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10 Best Crime Movies Of The 50s, Ranked According To IMDb

The 1950s was something of a golden age for American movies, and a number of genres flourished during this period of dynamic creativity. Melodramas, epics, musicals ... these are the movies that people usually associate with this era.

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However, this was also a decade that saw the production of a number of very important crime movies, many of which cast a rather harsh light on the era that produced them. While the 1950s is largely seen as an era in which everyone tried to conform, these highly-rated movies show that there was a darker side to that world, as well.

10 Strangers On A Train (1951) - 7.9

Alfred Hitchcock is one of those directors whose name is almost synonymous with suspense, and with a movie like Strangers on a Train, it’s not hard to see why. The movie -- even if it was a bit of a mess behind the scenes -- is one of the most tightly woven of his many outings, and it features some truly great performances.

It’s also one of those movies that really stays with the viewer long after it’s over, precisely because it’s so good at plumbing the dark depths of the human psyche and the drive to commit murder.

9 Elevator To The Gallows (1958) - 8.0

Though many of the most popular crime movies of the 1950s were made in America, Elevator to the Gallows is a French production and a key movie in the development of the iconoclastic and innovative French New Wave.

In this case, the movie focuses on two lovers as they try to hatch a murder plot, only for it to fall apart as the result of the titular elevator. It’s a gorgeously shot movie and a must-see for cinephiles.

8 Night Of The Hunter (1955) - 8.0

Charles Laughton, the director of Night of the Hunter, was already well-known as an actor when the movie was released, starring in a number of very important classic Hollywood movies.

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Though this was his only directorial outing, it’s a stunning accomplishment, particularly since it focuses on a preacher gone bad (and more than a little mad), who pursues two young children to get the money that their father hid with them. The viewer can’t help but feel swept up in this movie, even as they feel the same terror as the children fleeing their pursuer.

7 Touch Of Evil (1958) - 8.0

Orson Welles is another director that looms large in the decade of the 1950s, in large part because of Touch of Evil. It’s one of the finest noirs produced during this period, containing all of the elements that one could want in one of Hollywood’s darkest and most sinister genres.

In addition to directing the movie, Welles also starred in the movie as a corrupt policeman. It’s one of his finest performances as an actor, and the movie is a reminder of why he is considered one of the geniuses of classic Hollywood.

6 The Killing (1956) - 8.0

Some directors have a well-deserved reputation for being geniuses, and it seems like Stanley Kubrick is one of those. The man had a truly extraordinary range, able to direct in a number of different genres to stunning effect.

The Killing is a spare movie, with a low budget, but even so, Kubrick manages to create a noir crime movie that grabs hold of the viewer from the very first moment and doesn’t let go until the very end.

5 On The Waterfront (1954) - 8.1

On the Waterfront is a movie that has come to define the 1950s in terms of what was produced during this period. It focuses on the issue of workers, in particular, the longshoreman of New Jersey.

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It’s a brilliant crime movie, and it features some extraordinary performances from the likes of Maron Brando and Eva Marie Saint. The fact that it was directed by Elia Kazan, who named names during the McCarthy era, gives it added bite.

4 Rashomon (1950) - 8.2

There’s so much to love about Rashomon that it’s hard to know exactly where to start. Among other things, it works to show the same event from various perspectives (a technique that has been widely imitated among subsequent movie-makers).

It’s a movie that really challenges the way that the viewer looks at the world and the way individuals make sense of the things that happen to them.

3 Vertigo (1958) - 8.3

Given his dominance of this decade, it’s not surprising that Hitchcock would turn up twice on this list, and Vertigo is rightly considered one of his finest movies.

It has everything that you’d want to see in a movie from this director, with again some great performances from the likes of James Stewart and Kim Novak. Among other things, the movie explores the nature of human desire, and it shows just how far one man is willing to go to attain the woman that he wants.

2 Witness For The Prosecution (1957) - 8.4

There’s something uniquely pleasing about a well-constructed courtroom drama, and that’s exactly what the viewer gets in Witness for the Prosecution, which features the direction of Billy Wilder and performances from actors at the height of their powers, including Charles Laughton, Tyrone Power, and the great Marlene Dietrich.

The fact that it’s based on a play by the great mystery writer Agatha Christie ensures that this is a movie that any fan of the crime genre will enjoy.

1 12 Angry Men (1957) - 9.0

There are some movies from the 1950s that feel as relevant today as they did when they came out, and 12 Angry Men is one of them. The titular 12 men are part of a jury locked in one room trying to decide the guilt or innocence of a young man accused of a crime.

It is, at times, a rather difficult movie to watch, but given the current discussion going on about the nature of the criminal justice system in America, it feels even more relevant than when it came out in the 1950s.

NEXT: 10 Movies From The 1950s That Every Film Buff Needs To See

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