(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...

(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...

(Kieron Hawkes, UK, 2012): The hard-boiled egg of action movie motivators, it's pretty hard to screw up a revenge story. If your villains are nasty enough and the crime they commit heinous enough, our primal desire to see them pay will practically make your movie for...

(J Blakeson, UK, 2009): As a lesson in purely self-sufficient visual storytelling, the opening ten minutes of J Blakeson's The Disappearance of Alice Creed is something of a master class. Two men (Eddie Marsan and Martin Compson) are preparing for something sinister: they go shopping for items like...

(Hans Petter Moland, Norway/Sweden, 2014): In the land of big snow, no man is more powerful than the guy who drives the plough. In Hans Petter Moland's deep-drift neo-noir comedy In Order of Disappearance is the duty of Nils Dickman (Stellan Skarsgard), a dour Swede who clears...

(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...

(Don Siegel, USA, 1956): Talk about fierce economy: in Don Siegel's seminal parable of a conformist pandemic, the world goes completely grey flannel in eighty minutes. While some of this can be chalked up to sheer B-movie efficiency, it's also critical to the movie's diabolical impression...

(Robert Aldrich, USA, 1955): Tough as nails and then some, Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) pounds his way through Robert Aldrich's bughouse crazy Kiss Me Deadly like a pit bull pumped on cortisone. Less panicked than put out that the 'Great Whatzit' he's been tracking for...

(Alfred Hitchcock, USA, 1956): The passively incredulous face of Henry Fonda anchors Alfred Hitchcock's The Wrong Man as a kind of screen within a screen. It becomes not only the compositional focal point around which the director arranges some of his simplest but bluntly forceful images...

(George Stevens, USA, 1951): Justly celebrated for a close-up kiss between Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift that feels like celestial bodies in collision, George Stevens' adaptation of Theodore Dreiser's 850-page 1925 novel An American Tragedy is one of those rare acts of Hollywood bowdlerization that...