1950s Americana in Film

To celebrate ‘Carol’ being in cinemas now we’re taking a look at some of the greatest 1950s Americana films. From fashion to automobiles, these period-set films showcase some of the best 1950s style and the social taboos and social themes that lay heavy over women of that time period.



This film is set in the 1990s, but soon David (Tobey Maguire) and his sister Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon) are mysteriously transported into the 1950s sitcom ‘Pleasantville’ by an unfamiliar remote control. This film takes a look at the changing roles of women in society and the loss of innocence. While David tries to be a fly on the wall, Jennifer is eager to live without boundaries. For every rule she breaks in Pleasantville, their sitcom world grows more and more colourful and less and less comforting for David. These themes are set against the backdrop of retro ‘50s high school fashion.

Far From Heaven


Set in the fabulous world of 1950s Connecticut, Cathy (Julianne Moore) is a housewife who looks perfect on the outside with her prim outfits, but underneath that façade, she is in tatters. While she has beautiful kids, a well-to-do husband (Dennis Quaid) and good social standing, all important things to a housewife in the suburbs, there are secrets surfacing. Cathy is finding it harder to deny her husband’s homosexuality and she finds solace in their African-American gardener, yet another social taboo of the times.



Therese (Rooney Mara) yearns for a life without the boundaries often set for women in the 1950s. She rejects the offers of marriage from her boyfriend and the ideas he has for their life together. Instead, she takes a journey with an older woman, whom she falls in love with. Carol (Cate Blanchett) is facing obstacles of her own, as she tries to leave a loveless marriage of convenience. Carol has known for a long time that a conventional heterosexual relationship is what she wants on paper, but not in reality. She discovers she is willing to give it all up, the beautiful automobiles, the exquisitely decorated mansion and her luxurious furs for a quaint flat in Manhattan working in an administrative role.



Ann’s (Claire Danes) early life is exhibited to us as she presently lays on her deathbed. We see into the world of her 1950s youth and all the defining moments of her past. Harris (Patrick Wilson) is the love of her life. We see Ann’s fabulous journey to the Big Apple in the 1950s to attend one of her dearest friend’s weddings as maid of honour, and it is there that she first meets Harris. Ann and the rest of the women in the bridal party look absolutely beautiful in their 1950s fashioned clothing and the 1950s society men are also impressive in their beautiful and expensive automobiles.

Mona Lisa Smile


This film is absolutely gripping as you see a professor (Julia Roberts) attempts at teaching 1950s conservative Wellesley girls to go against the societal roles they are expected to fulfill. She sees a classroom full of bright students who are biding their time until they meet an eligible bachelor to marry and make them a housewife. The struggle between old conformities and new values is painful to watch as everyone struggles to find their place in the world. The fashion of these women reveals so much about their personal views on their roles in the world and the changes of these views as the film goes on.

Revolutionary Road


A beautiful young couple find themselves struggling to make their marriage work for their two young children. While to others, Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) and April (Kate Winslet) seem to have the perfect marriage, they each have given up a lot for a life that they aren’t happy in. April dreamed of being an actress and Frank dreamed of taking time to figure out what his passion is. Both are trapped and neither know how to fix the situation they find themselves in. Their carefully dressed outfits of the 1950s turn more and more sloppy as their life falls further down the rabbit hole.

Carol is out in UK cinemas NOW

LM Hill