When the Motion Picture Academy looked at 1958, it gave its Best Picture award to Gigi, a mediocre musical that even Maurice Chevalier couldn't save. In fact -- and I say this in sorrow, as a confirmed Chevalier fan -- he wasn't very good in it himself. Maybe if they'd cast Harpo Marx hiding a phonograph under his coat instead...
1. Touch of Evil Directed by Orson Welles Written by Welles, from a novel by Whit Masterson
"A policeman's job is only easy in a police state."
2. Vertigo Directed by Alfred Hitchcock Written by Samuel Taylor and Alec Coppel, from a novel by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac
I'm not exactly in the minority here. Half a century after the fact, most critics are going to pick either this or Touch of Evil as the best American movie of 1958. So I'd just like to take this opportunity to remind you again that the Oscar went to Gigi.
3. Ivan the Terrible, Part 2 Written and directed by Sergei Eisenstein
Completed in 1946, but suppressed by Stalinist censorship until the Khrushchev thaw.
4. Mon Oncle Directed by Jacques Tati Written by Tati, Jacques Lagrange, and Jean L'Hote
Slapstick vs. technocracy.
5. Man of the West Directed by Anthony Mann Written by Reginald Rose, from a novel by Will C. Brown
The last entry in Mann's series of layered, psychologically complex westerns.
6. Night of the Demon Directed by Jacques Tourneur Written by Charles Bennett and Hal E. Chester, from a story by Montague R. James
The American cut is called Curse of the Demon. Watch the British edition if you can -- both versions were damaged by the oafish interference of producer Hal E. Chester, but the American one was mangled more.
7. Ashes and Diamonds Directed by Andrzej Wajda Written by Jerzy Andrzejewski, from his novel
Another product of the Khrushchev thaw, or more precisely the Gomulka thaw, which is what you get when you combine Khrushchevism from above with labor unrest from below. The film's ambiguous attitude towards the Communists is handled delicately -- unlike Hal E. Chester, the East Bloc authorities could mangle much more than a mere movie -- but there's little doubt about where the Polish audience's sympathies lay.
8. The Magician Directed by Ingmar Bergman Written by Bergman, from a play by G.K. Chesterton
A playful mixture of horror and humor, with some crafty things to say about illusion's relationship to truth.
9. The Big "O" Directed by Carmen D'Avino
Variations on the 15th letter.
10. A Movie Directed by Bruce Conner
The lost bridge between Joseph Cornell and YouTube Poop.
N.B.: Night of the Demon technically debuted in 1957, though it didn't make it to America til '58. I included it anyway for the usual reason: I didn't realize its actual year of release when I compiled my '57 list last year, and I'd hate to ignore the picture entirely. If I were forced to exclude it, I'd fill out this top 10 with Claude Chabrol's Le Beau Serge.