With each decade leading up from the past one I have realized I am leaving too many great films off the list. Even if just make them honorable mentions or recognize other great films from that year in this decade, expect to see more great films mentioned on the lists for the coming future. That is, if I don’t start breaking down from all the writing, and research I will have to do extra because I love you guys.
The 1960’s, like each decade showed a massive progression of the types of films we could create through all genres and styles. The 60’s was a time of cultural transition in vibrant and colorful ways beyond imagining in prior years. Protests, civil rights movements, fashion, and music were all reflective to what was going on in America during this time. The fact that foreign film reigned supreme for a span of time is also something to consider. Movies were at their lowest point with only 121 American films in 1963 while there was a whopping 363 foreign films released in the US that same year.
Psycho directed by Alfred Hitchcock:
Every year and decade has their staple film(s) and iconic works of art that have embedded themselves like tattoos into pop culture. Alfred Hitchcock only cemented his legacy by being one of the most recognizable pop culture directors in history due to films like Psycho. We know the iconic shower scene and the music that encompasses it, but beyond the recognizable single scene is layered look into mystery-horror that doesn’t need monsters to scare you. It has one of the best twists in movie history that holds up to this day while serving as a reminder to love your kids and respect your mother…
- Sparticus directed by Stanley Kubrick
- The Apartment directed by Billy Wilder
- The Magnificent Seven directed by John Sturges
West Side Story directed by Jerome Robbins & Robert Wise
One of the greatest musicals of all time to be put onto the silver screen, the Romeo and Juliet inspired musical comes strong all throughout with performances that you will never forget with the music to match. It’s choreography went to new heights which musicals on film hadn’t fully done consistently prior to it and told a story on forbidden love through the eyes of two groups living in New York during the 60’s. It’s a story that can always find relevancy no matter what era you’ve grown up in and you can expect to want to snap your fingers more often than not.
- The Hustler directed by Robert Rossem
- The Guns of Navarone directed by J. Lee Thompson
- One Hundred and One Dalmations directed by Clyde Geronimi , Hamilton S. Luske , Wolfgang Reitherman , Hamilton Luske
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s directed by Blake Edwards
- Yojimbo directed by Akira Kurosawa
Lawrence of Arabia directed by David Lean
One of my favorite classic films of all time, there’s something about the epic nature of Lawrence of Arabia, and the stoic nature of the blue-eyed lead that was Peter O’Toole. The romanticism of the story and direction it goes with it’s characters sets a bar for many epics before and after the film’s conception. You feel every bead of sweat and ray of desert sun that the characters feel while battling culture barriers, harsh elements, and war, only to realize that the film itself is about understanding.
- To Kill A Mockingbird directed by Robert Mulligan
- The Manchurian Candidate directed by John Frankenheimer
- Cape Fear directed by J. Lee Thompson
- Lolita directed by Stanley Kubrick
- Dr. No directed by Terrence Young
- The Music Man directed by Morton DeCosta
The Birds directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Though the production of this film has been marred with controversy with each passing year, the film itself is a classic in it’s own right. The legacy of Hitchcock would soon be tainted due to his off-screen accusations of sexual assault and sexual harassment towards his leading woman Tippi Hedrin, but beyond the negative press on what may have happened, The Birds is a tremendous horror film that has that Hitchcockian fright and terror he is known for created. As I alluded to before, 1963 was not a strong year for movies in America by any stretch, but that allowed this film in particular to stand out among the crowd.
- Jason and the Argonauts directed by Don Chaffey
- The Haunting directed by Robert Wise
- The Great Escape directed by John Sturges
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb directed by Stanley Kubrick
A terrifying, satirical look at the “what if’s” on how it would turn out if the wrong person had access to a button that could destroy nations. It’s a classic Kubrick film that goes for more than just comedy, but in fact a more digestible look at what if someone went absolutely insane while having the power to wipe out a whole group of people. It’s terrifying to think about because it’s not far from what has or could happen across the globe. This black and white classic may have more quotes in it than you thought there’d be and it’s capped off with a terrific war room scene among others.
- A Fistful of Dollars directed by Sergio Leone
- Mary Poppins directed by Robert Stevenson
- My Fair Lady directed by George Cukar
- Goldfinger directed by Guy Hamilton
The Sound of Music directed by Robert Wise
1965 didn’t have much to offer in exceptionally great films, but it did have one that stood above the rest on a pedestal that would only increase it’s legacy from then on out. Julie Andrews’ iconic role as Maria, a nun and caretaker of seven children of a wealthy, Austrian widower as she sings the title song with gusto and memorable flair. It’s one of the most popular musicals of all time and grossed a whopping $286 million back in ’65 which helped cement Robert Wise as one of the most underrated directors in history.
- Doctor Zhivago directed by David Lean
- A Charlie Brown Christmas directed by Bill Melendez
Django directed by Sergio Corbucci
This may be a more boring year than 1965 and that’s saying something, but one that I found recently to be a real treat after realizing this was an inspiration for Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. To make Django Unchained even cooler, it was fun to see star of the original make a brief appearance in the film during the introduction to DiCaprio’s Calvin Candie.
- Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf directed by Mike Nichols
- Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas directed by Chuck Jones
The Graduate directed by Mike Nichols
Dustin Hoffman jumped onto the scene with this comedy with heart as Benjamin Braddock, a track start and academic dynamo who begins an affair with an older woman. The story is brought together thanks to it’s Hollywood New-Wave style and story which got a boost thanks to this film. It’s told with Simon and Garfunkle as the music in the background only to end with one of the best ambiguous endings in film history, but that’s not a bad thing. The heart of the film reaches everyone of all ages more deeply than most people tend to realize and the film stands the test of time as a pure Hollywood classic.
- The Battle of Algiers directed by Gillo Pontecorvo
- The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly directed by Sergio Leone
- Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner directed by Stanley Kramer
- To Sir, With Love directed by James Clavell
- The Dirty Dozen directed Robert Aldrich
- Cool Hand Luke directed by Stuart Rosenberg
- The Jungle Book directed by Wolfgang Reitherman
2001: A Space Odyssey directed by Stanley Kubrick
In one of Kubrick’s many masterpieces, this one takes the cake for most inventive and thought provoking. This sci-fi epic took the ideas all people have in the universe and meshed it together to create something so deeply profound you often have to mentally prepare to take it on. It’s a visual splendor with a tension and isolation that makes it’s villain all the more terrifying.
- Bullitt directed by Peter Yates
- The Planet of the Apes directed by Franklin J. Schaffner
- Rosemary’s Baby directed by Roman Polanski
- Night of the Living Night directed by George A. Romero
- Oliver! directed by Carol Reed
- Romeo and Juliet directed by Franko Zeffirelli
- Funny Girl directed by William Wyler
- Chitty Chitty Bang Bang directed by Ken Hughes
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid directed by George Roy Hill
One thing I loved about the new wave of film in the 60’s was the addition of famous songs to serve as the theme of the film. Sure, this may have started the decline of original scores for a little bit, but could you imagine a Quentin Tarantino movie if there wasn’t mainstream music? Robert Redford and Paul Newman are one of cinemas greatest pairings on screen and their natural chemistry carries the film while delivering perfectly timed humor as well as slight drama. It’s a fun film to be seen and maintains that same level of fun and precision a great film often has.
- True Grit directed by
- The Wild Bunch directed by John Sturges
- Easy Rider directed by Dennis Hopper
- Midnight Cowboy directed by John Schlesinger