There are no rule-breakers in this list, unless one of them won an obscure Oscar that I missed. Seems that abiding by the rules is still not enough to guarantee quality. The 1001 Movies guy has some unusual choices …
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane: Bette Davis and Joan Crawford play out their hatred for each other on-screen, for us all to enjoy.
Secret Beyond The Door: Michael Redgrave takes his new bride, Joan Bennett, to his (their) home, a huge mansion which turns out to be a murder museum. As the foundation for any long-lasting marriage, he has thoughtfully set one room aside especially for her. Disappointingly, this strategy works better than you might expect.
The Last Picture Show: A star-studded coming-of-age movie that is worth it just to see Cybill Shepherd (her film debut) and Jeff Bridges in their early 20s as the small-town Texa on-again off-again couple. It’s also just a really good movie.
The Man With The Golden Arm: Frank Sinatra is addicted to heroin, but Kim Novak is here to save him. First, though, he needs to foil the plans of his crippled wife who wants to keep him gambling and under her control, and those of his dealer, the delightful Darren McGavin, who I expected at any moment to announce that his heroin was “a major award”.
Man of the West: Gary Cooper is a rehabilitated bad guy who’s now good. At least he is until his old gang pulls a train-job to capture him and force him into helping them rob a bank while they molest his girlfriend. That kind of behaviour just leads to everyone getting shot, as befits a western. Gary and his GF then ride off together into the sunset. Or something like that.