Critics and fans alike have long hailed the 1950s as the “golden age” of Hollywood. Films like Vertigo and North by Northwest are now beloved classics. Several popular movies from the era, such as The War of the Worlds, have been remade over the subsequent decades. Leading Hollywood starlets like James Dean, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando also created a celebrity culture that has lasted to this day. But arguably, the directors of the time—whether it was Japanese titan Akira Kurosawa or English “Master of Suspense” Alfred Hitchcock—were just as famous as their on-screen starlets.
Beyond the dark Hollywood crime movies or film noir of the decade, gritty Westerns like Rio Bravo, post-war films like Hiroshima Mon Amour and sci-fi flicks like The Thing From Another World also dominated the 1950s. The 1950s also saw women in leading roles in front of and behind the camera. Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard wowed audiences as an aging silent film heroine and playwright Mary Chase made her Broadway hit Harvey a darling of the big screen.
In honor of this golden era, Shore Scripts has compiled a list of 41 of the top screenplays from the decade that are available for free use online. The list includes mostly traditional feature scripts, but we’ve also included a few others, including Tennessee Williams’ play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (a film version was later adapted) and a prose version of French writer-director Albert Lamorisse’s poignant short film The Red Balloon. Happy reading!
12 Angry Men (1957)
A jury holdout attempts to prevent a miscarriage of justice by forcing his colleagues to reconsider the evidence.
Ace in the Hole (1951)
A frustrated former big-city journalist now stuck working for an Albuquerque newspaper exploits a story about a man trapped in a cave to re-jump start his career, but the situation quickly escalates into an out-of-control circus.
All About Eve (1950)
An ingenue insinuates herself into the company of an established but aging stage actress and her circle of theater friends.
Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
In a murder trial, the defendant says he suffered temporary insanity after the victim raped his wife. What is the truth, and will he win his case?
Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
A one-armed stranger comes to a tiny town possessing a terrible past they want to keep secret, by violent means if necessary.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955)
Brick, an alcoholic ex-football player, drinks his days away and resists the affections of his wife, Maggie. His reunion with his father, Big Daddy, who is dying of cancer, jogs a host of memories and revelations for both father and son.
East of Eden (1955)
A wilful young man contends against his brother for the attention of their religious father while reconnecting with his estranged mother and falling for his brother’s girlfriend.
From Here to Eternity (1953)
In Hawaii in 1941, a private is cruelly punished for not boxing on his unit’s team, while his captain’s wife and second-in-command are falling in love.
Sprawling epic covering the life of a Texas cattle rancher and his family and associates.
Due to his insistence that he has an invisible six foot-tall rabbit for a best friend, a whimsical middle-aged man is thought by his family to be insane – but he may be wiser than anyone knows.
High Noon (1952)
A town Marshal, despite the disagreements of his newlywed bride and the townspeople around him, must face a gang of deadly killers alone at high noon when the gang leader, an outlaw he sent up years ago, arrives on the noon train.
Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959)
A French actress filming an anti-war film in Hiroshima has an affair with a married Japanese architect as they share their differing perspectives on war.
Horror of Dracula (1958)
Jonathan Harker begets the ire of Count Dracula after he accepts a job at the vampire’s castle under false pretenses.
A middle-aged butcher and a school teacher who have given up on the idea of love meet at a dance and fall for each other.
North by Northwest (1959)
A hapless New York advertising executive is mistaken for a government agent by a group of foreign spies, and is pursued across the country while he looks for a way to survive.
On the Waterfront (1954)
An ex-prize fighter turned longshoreman struggles to stand up to his corrupt union bosses.
Paths of Glory (1957)
After refusing to attack an enemy position, a general accuses the soldiers of cowardice and their commanding officer must defend them.
Rear Window (1954)
A wheelchair-bound photographer spies on his neighbors from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder.
Rebel Without A Cause (1955)
A rebellious young man with a troubled past comes to a new town, finding friends and enemies.
Rio Bravo (1959)
A small-town sheriff in the American West enlists the help of a cripple, a drunk, and a young gunfighter in his efforts to hold in jail the brother of the local bad guy.
Roman Holiday (1953)
A bored and sheltered princess escapes her guardians and falls in love with an American newsman in Rome.
A playboy becomes interested in the daughter of his family’s chauffeur, but it’s his more serious brother who would be the better man for her.
Salt of the Earth (1954)
Mexican workers at a Zinc mine call a general strike. It is only through the solidarity of the workers, and importantly the indomitable resolve of their wives, mothers and daughters, that they eventually triumph.
Seven Samurai (1954)
A poor village under attack by bandits recruits seven unemployed samurai to help them defend themselves.
Some Like It Hot (1959)
When two male musicians witness a mob hit, they flee the state in an all-female band disguised as women, but further complications set in.
Stalag 17 (1953)
When two escaping American World War II prisoners are killed, the German P.O.W. camp barracks black marketeer, J.J. Sefton, is suspected of being an informer.
Strangers on a Train (1951)
A psychotic socialite attempts to force a professional tennis star to prove a theory that two complete strangers can get away with murder.
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
A screenwriter is hired to rework a faded silent film star’s script, only to find himself developing a dangerous relationship.
The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
A major heist goes off as planned, until bad luck and double crosses cause everything to unravel.
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
An alien lands and tells the people of Earth that they must live peacefully or be destroyed as a danger to other planets.
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
An American physician and his wife take matters into their own hands after assassins planning to execute a foreign prime minister kidnap their son.
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
A religious fanatic marries a gullible widow whose young children are reluctant to tell him where their real daddy hid $10,000 he’d stolen in a robbery.
The Red Balloon (1956)
A red balloon with a life of its own follows a little boy around the streets of Paris.
The Searchers (1956)
An American Civil War veteran embarks on a journey to rescue his niece from the Comanches.
The Seventh Seal (1957)
A man seeks answers about life, death, and the existence of God as he plays chess against the Grim Reaper during the Black Plague.
The Thing from Another World (1951)
Scientists and American Air Force officials fend off a bloodthirsty alien organism while at a remote arctic outpost.
The War of the Worlds (1953)
A small town in California is attacked by Martians, beginning a worldwide invasion.
The Wild One (1953)
Two rival motorcycle gangs terrorize a small town after one of their leaders is thrown in jail.
To Catch a Thief (1955)
When a reformed jewel thief is suspected of returning to his former occupation, he must ferret out the real thief in order to prove his innocence.
Touch of Evil (1958)
A stark, perverse story of murder, kidnapping, and police corruption in a Mexican border town.
Article by Tara Yarlagadda