Some of the most iconic movies were released in the 1960s. Films were made that revolutionized genres and influenced modern methods of direction and filming.
Whatever the genre, many actors, actresses, and directors that are now legends got their big breaks in the ’60s. Here is a look at the movies from that era that are considered as close to perfection as possible.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
2001: A Space Odyssey, directed by Stanley Kubrick, attempts to explain existence. In the film, Kubrick chronicles everything from space travel and astronauts, supercomputers, and space aliens to the audience.
From the prehistoric beginnings of human beings to the future, Kubrick’s adaptation of author Arthur C. Clarke’s The Sentinel won an Academy Award for Best Special Visual Effects.
Almost all the movies directed by Alfred Hitchcock, like Psycho, could be on a list of the best from the decade of the 60s.
Loner and motel manager Norman Bates is the subject of Hitchcock’s thriller, as Bates and his guests must deal with an elusive slasher on the loose.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Lawrence of Arabia was made in two parts, and this 1962 historical drama cleaned house at the Oscars for its realistic portrayal.
The film follows Lawrence, who battles against soldiers from his native Britain and himself. It won seven of its ten Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Director, Actor, and Supporting Actor.
The Producers (1967)
Director, comedian, and writer Mel Brooks made his debut with the 1967 release of The Producers. Ironically, the dark comedy details the failures of a Broadway producer and a mild-mannered accountant.
The pair plot and scheme to put on the worst performance with a musical and steal the investors’ money in the process.
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
Sergio Leone delivers the Western Once Upon a Time in the West from a European director’s perspective. It treats audiences to everything from the classic bandits, duels with pistols, a damsel in distress, and harmonicas.
Time Magazine named the movie to its list of the 100 greatest films of all time.
Army of Shadows (1969)
French director Jean-Pierre Melville directed the unique Army of Shadows. It was one of the first black-and-white movies to be released in color.
Loosely based on events from the French Resistance, Melville gives audiences a historical view of the Resistance. The film blends fact with fiction to deliver a stark version of the famous battle.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
The 1968 horror flick Night of the Living Dead was an overnight cult sensation and still is today. Director George Romero and this film are credited with shaping and inspiring modern zombie apocalypse movies and shows.
Seven unlucky people are trapped in a farmhouse and fight for their lives against flesh-eating creatures of the afterlife.
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Bonnie and Clyde is a film that explores the dealings of an odd criminal couple. It is set during the Great Depression and follows the real-life bandit duo of the same name.
Everything is set in motion after a bored waitress joins the thief who stole her mother’s car. The movie won two Academy Awards for Best Cinematography and Supporting Actress.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Roman Polanski directed his version of Rosemary’s Baby. The movie was born from the novel of the same name written by author Ira Levin.
Housewife Rosemary Woodhouse becomes pregnant and spends her days avoiding her neighbors, who she suspects are part of a Satanic cult. Action heightens when the group advertises its plan to use her baby in their rituals.
Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Midnight Cowboy features the unlikely teaming up of a former dishwasher turned male street worker and a sickly con man.
The 1969 classic managed to win three Academy Awards after its release. Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Best Picture, and Director, which went to John Schlesinger. Schlesinger received accolades for his work, considered groundbreaking at the time for the issues it tackled.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
Clint Eastwood stars in one of the greatest Western films of all time, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
Set in the 1860s during the American Civil War, the movie tells the tales of three gunslingers. Eastwood is the “Good,” Lee Van Cleef is the “Bad,” and Eli Wallach portrays the “Ugly” character.
Easy Rider (1969)
Written by Peter Fonda, Easy Rider stars and is directed by Dennis Hopper. Fonda and Hopper are two bikers riding across the American West and Southwest with their winnings earned through criminal enterprising.
Billy (Hopper) and Wyatt (Fonda) get involved in everything typically linked with crime sprees, including female escorts and bar fights.
Mary Poppins (1964)
In the 1964 musical Mary Poppins, director Robert Stevenson combines live-action with animation. Julie Andrews stars as Poppins, an English nanny who tries to solve a family’s dysfunctional ways.
The film was nominated for thirteen Academy Awards and won five of them. Stevenson’s creation was the winner of Best Actress (Andrews), Film-editing, Original Music Score, Best Visual Effects, and Original Song.
In Django, Sergio Corbucci accurately captured all the elements that make a Western. Film historian Sir Christopher Frayling described Django’s costume as “his Sunday-best soldier’s trousers, worn-out boots and working man’s vest” were the key to the movie’s authenticity.
Critics disliked the level of violence, but the movie inspired several others, including Django Unchained, an homage to Corbucci’s classic by Quentin Tarantino.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
Director John Ford kept the traditional look of a Hollywood Western movie in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Ford strayed away from the usual cowboys versus varmints and shootouts.
Ford focuses on the evolution of the world and other ideologies while maintaining the main themes of a Western. The film was preserved in 2007 by the U.S. Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
The Sound of Music (1965)
Robert Wise directed the classic The Sound of Music. The movie’s soundtrack earned Wise one of the five Oscars it won.
The Sound of Music won Best Picture, Director, Film Editing, Scoring of Music, and Sound. The Rotten Tomatoes website said the film is “Unapologetically sweet” and will “win over the most cynical filmgoers with its classic songs and irresistible warmth.”
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
Although Dr. Strangelove is considered a comedy, director Stanley Kubrick maintains the historical accuracy of the time it is set in. The film takes place during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.
The movie had to overcome security issues with the Pentagon to effectively replicate the interior of a B-52 airplane cockpit.
In the Heat of The Night (1967)
Sidney Poitier and the director of In the Heat of the Night, Norman Jewison, faced some obstacles during the production of this classic crime-drama.
Bigotry and threats rushed production in Tennessee. The movie topically addresses racial tension as it was released at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Jewison’s film won five Academy Awards for Best Picture, Actor, Screenplay, Film Editing, and Sound.
The Dirty Dozen (1967)
The Dirty Dozen received most of its accolades for the authenticity of the battle scenes, including a final showdown against Germany.
Director Robert Aldrich accurately depicts the soldiers being trained to fight the Germans as heroes and effectively captures the true spirit of war. Art Murphy of Variety described the movie as “a very good screenplay” with “a ring of authenticity to it.”
One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
Although One Hundred and One Dalmatians is labeled an animated comedy, it takes on serious issues. The premise is about a litter of dogs trying to avoid being turned into fur coats by the villains.
The characters’ emotions are perfectly blended into colorful backgrounds that are visually pleasing. Cruella De Vil’s evil character stands out and is perfect compliment to the happy-go-lucky puppies she is trying to kidnap.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
Casting Robert Redford and Paul Newman as the leads in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid by director George Roy Hill is why the movie is viewed as flawless.
The film establishes the basic formula for a buddy flick with some additions. Hill stated about his creation, “Most of what follows is true,” acknowledging he strayed away from some factual details he found boring.
The movie Salesman gives its audience an honest window into the lonely life of four door-to-door Bible salespeople.
Directors Albert and David Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin genuinely simulate all of the various personalities of the often ridiculed profession. Separated by colorful nicknames, the men’s traits range from wise and respectful, enthusiastic, and the all-to-familiar pushy and bullying aggressiveness.
Requiem For a Heavyweight (1962)
Requiem For a Heavyweight is a film that was ahead of its time. It tells the story of a boxer who past his prime years prior and now has suffered permanent brain injuries from the sport he loved.
With a subject still relevant today, the movie adequately depicts how boxers are cast aside once they are no longer a prize draw.
The Wild Bunch (1969)
The qualities that the movie The Wild Bunch received criticism for are the reasons for its success.
Critics splattered negative press that the film, directed by Sam Peckinpah, was crude in its brutal portrayal of survival by any means. It was so accurate, too much so to some, that it was nominated at the Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Screenplay.
The Innocents (1961)
As horror films and the basic formula for their success, The Innocents checks all of the boxes. Director Jack Clayton features the distressed female lead and the terror created by random sounds in a haunted house.
Movie critics honor the movie’s cinematography by implying it could be watched without sound because of how spectacular and accurate it is.
The Graduate (1967)
The Graduate endears itself to everyone who has experienced the anxiety of graduating and having to join the world of the employed. Combine that with following a taboo affair between an older married woman and a younger man.
Seduction, romance, and betrayal reach a boiling point, while Benjamin Braddock, played by Dustin Hoffman, deals with trying to find himself.
The Great Escape (1963)
For The Great Escape, perfection starts with the musical score and spreads to how accurately and effectively the movie depicts war. Prisoners in a German detention camp plot their mass escape together.
Director John Sturges glosses over some factual details in favor of focusing on character development and their relationships with one another.
How the West Was Won (1962)
How the West Was Won should be considered flawless because the Western features real moments from 19th-century American history.
The Civil War, California Gold Rush, and the Pony Express are part of the cross-country journey, portrayed with brilliant and painstaking accuracy. The movie won three of its eight Academy Award nominations for Best Story, Sound, and Film Editing.
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
What was topical for the movie The Manchurian Candidate would be called trending today. The Cold War and Vietnam War were in full force during production, and the accuracy of the details was no accident.
The film’s cinematography was second to none with how beautifully it was shot and framed. Add to that brilliant performances by leads Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury. In 2004, another version of the film was released starring Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep.
A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
Instead of describing A Hard Day’s Night as flawless, the comedy should be considered more of a biographical film. It shows the grind and hustle of the Beatles for 36 hours ahead of an upcoming television performance.
Instead of a hardcore documentary, Director Richard Lester takes a lighter, more satirical look at the fandom and hype surrounding the group, including scenes of them outrunning mobs of screaming fans.