30. 'Sabrina' (1954)
Audrey Hepburn is the quarry of first a Long Island playboy (William Holden) and then his more responsible older brother (Humphrey Bogart) in this comedy written and directed by Billy Wilder that underscores the old axiom: the older the violin, the sweeter the music. After a stint in finishing school in Paris, Sabrina (Hepburn) returns to the Long Island estate where her father is chauffeur to the Larrabee family (Holden, Bogart, etc.). She soon dazzles all.

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29. 'Porgy and Bess' (1959)
The Gershwin brothers were better served by original musicals ('An American in Paris,' 'Shall We Dance') based on their extensive catalog of standards than this one, ham-handedly directed by musical novice Otto Preminger. Still, nothing can quell the vaulting score of this legendary folk opera about the hopes, dreams and jealousies of the poor folk that live on Catfish Row. High Note: Sammy Davis Jr., who pulls out all the stops in his scene-stealing role as "Sportin' Life." The last film produced by Samuel Goldwyn.



28. 'The Caine Mutiny' (1954)
Few actors play paranoid better than Humphrey Bogart. But Bogie one-ups himself here as a Navy skipper slowly becoming unhinged in this fine adaptation of Herman Wouk's bestselling novel. In a last-ditch effort to save the foundering ship during a typhoon, a shell-shocked Captain Queeg is forcibly relieved of command by his executive officer (Van Johnson), who is then brought up on mutiny charges. In the ensuing trial, Bogart's OCD tick (fingering the ball-bearings) should've merited a special Oscar for best use of a prop.

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27. 'Gigi' (1958)
One of the last great MGM musicals, 'Gigi' earned its bonafides winning nine Oscars, including Best Picture, Director (Vincente Minnelli), Adapted Screenplay and Song (the title tune by Lerner and Loewe). Based on the novel by Colette, innocent Parisian gamine Leslie Caron is groomed for life as a courtesan during the Belle Epoque, a circumstance which neglects to factor in the unpredictable course of true love. (Think Cinderella meets her Prince Charming who happens to be a player.) Louis Jourdan and Maurice Chevalier co-star in a production sumptuous in every detail.

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26. 'Lust for Life' (1956)
Seldom has a movie been better matched with a director that could do supreme justice to the material. Vincente Minnelli -- one of the greatest "colorists" in Hollywood history -- captures the glowing, superheated intensity of the canvases of Vincent Van Gogh (Kirk Douglas) in this autobiographical look at the tortured artist's life. Douglas' portrayal of the ill-fated genius is gripping, but it was Anthony Quinn as swaggering Paul Gauguin (alpha male to a worshipful Vincent) who snagged Oscar laurels as Best Supporting Actor.

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25. 'A Place in the Sun' (1951)
Ambitious young George Eastman (Montgomery Clift) was born on the blue-collar side of the tracks but resolves to work his way up the ladder at his rich uncle's company. At a party, he meets gorgeous Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor) and an ill-fated romance ensues. The big draw here, apart from the classic tragedy themes, is the combustible yearning Monty and Liz have for each other. (Taylor purportedly fell in love with Clift during filming.) Oscars include Best Director (George Stevens) and Adapted Screenplay, from the novel by Theodore Dreiser.

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24. 'High Noon' (1952)
Tall Texan Gary Cooper stands metaphorically alone (actually his wife, played by Grace Kelly, is by his side) as a small-town sheriff in this Western with allegorical underpinnings to the McCarthy witch hunts (just think of the dissembling townsfolk as HUAC members). On the day he hangs up his badge, Coop must face down a gunslinger he sent to prison who's due in on the noon train with some major payback in mind. Dimitri Tiomkin also won Oscars for his scoring and the evocative theme song that threads the action.

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23. 'Rashomon' (1951)
In ancient Japan, four people involved in a heinous murder-rape of a samurai and his wife give widely varying accounts of the crime. The movie, which catapulted director Akira Kurosawa into international renown and won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, stands as a fascinating study on human perspective and relative truth-telling. Well, thank God for forensic evidence in the modern age.

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22. 'From Here to Eternity' (1953)
In the last fateful days before the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, dogface Robert E. Lee Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) fights his own private war against the camp commander who wants him to lace up his boxing gloves and do battle for the honor of the company. Eight Oscars include Best Picture, Director (Fred Zinneman), Supporting Actor (Frank Sinatra in a legendary comeback performance) and Supporting Actress (Donna Reed). Although Burt Lancaster finished out of the awards, he did nab one of the hottest lovemaking scenes in moviedom -- the beach tryst with Deborah Kerr, waves foaming and lapping suggestively over them, was as steamy as it got in the prudish '50s.

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21. 'To Catch a Thief' (1955)
Cary Grant has rarely been more suave as reformed jewel thief "the Cat," implicated in a series of robberies on the French Riviera. It's up to Grant to ferret out the real burglar and clear his name while fending off advances from another piece of hot ice -- a regal Grace Kelly (a couple years before she permanently relocated to the Riviera as Princess Grace of Monaco). Hitchcock directs one his most romantic thrillers, which unspools like a tourist travelogue of the South of France. Ooh la-la.

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