In the 1950s television was introduced, which made studios and companies fearful that they’d lose their audience. As a result of TV’s prominence, studios needed to entice audiences back to theaters. They used techniques through widescreen and big approach methods such as stereo sound, enhanced color technology and widescreen formats like Cinemascope, and Cinerama, as well as gimmicks like 3-D film.
All of these techniques were brought into the forefront of movie watching and with advanced technology, have improved tremendously over time. 3-D has made a huge impact on how we watch movies, especially for big budget blockbusters. Some films that used 3-D in the 1950s include the horror film HOUSE OF WAX (1953), the musical KISS ME KATE (1953) and the Hitchcock thriller DIAL M FOR MURDER (1954).
During this decade James Stewart, John Wayne and Marlon Brando were at the peak of their popularity. And the world was introduced to a young ingénue destined for stardom- Norma Jean Baker, who would become the legendary Marilyn Monroe.
Also, In the 1950s, Disney released 4 animated films: CINDERELLA (1950), ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1951), PETER PAN (1953) AND LADY AND THE TRAMP (1955).
The decade produced a vast amount of successful and popular films, all of them great in their own ways, but with such a large number, it was extremely difficult to select which ones to highlight, and I would’ve loved to have listed all of them. I did my best to choose the ones that made an impact on the decade. As I previously mentioned in my 1940s tribute, if some of your favorite titles didn’t make this list, they may appear in a future piece.
ALL ABOUT EVE (1950) Running Time 2 hrs 18 mins
Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
With: Bette Davis
Plot: An ingénue insinuates herself into the company of an established but aging stage actress and her circle of theater friends.
Fun Facts: Winner of 6 Oscars at the 1951 Academy Awards including Best in a Supporting Role, Best Director and Best Writing
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1951) Running Time 2 hrs 2 mins
Directed by Elia Kazan
With: Vivien Leigh
Plot: Disturbed Blanche DuBois movies in with her sister in New Orleans and is tormented by her brutish brother-in-law while her reality crumbles around her.
Fun Facts: Winner of 4 Oscars at the 1952 Academy Awards including Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Best Actress in a Supporting Role; set a record when it became the first film to win in three acting categories.
THE AFRICAN QUEEN (1951) Running Time 1 hr 45 mins
Directed by John Huston
With: Humphrey Bogart
Plot: In Africa during World War I, a gin-swilling riverboat captain is persuaded by a straight-laced missionary to use his boat to attack an enemy warship.
Fun Facts: Katharine Hepburn’s first color film. This is the role that won Humphrey Bogart the only Oscar of his career, for Best Actor in a Leading Role at the 1952 Academy Awards.
ON THE WATERFRONT (1954) Running Time 1 hr 48 mins
Directed by Elia Kazan
With: Marlon Brando
Eva Marie Saint
Plot: An ex-prize fighter turned longshoreman struggles to stand up to his corrupt union bosses.
Fun Facts: Winner of 8 Oscars at the 1955 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Director and Best Writing.
REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955) Running Time 1 hr 51 mins
Directed by Nicholas Ray
With: James Dean
Plot: A rebellious young man with a troubled past comes to a new town, finding friends and enemies.
Fun Fact: Nominated for 3 Oscars including Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Actress in a Supporting Role and Best Writing; t-shirt sales soared after James Dean wore one in the film.
GIANT (1956) Running Time 3 hrs 2 mins
Directed by George Stevens
With: Elizabeth Taylor
Plot: Sprawling epic covering the life of a Texas cattle and his family and associates.
Fun Fact: Won the Oscar for Best Director at the 1957 Academy Awards.
THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI (1957) Running Time 2 hrs 41 mins
Directed by David Lean
With: William Holden
Plot: After settling his differences with a Japanese POW camp commander, a British colonel cooperates to oversee his men’s construction of a railway bridge for their captors-while oblivious to a plan by the Allies to destroy it.
Fun Facts: Winner of 7 Oscars at the 1958 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Director and Best Writing
BEN-HUR (1959) Running Time 3 hrs 32 mins
Directed by William Wyler
With: Charlton Heston
Plot: When a Jewish prince is betrayed and sent into slavery by a Roman friend, he regains his freedom and comes back for revenge.
Fun Facts: Winner of 11 Oscars at the 1960 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Best Director