When the Motion Picture Academy looked back at 1957, it gave its Best Picture award to a David Lean epic called The Bridge on the River Kwai. That's a fine film, and you'll find it on my list -- but not at the top:
1. What's Opera, Doc? Directed by Chuck Jones Written by Michael Maltese
With American efficiency, the Ring Cycle is gagged up and slimmed down to seven minutes of film.
2. Paths of Glory Directed by Stanley Kubrick Written by Kubrick, Calder Willingham, and Jim Thompson, from a novel by Humphrey Cobb
Possibly the most unsentimental antiwar movie ever made.
3. Sweet Smell of Success Directed by Alexander Mackendrick Written by Ernest Lehman and Clifford Ordets, from a novelette by Lehman
Does for Walter Winchell what Citizen Kane did for William Randolph Hearst.
4. Wild Strawberries Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman
"Me and my wife are dependent on each other. It is out of selfish reasons we haven't beaten each other to death a long time ago."
5. Throne of Blood Directed by Akira Kurosawa Written by Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, Ryuzo Kikushima, and Hideo Oguni, from a play by William Shakespeare
The best of the celluloid Macbeths.
6. The Bridge on the River Kwai Directed by David Lean Written by Michael Wilson and Carl Foreman, from a novel by Pierre Boulle
Boulle also wrote Planet of the Apes, and from an evolutionary perspective that seems entirely appropriate.
7. Witness for the Prosecution Directed by Billy Wilder Written by Wilder, Harry Kurtz, and Larry Marcus, from a play by Agatha Christie
I won't claim this as a libertarian movie, but libertarians should enjoy anything that allows the great Charles Laughton both to disobey doctor's orders and to battle the prosecutorial state.
8. The Bachelor Party Directed by Delbert Mann Written by Paddy Chayefsky
No, the Tom Hanks movie isn't a remake of this one. Really, you should be ashamed for even asking that.
9. The Curse of Frankenstein Directed by Terence Fisher Written by Jimmy Sangster, from a novel by Mary Shelley
There were two great series of Frankenstein films: the moody black-and-white pictures released by Universal from 1931 to 1948, and the violent, gory, richly colored flicks released by Hammer from 1957 to 1974. This stylish, ambiguous thriller launched the second set of movies. Christopher Lee's monster, unlike Boris Karloff's, is an unsympathetic killing machine; Fisher records his crimes with a raw, primal power.