Robert Aldrich was an American film director, producer, and screenwriter known for his gritty, realistic approach to filmmaking.
He directed a number of critically acclaimed and commercially successful films throughout his career, including several that are considered classics of their respective genres. Here are some of his best films:
“Kiss Me Deadly” (1955) – A hard-boiled film noir starring Ralph Meeker as private investigator Mike Hammer. The film is known for its intense violence and sexual content and is considered a classic of the genre.
“The Dirty Dozen” (1967) – A World War II action film featuring an all-star cast, including Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, and Ernest Borgnine. The film tells the story of a group of convicted criminals who are given a chance at redemption by being sent on a dangerous mission behind enemy lines.
“Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962) – A psychological thriller starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford as aging sisters who were once famous Hollywood actresses. The film is known for its intense performances and dark, twisted storyline.
“The Longest Yard” (1974) – A sports comedy-drama about a group of prison inmates who form a football team to take on their guards. The film stars Burt Reynolds in one of his most iconic roles.
“Ulzana’s Raid” (1972) – A Western starring Burt Lancaster as a veteran cavalry scout who leads a group of soldiers on a dangerous mission to track down a group of Apache warriors who have left their reservation.
Best Robert Aldrich Movies
These films showcase Aldrich’s versatility as a filmmaker, from his ability to create gripping and intense thrillers to his skill in crafting action-packed dramas with memorable characters.
“Kiss Me Deadly” is a 1955 film noir directed by Robert Aldrich and starring Ralph Meeker, Maxine Cooper, and Cloris Leachman in her film debut. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Mickey Spillane.
The film follows the story of Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker), a tough and cynical private investigator who is investigating the mysterious death of a young woman named Christina.
As Hammer delves deeper into the case, he discovers that Christina was involved in a dangerous and secretive conspiracy involving a mysterious box.
As Hammer tries to uncover the truth about the box and the people involved in the conspiracy, he encounters a number of dangerous characters, including a group of thugs, a sadistic doctor, and a corrupt government agent.
Along the way, he also becomes romantically involved with Christina’s roommate, Velda (Maxine Cooper), who helps him in his investigation.
The film is notable for its dark and violent themes, as well as its innovative and surreal visual style. It has been praised for its use of chiaroscuro lighting and its unconventional camera angles, which create a sense of disorientation and paranoia.
The film is also famous for its ending, which is considered one of the most shocking and controversial in film history.
Overall, “Kiss Me Deadly” is a classic example of film noir, with its gritty atmosphere, hard-boiled dialogue, and bleak outlook on life. It is a must-see for fans of the genre and for anyone interested in the history of American cinema.
“What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” is a psychological horror film directed by Robert Aldrich and released in 1962.
The movie stars Bette Davis as Jane Hudson, a former child star who is now an aging and mentally unstable woman living with her wheelchair-bound sister Blanche (played by Joan Crawford).
The film explores the toxic relationship between the two sisters, with Jane becoming increasingly unhinged and abusive towards Blanche as she becomes convinced that her sister is trying to sabotage her career comeback.
The movie is known for its suspenseful and disturbing scenes, as well as for the iconic performances by Davis and Crawford.
Upon its release, “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” was a critical and commercial success, and it has since become a classic of the horror genre.
The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Actress for Bette Davis, and it is widely regarded as one of the greatest psychological horror movies of all time.
The film also spawned a wave of imitators and inspired a renewed interest in Davis and Crawford’s careers.
“The Dirty Dozen” is a classic American war film released in 1967, directed by Robert Aldrich and starring Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, and Jim Brown.
The film is set during World War II and follows a group of twelve convicted military prisoners who are given a chance at redemption by being sent on a dangerous mission behind enemy lines.
The plot revolves around Major John Reisman (Lee Marvin), who is tasked with training and leading a group of twelve prisoners, who have been given a chance to redeem themselves by completing a secret mission that could change the outcome of the war.
The mission involves infiltrating a French chateau that is being used by the Nazis as a base of operations, and assassinating a group of high-ranking German officers who are planning an attack on Allied forces.
The Dirty Dozen is known for its intense action sequences, dark humor, and memorable characters. It received four Academy Award nominations, including Best Supporting Actor for John Cassavetes, and was a commercial success, grossing over $45 million worldwide.
The film has since become a classic of its genre, and has been widely praised for its performances, screenplay, and direction. It has also inspired several sequels, remakes, and imitations in the decades since its release.
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The Flight of the Phoenix is a survival drama film released in 1965, directed by Robert Aldrich and starring James Stewart, Richard Attenborough, and Hardy Krüger.
The screenplay was written by Lukas Heller, based on the novel of the same name by Elleston Trevor.
The film tells the story of a group of men stranded in the Sahara Desert after their cargo plane crashes in a sandstorm. With no hope of rescue, they must work together to survive the harsh conditions of the desert and repair a damaged airplane salvaged from the wreckage.
The airplane’s designer, Heinrich Dorfmann (played by Krüger), comes up with a plan to rebuild the aircraft from the parts available, but the men must overcome their differences and work together to make it happen.
Here are some reasons why you should watch The Flight of the Phoenix:
Strong performances: The film features a talented cast, including James Stewart, Richard Attenborough, and Hardy Krüger, who give powerful and memorable performances.
The characters are well-developed and each actor brings a unique perspective to their role, making for a compelling and immersive viewing experience.
Suspenseful plot: The Flight of the Phoenix is a tense and suspenseful film, with the threat of death and failure constantly looming over the characters.
The struggle to survive in the harsh conditions of the desert, combined with the pressure to repair the airplane and escape, creates a gripping and emotionally-charged narrative.
Exploration of human nature: The film examines the complex dynamics of a group of strangers forced to work together to survive.
As the men face various challenges and setbacks, their personalities and motivations are revealed, providing insights into the human condition. The themes of leadership, courage, and sacrifice are also explored in depth, making for a thought-provoking and engaging film.
“Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte” is a psychological thriller film directed by Robert Aldrich and released in 1964. The movie stars Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Joseph Cotten, and Agnes Moorehead.
The story takes place in the Deep South and centers around Charlotte Hollis (played by Bette Davis), a wealthy woman who has been living in seclusion since her father was murdered 37 years earlier.
Charlotte is plagued by nightmares and memories of the murder, which she believes was committed by her lover, John Mayhew (played by Bruce Dern). When the state decides to tear down Charlotte’s family home, she becomes increasingly agitated and is forced to confront her past.
Olivia de Havilland plays Charlotte’s cousin, Miriam Deering, who comes to stay with her and tries to help her overcome her fears.
Joseph Cotten plays Dr. Drew Bayliss, Charlotte’s former suitor who tries to help her regain her sanity. Agnes Moorehead plays Velma, Charlotte’s loyal housekeeper.
As the story unfolds, secrets are revealed, and tensions rise between the characters. The film features many twists and turns and a shocking climax that has become a classic of the genre.
“Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte” is known for its strong performances, particularly by Bette Davis, who gives a powerful portrayal of a woman struggling with her past.
The movie was also praised for its atmospheric cinematography and its use of music to create tension.
6. Attack (1956)
“Attack” is a 1956 war film directed by Robert Aldrich, based on a novel by Norman Brooks. The film is set during World War II and tells the story of a U.S. Army platoon led by Lt. Joe Costa (Jack Palance) who are trapped behind enemy lines in Belgium.
The platoon is ordered to hold a key position in a small town, but their inexperienced and cowardly commander, Capt. Erskine Cooney (Eddie Albert), puts them in danger by failing to adequately fortify their position.
As the Germans begin to advance, Costa and his men must fight for their lives against overwhelming odds.
The film is known for its intense battle scenes and the powerful performances of its cast, particularly Palance as the tough and determined Costa.
It also explores themes of leadership, cowardice, and sacrifice, and is considered a powerful anti-war statement.
“Attack” received critical acclaim upon its release, with many praising Aldrich’s direction and the performances of the cast. It was also a commercial success, becoming one of the highest-grossing films of 1956.
Today, it is considered a classic of the war film genre and a powerful statement on the human cost of war.
“The Longest Yard” is a 1974 American sports comedy film directed by Robert Aldrich and starring Burt Reynolds, Eddie Albert, and Bernadette Peters.
The film is about a former football star named Paul Crewe (Burt Reynolds) who is sent to prison and ends up leading a team of inmates in a football game against the prison guards.
After being arrested for drunk driving and stealing his girlfriend’s car, Crewe is sent to prison where he is forced to play on the guards’ football team.
However, after a confrontation with the sadistic warden, Crewe decides to form his own team of inmates to play against the guards in a game that becomes known as “the longest yard.”
The film is known for its blend of comedy, drama, and action, as well as its commentary on the corrupt nature of the prison system.
It also features a number of memorable performances, including Reynolds’ charismatic turn as Crewe, Eddie Albert’s scene-stealing portrayal of the warden, and a young Bernadette Peters as Crewe’s love interest.
“The Longest Yard” was a critical and commercial success upon its release and has since become a cult classic. It has been remade twice, first in 2001 with Adam Sandler in the lead role and again in 2015 with Kevin Hart.
However, the original film remains a beloved classic of 1970s cinema and a landmark in the sports comedy genre.
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“Ulzana’s Raid” is a 1972 Western film directed by Robert Aldrich and starring Burt Lancaster as a veteran U.S. Army scout named McIntosh.
The movie takes place in the late 1800s, as McIntosh and a young lieutenant named DeBuin (played by Bruce Davison) lead a cavalry patrol in pursuit of a band of Apache warriors led by the fierce warrior Ulzana.
The film deals with themes of racism, violence, and cultural clash, as the Apache warriors are shown as brutal and vengeful in their attacks on white settlers and soldiers, while the white characters are often shown as insensitive and ignorant of Apache culture and traditions.
“Ulzana’s Raid” was well-received upon its release, with many critics praising its realistic and gritty portrayal of the violence and conflict between Native Americans and white settlers in the American West.
The film also received praise for its performances, particularly that of Lancaster as the grizzled and experienced scout McIntosh. The movie has since become a cult classic and is considered one of the best Westerns of the 1970s.
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“Vera Cruz” is a classic Western film released in 1954, directed by Robert Aldrich and starring Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster.
The film is set in 1866 Mexico and follows two American mercenaries, Ben Trane (Cooper) and Joe Erin (Lancaster), who join a group of Mexican revolutionaries led by General Ramirez (Cesar Romero) in a quest for treasure.
The plot revolves around Trane and Erin, who are hired separately by the Mexican rebels to escort a shipment of gold across the country.
However, when they arrive in the town of Vera Cruz, they discover that the shipment is actually a vast cache of stolen Emperor Maximilian’s treasury, and they are forced to navigate a dangerous game of double-crossing and betrayal as various factions seek to claim the treasure for themselves.
“Vera Cruz” is known for its fast-paced action, complex characters, and stunning cinematography, which captures the beauty and brutality of the Mexican landscape.
The film was also notable for its progressive portrayal of Mexican characters, who were given significant roles and agency in the story, a rarity in Hollywood Westerns of the time.
“Vera Cruz” was a critical and commercial success upon its release, and has since become a classic of the Western genre.
It has been praised for its stunning visuals, complex characters, and innovative approach to the genre, and has influenced countless Western films that followed.
Emperor of the North (also known as Emperor of the North Pole) is a gritty action-adventure film released in 1973, directed by Robert Aldrich and starring Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, and Keith Carradine. The screenplay was written by Christopher Knopf.
The film is set during the Great Depression and follows a train-hopping hobo named A-No.1 (played by Marvin), who is determined to ride the train of the brutal conductor Shack (played by Borgnine), known as the “Emperor of the North.
” A-No.1 is challenged by Shack, who sets out to stop him from riding the train at all costs, leading to a series of dangerous and thrilling confrontations between the two men.
Here are some reasons why you should watch Emperor of the North:
Intense action and suspense: The film is full of thrilling action sequences, including train-hopping, hand-to-hand combat, and intense chases.
The battle between A-No.1 and Shack is an epic struggle between two determined men, and the tension is palpable throughout the film.
Great performances: Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine deliver outstanding performances as the film’s main characters, portraying their respective roles with conviction and intensity. The supporting cast, including Keith Carradine, also gives strong performances, adding depth to the film’s characters.
Historical and social commentary: The film is set during the Great Depression, and it offers a glimpse into the struggles and hardships faced by ordinary people during that time.
It also explores the subculture of hobos and train-hoppers, highlighting the danger and adventure that drew people to that way of life.
The film touches on themes such as social inequality, the struggle for survival, and the pursuit of personal freedom, making for a thought-provoking and engaging viewing experience.
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3 Characteristics of Robert Aldrich Films
Robert Aldrich was a highly regarded American film director and producer known for his gritty, intense, and subversive films.
Some of his most notable works include “Kiss Me Deadly,” “The Dirty Dozen,” and “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” Here are three characteristics commonly associated with Robert Aldrich films:
Bold and unconventional themes: Robert Aldrich’s films often dealt with controversial and taboo subjects, such as violence, sexuality, and power dynamics.
He was unafraid to explore complex and morally ambiguous characters and situations, often pushing the boundaries of what was considered acceptable for mainstream audiences.
Tense and explosive storytelling: Aldrich’s films were known for their fast-paced and suspenseful storytelling, with a focus on action and conflict.
He was a master of building tension and creating explosive, high-stakes moments that kept audiences on the edge of their seats.
Strong and complex female characters: Aldrich was known for his portrayal of strong, independent, and complex female characters, often played by iconic actresses like Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and Lee Marvin.
His films explored the struggles and contradictions of women in male-dominated societies, challenging traditional gender roles and expectations.
3 Reasons Why You Should Watch Robert Aldrich Films
Bold and unconventional storytelling: Robert Aldrich was known for his willingness to take risks and push boundaries in his storytelling.
His films often tackled taboo subjects and controversial themes, and he was not afraid to challenge audiences with his bold and unconventional approach.
Memorable characters: Aldrich’s films are known for their complex, memorable characters, many of whom are flawed and deeply human.
From the tough, hard-boiled private eye in “Kiss Me Deadly” to the troubled sisters in “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”, Aldrich’s characters are often larger than life and leave a lasting impression on audiences.
Masterful direction: Aldrich was a skilled director who knew how to create tension, build suspense, and elicit powerful performances from his actors.
His films are expertly crafted and visually stunning, with a keen attention to detail and a strong sense of style. Whether you’re watching a war epic like “The Dirty Dozen” or a psychological thriller like “Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte”, Aldrich’s direction is always top-notch.
Best Robert Aldrich Films – Wrapping Up
Robert Aldrich was a talented and versatile filmmaker who made a number of memorable films throughout his career. Some of his best-known and most influential films include:
“Kiss Me Deadly” (1955) – A classic film noir that is widely regarded as one of the best examples of the genre.
“What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962) – A psychological horror-thriller that stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in a legendary feud.
“The Dirty Dozen” (1967) – A war film that features an all-star cast and became a box office hit.
“The Longest Yard” (1974) – A sports comedy that is still beloved by audiences today.
“Ulzana’s Raid” (1972) – A Western that is considered one of the best of its genre, featuring a nuanced portrayal of Native American characters.
“Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte” (1964) – A psychological thriller that reunited Aldrich with Bette Davis and also stars Olivia de Havilland.
“Attack!” (1956) – A war drama that stars Jack Palance and Eddie Albert and features intense battle scenes.
These films demonstrate Aldrich’s versatility as a filmmaker, as well as his ability to tackle a wide range of genres with equal skill and creativity. His films continue to be celebrated for their strong characters, innovative storytelling, and groundbreaking themes.