40 must-watch movies to consider yourself a film buff

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A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

The 1950s saw the landscape of filmmaking change, with both naturalism and intellectual properties making their way onto the screen in greater numbers. One key landscape to adapt from was the Broadway stage, with Tennessee Williams’ work leading to the most enduring adaptations. The film version of A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Elia Kazan, did have to cut down on some of the elements from the original source material — such as why Blanche’s husband is dead — but it more than makes up for it with a feature fraught with sexual tension.

Much of this tension is laid at the feet of actor Marlon Brando. As the domineering, abusive husband Stanley Kowalski, Brando infuses the character with an animalistic impulse that’s as attractive as it is frightening. And with one removal of a T-shirt he brought it back into fashion after 1934’s It Happened One Night showed it was out of favor.

But as compelling as Brando is because, well, he’s Brando, it’s all about Vivien Leigh. Best known as Scarlett O’Hara, her performance as Blanche DuBois is vulnerable, elegant, and heartbreaking. It’s also worth noting that Kazan’s camera shows the grittiness of the city around the 1950s, aiding in the rise of the suburbs which would come to dominate the decade.

Where to Watch It: Stream it now on FilmStruck, or access it for rent on Google Play, Apple, PlayStation, and YouTube.