1954 is one of those years that stands out for me because of one particular movie that was released (which I will get into in a moment), but again upon compiling this list I am amazed as to how many good films can come out of one year.
What really draws me to the movies of the 50s is the subtext that seems linger under the surface. Sure the American Dream looks all clean and happy, but underneath is this frustration with life, smoldering sexual tension and of course teenage delinquency seemed to be rampant - best seen in the movies of Nicholas Ray, Joshua Logan, Douglas Sirk and Elia Kazan.
The 50s were also great for horror and science fiction movies that used the atomic age as their backdrop - like say GODZILLA which came out in 1954.
Oh and communists were waiting around every corner to attack and take away our democratic freedoms - and Congress thought Hollywood was overrun by them.
Hollywood wanted you to not stay home and watch TV, so the 50s also saw the rise of the Cinema-scope picture and plenty of wide-screen epics. The first Cinema-scope picture was released in 1953 (THE ROBE) so in 1954 it's still in its infancy but as you'll see below, Hollywood wasted no time with it.
As I mentioned above, 1954 instantly brings to mind one title - and that is Elia Kazan's Academy Award winner for Best Picture ON THE WATERFRONT.
There is a tone to this picture which really just sets it apart from the rest of the pack. Brando is bursting with energy, and method acting was becoming a major technique in American theater and film and this movie is a prime example of it. ON THE WATERFRONT as far as I am concerned, is the movie that made Brando a Hollywood icon.
The usual notes - this is not a list that represents everything released in the year 1954 but a sampling of movies that I have seen and either liked or disliked, and some have notations of significant directors and comments.
20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA
THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA (Joseph L. Mankiewicz)
THE CAINE MUTINY
CASANOVA'S BIG NIGHT
THE COUNTRY GIRL
CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON
DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS
Recently released on Blu-Ray by the specialty label Twilight Time.
DIAL M FOR MURDER (Alfred Hitchcock)
Remade as A PERFECT MURDER with Michael Douglass in 1998.
EXECUTIVE SUITE (Robert Wise)
THE GLENN MILLER STORY
GOJIRA (GODZILLA) (Ishiro Honda)
There is a reason I post 2 different posters for GODZILLA. The first one is the original Japanese artwork for GOJIRA, then second is the American version which was re-cut adding scenes with Raymond Burr as a journalist on hand to appeal to the domestic audience. Both versions are available on the Criterion Collection Blu-Ray for your viewing pleasure. And thankfully, Matthew Broderick is nowhere to be found in either of them.
JOHNNY GUITAR (Nicholas Ray)
The movie is not only great, but also legendary for the on set feuding between Crawford and McCambridge which is why the on-screen hatred probably feels so believable.
THE LONG, LONG TRAILER
Rock Hudson is a playboy whose carelessness causes Jane Wyman to go blind. He then goes to medical school to try and learn how he can help Jane get her sight back. With a plot like that, how can you go wrong!
THE NAKED JUNGLE
ON THE WATERFRONT (Elia Kazan)
REAR WINDOW (Alfred Hitchcock)
RIVER OF NO RETURN (Otto Preminger)
SABRINA (Billy Wilder)
SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS
THE SEVEN SAMURAI (Akira Kurosawa)
THE SILVER CHALICE
A STAR IS BORN (George Cukor)
LA STRADA (Federico Fellini)
SUSAN SLEPT HERE (Frank Tashlin)
THERE'S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS
THREE COINS IN THE FOUNTAIN
Next up: 1962.