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.