Top Ten 1953

1. Tokyo Story
2. The Wages Of Fear
3. Pickup On South Street
4. I Vitelloni
5. From Here To Eternity
6. Ugetsu
7. El
8. Roman Holiday
9. The Hitch-hiker
10. The Earrings Of Madame De…


Montgomery Clift had a gorgeous face and eyes that looked like they reflected the bottom of the sea; finding out that he had an intensely insecure personal life is no surprise considering that, on screen, he always seemed like he could never enjoy the moment. This intelligent vulnerability was never on better display than his performance in the year’s most acclaimed film From Here To Eternity, in which he plays the tortured soul next to Burt Lancaster’s more self-assured romantic hero. Sadly, it was a high point for Clift that resulted in his getting too sure of himself; he turned down many leading roles before being forced to go back to work four years in later in the underperforming Raintree County. The car accident he suffered during the filming of that fiasco and the drinking problem he had acquired over the years would propel him to an untimely death in his early forties.

Honour Roll: Marlon Brando, Julius Caesar; William Holden, Stalag 17


Oscar awarded Audrey Hepburn an Oscar for Roman Holiday as a wonderful welcome to her new career as movie star and style icon, and I couldn’t possibly disagree. It’s not the strongest performance she ever gave, but in a year full of glamorous women emoting sticky emotions on screen (Danielle Darrieux in The Earrings Of Madame De… and Barbara Stanwyck in All I Desire) and fresh-faced charmers winning audiences’ hearts (Leslie Caron in Lili and Maggie McNamara in The Moon Is Blue), Hepburn’s is the performance that comes off the most honest and complex. She’s hilarious when she’s discovering the joys of gelato or riding on a motorcycle accident, but just look at her face in the film’s conclusion when she is asked about her favourite stop on her continental tour; the joy she feels in straying from the royal-appointed script, as well as the pain she suppresses at the realization that her holiday is over, is a much more powerful moment than you were expecting to see.

Honour Roll: Joan Crawford, Torch Song; Danielle Darrieux, The Earrings Of Madame De…; Jean Peters, Pickup On South Street; Barbara Stanwyck, All I Desire


The Wages Of Fear took the Cannes Film Festival by storm and deservedly walked away with the Palme D’Or (though it wasn’t called that back then…) At the centre of this brilliant film about capitalist greed gone amok in the South American jungle is a weasly Charles Vanel as a selfish truck driver who desperately does everything possible to get a job transporting dynamite across the Andes but easily avoids any feelings of self-sacrifice whenever danger lurks (and it does on plenty of occasions).

Honour Roll: Eddie Albert, Roman Holiday; John Gielgud, Julius Caesar; Frank Sinatra, From Here To Eternity; Robert Strauss, Stalag 17


Very few character actresses have had the beloved following and admiration that Thelma Ritter achieved in her long cinema career. Often cast as world-weary, verbally diuretic spinsters, her collection of unforgettable characterizations has its grand slam apex with her performance as the shrewish, strange police informant she plays in one of Samuel Fuller’s best films, Pickup On South Street.

Honour Roll: Setsuko Hara, Tokyo Story; Grace Kelly, Mogambo; Geraldine Page, Hondo; Donna Reed, From Here To Eternity


The films of Yasujiro Ozu were rarely released outside of Japan in his lifetime; distributors felt that they were too Japanese and would not be related to by a wide audience. In recent years, where his oeuvre has been discovered and celebrated internationally, it is quite obvious that his work could not possibly be more universal. Slow, soft and deceptively unremarkable, his films observed the banalities of everyday life with ease, beauty and sensitivity, and the best example is his undeniable masterpiece Tokyo Story. The tale, about an aging couple who visit the capital city to see their children who treat them as great burdens, has a heartbreaking feeling of reality that we will all, to our shame, relate to. It also features Setsuko Hara at her most endearing.

Honour Roll: Samuel Fuller, Pickup On South Street; Billy Wilder, Stalag 17