UC Berkeley Library

Movies Set In or About the 1950's

The Last Time I Committed Suicide (1997)

Directed by Stephen Kay. Cast: Thomas Jane, Keanu Reeves, Adrien Brody, John Doe, Claire Forlani, Jim Haynie, Marg Helgenberger, Lucinda Jenney, Gretchen Mol. Beat icon Neal Cassady is forced to choose between the lustful life of a drifter or the all-elusive American dream in this drama loosely based on several incidents from Cassady's life, as well as a letter that Neal sent to Jack Kerouac about some complicated events in his love life. 94 min. Credits and other information from the Internet Movie Database

The Long Walk Home (1991)

Directed by Richard Pearce. When Odessa Cotter, a quietly dignified woman, honors the 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott by walking an exhausting nine miles to and from work, Miriam, her employer, offers her a ride. Defying both Miriam's racist husband and the powerful White Citizen's Council, Miriam and Odessa put their lives in danger for civil rights. Their shared experiences draw them closer as a deep respect and lasting friendship forms. Together, in a difficult world of black versus white, they manage to discover a common ground. 98 min.

The Rebel Set (rereleased as Beatsville)(1959)

Directed by Gene Fowler, Jr.; featuring Gregg Palmer, Kathleen Crowley, John Lupton, Edward Platt, Don Sullivan, Robert Shayne, Gene Roth. Tucker, the owner of a beat coffee house, comes up with a plan to rob an armored car and recruits three scruffy, beat types. John is an out-of-work actor, Ray is a writer who cannot get published and George is the wastrel son of a has-been movie star. If they have failed so far, what makes Tucker think they can succeed in a daring million dollar robbery?. 69 min.

The Subterraneans (1960)

Directed by Ranald MacDougall. Cast: Leslie Caron, George Peppard, Janice Rule, Roddy McDowall, Jim Hutton, Arte Johnson, Gerry Mulligan. A disillusioned writer explores the subterranean depths of San Francisco's North Beach district circa 1959 looking for anybody who will share his jaded perspective on life and finds romance amongst the Beatniks. Bonus features: theatrical trailers, 1950s newsreels. Loosely based on the novel by Jack Kerouac. 89 min. Credits and other information from the Internet Movie Database

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

Directed by Anthony Minghella. Cast: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Philip Seymour Hoffman, James Robhorn. Tom Ripley is a calculating young man who believes its better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody. He's hired to go to Italy to bring back the playboy son of a millionaire and soon is plunged into a daring scheme of duplicity, lies and murder. Based on the novel The talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. 139 min. Credits and other information from the Internet Movie Database

The Tree of Life (2011)

Directed by Terrence Malick. Cast: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain. The impressionistic story of a Texas family in the 1950s. The film follows the life journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the 150 min. Credits and other information from the Internet Movie Database

Vera Drake (UK, 2004)

Directed by Mike Leigh. Cast: Imelda Staunton, Phil Davis, Peter Wight, Alex Kelly, Daniel Mays, Adrian Scarborough, Heather Craney, Eddie Marsan, Ruth Sheen, Sally Hawkins, Fenella Woolgar, Lesley Sharp, Anthony O'Donnell, Jim Broadbent. Vera Drake tells of a woman in 1950s England who is devoted to caring for her family, but secretly aids women who want to terminate unwanted pregnancies. When the authorities find her out, Vera's world and family life rapidly unravel. 125 min.

Veronica Voss (Die Sehnsucht der Veronika Voss) (1982)

Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. A journalist in the 1950s becomes involved in the life of a faded German film star under the influence of a doctor who supplies her with narcotics. 105 min. ; Credits and other information from the Internet Movie Database See separate bibliography of reviews and articles about this film

West Side Story (1961)

Directed by Robert Wise & Jerome Robbins. Cast: Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno, George Chikiris. Musical based on the Romeo and Juliet story, set in New York's West Side slums during the late 1950's, with gang warfare erupting when Maria, sister of the leader of the Puerto Rican gang, the Sharks, falls in love with the brother of the leader of the rival Anglo gang, the Jets. 153 min. ; Credits and other information from the Internet Movie Database

When Father Was Away on Business (Otac na Sluzbenom Putu) (1985)

Director, Emir Kusturica. Set in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia in the 1950's, this is the comic story of a family's efforts to get along when the head of the household is sent to a labor camp for fooling around with the voluptuous object of desire of a Communist Party Official. 144 min. ; Credits and other information from the Internet Movie Database

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