The BFI and 50 Unmissable Melodramas

Posted by Sarah

Recently the British Film Institute contacted the group regarding an exciting event about melodrama which they are currently organising. Screenings will take place at the National Film Theatre and talks at the BFI from April-June 2014. The BFI’s Jo Botting came to discuss the BFI’s plans and attended our most recent screening and discussion session.

Questions the BFI’s melodrama event are raising chime very well with the group’s research concerns. As well as the thorny, and varied, matter of definitions the relation between different mediums is one central to a medium which in its earliest days relied heavily on adaptations. The group is also interested in the similarities and differences between melodramas across the world, and throughout history.

In order to come up with our own list of top 50 unmissable melodramas the research group split into four different sections and each was allocated a geographic area: Europe, Rest of World, UK, US. This resulted in 225 titles.

Below is the streamlined version which includes 26 from the US, 8 from the UK, 9 from Europe (Denmark, France, Italy, Spain) and the remaining 7 from the rest of the world (China,India, Korea, Mexico). They range from 1920 to 2009.

See the next post for the long (225 films!) list, and leave any thoughts (in either place or email me on about those that have been included and excluded.


  1. A Place In The Sun (George Stevens, 1951) US
  2. All that Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk, 1956) US
  3. Beyond the Rocks (Sam Wood, 1922) US
  4. Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005) US
  5. Black Narcissus (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1947)  UK
  6. Camille (George Cukor, 1936) US
  7. Dark Victory (Edmund Goulding, 1939) US
  8. Death in Venice (Luchino Visconti, 1971)   Italy
  9. Duel in the Sun (King Vidor, 1946) US
  10. Él (This Strange Passion) (Luis Bunuel, 1953)   Mexico
  11. El Amor Brujo (Carlos Saura, 1986)  Spain
  12. Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes, 2002) US
  13. Farewell My Concubine (Kaige Chen, 1993) China
  14. Festen (Thomas Vinterberg, 1998)  Denmark
  15. The Flower of my Secret (Pedro Almodovar, 1995) Spain
  16. Gladiator (Ridley Scott, 2000) US
  17. The Goddess (Wu Yonggang, 1934)  China
  18. Humoresque (Jean Negulesco, 1947) US
  19. Io sono l’amore/I Am Love (Luca Guadagnino, 2009)  Italy
  20. It Always Rains on Sunday (Robert Hamer, 1947)  UK
  21. Jezebel (William Wyler, 1938) US
  22. Leave Her To Heaven (John M. Stahl, 1945) US
  23. Love Story (Arthur Hiller, 1970) US
  24. The Man in Grey (Leslie Arliss, 1943) UK
  25. Marjorie Morningstar (Irving Rapper, 1957) US
  26. The Men (Fred Zinneman, 1950) US
  27. Mere Mehboob (Harnam Singh Rawail, 1963)   India
  28. Millions Like Us (Frank Launder & Sidney Gilliat, 1943)   UK
  29. Mommie Dearest (Frank Perry, 1981) US
  30. Now Voyager (Irving Rapper, 1942) US
  31. Ossessione (Luchino Visconti, 1943)   Italy
  32. Pakeezah (Kamal Amrohi, 1971) India
  33. Piccadilly (Ewald André Dupont, 1929)  UK
  34. Polyester (John Waters, 1981) US
  35. Quai Des Brumes (Marcel Carné, 1938)  France
  36. Raise the Red Lantern (Yimou Zhang, 1991)  China
  37. Rocky (John G. Avildsen, 1976) US
  38. Senso (Luchino Visconti, 1954)  Italy
  39. The Singer Not The Song (Roy Ward Baker, 1961) UK
  40. Some Came Running (Vincente Minnelli, 1958) US
  41.  A Star is Born (George Cukor, 1954) US
  42. The Stray Bullet (Yu Hyun-mok, 1960)  Korea
  43. A Streetcar Named Desire (Elia Kazan, 1951) US
  44. Tea and Sympathy (Vincente Minnelli, 1956) US
  45. They were Sisters (Arthur Crabtree, 1945) UK
  46. Tormento (Raffaello Matarazzo, 1950) Italy
  47. Victim (Basil Dearden, 1961) UK
  48. Waterloo Bridge (Mervyn LeRoy, 1940) US
  49. Way Down East (D. W. Griffiths, 1920) US
  50. Written on the Wind (Douglas Sirk, 1956) US

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