Films of the 1950s were of a wide variety. As a result of the introduction of television, the studios and companies sought to put audiences back in theaters. They used more techniques in presenting their films through widescreen and big-approach methods, such as Cinemascope, VistaVision, and Cinerama, as well as gimmicks like 3-D film. Big production and spectacle films perfect for this gained popularity, with the many historic and fantasy epics like The Robe (1953),The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952), The Ten Commandments (1956), The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958), and Ben-Hur (1959). Other big-scoped films thrived internationally, too, such as Russian fantasy director Aleksandr Ptushko's mythological epics Sadko, Ilya Muromets, and Sampo, and Japanese director Akira Kurosawa's historic Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, and Rashomon. Toshiro Mifune, who starred in those Kurosawa films, also starred in the color spectacle Samurai Trilogy.
This spectacle approach, coupled with Cold War paranoia, a renewed interest in science from the atomic bomb, as well as increased interest in the mysteries of outer space and other forteana, lent itself well to what this film decade is best known for, science fiction. The science fiction genre began its golden age during this decade with such notable films as The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), The Thing from Another World (1951), The War of the Worlds (1953), It Came from Outer Space (1953), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Them! (1954), This Island Earth (1955), Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956), and Forbidden Planet (1956). There were also Earth-based "sci-fi" subjects, such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) and When Worlds Collide (1951). Companies such as American International Pictures, Japan's Toho, and Britain's Hammer Film Productions were created to solely produce films of the fantastique genres.
The decade was equally adept at both character and realistic films. The highly noted actors James Stewart, John Wayne, and Marlon Brando were at the peak of their popularity. Stewart, starring in Winchester '73, and Wayne, starring in John Ford's Cavalry Trilogy and The Searchers, revitalized the western. Brando mastered versatile roles in films such as A Streetcar Named Desire, The Wild One (1953), Julius Caesar, On the Waterfront (1954), Guys and Dolls (1955), The Teahouse of the August Moon (1956), and Sayonara (1957).
Director Alfred Hitchcock was at the peak of his craft, with films such as Strangers on a Train (1951), Dial M for Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954), To Catch a Thief (1955), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Vertigo (1958), and North by Northwest (1959), with James Stewart and Grace Kelly starring in three each. The Bengali Indian director Satyajit Ray, who began his career in the 1950s, was also at the peak of his career during this decade, with films such as The Apu Trilogy (1955–1959), Jalsaghar (1958), and Parash Pathar (1958).