1. SEVEN SAMURAI (1954).
A poor, helpless village under attack by bandits asks for the services of seven unemployed yet brutal samurai to help them defend themselves. Being rather unfamiliar with Akira Kurosawa, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Oh how I was foolish. Arguably the most famous Asian film of all time, this is an absolute masterpiece! What you are subjected to is 3 hours of cinema of an epic nature — battles like no other.
2. RIO BRAVO (1959).
A town sheriff in the Wild West seeks the help of a drunk, a cripple and a young gunfighter. The three have to hold in jail the brother of the local badass. Despite not being my usual sort of film (with not being a huge fan of Westerns), this was different… and I think the reason was Dean Martin. He may not be the best actor in the world and certainly won’t win the Oscar; however, if you need somebody to play a low-life drunk, he is your man.
3. REAR WINDOW (1954).
A wheelchair-bound photographer spies on his neighbours from his apartment window, on the way becoming convinced that one of them has committed murder. To this day, I have still never had a bad experience with Alfred Hitchcock. He may still be the true master of suspense, even now. Add Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly to a fairly simple concept for a story and you have a film that truly stands the test of time. A must-see!
4. THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955).
A religious, fanatical ex-con (Robert Mitchum) marries a rather gullible widow, and the young children of whom are reluctant to tell him where their real father hid $10,000 that he had stolen in a robbery. Mitchum is supreme yet truly frightening in this Hitchcockian, suspenseful thriller. He may have been the original nasty bastard of cinema — the man you don’t want to come across.
5. 12 ANGRY MEN (1957).
A dissenting juror (Henry Fonda) in a murder trial gradually manages to convince his fellow jurors that the case is not as crystal clear as originally thought. From highly acclaimed director Sidney Lumet comes proof that films do not always require a big budget. (Sometimes all you need is a simple yet decent storyline and terrific actors.)
6. ON THE WATERFRONT (1954).
A former prizefighter turned dock worker struggles to stand up to his corrupt union bosses. As the ultimate man’s man, as well as being the brute actor that ultimately became the reason why De Niro, Pacino, Keitel, etc. became actors themselves, Marlon Brando could single-handedly carry a picture like no other. You can guarantee two things are going to happen: (1) He will have numerous fights in the film, and (2) He will most certainly end up being the good guy – he built his career on that premise.
7. THE AFRICAN QUEEN (1951).
In Africa during the Second World War, a seemingly drunken steamboat owner/captain is persuaded by an overly proper missionary to use his boat to attack an enemy warship. Quite simply, I can’t ever find a fault in Bogart’s performances… he is the epitome of somebody being cool, calm and collected without having ever tried — he owns the screen. And as for Hepburn, well she was one of the first women in films to actually stand up for herself — ladylike but shrewd.
8. THE KILLING (1956).
The premise is simple: a bunch of crooks plan and execute a daring racetrack robbery. If people are expecting something similar to, or as absurd as, Kubrick’s better-known filmography (A Clockwork Orange, Eyes Wide Shut, 2001: A Space Odyssey), this isn’t that film; however, if you are a lover of the film-noir genre and are partial to a decent heist movie, this is that film.
9. TOUCH OF EVIL (1958).
Touch of Evil centres around a stark, perverse story of kidnapping, murder, and police corruption in a US-Mexico border town. Straight of the bat, this, for me, made Citizen Kane feel like East is East — there was no comparison. Being a lover of detective films and a good “whodunnit”, this ticked all the boxes.
10. VERTIGO (1958).
A retired San Francisco detective (James Stewart) suffering from acrophobia (a fear of heights) investigates the strange goings-on of an old friend’s much-younger wife, all the while becoming dangerously obsessed with her. What more can be said about Alfred Hitchcock and Vertigo? He’s undoubtedly the master of the suspense-thriller genre, and Vertigo has just been labelled the greatest film of all time, not to mention Jimmy Stewart once again putting in a Jimmy Stewart performance — he’s not the best-looking of guys, and yet he smoulders in the eyes of these beautiful dames he bags in films.
Courtesy of Greatest Films.