Movies Of the Year: Best Of The 60s

Time for the next decade in the Best Movie Years project, the 1960s, a decade defined by both an explosion of world cinema and the death of the Hollywood studio system. As always, the years are ranked by both peak (the quality of the best films of the year) and depth (the volume of good films in the year).

10. 1969 – For every other year this decade, I’ve seen an average of almost 22 movies. But somehow, for 1969, I’ve only managed to see ten. I don’t know if that’s just random chance, or a blind spot on my part, or if it just wasn’t a very good year. Regardless, despite the fact that the year is lead by one of my all-time favorites (Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev), and one of the very best martial arts films ever made, King Hu’s A Touch Of Zen, the year is severely lacking in both peak and depth. Best: Andrei Rublev. Most Underrated: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Most Overrated: Easy Rider.

9. 1965 – Led by what are arguably the two best films by two of my favorite directors (Chimes At Midnight and Pierrot le fou), 1965 has a very fine peak and some solid, if unspectacular depth. To personal favorites of mine (The Spy Who Came In From The Cold and A Charlie Brown Christmas) and fun films by Jean-Luc Godard and Otto Preminger easily push this year ahead of 1969. Bonus points for ninjas. Best: Pierrot le fou. Most Underrated: The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. Most Overrated: The Sound Of Music or Dr. Zhivago.

8. 1960 – A huge leap forward for what is nonetheless the eighth best year of the decade. Led by classics like Psycho, Shoot The Piano Player, L’Avventura and Breathless, with some solid depth in films by Yasujiro Ozu, Stanley Kubrick, Michael Powell, Federico Fellini, Billy Wilder, Akira Kurosawa and Budd Boetticher. A good year, but this is a great decade. Best: Psycho. Most Underrated: Late Autumn. Most Overrated: La Dolce Vita or The Magnificent Seven.

7. 1966 – The first of seven truly amazing years this decade is led by masterpieces from Robert Bresson, Sergio Leone, Gillo Pontecorvo, Michelangelo Antonioni and Jean-Luc Godard. there’s also John Ford’s final film, 7 Women, one of his best and most neglected, King Hu’s revolutionary wuxia masterpiece Come Drink With Me, and possibly the greatest pure (ie, non-satirical) samurai film ever made, Kihachi Okamoto’s Sword Of Doom. Not to mention fine films from Seijun Suzuki, Jiri Menzel, Charles Schultz, Chuck Jones and Dr. Seuss, Doris Day and Frank Tashlin, Mike Nichols and Woody Allen’s first great comedy. Best: Au hasard Balthazar. Most Underrated: 7 Women. Most Overrated: Persona.

6. 1968 – The craziest year of a crazy decade sees a half dozen masterpieces at the top along with a handful of other fine films. Stolen Kisses, Barbarella, Kill!, The Immortal Story and Bullitt make for decent depth, but it doesn’t compare to the years higher up on the list. This year’s case is made by it’s peak: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Once Upon A Time In The West, Rosemary’s Baby, Night Of The Living Dead, Hell In The Pacific and personal favorite The Lion In Winter. Best: Once Upon A Time In The West. Most Underrated: Hell In The Pacific. Most Overrated: The Producers.

5. 1962 – Four masterpieces at the top, with The Manchurian Candidate, Lawrence Of Arabia, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and L’Eclisse, solid depth with films from Luis Buñuel, Akira Kurosawa, Robert Bresson, Jean-Luc Godard, Orson Welles, Masaki Kobayashi, Don Siegel, Sam Peckinpah, Stanley Kubrick, Howard Hawks, and François Truffaut. Best: The Manchurian Candidate. Most Underrated: Sanjuro. Most Overrated: Jules And Jim.

4. 1963 – At least six more masterpieces here and arguably nine. Old Hollywood holds its own against the onslaught of foreign art directors, with John Sturges’s The Great Escape, Stanley Donen’s Charade, John Ford’s Donovan’s Reef, Samuel Fuller’s Shock Corrider and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds matched up against Fellini’s 8 1/2, Kurosawa’s High And Low, Godard’s trio of Contempt, Les Carabiniers and Le petit soldat and Visconti’s The Leopard. There’s even the best james Bond movie (From Russia With Love) and possibly the best Jerry Lewis movie (The Nutty Professor). Best: 8 1/2. Most Underrated: Donovan’s Reef. Most Overrated: The Nutty Professor.

3. 1961 – Arguably the deepest year of the decade, with a whopping 19 quality films ranging from certified classics like Yojimbo, Last Year At Marienbad, Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Viridiana, The Hustler, and West Side Story to auteur favorites A Woman Is A Woman, La Notte, Cleo From 5 To 7, The End Of Summer, Two Rode Together, One, Two, Three and Underworld, USA to more obscure gems like Jacques Demy’s Lola, Nicholas Ray’s King Of Kings and Jerzy Kawalerowicz’s Mother Joan Of The Angels. Best: A Woman Is A Woman. Most Underrated: Lola. Most Overrated: West Side Story.

2. 1967 – Not quite as deep, but even stronger at the top is this year, led by Jacques Tati’s masterpiece Playtime, Jean-Luc Godard’s era-ending Week End, Jacques Demy’s apotheosis The Young Girls Of Rochefort, DA Pennebaker’s genre-defining Don’t Look Back and Arthur Penn’s Hollywood-killing Bonnie And Clyde. Great films also include America’s The Dirty Dozen, Point Blank, The Graduate, Cool Hand Luke and Who’s That Knocking At My Door?; Europe’s 2 Or 3 Things I Know About Her, Le Samouraï, Belle de jour, and The Fearless Vampire Killers; and Asia’s Samurai Rebellion and The One-Armed Swordsman. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this year (that, or just an odd coincidence) is that there isn’t a single film out of the 22 I’ve seen that I’d classify as bad. At the bottom of my list are Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? and In The Heat Of The Night, two Oscar-nominated films starring Sidney Poitier that deal with race in rather problematic ways but are nonetheless not terrible movies at all. Best: Playtime. Most Underrated: The Young Girls Of Rochefort. Most Overrated: In The Heat Of The Night.

1. 1964 – Similarly, there isn’t a bad film in the 21 I’ve seen from this, the best year of the decade. It’s the amazing peak value that pushes ’64 to the top of the list, with somewhere between nine and fifteen masterpieces, depending on how you look at it. Starting from the top, there’s Stanley Kubrick’s best film Dr. Strangelove, Jacques Demy’s classic New Wave musical The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg, Mikhail Kalatozov’s flashy yet stunning I Am Cuba, arguably the best war movie of all-time: Cy Endfield’s Zulu, possibly Jean-Luc Godard’s most crowd-pleasing film (Band Of Outsiders), perverse classics from Alfred Hitchcock, Hiroshi Teshigahara and Samuel Fuller (Marnie, Woman In The Dunes, The Naked Kiss) and Carl Theordor Dreyer’s final film, the magisterial Gertrud. On the second tier are the second best Bond film (Goldfinger), A Hard Day’s Night, A Fistful Of Dollars, Mary Poppins, John Frankenheimer’s The Train, Roger Corman’s Poe adaptations Masque Of The Red Death and The Tomb Of Ligeia and Blake Edwards’s A Shot In The Dark and John Ford’s Monument Valley farewell Cheyenne Autumn. At the bottom of my list is George Cukor’s My Fair Lady, a beautiful film that isn’t bad at all. Best: Dr. Strangelove. Most Underrated: Zulu. Most Overrated: My Fair Lady.

Director Roundup:

Starting a new feature, adding up which directors have the most films in the top tens for each year of the decade. Here’s every director with at least two:

Jean-Luc Godard: 11
Akira Kurosawa: 4
Michelangelo Antonioni: 4
Stanley Kubrick: 3
Alfred Hitchcock: 3
John Ford: 3
Jacques Demy: 3
Orson Welles: 2
François Truffaut: 2
Sam Peckinpah: 2
Yasujiro Ozu: 2
Kihachi Okamoto: 2
Sergio Leone: 2
Samuel Fuller: 2
Federico Fellini: 2
Luis Buñuel: 2
Robert Bresson: 2
John Boorman: 2
Woody Allen: 2

And since I missed it last time, here are the numbers for the 50s:

Alfred Hitchcock: 7
Yasujiro Ozu: 6
Akira Kurosawa: 5
Kenji Mizoguchi: 4
John Ford: 4
Billy Wilder: 4
Nicholas Ray: 4
Anthony Mann: 4
Stanley Kubrick: 3
Douglas Sirk: 3
Orson Welles: 3
Vincente Minnelli: 3
Samuel Fuller: 3
Budd Boetticher: 2
Federico Fellini: 2
Max Ophuls: 2
Jacques Tati: 2
Stanley Donen: 2
Robert Bresson: 2
Howard Hawks: 2
Jean Renoir: 2
Roberto Rossellini: 2
Joseph L. Mankiewicz: 2

6 thoughts on “Movies Of the Year: Best Of The 60s

  1. As always, I’m here to provide alternate rankings and dissenting opinions. I haven’t seen a lot (getting there) but here is how I would rank what I’ve seen from these years.1960 – Psycho1961 – A Woman is a Woman1962 – The Exterminating Angel1963 – 8½1964 – Woman in the Dunes1965 – Pierrot le fou1966 – The Battle of Algiers1967 – Le Samouraï1968 – 2001: A Space Odyssey1969 – Easy Rider1969 is also a strange year for me. Easy Rider is a good film but nowhere near the quality of the other films I’ve mentioned.Best films of the 60s you ask?1. Psycho2. The Battle of Algiers3. A Woman is a Woman4. Woman in the Dunes5. 2001: A Space Odyssey6. La Dolce Vita7. The Apartment8. Shoot the Piano Player9. The Exterminating Angel10. Le Samouraï Of course, I still haven’t seen a bunch, bunch, bunch of stuff. Don’t ask what. I’m sure further updates on this list will let you know.


  2. Wh-

    To Kill a Mockingbird isn't in here at all?!
    At the very least I expected it to be in the Most Overated spot, but not at all? It's a pretty famous movie to just leave out.


  3. Move Once Upon a Time in the West to the overrated category. Lawrence of Arabia and Liberty Valance should be on top, and Point Blank deserves a second look. Also, Donovan's Reef? You must be joking. Did my small minded Republican uncle from Ohio make these lists?


  4. I don't know, does your small-minded Republican uncle from Ohio like movies about rejecting middle-class morality in favor of drunken Island life and interracial marriage?


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