1958 Ten Best Movies

Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo is frequently referred to as a box-office failure, although it was #21 on the list of highest-grossing films of 1958, which seems like a respectable enough showing. If it was considered a financial disappointment, you can hardly blame audiences for not flocking to it as they did to other Hitchcocks of the era, such as Rear Window or To Catch a Thief. “Fun” is not the way to describe Vertigo, but its story of obsession is one of Hitchcock’s most stunningly realized works, and a somewhat easy choice as best film of the year.

But not entirely easy, because of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil, a brilliant example of directing prowess creating something powerful out of potentially forgettable material. It’s a good year beyond those two, with a number of Hollywood pictures suggesting disenchantment with the era and foreign films suggesting disenchantment with the world. And here is a list of the ten best movies of 1958.

1. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock)

2. Touch of Evil (Orson Welles)

3. Nazarin (Luis Bunuel)

4. Some Came Running (Vincente Minnelli)

5. Ashes and Diamonds (Andzrej Wajda)

6. The Tarnished Angels (Douglas Sirk)

7. Bitter Victory (Nicholas Ray)

8. Bonjour Tristesse (Otto Preminger)

9. The Music Room (Satyajit Ray)

10. Equinox Flower (Yasujiro Ozu)

Almost gave the tenth slot to a short, Roman Polanski’s Two Men and a Wardrobe, which is superb. And it seems there should be room for Mon Oncle (Tati), The Last Hurrah (Ford), Man of the West (Mann), or Night of the Demon (Tourneur). Buchanan Rides Alone is a good entry (but not the best) in the Budd Boetticher-Randolph Scott cycle of Westerns, and Irving Lerner’s Murder by Contract is a highly original low-budget noir.

Among the scruffier realms of movie-making, I hold a soft spot for The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, a delightful platform for Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion monsters, and The Thing that Couldn’t Die, a Universal cheapie that can’t be justified in any way.


8 Responses

  1. Some obvious fantastic movies there, but the one I’m most happy to see is Bonjour Tristesse, because it’s one that often seems to divide audiences: either you get Preminger’s loopy tonal shifts (from insanely cheery Technicolor to icy black and white) or you really don’t. I love this film, I love Seberg’s great, youthfully vigorous performance, I love Kerr as the cruel stepmother who actually turns out to be a deeply sympathetic figure.

    • I am long overdue to see this film again, my last viewing being a 16 mm. film society showing a good 25 years ago. It sure looked gorgeous, even in that reduced state.

  2. I think “Vertigo” is a vastly overrated film. There is no way that the mousy Kim Novak character of the second half of the movie could have possibly pulled of the sophisticated role she played in the first half of the movie. The movie’s premise falls apart for me because of this incongruity.

  3. You have Nazarin listed again in 1959, where it belongs. My favorite Mexican film of this year: Tulio Demicheli’s UNA GOLFA.

    • Yes – got that wrong – someone else pointed out the NAZARIN goof, and I’m overdue for an overhaul of the whole Ten Best listings. Thanks for the tip on UNA GOLFA, I’d like to see that.

      • I’m 10 years late, but I’m enjoying your posts now (The Thing That Couldn’t Die, that’s a rec!) i certainly would like to see that update.
        UNA GOLFA is a wonderful melo-noir, but it was not well received and remains rather obscure nowadays.

      • I happened to be searching for something else and just found out Universal is putting out some of the dregs of its 1950s horror this year – so THING THAT COULDN’T DIE will be out in August. No one likes it, but in childhood my group of horror-movie-watching friends considered it one of the scariest of its kind. Photographed by Russell Metty – same year he did TOUCH OF EVIL!
        Speaking of NAZARIN, I showed it last year in a series I programmed on 1959 movies, and although we had a very small crowd, I think they were really knocked out by the film.

      • Well, Mexicans have their own (recently updated) canon:

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