When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked at 1951, it gave its Best Picture award to An American in Paris, a musical that I neither dislike nor am especially fond of. Any of these would have been a better choice:
1. Ace in the Hole Directed by Billy Wilder Written by Wilder, Lesser Samuels, and Walter Newman
The darkest film that Wilder ever made.
2. Strangers on a Train Directed by Alfred Hitchcock Written by Czenzi Ormonde, Raymond Chandler, Whitfield Cook, and Ben Hecht, from a novel by Patricia Highsmith
Walker's 32nd Law: You shouldn't bother trying to remake a Hitchcock movie. Corollary to Walker's 32nd Law: If you absolutely must remake a Hitchcock movie, for the love of God don't give your starring role to Billy Crystal.
3. The Thing from Another World Directed by Christian Nyby and/or Howard Hawks Written by Hawks, Charles Lederer, and Ben Hecht, from a novella by John W. Campbell, Jr.
"An intellectual carrot? The mind boggles."
4. A Streetcar Named Desire Directed by Elia Kazan Written by Tennessee Williams and Oscar Saul, from a play by Williams
Yes, they bowdlerized the play, but I have yet to see a better performance of it. (No, not even the version on The Simpsons.)
5. The Tales of Hoffman Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger Written by Powell, Pressburger, and Dennis Arundell, from an opera by Jacques Offenbach and Jules Barbier
It's the most experimental of the Archers' pictures, but it doesn't deserve its reputation as difficult viewing.
6. The Lavender Hill Mob Directed by Charles Crichton Written by T.E.B. Clarke
"I propagate British cultural depravity."
7. Miracle in Milan Directed by Vittorio De Sica Written by De Sica, Cesare Zavattini, Suso Cecchi d'Amico, Mario Chiari, and Adolfo Franci, from a novel by Zavattini
A strange hybrid of neorealism and fantasy, with squatters using witchcraft to battle the authorities. My favorite De Sica film.
8. Pandora and the Flying Dutchman Written and directed by Albert Lewin
The high point in Jack Cardiff's career as a cinematographer.
9. The Man in the White Suit Directed by Alexander Mackendrick Written by Mackendrick, and Roger MacDougall, John Dighton
Unions and corporate chieftains join forces to suppress an invention that would put them out of work. Screw Star Wars: This libertarian satire is Alec Guinness' best science-fiction movie.
10. Bellissima Directed by Luchino Visconti Written by Visconti, Cesare Zavattini, Suso Cecchi d'Amico, and Francesco Rosi
For a comedy, this made me awfully sad.
11. People Will Talk (Joseph L. Mankiewicz) 12. The African Queen (John Huston) 13. Four Ways Out (Pietro Germi) 14. Diary of a Country Priest (Robert Bresson) 15. He Ran All the Way (John Berry) 16. Susana (Luis Buñuel) 17. Rabbit Fire (Chuck Jones) 18. The Man from Planet X (Edgar G. Ulmer) 19. The Tall Target (Anthony Mann) 20. Rooty Toot Toot (John Hubley)
Of the movies of 1951 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Hôtel des Invalides.