News And Commentary – The Greatest Films, Continued – 25 from the 1940s and 50s

Making lists is like watching movies by Ozu—once you start, it’s hard to stop.  So after last week’s “top twenty-five” of all time, here at Mid Century Cinema we’ve decided to drum up a few more lists, for your consideration.  But remember The Rules of the Game, including, especially: (1) no complaining, only debating.  If you want to add, say, Casablanca (Curtiz, 1942), The Big Sleep (Hawks, 1946), The Reckless Moment (Ophuls, 1948), or Sunset Blvd. (Wilder, 1950) – and I know I do – do drop us a dissenting note, but you have to explain what you would let go of (that’s where I got stuck).  (2) Only one entry per director, here modified to allow one per director per decade.  (For these lists we’ve added a non-exhaustive “honorable mention” category in italics for some movies that would have definitely made the list had its position not already been held by another contribution from that filmmaker.) (3) There is an enormous premium placed on novelty—that is, of films that are singularly identifiable and have something to say.  Easily a dozen films noir could have been added to this list, but many of them are just, well, fabulous films noir, which are already pretty well represented. 

Here are the . . . um . . . a “Top Twenty-Five,” favorites from the 1940s and 1950s; for this list, instead of alphabetical order, sequencing by release date offers a nice trip through the decade in question.  (Films released in the same year are ordered by domestic release date; those originally mentioned on the Greatest of all Time list are noted with an asterisk*.


Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)    The Lady from Shanghai (1948)

The Maltese Falcon (Huston, 1941)

There was a Father (Ozu, 1942)   The Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family (1941)Record of a Tenement Gentleman (1947)

The Ox Bow Incident (Wellman, 1943)

Le Corbeau (Clouzot, 1943)

Double Indemnity (Wilder,1944)*

The Woman Window (Lang, 1944)    Ministry of Fear (1944)

Notorious (Hitchcock, 1946)

The Killers (Siodmak, 1946)

Out of the Past (Tourneur, 1947)*

The Third Man (Reed, 1949)*    Odd Man Out (1947)



The Asphalt Jungle (Huston, 1950)

Diary of a Country Priest (Bresson, 1951)    A Man Escaped (1956)

Early Summer (Ozu, 1951)*   Tokyo Twilight (1957); Equinox Flower (1958)

Touchez Pas au Grisbi (Becker, 1954)   Le Trou (1959)

On the Waterfront (Kazan, 1954)

Rear Window (Hitchcock, 1954)    Strangers on a Train (1950)

The Night of the Hunter (Laughton, 1955)

The Killing (Kubrick, 1956)*    Paths of Glory (1957)

The Seventh Seal (Bergman, 1957)   Waiting Women (1952)Sawdust and Tinsel (1953)Smiles of a Summer Night (1955);                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Wild Strawberries (1957); The Magician (1958)

Sweet Smell of Success (Mackendrick, 1957)*

Elevator to the Gallows (Malle, 1958)

Touch of Evil (Welles, 1958)*   Othello (1952)Mr. Arkadin (1955)

Anatomy of a Murder (Preminger, 1959)

The Four Hundred Blows (Truffaut, 1959)