.

    I second Mickerbob that It Happened One Night  is fantastic – you can see why it swept the “Big Five” awards at the Oscars that year.  (Also of note is how Gable’s Peter Warne influenced the characteristics of Bugs Bunny.)

    Mickerbob:It Happened One Night(1934) with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert is fantastic! 

    Both of these are from the 30’s but very fun and funny.

    • #56
  27. Profile Photo Member

    I meant to add Rebecca, with Joan Fountaine and Laurence Olivier, Father of the Bride the real one, with Spencer Tracy, Joan Bennett, and Elizabeth Taylor, and, finally, The African Queen, with Kathryn Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart.

    • #57
  28. Profile Photo Member

    I married my wife because she correctly cried at the end of Godzilla.


    • #58
  29. Profile Photo Inactive

    That Hamilton Woman with Vivien Leigh and Olivier as Nelson.. Made in 41 with England at war and Nelson character making a very powerful speech about the nasty intent of Napoleon- read Nazism – and why he needed to be put in his place and must be fought and defeated was a powerful boost for the times. Indeed, ( TCM) “..Churchill was so thrilled with the picture he showed it repeatedly to staff members and even screened it for President Franklin Roosevelt before America’s entry into World War II. He would continue screening the film privately long after his retirement, eventually claiming to have seen it 83 times. ”

    • #59
  30. Profile Photo Member

    The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

    Trouble In Paradise (Sorry, that’s 1932 but it is classic Ernst Lubitsch)

    The Barefoot Contessa

    Nights of Cabiria

    La Strada (one of Anthony Quinn’s best roles)

    The Entertainer (1960, but one of Olivier’s best roles)

    The Best Years of Our Lives

    • #60
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.