22 May 2022

One of the Best Seven Year Stretches in Cinema History, 1957-1963

Bergman's Winter Light, my favorite film of the period

I have long championed the 1970s as the best decade in cinema history and have also sang the praises of the 1930s. However I recently found a seven-year period that does not fit neatly into a single decade, that produced a surprising number of classic films: 1957 through 1963. In total I rank thirty-five movies (an average of five a year) among my all-time favorites, nine of which are on my top one hundred, three in the top ten. Of those thirty-five, twenty-three (about two-thirds) were made outside of the United States. It was a slack period for American cinema and fecund for European film. 

One thing I found interesting about this seven-year run was that there were a mere handful of films I rate highly in the years immediately preceding and following it. Somehow it stood in isolation. Why? Perhaps largely because several European directors were at their best during that time. Meanwhile other great directors had faded while a new batch of American directors were several years away from cranking out classics.

Another contributing factor has to be that walls of censorship were finally being chipped away, particularly in Europe. American film did not free itself from the restraints of censorship until the end of the Sixties.

The main contributor to the list was the great Swedish director, Ingmar Bergman, with six — twice as many any other director. Federico Fellini, Francois Truffaut and Michelangelo Antonioni each contributed three. There were five directors with two films, Luis Buñuel and Mikhail Kalatozov and three others who made English-language films, Stanley Kubrick, Billy Wilder and Alfred Hitchcock. 

Here are the films:

Winter Light (1963) Bergman

The Seventh Seal (1957) Bergman

La Dolce Vita (1960) Fellini

Through a Glass Darkly (1961) Bergman

Nights of Cabiria (1957) Fellini

L’Eclisse (1962) Antonio

Vivre Sa Vie (1962) Godard

The Great Escape (1963) J. Sturges

Sweet Smell of Success (1957) Mackendrick 

Vertigo (1958) Hitchcock

Psycho (1960) Hitchcock

L’Avventura (1960) Antonioni

The Silence (1963) Bergman

Ivan's Childhood (1962) Tarkovsky

The Virgin Spring (1960) Bergman

The Magician (1958) Bergman

Viridiana (1961) Buñuel

Ride the High Country (1962) Peckinpah

Spartacus (1960) Kubrick

Shoot the Piano Player (1960) Truffaut

Jules et Jim (1962) Truffaut

Hud (1963) Ritt

Some Like it Hot (1959) Wilder

Letter Never Sent (1960) Kalatozov

The Exterminating Angel (1962)

La Notte (1961)

Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

The Organiser (1963) Monicelli

The Cranes Are Flying (1957) Kalatozov

Witness for the Prosecution (1957) Wilder

The 400 Blows (1959) Truffaut

8 1/2 (1963) Fellini

Two Women (1960) De Sica

Paths of Glory (1957) Kubrick

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) Ford

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