On the Waterfront (1954)
Chosen by Victoria Charvill who had this to say: 'An amazing cast with Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint... I think Karl Malden pretty much made the film for me, particularly his crucifixion speech. Acting, scripting, cinematography; everything is perfect.'
Every bit as good as it's reputation would suggest.
Brilliant performances fuel a slightly preachy take on Union and Mafia politics but it's Brando's Terry Malloy that makes the whole thing work. A compelling punch drunk heavy who is too dumb to quite understand the corruption around him but too noble to just ignore it.
Martin Balsam pops up in a small role but is as excellent as ever.
I love films who's climaxes basically involves someone walking purposefully (see also Hitchcock's amazing Notorious which racks up tension from someone simply stepping down some stairs) and the end to Waterfront is rousing and powerful stuff. The fight isn't the important bit, it's standing for something that counts.