(John Frankenheimer, USA, 1962): Opening in the teeth of the Cuban Missile Crisis, John Frankenheimer's The Manchurian Candidate offered a cubist vision of the American nightmare: a country infiltrated by subliminally programmed Communist assassins activated by long-distance suggestion, where the latent anxieties of the whole postwar march to prosperity...

(John Cassavetes, USA, 1968): The abyss stared down by John Cassavetes' movies is the gap between the need for intimacy and its expression. His characters seek to connect but collide in the process, driven by love but impaired when it comes to obtaining it, terrified of...

(Stuart Rosenberg, USA, 1967): As Biblical allegories go, Stuart Rosenberg's Cool Hand Luke suggests Jesus was no patch on Paul Newman, blue eyes and all. When Newman, in his anamorphic sun-kissed prime at 41, delivers himself up for martyrdom at the end of movie after cracking wise to...

(David Lean, UK, 1962): Extraordinary to think Albert Finney was David Lean's first choice to play T.E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia, as Peter O'Toole is very picture of destiny fulfilled when he arrives in the desert circa 1969. An odd man out in Britain, in the...

(Akira Kurosawa, Japan, 1952): The death of a bureaucrat: foretold by an x-ray; preceded by reckoning; mocked at the dead man's own wake. Life coming and going: only as meaningful as we make it, and that's all that matters. In the end, people will make of you what they...

(Satyajit Ray, India, 1955): The child Apu (Subir Banjeree) is introduced as pair of eyelids playfully opened by his older sister Durgha (Uma Das Gupta), and we are reminded to see the world as he does: without judgement, prepared for wonder, and finding drama and fascination...

(Henri-Georges Clouzot, France, 1955): Much more than the plot is twisted in Diabolique. Famous as it might be for a standard-setting curveball ending that so impressed Alfred Hitchcock he wished he'd made the movie -- but instead made Vertigo from the next novel Diabolique's literary creators wrote -- the truly impressive...

(Akira Kurosawa, Japan, 1950): In which one of John Ford's biggest fans anticipates printing the legend by a full decade and modernism emerges as the art house's defining architecture. Something happened in the forest that day. That much we know. There was clearly a death, but from murder or...

(Jean Cocteau, France, 1950): A key instigator of the mid-century European art house phenomenon, Jean Cocteau's contemporary retelling of the Orpheus myth is considerably more eccentric and fun than a lot of the movies it would help inspire -- Bergman anyone? Tarkovsky? -- while remaining firmly...

(Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1952): Italian neorealism's last gasp, Vittorio De Sica's Umberto D. is charged with both marking the termination of the great postwar cinematic movement and hastening its decline. The first claim is credible: after this, it would be Fellini who would grasp the torch, and...