Top 20 of 1946

beast w cherub

1946 is an important year for cinema as it was a post-war turning point both in America and internationally. With the war over, the tone of film changed. The propaganda pieces were mostly a thing of the past, but the pessimism and negatively lingered in the form of film noir, which really flourished in 1946. Even though I have a handful of noir titles on my list, there were a number near misses.

One could argue that 1946 was a watershed year for Italian Neorealism, and I have two benchmark films on my list from Vittorio de Sica and Roberto Rosselini. Things were returning back to normal in France, as Julien Duvivier and other filmmakers returned to their homeland. The top spot is occupied by one of the great French fantasy films, which was filmed during the tail end of the war — a remarkable achievement. Rene Clément worked as an assistant with Cocteau, but also released a landmark film of his own, Battle of the Rails, which could be seen as the first French resistance film. There would be more to come.

Finally, towards the tail end of the list, there are some familiar Japanese faces. No Regrets for Our Youth is significant because it showed the promise of a young filmmaker, Akira Kurosawa, and a lead actress, Setsuko Hara, both of whom would be prominent in the major Japanese post-war film explosion. Utamaro and His Five Women marked the return of a near middle-aged Kenji Mizoguchi, who would make some of his best films in the years to come.

One notable American film that is missing from this list is It’s a Wonderful Life, which a lot of people might consider blasphemy. It is a film I’ve seen numerous times and is a good film, albeit not a great film in my opinion. I realize that I am in the minority in that opinion, and it almost made the list anyway. This just happened to be a crowded year.

1. Beauty and the Beast
2. A Matter of Life and Death
3. The Best Years of Our Lives
4. Shoeshine
5. My Darling Clementine
6. The Big Sleep
7. Panique
8. The Stranger
9. Gates of the Night
10. Green for Danger
11. Notorious
12. Great Expectations
13. The Killers
14. Battle of the Rails
15. Paisan
16. Humoresque
17. Gilda
18. No Regrets for our Youth
19. Utamaro and His Five Women
20. The Postman Always Rings Twice

stairway to heaven

Posted on May 28, 2015, in Film, Lists. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I haven’t seen BATTLE OF THE RAILS, but all the others and applaud you on a banner presentation for one of the cinema’s greatest years. I am with those who consider IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE one of the greatest of American films during that period, and for me it does compete for poll position. Eisenstein’s IVAN THE TERRIBLE PART II is another that would make my own Top 20 high up. I would also manage to squeeze in Siodmak’s THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE and would consider DUEL IN THE SUN.

    But this is a fantastic Top 12.

    Here is the ever-active Best of 1946 (we did every year in order over 18 months) thread at Wonders in the Dark, which was won by IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE with 17 votes.

  2. Plenty of good works that would probably make my own list for the year. About five or six foreign films I have not seen. For me, The Best Years of Our Lives, Shoeshine, Notorious and The Killers would be my top four.

  3. I like your list! A couple I have not seen yet. I’ll fix that soon.

  1. Pingback: Top 20 of 1947 | Criterion Blues .....

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