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Bryan Cranston

With lessons for today, movies bring back the '50s

Fear of unexpected strikes from overseas. Battles over First Amendment rights. Simmering tensions of inequality.

It's no wonder the 1950s are all over movie screens.

Whether by fortune or fate, movie theaters are alive with stories — from the communist witch hunt of "Trumbo" to the lesbian injustice of "Carol" — that plunge back into the paranoia of the Cold War and the social suffocations of the decade synonymous with Eisenhower, the suburbs and the ever-present threat of the bomb. By returning to the '50s, filmmakers are finding stories that illuminate the politics of today.

First came Steve Spielberg's "Bridge of Spies,"...