UC Berkeley Library

Movies Set In or About the 1950's

Heavenly Creatures (UK / Germany / New Zealand, 1994)

Directed by Peter Jackson. Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Kate Winslet, Sarah Peirse, Diana Kent, Clive Merrison, Simon O'Connor. Based on an actual crime, this is the true-life case of two teenage girls, Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme, who were charged with clubbing to death Pauline's mother in Christchurch New Zealand in 1954. The film opens two years before the murder, and follows the friendship as the two become obsessed with each other, retreating into a fantasy life which leads to shocking consequences. 99 min.

Hey Babu Riba (Bal na vodi) (1986)

Director, Jovan Acin. Comedy about four teenage males growing up in the 1950's in Belgrade who love American movies, jazz and a girl named Esther. The film cuts between the early fifties and the present as they are seen recalling their youth when they are reunited at Esther's funeral. 109 min. Credits and other information from the Internet Movie Database

Hollywoodland (2006)

Directed by Allen Coulter. Cast: Adrien Brody, Diane Lane, Ben Affleck, Bob Hoskins, Lois Smith, Robin Tunney, Larry Cedar, Jeffrey DeMunn, Brad William Henke, Dash Mihok, Molly Parker, Caroline Dhavernas, Kathleen Robertson, Joe Spano. Made famous as Superman on television, George Reeves finds it hard to not be typecast because of it. When he is found dead of a gunshot wound, rumors begin to run rampant. Based on Hollywood's most notorious unsolved mystery. 127 min. Credits and other information from the Internet Movie Database

Howl (2010)

Directed by Rob Epstein & Jeffrey. Cast: James Franco, Jon Hamm, Mary Louise Parker, David Strathairn, Jeff Daniels, Bob Balaban, Alessandro Nivola, Treat Williams. In this drama Allen Ginsberg recounts the road trips, love affairs, and search for personal liberation that led to the most timeless, electrifying, and controversial work of his career.

Insignificance (1985)

Directed by Nicolas Roeg. Cast: Gary Busey, Michael Emil, Theresa Russell, Will Sampson, Tony Curtis, Four unnamed people who look and sound a lot like Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio, and Joseph McCarthy converge in one New York City hotel room for a compelling, visually inventive adaptation of Terry Johnson's play. With a combination of whimsy and dread, the film presents a fun-house-mirror picture of cold war America that questions the nature of celebrity and plays on a society's simmering nuclear fears. Based on the play by Terry Johnson. 109 min.

J. Edgar (2011)

Directed by Clint Eastwood. Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts, Judi Dench, Armie Hammer, Josh Lucas, Dermot Mulroney, Jeffrey Donovan, Denis O'Hare, Stephen Root, Zach Grenier, Damon Herriman, Lea Thompson, Ken Howard, Josh Hamilton, Jessica Hecht, Geoff Pierson, Michael O'Neill. J. Edgar Hoover was head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for nearly 50 years. Hoover was feared, admired, reviled and revered, a man who could distort the truth as easily as he upheld it. His methods were at once ruthless and heroic, with the admiration of the world his most coveted prize.

Julie & Julia (2009)

Directed by Nora Ephron. Cast: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina, Linda Emond, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Jane Lynch, Frances Sternhagen, Helen Carey, Deborah Rush, Joan Juliet Buck, Vanessa Ferlito, Casey Wilson, Jillian Bach. A culinary legend provides a frustrated office worker with a new recipe for life in this true story of how Julia Child's life and cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" inspired fledgling writer Julie Powell to whip up 524 recipes in 365 days and introduce a new generation to the magic of French cooking.

Kinsey (2004)

Directed by Bill Condon. Cast: Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Chris O'Donnell, Peter Sarsgaard, Timothy Hutton, John Lithgow, Tim Curry, Oliver Platt. A dramatization of the life of Alfred Kinsey, a researcher driven to uncover the most private secrets of the nation, and journey into the mystery of human behavior. His 1948 book Sexual Behavior in the Human Male irrevocably changed American culture. 118 min. Credits and other information from the Internet Movie Database
Reviews and articles:

L.A. Confidential (1997)

Directed by Curtis Hanson. Featuring Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito. Three detectives in the corrupt and brutal L.A. police force of the 1950s use differing methods to uncover a conspiracy behind the shotgun slaying of the patrons at an all-night diner. A lush tribute to tough film-noir crime films. Also includes a behind-the scenes documentary "Off the record'" with the film's creators, lead actors and novelist, James Elroy. 156 min.

La Bamba (1986)

Writer-director, Luis Valdez. Starring Lou Diamond Phillips, Esai Morales, Rosana De Soto, Elizabeth Pena, Joe Pantoliano.The man, the myth, and the music that brought America to its feet and catapulted 17 year-old Ritchie Valens to rock 'n' roll stardom live again. 103 min. ; Credits and other information from Internet Movie Database See separate bibliography of reviews and articles about this film