My Top 10 Favorite Films Before 1960
10. Shadow of a Doubt
Shadow of a Doubt was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and is a psychological thriller noir film about a girl named Charlie who is excited to learn her Uncle Charlie is coming to visit, but then slowly suspects Uncle Charlie might be a murderer. The film starred Teresa Wright as Charlie and Joseph Cotton as Uncle Charlie. The film has great build-up, great performances, and suspenseful moments. It’s not Hitchcock’s best nor his most popular film, but it has everything audiences enjoy in a Hitchcock film. Shadow of a Doubt came out on January 12, 1943.
9. The Court Jester
The Court Jester is a musical comedy directed by Melvin Frank and Norman Panama that takes place during medieval times. The film starred Danny Kaye as Hubert Hawkins, a minstrel that must protect the true infant king of England from King Rodrick the Tyrant, played by Cecil Parker. The film is entertaining and well made for its time, making a great medieval setting and having great costume work. Kaye as Hawkins is entertaining. The Court Jester came out on January 27, 1956.
Harvey was directed by Henry Koster and starred James Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd, a happy man who has a friend named Harvey, a giant invisible rabbit. His family tries to put Elwood in a mental hospital, but it backfires and leads to an entertaining adventure where his family realizes they were in the wrong. Usually, a concept like this would land up being bad or executed terribly, but Henry Koster puts together an entertaining movie with James Stewart giving a great performance in this film. Harvey is still one of the best comedies to have ever come out. Harvey came out on December 21, 1950.
7. City Lights
City Lights was both directed and starred Charlie Chaplin in this silent film that came out when films were transitioning to talkies. While this film has no sound except for the film score, City Lights is one of the most entertaining films in history. The film provides many laughs, including when Chaplin’s character the Tramp is boxing. It also manages to tell an emotional love story without any talking. City Lights came out on January 30, 1931.
6. Citizen Kane
Citizen Kane was both directed and starred Orson Welles and is about a man named Charles Foster Kane, who is based on several media tycoons. The film looks into Kane’s life, his run for governor, his downfall, and his legacy. While Kane is a fictional character, he is inspired by many real-life figures that came before him and even today, we have people similar to Kane in our society. Welles was under the age of thirty when he played Kane and directed Citizen Kane. He does a remarkable job with both. Citizen Kane came out on September 5, 1941.
5. Singin’ in the Rain
Singin’ in the Rain was directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen. A funny musical that talks about Hollywood’s transition from silent to sound films, Singin’ in the Rain starred a great cast in Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Conner, and Jean Hagen. The characters Don Lockwood, Cosmo Brown, and Kathy Selden are fun and well-acted by Kelly, O’Connor, and Reynolds. The songs like Make Em Laugh and Moses Supposes are great and entertaining and the comedy never gets old. The funniest part is when the film the characters work on, The Dueling Cavaliers, comes out and turns into a trainwreck of a movie. Not only is Singin’ in the Rain one of my favorite films before 1960, but it’s one of my favorite musicals ever. Singin’ in the Rain came out on April 11, 1952.
4. The Wizard of Oz
Probably the most popular film on this list, The Wizard of Oz was directed by Victor Fleming and was based on the 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The film starred Judy Garland as Dorothy, Ray Bogler as the Scarecrow, Jack Haley as the Tin Man, and Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion. The Wizard of Oz was the first film I watched on this list as a little kid and since then, it’s been a must-watch every year. The film has great characters, a great villain in the Wicked Witch of the West played by Margaret Hamilton, a great musical score, and great use of early Technicolor. The Wizard of Oz came out on August 25, 1939.
3. It’s A Wonderful Life
Another must-watch every year, especially around Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life was directed by Frank Capra and starred James Stewart as George Bailey, a man who has sacrificed his dreams many times and is about to commit suicide until his guardian angel Clarence interferes. For many people, this is one of the most relatable films to have ever come out. Capra does a great job in showing key moments in the life of George Bailey to show how each decision he made helped people, but in return, George Bailey had to give something up. George Bailey is one of my all-time favorite film characters and James Stewart gives his best performance ever. It’s a Wonderful Life came out on December 20, 1946.
2. 12 Angry Men
Based on a play, 12 Angry Men was directed by Sidney Lumet and starred Henry Fonda as Juror 8, who is the only juror to believe the defendant in a murder case is not guilty. The film takes place mostly in one room, but is still one of the best. Each juror has their personality and beliefs in the case. Juror 3, played by Lee J. Cobb is the most adamant about the defendant being guilty and has his own bias in this case that is captured perfectly by Cobb’s performance. Fonda is great as the lone juror who wants to know more about the evidence. One of the best parts was when most of the jurors shunned Juror 10 after Juror 10 goes on a bigoted rant and the rest of them are disgusted by it. 12 Angry Men came out on April 10, 1957.
1. Rear Window
My all-time favorite pre-1960 film is Rear Window which was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and is another mystery thriller. Starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly, Rear Window takes a simple plot of a photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries is forced to stay in his apartment to recover from an accident, but still observes his neighbors and notices something off with one of them. Rear Window was my first Hitchcock film to see and is the Hitchcock film I always go back to watch. It’s entertaining, the leads Stewart and Kelly have great chemistry, and the mystery continues to be exciting and thrilling even after many rewatches. Rear Window came out on September 1, 1954.
What are some of your favorite films that came out before 1960? Let us know in the comments down below.