Perhaps the greatest action film ever made.

Perhaps the greatest action film ever made.

You can read more about this year in film here.  The Best Picture race is discussed here, with reviews of all the nominees.  First there are the categories, followed by all the films with their nominations, then the Globes, where I split the major awards by Drama and Comedy, followed by a few lists at the very end.  If there’s a film you expected to see and didn’t, check the very bottom – it might be eligible in a different year.  Films in red won the Oscar in that category (or Globe, in the Globes section).  Films in blue were nominated.  Films with an asterisk (*) were Consensus nominees (a scale I put together based on the various awards) while those with a double asterisk (**) were the Consensus winners.

I’m listing 10 in each category because there are a strong Top 10 in most of the categories but only the top 5 make the nomination list (except for Actor).

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture
  1. Seven Samurai
  2. The Searchers
  3. The Killing
  4. Richard III  *
  5. The Ladykillers
  6. Forbidden Planet
  7. Diabolique
  8. Baby Doll
  9. La Strada
  10. Sawdust and Tinsel

Analysis:  This is such a strong year that this list even leaves out two **** films: The Trouble with Harry and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  And the group is so diverse that the **** films go across 8 different genres (not including Foreign films): Action, Western, Crime, Drama, Sci-Fi, Suspense, Comedy and Horror.  Musical is the only genre with more than 4 films in the year that doesn’t have a **** film.  Perhaps the diversity is nowhere more obvious than in the fact that there are two Shakespeare films: one a traditional film with Renaissance dress, the other a sci-fi film that takes a plot and some lines but otherwise is completely new.
This is a bit of a depressing year.  Look at the deaths that color the end of Seven Samurai and La Strada.  Look at the bleakness of Sawdust and Invasion.  Neither The Searchers nor The Killing end with death, but they’re not particularly happy either (the “happy” part of the ending of The Searchers isn’t so happy).  Even the three comedies don’t bring a whole lot of relief – one of them is a very dark comedy that many people treat as a drama, another ends with almost everyone dead and the last is about everyone trying to deal with someone who spends the whole film dead.
And then look at how the Academy reacted.  If I were to tell you that two of my top 6 weren’t nominated for any Oscars, would you guess they were The Searchers and The Killing?

  • kurosawaBest Director
  1. Akira Kurosawa  (Seven Samurai)
  2. John Ford  (The Searchers)
  3. Stanley Kubrick  (The Killing)
  4. Henri-Georges Clouzet  (Diabolique)
  5. Laurence Olivier  (Richard III)
  6. Elia Kazan  (Baby Doll)
  7. Alexander MacKendrick  (The Ladykillers)
  8. Federico Fellini  (La Strada)
  9. Ingmar Bergman  (Sawdust and Tinsel)
  10. Alfred Hitchcock  (The Trouble with Harry)

Analysis:  This list is strange in that the two sides are fairly even, with four Top 100 directors in the top 5 and the bottom 5 and two top 10 directors in both halves as well.  Kurosawa is just settling into his stride (though most of his great films will be delayed until next decade) while Bergman and Kubrick are both still moving up.  MacKendrick just didn’t direct enough great films and his total work (9 films) is too small to make up for it.
It’s still hard to fathom that after winning 4 Oscars that John Ford would be completely passed over by the Academy for The Searchers, which I (and many others) think is his best work.
Yes, that’s right, not a single one of the Consensus nominees makes my Top 10 list, although they did all make my list.  The Consensus nominees, in order were George Stevens for Giant (#12 on my list), John Huston for Moby Dick (#19), King Vidor for War and Peace (#17), Walter Lang for The King and I (#20) and Michael Anderson for Around the World in 80 Days (#21 – the final spot on my list).
This is the first (and only) nomination for Clouzet, the second (and last) for Olivier, the first (of many) for Kubrick, the fourth for Ford and the second (and second win) for Kurosawa.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. The Killing
  2. Baby Doll  *
  3. Diabolique
  4. The Trouble with Harry
  5. The Searchers
  6. Richard III
  7. Anastasia
  8. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
  9. Written on the Wind
  10. Wuthering Heights

Analysis:  I’ve read three of the original sources – Richard, Snatchers and Wuthering.  Though Picture and Director are as strong as the previous several years, this is the weakest group of nominees in this category in eight years.  But that will be balanced out by the original nominees.
This is one of the categories that was dominated by the bloated epics.  The Consensus Winner was Around the World in 80 Days (a 180 page book turned into a 3 hour film), with Friendly Persuasion, Giant and The King and I the other nominees.  Really?  The writing stood out from those films?  Giant might be the most galling of those, as the writing is by far the weakest link, but none of them even made my list.  At least Lust for Life, which made my list, if not my Top 10 earned an Oscar nomination (in place of The King and I).
Stanley Kubrick earns the first of many writing wins at the Nighthawks.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Seven Samurai
  2. The Ladykillers  **
  3. Sawdust and Tinsel
  4. La Strada
  5. Forbidden Planet
  6. Umberto D
  7. The Bold and the Brave
  8. Private’s Progress

Analysis:  The top five here are the second best top 5 to date, only coming in behind 1950.  And those top five really are very very different.  But perhaps it says a lot about the state of American film-writing that the only one of the top five that is American is science-fiction, a genre not normally known for its writing.  And the Academy seemed to recognize that.  With the newly named Best Screenplay – Original category, two of the nominees were foreign language films (including the winner, The Red Balloon, which I don’t include because it’s not of feature length) and another was British.  This is the last year of the Best Motion Picture Story category and two of those are foreign language films as well (Umberto D being one of them).
The Ladykillers won the BAFTA in addition to its Oscar win, thus the Consensus win.
Kurosawa earns his second writing win, but his first in the original screenplay category.  There will be more to come.  There is also the second nomination for Bergman and the first for Fellini.

  • Best Actor:
  1. Laurence Olivier  (Richard III)  *
  2. Kirk Douglas  (Lust for Life)  **
  3. Yul Brynner  (The King and I)  *
  4. Alec Guinness  (The Ladykillers)
  5. Karl Malden  (Baby Doll)
  6. Sterling Hayden  (The Killing)
  7. John Wayne  (The Searchers)
  8. Eli Wallach  (Baby Doll)
  9. Takashi Shimura  (Seven Samurai)
  10. James Dean  (Giant)

Analysis:  This is the weakest top 5 in six years yet good enough to keep out John Wayne’s best performance.  How?  Because there is a lot of evenness between #4 and 9.  Those are six really good performances and I wouldn’t argue with anyone who would pick a different two than I did.
This is the only nomination for Brynner.  It’s Malden’s last after two wins for Supporting earlier in the decade.  It’s the fourth nomination for Guinness, but the first of three straight.  Douglas and Olivier are both in the Top 10; Olivier moves all the way from a tie for 11th into 6th and Douglas moves up into 3rd place.  In just 10 years, Douglas has earned 300 Nighthawk points, an amazing total – but he won’t be the top person for any decade because he earned 160 of those in the late 40’s.  This is Olivier’s 6th Nighthawk nomination for Best Actor; he’s never finished lower than 3rd, but this is his first, and for lead only, win.

  • Best Actress
  1. Ingrid Bergman  (Anastasia)  **
  2. Harriet Andersson  (Sawdust and Tinsel)
  3. Deborah Kerr  (The King and I)  *
  4. Carroll Baker  (Baby Doll)  *
  5. Simone Signoret  (Diabolique)
  6. Giuletta Masina  (La Strada)
  7. Harriet Andersson  (Monika)
  8. Shirley MacLaine  (The Trouble with Harry)
  9. Katharine Hepburn  (The Rainmaker)  *
  10. Deborah Kerr  (Tea and Sympathy)

Analysis:  Tied for the third-best to date, mainly because, like with Actor, there are a lot of very good performances.  This is the only nomination for Baker, the first of many for Andersson, the second for Signoret, the sixth in lead for Kerr (and seventh overall) and the seventh for Bergman (and third win).  Kerr stays in fifth place in points (but is now only 10 behind Janet Gaynor) while Bergman goes up to third.

  • mifunessBest Supporting Actor:
  1. Toshiro Mifune  (Seven Samurai)
  2. Anthony Quinn  (Lust for Life)  **
  3. Robert Stack  (Written on the Wind)  *
  4. Mickey Rooney  (The Bold and the Brave)  *
  5. Herbert Lom  (The Ladykillers)
  6. Rod Steiger  (The Harder They Fall)
  7. Edmund Gwenn  (The Trouble with Harry)
  8. Lee Marvin  (7 Men From Now)
  9. Elisha Cook  (The Killing)
  10. Anthony Perkins  (Friendly Persuasion)  *

Analysis:  There’s a big drop-off after Mifune, leading to the weakest top 5 in five years (and tied for the weakest in 11 years).  It’s the second win for Mifune, but he won’t really start moving up the points list until the 60’s, when all his films start landing in the States.
I must take a minute and mention The Bold and the Brave.  Until just before I started this year, it was the most recent film with multiple Oscar nominations that I hadn’t seen.  But Lions Gate VOD has put it on YouTube for $2.99.  Now, I have seen many films on YouTube and I am fine with that if studios won’t make them commercially available.  But I am also totally fine with the idea of paying a few dollars to be able to see a film like this that has been unavailable.  If all the studios did this with older, harder to find films, I would be okay with that.  Just make them available.  It’s actually a fairly good film and Rooney is quite good, though in a better year he wouldn’t have earned a nomination.
A final note, about Anthony Quinn.  There are claims all over the Internet that he’s only in the film for 8 minutes.  Maybe it began with Inside Oscar (which says 9 minutes).  That’s bullshit.  The IMDb says it’s 22 minutes and I was checking the time while re-watching the film.  The IMDb is right.

  • dorothy-maloneBest Supporting Actress:
  1. Dorothy Malone  (Written on the Wind)  **
  2. Katie Johnson  (The Ladykillers)
  3. Mercedes McCambridge  (Giant)  *
  4. Mildred Dunnock  (Baby Doll)  *
  5. Mildred Natwick  (The Trouble with Harry)
  6. Mildred Dunnock  (The Trouble with Harry)
  7. Eileen Heckart  (The Bad Seed)  *

Analysis:  Yet again, I can’t manage to fill this category.  I wish that I could.  This is the opposite of Best Actress in terms of Nighthawk nominations – Bergman alone already has as many nominations (7) as all five of the actresses here combined, and none of them will earn any more.  The fifth Consensus nominee is Patty McCormack, who was also the fifth Oscar nominee, for The Bad Seed, but I thought she was simply awful (as the film was as well).

  • Best Editing:
  1. Seven Samurai
  2. The Killing
  3. The Searchers
  4. Forbidden Planet
  5. The Ladykillers
  6. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
  7. Diabolique
  8. Richard III
  9. Baby Doll
  10. The Trouble with Harry

Analysis:  This is the first time since 1944 that not a single one of the Oscar nominees even makes my list (let alone my Top 10).  Included among the nominees are the bloated epics Giant, The 10 Commandments and Around the World in 80 Days (the winner).  If any film needed some good editing it was those three.  Seven Samurai is actually a longer film than two of those but it never feels long because it is so well put-together.  And then look at The Killing and the way all the pieces work so well because of the editing.

  • Best Cinematography:
  1. Seven Samurai
  2. The Searchers
  3. The Killing
  4. Sawdust and Tinsel
  5. Baby Doll
  6. Diabolique
  7. Giant
  8. La Strada
  9. Lust for Life
  10. Wuthering Heights

Analysis:  Two years after winning the Nighthawk for On the Waterfront, Boris Kaufman is back with Baby Doll.  He’s the only non first-time nominee.  After two Top 10 finishes and another Top 20 finish, Winton Hoch finally earns a Nighthawk nomination for The Searchers.  One of the first-time nominees is Sven Nykvist (Sawdust).  This will be his only nomination in this decade (it was his only work with Ingmar Bergman this decade), but in the 60’s, he will become Bergman’s regular cinematographer and will start moving way up the all-time list.  Of all the nominations Giant had, it didn’t actually get one it should have – it’s my second ranked color film on this list but couldn’t make the Academy’s list.

  • Best Original Score:
  1. Seven Samurai
  2. Gojira
  3. Forbidden Planet
  4. The Killing
  5. La Strada
  6. Richard III
  7. Anastasia
  8. Lust for Life
  9. Diabolique
  10. Around the World in 80 Days

Analysis:  It’s the first nomination for Nino Rota, but he will earn a lot more.  It’s also the second win for Fumio Hayasaka.  A lot of the major composers are outside the top 5.  Victor Young comes in 10th – he has 4 nominations but this is his fourth time in the second 5.  Miklos Rosza comes in 8th – he only has 4 nominations but this is his 8th time in the second 5; in fact this is Rosza’s four second 5 finish since his last nomination.  In 7th place is Alfred Newman, who’s gone long breaks between nominations but has never gone more than three years between Top 10 finishes.  In 13th place is Max Steiner for The Searchers.  Steiner hasn’t had a nomination since 1948 but he’s had four Top 10 finishes (and this 13th place finish) since then.
One score to point out is Gojira.  You have to watch the original Japanese version of the film in order to hear this, so for a long time I didn’t, because the American version was so much easier to get.  But that’s really a magnificent score and should not be overlooked.

  • Best Sound:
  1. Seven Samurai
  2. The Killing
  3. Forbidden Planet
  4. The Searchers
  5. Moby Dick
  6. Gojira
  7. Giant
  8. Samurai II: Duel at Inchiyo Temple
  9. Around the World in 80 Days
  10. 7 Men from Now

Analysis:  For the first time since 1938, not a single one of the Academy’s nominees made my list at all, let alone my Top 10.

  • Best Art Direction:
  1. Seven Samurai
  2. Lust for Life
  3. Forbidden Planet
  4. Richard III
  5. Around the World in 80 Days
  6. The King and I
  7. War and Peace
  8. Baby Doll
  9. Anastasia
  10. The Ladykillers

Analysis:  Tied for 3rd best to date.  A truly great year, well beyond the top 5.  Either The King and I or War and Peace would have won in 1953 and 1955, yet they can’t even earn nominations.  I give the Oscars a score of 80.6 in the Color category – the highest in a year with 5 nominees.  Even the other two nominees which don’t make my Top 10 (Giant, The 10 Commandments) are on my list.  The epics might be bloated, but their sets are magnificent.

  • Best Visual Effects
  1. Forbidden Planet
  2. Earth vs. the Flying Saucers
  3. The 10 Commandments

Analysis:  Yes, the parting of the Red Sea is impressive, especially for 1956.  But Forbidden Planet just blows it away.

  • Best Sound Editing
  1. Seven Samurai
  2. Forbidden Planet
  3. Gojira
  4. Earth vs. the Flying Saucers
  5. The Killing
  6. The 10 Commandments
  7. Moby Dick
  8. 7 Men from Now

Analysis:  By far the best in this category to date.  One key thing to remember about Gojira – the iconic sound of the roar fits into this category.

  • Best Costume Design:
  1. Seven Samurai
  2. Richard III
  3. The King and I
  4. Lust for Life
  5. Around the World in 80 Days
  6. Anastasia
  7. War and Peace
  8. Sawdust and Tinsel
  9. Friendly Persuasion
  10. Samurai II: Duel at Inchiyo Temple

Analysis:  Another category where this year is easily the best to date.  War and Peace, the #7 film, would have been the winner in 15 of the previous 29 years.  Again, it’s Giant and The 10 Commandments that are the Color films nominated by the Oscars not listed here, though again, they are both on my list.  Although, I’m at a bit of a loss how Giant made it into the Costume Design category (where it clearly is bested by non-nominees Richard III, Lust for Life and Anastasia), but not Cinematography.

  • Best Makeup
  1. Seven Samurai
  2. Quatermass Xperiment
  3. Richard III
  4. Moby Dick
  • Best Original Song:
  1. “Love Me Tender”  (Love Me Tender)
  2. “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)”  (The Man Who Knew Too Much)
  3. “True Love”  (High Society)
  4. “We’re Gonna Move”  (Love Me Tender)
  5. “Written on the Wind”  (Written on the Wind)
  6. “The Bold and the Brave”  (The Bold and the Brave)
  7. “Friendly Persuasion (Thee I Love)”  (Friendly Persuasion)
  8. “The Searchers”  (The Searchers)

Analysis:  Always the problem with this category.  The top two songs are easily the top two songs – nothing else is even close.  The two films are #111 and #98 on the year.  Makeup and Visual Effects are the only other two categories aside from Original Song where the quality of a film can be so detached from the quality in other categories.  No Elvis song would ever earn a nomination for Best Original Song, but they will regularly turn up on my lists.  I’m not a huge Elvis fan (I much prefer Buddy Holly) but there are some songs that clearly belong on these lists.

  • Best Animated Film:
  1. none

Analysis:  There is only one eligible animated film: Animal Farm.  It’s an okay film, but not better than *** and thus not good enough to be nominated.

  • lastradaposterBest Foreign Film:
  1. La Strada  **
  2. The Railroad Man
  3. The Burmese Harp
  4. Death in the Garden

Analysis:  Ah, the randomness of the year.  I mentioned above that War and Peace couldn’t get nominated for Costume Design while it would have won in a lot of years.  Well, La Strada is a great film, but I think Nights of Cabiria is a better film.  Next year, in the best year ever in this category, Nights will end up in 5th place, but here La Strada wins the category.  La Strada doesn’t even really belong here – it’s from 1954, but the Academy nominated it (and gave it the Oscar, correctly).  And if it wasn’t here this would be a disaster; as it is this is the worst year in this category since 1950.  If not for La Strada, this would be the first year since 1947 that this category would be lacking a great film.  And this is contrasted against the next year where, it’s not just the best year in this category to date, it’s the best year in history.
La Strada and Railroad Man are Italy’s first nominees in this category since 1949.  Death is Mexico’s first since 1949.  Harp makes this the sixth straight year with a nomination for Japan.

By Film:

note:  They’re in points order.  You get twice as many points for a win as for a nomination.  Hopefully your math skills will let you figure out the system.

  • Seven Samurai  (690)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound, Art Direction, Sound Editing, Costume Design, Makeup, Foreign Film (1954)
  • The Killing  (290)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound, Sound Editing
  • Richard III  (210)
    • Picture, Director, Actor, Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup
  • The Ladykillers  (210)
    • Picture, Original Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Editing
  • The Searchers  (205)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Cinematography, Sound
  • Forbidden Planet  (190)
    • Original Screenplay, Editing, Original Score, Sound, Art Direction, Visual Effects, Sound Editing
  • Baby Doll (165)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress, Cinematography
  • Diabolique  (140)
    • Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actress, Foreign Film (1955)
  • Sawdust and Tinsel  (120)
    • Original Screenplay, Actress, Cinematography, Foreign Film (1953)
  • La Strada  (105)
    • Original Screenplay, Original Score, Foreign Film
  • Lust for Life  (100)
    • Actor, Supporting Actor, Art Direction, Costume Design
  • Written on the Wind  (100)
    • Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Song
  • The King and I  (85)
    • Actor, Actress, Costume Design
  • The Trouble with Harry  (70)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actress
  • Anastasia  (70)
    • Actress
  • Gojira  (45)
    • Original Score, Sound Editing
  • Earth vs. The Flying Saucers  (40)
    • Visual Effects, Sound Editing
  • Around the World in 80 Days  (35)
    • Art Direction, Costume Design
  • The Bold and the Brave  (30)
    • Supporting Actor
  • Giant  (30)
    • Supporting Actress
  • Moby Dick  (30)
    • Sound, Makeup
  • Love Me Tender  (30)
    • Original Song, Original Song
  • The 10 Commandments  (20)
    • Visual Effects
  • Quatermass Xperiment  (10)
    • Makeup
  • High Society  (10)
    • Original Song
  • The Man Who Knew Too Much  (10)
    • Original Song

Analysis:  So many great films there’s just not enough room to go around.  The most unlucky is probably The Trouble with Harry, with only 2 noms, but 7 Top 10 spots.  That’s followed by Baby Doll, with 5 noms, but 10 Top 10 spots.

Best Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Analysis:  I’d have to go back to check, but this might be the first time a great film (****) doesn’t earn any Nighthawk nominations.  The problem is that it’s not strong in the tech categories and that the Adapted Screenplay is overloaded.

Biggest Awards Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • Friendly Persuasion

Analysis:  In the year of the bloated epics, this is perhaps the most bloated, at least when it comes to awards.  It received 10 total nominations (6 Oscar noms – including 4 major ones, a critics award, two Globe noms, WGA) with two wins (Actress at the NBR, WGA).  War and Peace, another of the bloated epics of this year, received one more nom but one fewer win and 25 fewer points.

Nighthawk Golden Globes:


  • Best Picture
  1. Seven Samurai
  2. The Searchers
  3. The Killing
  4. Richard III
  5. Forbidden Planet

Analysis:  Richard III actually won Best Foreign Film in the new category of Best English Language Foreign Film; since “foreign” films aren’t eligible in the regular Best Picture categories at the Globes, any film that wins that category will be noted in the Picture category.
The five Globe nominees are Around the World in 80 Days, Giant, Lust for Life, The Rainmaker and War and Peace, which means this is the only time in history that there is a slate of nominees in this category (as opposed to just a winner) and none of them are better than ***.

  • Best Director
  1. Akira Kurosawa  (Seven Samurai)
  2. John Ford  (The Searchers)
  3. Stanley Kubrick  (The Killing)
  4. Henri-Georges Clouzet  (Diabolique)
  5. Laurence Olivier  (Richard III)

Analysis:  This is Ford’s sixth nomination, moving him into third place with 360 points.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. The Killing
  2. Diabolique
  3. The Searchers
  4. Richard III
  5. Anastasia

Analysis:  Anastasia is far from a great script, but it is certainly good enough to make my list.  The Globes had dropped their Screenplay category and it wouldn’t return until 1965.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Seven Samurai
  2. Sawdust and Tinsel
  3. La Strada
  4. Forbidden Planet
  5. Umberto D

Analysis:  Yeah, not a strong time for American original screenwriting.

  • olivier-richard-iii1Best Actor:
  1. Laurence Olivier  (Richard III)
  2. Kirk Douglas  (Lust for Life)
  3. Sterling Hayden  (The Killing)
  4. John Wayne  (The Searchers)
  5. Takashi Shimura  (Seven Samurai)

Analysis:  In his 7th nomination in this category, Olivier finally wins and moves from 10th place to 6th place.  Douglas moves into 3rd, but is a long way behind Rains for 2nd.  It’s nice that this year is more evenly spaced between Drama and Comedy so that the strong performances from Hayden, Wayne and Shimura can make the top 5.

  • bergmananastasiaBest Actress
  1. Ingrid Bergman  (Anastasia)
  2. Harriet Andersson  (Sawdust and Tinsel)
  3. Simone Signoret  (Diabolique)
  4. Giuletta Masina  (La Strada)
  5. Harriet Andersson  (Monika)

Analysis:  Bergman breaks her tie with Janet Gaynor and moves into 2nd place in Drama points.  Like with Original Screenplay, not a good showing for the U.S. – only Bergman is in an English-language film and she’s originally Swedish.

  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Toshiro Mifune  (Seven Samurai)
  2. Anthony Quinn  (Lust for Life)
  3. Robert Stack  (Written on the Wind)
  4. Mickey Rooney  (The Bold and the Brave)
  5. Rod Steiger  (The Harder They Fall)
  • Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Dorothy Malone  (Written on the Wind)
  2. Mercedes McCambridge  (Giant)
  3. Eileen Heckart  (Bad Seed)

Analysis:  Patty McCormack was nominated for the Globe, just as she was for the Oscar, but I really thought she was awful, just the worst thing (except for the writing) in a very bad film.

  • Seven Samurai  (365)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor
  • The Killing  (210)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor
  • Richard III  (205)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor
  • The Searchers (170)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor
  • Diabolique  (120)
    • Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actress
  • Anastasia  (110)
    • Original Screenplay, Actress
  • Forbidden Planet  (90)
    • Picture, Original Screenplay
  • Written on the Wind  (90)
    • Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • La Strada  (75)
    • Original Screenplay, Actress
  • Sawdust and Tinsel  (75)
    • Original Screenplay, Actress
  • Lust for Life  (65)
    • Actor, Supporting Actor
  • Umberto D  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • Monika  (35)
    • Actor
  • The Bold and the Brave  (30)
    • Supporting Actor
  • The Harder They Fall  (30)
    • Supporting Actor
  • Giant  (30)
    • Supporting Actress
  • The Bad Seed  (30)
    • Supporting Actress

Best Drama Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Analysis:  Again, it’s a great film, but it’s a good top 5 in the major categories where it would compete (the acting is hardly worth focusing on).


  • Best Picture
  1. The Ladykillers
  2. Baby Doll
  3. The Trouble with Harry
  4. The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz
  5. The King and I

Analysis:  I’ll discuss the actual Globe category down below, but it is in the bottom 10 of all-time.

  • Best Director
  1. Elia Kazan  (Baby Doll)
  2. Alexander MacKendrick  (The Ladykillers)
  3. Alfred Hitchcock  (The Trouble with Harry)
  4. Luis Buñuel  (The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz)
  5. Walter Lang  (The King and I)

Analysis:  This is the only nomination for Lang, who really was a rather mediocre director.  It’s the only Comedy nomination for Kazan.  It’s the second for Buñuel, who will rise higher in the 70’s.  It’s the second in a row for Hitchcock.  It’s the third (and final) for MacKendrick, all for Ealing Comedies.
Kazan’s Globe win is one of the strangest in history.  His was the only film among the nominees not nominated for Best Picture.  In fact, the 220 points that Baby Doll earned is still a record for a film not nominated for Best Picture (three British films earned more but they weren’t eligible for Best Picture).  Baby Doll would also have the most points on the year; no film since has done that without a Best Picture nomination and only four films have even done it without a Best Picture win.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. Baby Doll
  2. The Trouble with Harry
  3. The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz
  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. The Ladykillers
  2. Private’s Progress
  • brynnerBest Actor:
  1. Yul Brynner  (The King and I)
  2. Alec Guinness  (The Ladykillers)
  3. Karl Malden  (Baby Doll)
  4. Eli Wallach  (Baby Doll)
  5. John Forsythe  (The Trouble with Harry)

Analysis:  Guinness heads a group of actors not normally in this category.  In just 7 years, he has gone from no points to 4th place, just 5 points behind Cagney for 3rd place.  This group of five performances is close in quality to the Drama category – the closest it’s been between the two since 1940.  This is the strongest group of nominees in this category since 1942.

  • kerrkingBest Actress
  1. Deborah Kerr  (The King and I)
  2. Carroll Baker  (Baby Doll)
  3. Shirley MacLaine  (The Trouble with Harry)
  4. Marilyn Monroe  (Bus Stop)
  5. Grace Kelly  (High Society)

Analysis:  Thanks mainly to Kerr and Baker, this is the 6th best group of nominees in this category to date.  Kerr, with her second win in this category, goes up to 140 points and actually moves into the Top 10.

  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Herbert Lom  (The Ladykillers)
  2. Edmund Gwenn  (The Trouble with Harry)
  3. Cecil Parker  (The Ladykillers)
  4. Cantinflas  (Around the World in 80 Days)

Analysis:  Cantinflas actually won Best Actor – Comedy (though I consider him supporting), but strangely the film won Best Picture – Drama.

  • Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Katie Johnson  (The Ladykillers)
  2. Mildred Dunnock  (Baby Doll)
  3. Mildred Natwick  (The Trouble with Harry)
  4. Mildred Dunnock  (The Trouble with Harry)

Analysis:  In spite of only having 4 nominees, this is the best group of nominees in this category since 1939 and tied for 2nd best overall.  This is a category that often isn’t able to fill completely out.


  • The Ladykillers  (410)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • Baby Doll  (355)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress
  • The Trouble with Harry  (295)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actress
  • The King and I  (235)
    • Picture, Director, Actor, Actress
  • The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz  (135)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay
  • Private’s Progress  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • High Society  (35)
    • Actress
  • Bus Stop  (35)
    • Actress
  • Around the World in 80 Days  (30)
    • Supporting Actor

Analysis:  The acting in the four Comedy categories is the best since 1940 as a whole and the second best to date.

Best Comedy Not Nominated for any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • Carousel

Analysis:  My #40 film on the year and my #10 Comedy / Musical.  It’s a solidly good musical but I didn’t give it any consideration in any of the major categories.

Roundup for the Year in Film:

Eligible Films I Have Seen:  133

By Stars:

  • ****:  12
  • ***.5:  4
  • ***:  76
  • **.5:  24
  • **:  9
  • *.5:  4
  • *:  3
  • .5:  1
  • Average Film Score for the Year, out of 100:  63.86

Analysis:  It’s over a two point drop from the year before and is the worst average in 22 years, and yet will be better than each of the next two years.  That’s because of two things.  While it may have the most **** films in one year to date, it has a very small number of ***.5 and so the percentage of films over *** is only 12%, lower than most of the recent years.  The second is those films at the bottom.  There are four films below *.5 – the most to date and 8 below **, over twice as many as in any previous year.  Combined with the ** films, that makes slightly over 12% of the films on the year, which is the worst to date, and the first time since 1931 that bad films (** or less) are better than the best films (***.5 and ****).

Oscar-Nominated Films I Have Not Seen:

  • Qivitoq  (Foreign Film)

note:  This is the category that kills me.  Of the 14 Oscar-nominated films I have not seen post-1953, 8 of them are in the Best Foreign Film category.

Other Award Nominated Films I Have Not Seen:

  • Defrocked  (BAFTA – Picture, Foreign Actor)
  • Full of Life  (WGA – Comedy)

Oscar Quality:

Best Picture:  The fifth worst year of all-time.  It’s one of only four years without a **** film and one of only five without more than one ***.5 or better film.  What saves it from the very bottom of the list is that none of the films are bad.  The five nominees average a 67.6 (the sixth worst) and their average rank is 386.2 (the third worst).  While it has no film in the top 300, it is the only one of the bottom 10 years not to have a film in the bottom 40.

The Winners:  Among the nominees, it’s not a bad year, with the average winner ranking at 2.05 among the nominees and in 8 categories the Academy picked the best of the nominees, but that’s because of the terrible nominees (see below).  Among all films, the average winner was at 8.05, a terrible score and only three categories did I agree with the winner (Actress, Supporting Actress, Foreign Film).  The difference between the two winner scores is a factor of 3.93, the second worst since 1933, showing that the nominees are the real problem.  The tech winners were particularly bad, with an average score of 9.09, the worst since 1937.

The Nominees:  Here’s the real problem.  The nominees earn a score of 45.1, the first time it’s been below 50 since 1937 and the worst since 1933.  The major categories are the worst, earning a 25.9, again the lowest since 1933.  The tech was also bad, with a 39.6, the lowest since 1947.  Both Editing and Sound earned a score of 0, the first time two tech categories have been blanked since 1946.  Just a terrible year at the Oscars.

Golden Globe Best Picture – Comedy / Musical:  The Globes didn’t do a whole lot better.  The Best Picture – Comedy / Musical category finished at 58th all-time, in the bottom 10.  The five nominees (The King and I, Bus Stop, Solid Gold Cadillac, Teahouse of the August Moon, The Opposite Sex) averaged a 64.4, at the bottom end of ***, and the fifth-worst to date.

Top 5 Films of the Year:

The movie I had to see because everyone loved it.

The movie I had to see because everyone loved it.

1  –  Seven Samurai  (dir. Akira Kurosawa)

As if it were not blindingly obvious, I am a list guy.  I always have been.  So very early on I gravitated towards that Bible of lists – The Book of Lists.  I also, early on, had the third book (The Book of Lists #3).  The lists in that book aren’t nearly as good, but there are some interesting ones, and in the Show Business section, there are several Top 10 lists from various movie people.  Both Robert Duvall and Sean Connery had the same film on the top of their list – Seven Samurai.  By the time I read this, it must have been around my Junior Year in high school because I had already seen one Kurosawa film – Yojimbo, which had been shown to us in World Lit class (why, I still have no idea).  So, with two great actors having chosen the same film as their all-time #1, I just had to see it and see if it was as good as they say.  Besides, I had already seen The Magnificent Seven and I knew this was the original version (in fact the Academy records list it as such for its two Oscar nominations (Art Direction and Costume Design)).

It is as good as they say.  It is as good as everyone says (over at TSPDT it currently ranks 10th all-time).  It is the defining action picture of all-time because it delivers on everything.  It has a considerable amount of action and all of it looks great.  It has some humor (much of which is provided by Toshiro Mifune – more on that below).  It has romance (one of the samurai falls in love with one of the villagers).  It has great storytelling with great characterization (again, see below).  It has directorial flourishes (look at the kidnapper come out of the structure and the slow movement before he falls dead).  It has tragedy (do you really think for a moment that all seven of those samurai will come out of this alive?).  Though there had been great samurai films before this (notably Gate of Hell), it was the first of Kurosawa’s many brilliant samurai films (I own it as part of a 4 film Criterion Kurosawa Samurai box set).

But at its heart it is a great film made by several great people at the top of their craft.  It always looks great, with brilliant shots of fighting in the rain (Asakazu Nakai, who shot the film, had already shot many of Kurosawa’s films and would shoot many more, including some of his best, like Throne of Blood, High and Low and Ran.).  The art direction and costume design are so good that the Academy nominated them (still a rarity at this time for Foreign films).  It is edited crisply and never lags at all in spite of coming in at 203 minutes.  It shows the brilliance of Akira Kurosawa’s many talents, including directing, writing and even editing.  It has a fantastic score from Fumio Hayasaka, who had done the music for many Kurosawa films but would actually be dead of tuberculosis at age 41 before this film would even play in the States.

Then there is the acting dynamic.  If you had come to this film from later Kurosawa films, from the hero samurai that Toshiro Mifune would play in Hidden Fortress, Yojimbo and Sanjuro, then this film would surprise you.  There aren’t two competing charismatic leaders like in The Magnificent Seven.  Takashi Shimura, who had already given the performance of a lifetime in Ikiru (which wouldn’t reach the States until 1960) and had actually been a Kurosawa favorite since before Mifune was even an actor is the clear leader.  He is the kind of man who will sacrifice a particular honor (his topknot) in order to find a deeper honor (rescuing a child).  He is the leader of the samurai and he is never doubted and it is clear, that if anyone is going to walk out of the village alive at the end, it is him.  Mifune is instead, more like in Rashomon, the crazy one.  He is energetic and riveting, but is definitely not the lead role.  He is the young, brash samurai who needs to find his way and who will find it in defending this village at whatever cost may come.

You may find yourself saying, “well, Samurai films aren’t really my thing.”  Well then, you’re a fool.  Great films are great films, no matter the genre.  Westerns aren’t really my thing and next on this list is The Searchers because it absolutely belongs there.  This is, without doubt, the best film released in the United States in 1956 and you need to see it.

Probably the best film John Ford ever made.  Definitely the best performance John Wayne ever gave.

Probably the best film John Ford ever made. Definitely the best performance John Wayne ever gave.

2  –  The Searchers  (dir. John Ford)

Is there a more loathsome hero of a film than Ethan Edwards?  He’s a Confederate, and when the war ended, he decided to become a mercenary.  He’s also a vicious racist.  He spends years on a quest to track down his abducted niece and you watch the movie earnestly believing that when he does track her down he intends to kill her rather than let her live after her years among the Comanche.  He is a man consumed with rage and hate.  Yet, in that rage and hate comes the best performance of John Wayne’s career, an actual living breathing character different from the caricatures he had played in so many other films.  But maybe it’s also why the Academy didn’t see fit to give it so much as a single nomination.  They were too used to seeing Ford and Wayne do a different kind of film and this just didn’t work for them.

Edwards is a man who is always coming or going.  He never sits still, never allows himself to settle down and be a part of the family.  So we see him, so often, framed in a doorway.  That is the shot in the film that we keep returning to.  We see someone framed in the doorway when the film opens.  We see it again during the brutal Indian attack that leads to so much grief in the film.  When Ethan and Martin finally return, we see them again.  And of course, there is that famous final shot, looking out the doorway, with Ethan headed away from family and any hope of being still.  He knows that he will be still enough in his grave.  There is no need for it now.  He must relentlessly keep moving instead, finding a focus for all that hate and rage.

And yet, the film is not as bleak as such a description makes it sound.  Aside from Ethan and his focused quest on finding his niece and ending what he sees as her suffering, we have Martin, the young adopted nephew of Ethan going along on the quest.  He is there for a more human side, to remind Ethan that his niece is alive and needn’t die.  But he also provides us with a bit of heart.  Martin has been courting a woman and during a break in their pursuit, Martin confronts the man who has been courting her in his absence.  This ridiculously long fistfight seems out of place given the overarching theme of the film, but really it fits in just fine.  It provides some nice moments of pure entertainment before the last serious narrative push towards what seems along to be a road straight to tragedy.  It reminds us that, after all, even in the midst of tragedy we often finds reasons to just smile.

Stanley Kubrick, with just his third film, hits the big time.

Stanley Kubrick, with just his third film, hits the big time.

3  –  The Killing  (dir. Stanley Kubrick)

It’s not surprising, given the motley bunch of characters that Sterling Hayden has surrounded himself with, that in the end his heist goes wrong.  What’s surprising is that, for so very long, right up until that final little burst of fate, that everything might at least end up going right for him.  But perhaps in that final moment, where life intervenes in a way no one could have expected and Hayden gives that final shrug and surrender, we get the connection between this film and the rest of the work of Stanley Kubrick.  Things will intervene and we can’t control how things will go.  It’s the fatalism that is the core to his work.

Kubrick had made two films before this, both good (Fear and Desire and Killer’s Kiss), but neither came close to showing his real talent.  This picture did it in every way.  In many respects, this would be simply a typical heist film, complete with 1950’s narration explaining everything.  And yet, it works at so many more levels than that.  It is brilliantly shot.  It is perfectly edited (at 83 minutes, it knows exactly how long to spend with each scene and doesn’t over-linger at any point).  The narration gives us exactly what we need, setting things up, but then allowing the actual on-screen actions give the real story.  It has good music.  And in Sterling Hayden it really has the perfect actor for the role; Hayden had been very good in The Asphalt Jungle but he’s perfect here as the man with the plan, knowing exactly how much to tell which people and how to get them to work for him.

But things don’t go according to plan.  One person dies because he’s too hot-headed when he needs to be cool.  Things go wrong because one man who is desperate to win over his wife actually manages to let her go in his attempt.  And everything which is so perfectly planned all starts to go wrong, and yet, it still almost turns out right.

This is a crime film.  Kubrick’s previous film, Killer’s Kiss, had also been a crime film.  He then followed this up with Paths of Glory, a war film (his first film, Fear and Desire, had also been a war film).  But then look at the rest of his career: a Roman epic, a dark satire, a truly black comedy, a sci-fi film, an earth-bound futuristic film, a historical drama, a horror film, another war film (though a different war) and an erotic drama.  Other than Howard Hawks, who can make so many great films spread across so many genres?

Olivier playing the villain and knocking it out of the park.

Olivier playing the villain and knocking it out of the park.

4  –  Richard III  (dir. Laurence Olivier)

Who is the best villain in Shakespeare?  Depending on your point of view of MacBeth, there are a couple of major contenders: Richard III and Iago.  I would argue that Othello is the more compelling play, the one with deeper emotions and better speeches for the cast as a whole (as opposed to being so dominated by the main character).  Which begs the question: why has Richard become the more dominant screen villain?  Why are the film versions of Richard III (both this one and the 1995 version, as well as the documentary Looking for Richard) so much more compelling than those of Othello (Welles, the 1965 version, the 1995 version)?  The answer perhaps lies in more than one place (for instance, Olivier and Branagh both starred in Othello, but left the directing to lesser directors) but there is one key one: that the star of the film generally plays Othello.  Since Iago is the more fascinating role, that leaves him more on the sidelines, especially in the Welles version and to a large extent in the 1965 version.  But Richard, played by Laurence Olivier here and by Ian McKellen in 1995, springs to life in all his dastardly villainy.

There are some who argue that this is the best of Olivier’s Shakespeare films (there are only three in spite of what some people think – he was in several others but did not direct them).  I actually think it’s the weakest of the three, but when all three are mid-range **** films, weakest is a relative statement.  This is the only one for which he wins the Nighthawk Award for Best Actor, although that is partially because he doesn’t have to go against Bogart’s magnificent performance in 1948 and all the great 1946 performances.  In fact, this film makes my Best Picture lineup while Henry V, which I think is the best of the three, couldn’t make the 1946 lineup; that’s just the way the films fell in those years.

All that being said, this is a great film because Olivier is so perfectly dastardly in the lead role.  He will not hesitate to move towards what he wants, whether it be Lady Anne (Olivier makes a change to the play that the 1995 version would follow with – that Anne is actually mourning her husband when she is courted by Richard, which makes the scene all the more creepy), the throne (never hesitating to eliminate those in his way – just look at the staging of the scene where the death of Clarence is revealed) or absolute power (watch the scene where he informs the knight, played by Patrick Troughton, of exactly what he needs to be able to do that).  And yet, Olivier doesn’t overwhelm everything; we have strong performances from the likes of John Geilgud, Ralph Richardson and Laurence Naismith.  Olivier so dominates not because of a directorial choice or an ego, but because Richard himself so dominate the play.

Olivier, as a director, also brings the play to life in vibrant color.  We’ll never know what his Hamlet might have looked like if not for his row with Technicolor, but the vibrant look that made Henry V such a success is repeated here.  It’s not just that the film is in color; it’s that the color adds so much to it, bringing it to life.  Most of it is filmed on sets, because the action works so well there, but in the end it really comes to life on the Battle of Bosworth Field and we get that final desperate moment from Richard and his desperate cry as only Olivier can properly pull off.  Yul Brynner might have won the Oscar but it was Olivier who really gave the best performance of the year.

5  –  The Ladykillers  (reviewed here)

5 Worst Films  (#1 being the worst):

  1. It Conquered the World
  2. The She-Creature
  3. Warning from Space
  4. Bride of the Monster
  5. The Bad Seed

note:  After twice winning Worst Picture, Ed Wood only makes the fourth worst film.  Don’t worry; he’ll win again in 1959.

Yes, it's as bad as this poster makes it look.

Yes, it’s as bad as this poster makes it look.

It Conquered the World  (dir. Roger Corman)

In 1952, Peter Graves gave an incredibly bad, wooden performance in Red Planet Mars, the worst film of the year.  In 1956, Graves would again give an incredibly bad, wooden performance in It Conquered the World, the worst film of the year.  Yet, in between these two films, he would play the villain in Stalag 17, a much better, even understated performance nothing like the two pieces of crap bookmarking it.  If anything, it proves that a great writer-director like Billy Wilder can get the performances he needs to, partially because his writing is so good.  There’s nothing like that here.  Yes, many people love Roger Corman films for the campiness and entertainment value, and some of them (the Poe ones) are quite good.  But It Conquered the World is not.

This is an Alien Invasion film, a genre that can been done right (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) but is usually done quite badly.  It was in vogue in the 1950’s and it accounted for many of the worst films of the decade.  The alien this time is from Venus, and is played, alternately, by a piece of plastic and what appears to be a kite.  The alien is helped by a scientist played by Lee Van Cleef in a performance so bad that you think that Fred Zinnemann had the right idea in High Noon in not having his character speak.  Granted, the script is so unbearably bad that it may not have been possible to give a good performance (“Tom, are you really ready to stop loving me?” Van Cleef’s wife asks).  Graves is a friend of Van Cleef, who will be betrayed by his friend.

Any of the individual aspects of this film would be bad enough: the Ed Wood level of acting, the Ed Wood level of dialogue, the Ed Wood level of special effects.  When all put together in one pathetic film.  Perhaps what you really think of this film will depend on what you think of Corman.  I have seen, by current count, 28 films directed by Corman.  The Poe films are, in my opinion, easily his best (they account for 7 of his top 8 with the original Little Shop of Horrors the other top film).  The goofy monster films with 10¢ special effects, films like this one, The Wasp Woman, Attack of the Crab Monsters and Attack of the Giant Leeches I rank among the worst films ever made.


  • Most Nighthawk Nominations:  Seven Samurai  (13)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards:  Seven Samurai  (13)
  • Most Nighthawk Points:  Seven Samurai  (690)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Award:  Love Me Tender
  • 2nd Place Award:  The Searchers  (Picture, Director, Cinematography)
  • 6th Place Award:  Richard III  (Adapted Screenplay, Original Score)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Nominations:  Seven Samurai  (5)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Awards:  Seven Samurai  (4)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Points:  Seven Samurai  (365)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Drama Award:  The Bad Seed
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Nominations:  The Trouble with Harry  (8)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Awards:  The Ladykillers  (4)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Points:  The Ladykillers  (410)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Comedy Award:  Bus Stop

Note:  * means a Nighthawk record up to this point; ** ties a Nighthawk record

Progressive Leaders:

  • Most Nighthawk Nominations:  The Wizard of Oz  (18)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards:  The Wizard of Oz  (14)
  • Most Nighthawk Points:  The Wizard of Oz  (795)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards without winning Best Picture:  Frankenstein  /  The Magnificent Ambersons  (6)
  • Most Nighthawk Nominations without a Best Picture Nomination:  Captain Blood  /  Henry V  (10)
  • Most Nighthawk Nominations without a Nighthawk Award:  My Man Godfrey (11)
  • Actor:  Humphrey Bogart  (475)
  • Actress:  Bette Davis  (555)
  • Director:  William Wyler  /  Billy Wilder  (405)
  • Writer:  Billy Wilder  (680)
  • Cinematographer:  Arthur Edeson  /  Gregg Toland  (200)
  • Composer:  Max Steiner  (450)
  • Foreign Film:  Akira Kurosawa  (260)

Breakdown by Genre  (Foreign in parenthesis, best film in genre following, avg. score is afterwards, in parenthesis):

  • Drama:  55 (18)  –  Richard III  (65.1)
  • Foreign:  29  –  Seven Samurai  (70.1)
  • Comedy:  16 (3)  –  Baby Doll  (66.8)
  • Musical:  13  –  The King and I  (58.5)
  • Western:  12  –  The Searchers  (67.5)
  • Sci-Fi:  9 (1)  –  Forbidden Planet  (46.3)
  • Suspense:  7 (1)  –  Diabolique  (68.3)
  • Crime:  5 (2)  –  The Killing  (75.8)
  • Horror:  5 (2)  –  Invasion of the Body Snatchers  (52)
  • War:  4  –  The Man Who Never Was  (67)
  • Adventure:  4  –  Moby Dick  (57.8)
  • Action:  2 (2)  –  Seven Samurai  (85)
  • Fantasy:  1  –  Animal Farm  (73)
  • Kids:  0
  • Mystery:  0

Analysis:  There are films here that really cross genres.  The Ladykillers isn’t the top-listed Comedy because I have it as a Crime film.  Invasion of the Body Snatchers could easily be considered Sci-Fi (although it becomes the first Horror film since 1945 to make the Top 20 and the first **** Horror film since 1935).  I classify all monster movies (including Gojira and Godzilla, King of the Monsters, which I count as two separate films) as Horror.  Seven Samurai becomes the first Action film to win Best Picture and the first non-Drama film to win since 1948.  Forbidden Planet becomes the first **** Sci-Fi film since Metropolis.  Four Foreign films makes the Top 10 – the most since 1931.  Eight Foreign Films makes the Top 20 – the most since 1930.  Several genres are at highs – Dramas are the most since 1950, Foreign the most since 1949, Horror the most since 1935 and Sci-Fi over doubles its previous high.  Overall, this is the most films in a single year to date.  Several genres are fairly bad as well – Horror has its worst average to date, Sci-Fi its second worst and Musical falls below 60 for the first time since 1929.

Studio Note:  For the eighth time in nine years, Fox and MGM are the two biggest studios, with 19 and 15 films respectively.  The rest of the majors have between 5 and 11 films each, with RKO getting in a last gasp of 8 films before dying the next year.  But overall, the majors only account for 66.9% of the films I’ve seen, only the second time that it’s dropped below 70%.  But the studio films are all mediocre – every studio has an average between 61.8 (RKO) and 65.6 (UA).  There’s never before been such a tight range and it’s the first time since 1944 that none of them average over a 70.  Part of the decline in the majors is the end of the studio system, but also the rise of independent distributors.  I have three films from Continental Distributing, who would distribute a number of foreign films over the next decade and begins here with two Ealing films, including The Ladykillers.  There are three from Allied Artists, which had formerly been Monogram Pictures, and here has both Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Oscar nominee Friendly Persuasion.  There are three from Toho (including Godzilla), which would begin distributing a lot of its own Monster movies in the States.  And there are my first two films from American International Pictures, which became known for Roger Corman films (one of his is in fact my worst film of the year).  All four of these companies would continue to distribute a considerable number of films over the next decade.  United Artists hits a low – it’s the first time since 1950 that it only has 1 film in the Top 20.

33 Films Eligible for Best Foreign Film (alphabetical, with director and country in parenthesis – red are ****, blue are ***.5 – both those colors qualify for my Best Foreign Film Award; an asterisk means it was the Official selection for the Oscar, two asterisks were nominated, three asterisks won the Oscar):

  • Anak dalita  (Avellana, Philippines)  *
  • And God Created Woman  (Vadim, France)
  • Before Sundown  (Reinhardt, West Germany)
  • Beyond Oblivion  (del Carril, Argentina)
  • Bhowani Junction  (Cukor, India)
  • Bob le Flambeur  (Melville, France)
  • The Burmese Harp  (Ichikawa, Japan)  **
  • The Captain of Kopenick  (Kautner, West Germany)  **
  • Carnival Night  (Ryazanov, USSR)
  • Crazed Fruit  (Nakahira, Japan)
  • Death in the Garden  (Buñuel, Mexico)
  • Early Spring  (Ozu, Japan)
  • Elena and Her Men  (Renoir, France)
  • The Forty-First  (Chukrai, USSR)
  • Four Bags Full  (Autant-Lara, France)
  • Gervaise  (Clement, France)  **
  • A Girl in Black  (Cacoyannis, Greece)
  • In Our Courtyard  (Chkeidze, USSR)
  • La Strada  (Fellini, Italy)  ***
  • Madame Freedom  (Han, South Korea)
  • Mademoiselle Striptease  (Allegret, France)
  • A Man Escaped  (Bresson, France)
  • My Son Don’t Turn Round  (Bauer, Yugoslavia)
  • The Ogre of Athens  (Koundouros, Greece)
  • The Railroad Man  (Germi, Italy)
  • Rodan  (Honda, Japan)
  • Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island  (Inagaki, Japan)
  • Shadow  (Kawalerowicz, Poland)
  • Spring on Zarechnaya Street  (Khutisyev, USSR)
  • Street of Shame  (Mizoguchi, Japan)
  • Teenage Wolfpack  (Tressler, West Germany)
  • That is the Dawn  (Buñuel, Mexico)
  • Warning from Space  (Shima, Japan)

Note:  Three countries have their first films (Philippines, South Korea, Yugoslovia), all of which, unfortunately are among the weakest films on this list.  For the third time in five years, France has 7 films to lead the year, although Japan ties it (a new high for Japan) as the Monster movies begin to bloom.  Because I classify all such Monster movies as Horror films, Warning from Space becomes the first Foreign Sci-Fi film I’ve seen since 1930.  There are only two Italian films, the lowest since 1946, but there are 4 Soviet films – the first year with multiple Soviet films since 1939.  There are also 3 West German films – equalling the total from the previous seven years combined.  This the first year for the full Best Foreign Film category at the Oscars.  There were 8 countries that submitted films, of which I have seen 5 (I am missing one of the nominees).  The full list is here.

Films Eligible in This Year But Originally Released in a Different Calendar Year:

  • Awaara  (1951)
  • Umberto D  (1952)
  • Monika  (1953)
  • The Proud and the Beautiful  (1953)
  • Sawdust and Tinsel  (1953)
  • Animal Farm  (1954)
  • For Better for Worse  (1954)
  • Gojira  (1954)
  • A Kid for Two Farthings  (1954)
  • Lease of Life  (1954)
  • Monsieur Ripois  (1954)
  • Seven Samurai  (1954)
  • Wuthering Heights  (1954)
  • Bride of the Monster  (1955)
  • The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz  (1955)
  • Diabolique  (1955)
  • Doctor at Sea  (1955)
  • Hill 24 Doesn’t Answer  (1955)
  • The Ladykillers  (1955)
  • The Night My Number Came Up  (1955)
  • Princess Yang Kwei Fei  (1955)
  • The Prisoner  (1955)
  • Quatermass Xperiment  (1955)
  • Richard III  (1955)
  • Samurai II: Duel at Inchiyo Temple  (1955)
  • Touch and Go  (1955)
  • The Trouble with Harry  (1955)
  • Twelfth Night  (1955)

Note:  This a first-rate group of films.  The 21 films here average a 68.95, but would average a 69.25 if not for Jail Bait.  Two of the Top 10 and 5 of the Top 20 are on this list and they earn 10 Nighthawk nominations in this year (they even earned 4 Oscar nominations).

Films Not Listed at

  • Anak dalita
  • Awaara
  • Before Sundown
  • Beyond Oblivion
  • Gojira
  • In Our Courtyard
  • Madame Freedom
  • My Son Don’t Turn Round
  • The Ogre of Athens
  • The Rose on His Arm
  • Shadow
  • Spring on Zarechnaya Street
  • Teenage Wolfpack
  • That is the Dawn
  • Warning from Space

Note:  I use the list at for deciding which year films are eligible in.  For some films, however, they don’t appear in that database.  For those films, I use the IMDb.  These are the films that aren’t listed in the database but that end up in this year.  All but two of these films are Foreign films from 1956 which never got an American release, so I stick them in their original year of release in their own country.  The two exceptions are Awaara (originally released in 1951) and Gojira, which I count as a separate film from Godzilla, King of the Monsters.

Films Released This Year Originally But Eligible in a Different Year:

  • And God Created Woman  (1957)
  • Battle of the River Plate  (1957)
  • Carnival Night  (1957)
  • Elena and Her Men  (1957)
  • Four Bags Full  (1957)
  • The Great Man  (1957)
  • The Green Man  (1957)
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame  (1957)
  • The Long Arm  (1957)
  • Mademoiselle Striptease  (1957)
  • Reach for the Sky  (1957)
  • Rodan  (1957)
  • Smiley  (1957)
  • Street of Shame  (1957)
  • A Town Like Alice  (1957)
  • The Wrong Man  (1957)
  • X, the Unknown  (1957)
  • Yield to the Night  (1957)
  • The Captain of Kopenick  (1958)
  • Crazed Fruit  (1958)
  • Gervaise  (1958)
  • A Man Escaped  (1958)
  • Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island  (1958)
  • A Girl in Black  (1959)
  • Three Men in a Boat  (1959)
  • Bob le Flambeur  (1960)
  • The Forty-First  (1960)
  • Sword and the Dragon  (1960)
  • Othello  (1961)
  • Death in the Garden  (1963)
  • The Railroad Man  (1965)
  • The Burmese Harp  (1967)
  • Early Spring  (1974)

Note:  A much lower group than the last several years.  There is one terrible film (Rodan) and only a handful of ***.5 films, all of them lower level ***.5.  This is definitely a year that benefits from the “eligibility rule”.