UC Berkeley Library

Movies Set In or About the 1950's

A Time to Kill (1996)

Directed by Joel Schumacher. Cast: Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, Matthew McConaughey, Kevin Spacey, Brenda Fricker, Oliver Platt, Charles S. Dutton, Ashley Judd, Patrick McGoohan, Donald Sutherland. A murder trial brings a small Mississippi town's racial tension to the flashpoint. Amid a frenzy of activist marches, Klan terror, media clamor and brutal riots, an unseasoned but idealistic young attorney mounts a stirring courtroom battle for justice. Based on the novel by John Grisham. 150 min.

Absolute Beginners (UK, 1986)

Directed by Julien Temple. Cast: Eddie O'Connell, Patsy Kensit, David Bowie, James Fox, Ray Davies, Steven Berkoff, Sade Adu, Eve Ferret, Anita Morris. A musical adaptation of Colin MacInnes' novel about life in late 1950s London. Film portrays lower class youths emerging from post-war privations and struggling to achieve mobility in the face of withering class, racial and economic barriers. 108 min. Credits and other information from the Internet Movie Database

All the King's Men (2006)

Directed by Steven Zaillian. Cast: Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo, Patricia Clarkson, Kathy Baker, Jackie Earle Haley, Anthony Hopkins. Willie Stark is an uncorrupted small-town mayor in 1950s Louisiana. He gets picked by the political machine to run as a wild card candidate in the upcoming gubernatorial race. But, when Willie realizes that he is being manipulated, he veers off on his own to become the darling of the electorate's downtrodden and forgotten hicks.

American Graffiti (1973)

Directed by George Lucas. The misadventures of four California teenagers one late summer night in 1962 become the focal point for an audience trip back to the last "innocent" years of the 50's and early 60's. Featuring: Richard Dreyfuss, Ronny Howard, Paul Le Mat, Charles Martin Smith, Candy Clark, Mackenzie Phillips, Cindy 112 min. Online Access through LFLFC ; Credits and other information from the Internet Movie Database Reviews and articles: Cagin, Seth, and Philip Dray.

Back to the Future (1985)

Directed by Robert Zemeckis. In this comic fantasy, a typical American teenager of the 1980's is accidentally sent back to 1955 in a plutonium-powered DeLorean "time machine" invented by a slightly mad scientist. During his amazing trip back in time, the teenager must make certain that his parents-to-be meet and fall in love so he can get back to the future. 116 min.

Back to the Future II (1989)

Directed by Robert Zemeckis. An exhilarating visit by Marty and Doc to the year 2015 seemingly resolves a few problems with the future McFly family. But when the two return home, they soon discover someone has tampered with time to produce a nightmarish Hill Valley 1985. Their only hope is to once again get back to 1955 and save the future. 116 min. ; Credits and other information from the Internet Movie Database

Badlands (1973)

Directed by Terrence Malick. Featuring Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, Warren Oates, Ramon Bieri. Set in South Dakota in 1959, this is the story of Kit and his girlfriend Holly, two people alienated from everyday life, who go on a killing spree. Based loosely on the 1950's killing spree by Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate. 95 min. See separate bibliography of reviews and articles about this film

Bugsy (1991)

Directed by Barry Levinson. Cast: Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Harvey Keitel, Ben Kingsley, Joe Mantegna. The incredible true story of Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, the playboy gangster who betrayed the Mob for love. A cold-blooded killer who dreamed of Hollywood stardom, a crazed "patriot," who plotted against Mussolini, and the brilliant visionary who carved Las Vegas out of the dry Nevada desert, Bugsy had it all until he fell in love with a woman who wanted more. Their love affair was passionate, tempestuous and ultimately tragic. 136 min.

Bye Bye Birdie (1963)

Directed by George Sidney. Featuring Janet Leigh, Dick Van Dyke, Ann-Margret, Maureen Stapleton, Bobby Rydell, Jesse Pearson, Ed Sullivan,Paul Lynde. When rock star Conrad Birdie gets drafted, his manager organizes a nationwide contest in which one lucky girl wins a farewell kiss on The Ed Sullivan show. 112 min. ; Credits and other information from the Internet Movie Database

Chinatown (1974)

Directed by Roman Polanski. Featuring Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Hillerman, Perry Lopez, Burt Young, Bruce Glover, Joe Mantell, Roy Jenson, Diane Ladd, Dick Bakalyan, John Huston. The plot is a labyrinth of successive revelations having to do with Los Angeles water reserves, land rights, fraud and intra-family hanky-panky, climaxing in Los Angeles's Chinatown.

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