When the Motion Picture Academy looked at 1948, it gave its Best Picture award to the Laurence Olivier version of Hamlet. Which is actually quite good, despite the absence of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and it's in my top 10. But it isn't nearly as impressive as the film at number one:
1. Red River Directed by Howard Hawks with Arthur Rosson Written by Borden Chase and Charles Schnee, from a story by Chase
Confession: I like the ending, which nearly everyone else (including one of the writers) dismisses as a copout. Why shouldn't those bullheaded rivals listen to the lady, recognize that they're a pair of asses, and make up? It pulls the rug out from under all that macho posturing, and it makes a complex movie even richer.
2. The Red Shoes Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger Written by Powell, Pressburger, and Keith Winter, from a story by Hans Christian Andersen
In this film, on the other hand, I don't think there's any way to avoid a tragic ending.
3. Fort Apache Directed by John Ford Written by Frank Nugent, from a story by James Warner Bellah
It's almost an Old West Paths of Glory -- though Ford and Nugent ultimately respect the military, while Kubrick doesn't.
4. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre Directed by John Huston Written by Huston, from a novel by B. Traven
But read the book first. It's even better.
5. Hamlet Directed by Laurence Olivier Written by Olivier, from a play by William Shakespeare
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Must Be Dead.
6. Key Largo Directed by John Huston Written by Huston and Richard Brooks, from a play by Maxwell Anderson
"Listen hick, I was too much for any big city police force to handle. It took the United States government to pin a rap on me. And they won't make it stick. You hick, I'll be back pulling strings to get guys elected mayor and governor before you get a 10 buck raise."
7. The Fallen Idol Directed by Carol Reed Written by Graham Greene, Lesley Storm, and William Templeton, from a story by Greene
"Some lies are just kindness."
8. The Snake Pit Directed by Anatole Litvak Written by Millen Brand, Frank Partos, and Arthur Laurents, from a novel by Mary Jane Ward
On one level, this is a despicable picture: Allegedly an exposé of the mistreatment of psychiatric patients, it winds up justifying even the most invasive coercive procedures as long as the doctor making the decisions seems kind and liberal. But it's a remarkably well-made movie nonetheless, and Olivia de Havilland is amazing in it.
9. Sorry, Wrong Number Directed by Anatole Litvak Written by Lucille Fletcher, from her play
It was a good year for Anatole Litvak, I guess. Litvak, John Huston, and Shakespeare.
10. Macbeth Directed by Orson Welles Written by Welles, from a play by William Shakespeare
It was filmed on the cheap for a B studio in just 23 days. And it's one of the best Shakespearean movies ever made.