Wednesday, October 21, 2015



The 1960s

Continuing my series of posts on the subject of what I think are the best films of each year, we now come to the 1960s.
So, without further ado...

What a year 1960 was for film!
It was quite difficult to narrow it down to just one film as the best of 1960 because several classic films came out that year.  In fact, there are no less than three films that are in my Top 25 that date from 1960 (and a fourth film that as a Texan, its only natural I would love it).
In addition to Spartacus (which I will talk about in a bit), The Magnificent Seven and Psycho also came out in 1960.  Magnificent Seven boasts one of the great ensemble casts of all time (maybe the best) and Psycho features one of the greatest male performances on film of all time of Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates.  The film that, as a Texan I love, is The Alamo directed and starring John Wayne and is an incredible epic of Texas history featuring great performances by an iconic cast.
But, we must address the best movie of the year which is Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus.
Continuing a tradition of "sword and sandal" epics, Spartacus is a lavish production with big battle scenes and even bigger performances.  Kirk Douglas gives his finest performance in a role that seethes with inner tension and rage.  Lawrence Olivier is along for the ride in a stately performance that only he can give.  But who can forget Peter Ustinov in one of the best supporting roles ever.  Ustinov steals every scene that he is in, but it's not the over-the-top scenery-chewing that he did as Nero in Quo Vadis.
This was Kubrick's only truly great film as he then ventured into more esoteric film-making that tainted his reputation as a great film-maker.

West Side Story
And here again is a musical for the Best Picture of the Year and it is probably the greatest musical film of all time (and the argument could be made that this is one of the best movies of all time - it ranks #5 on my list of all-time greatest movies).
Jerome Robbins achieved choreography in this film not seen since Singing in the Rain for its sheer perfection.
And don't forget Natalie Woods in her most radiant performance (even if she lip-synced her songs).

Lawrence of Arabia
The finest male performance in a film ever.
Peter O'Toole.
'Nuff said?

The Great Escape
Another great ensemble picture that comes together seamlessly and even though its a long movie it holds its tension remarkably well throughout.

My Fair Lady
Another remarkable musical of lavish proportions with a performance for the ages by Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn as radiant as ever (even though she also lip-synced her songs much like Natalie Wood in West Side Story and interestingly both singing performances were by the same woman, Marni Nixon).

The Sound of Music
The turbulent and society-changing 1960's produced some of the greatest musical films of all time and the trend continued with Rogers & Hammerstein's The Sound of Music with a female performance by Julie Andrews (who had been rejected for My Fair Lady due to not being a big-enough star) that is one of the greatest of all time.
This movie was so popular at the time that it actually challenged Gone With the Wind as the all-time box office king running in some theatres for over a year.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Epic and Western don't often go together but that's exactly what this movie is with a barn-storming performance by Eli Wallach who absolutely carries this movie.  But don't forget Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleaf giving steely-eyed performances (or Angel-Eyed in the case of Van Cleaf).

And the musical parade continues with perhaps my favorite musical in Camelot.  Richard Harris gives his best performance as King Arthur in this magical adaption of the Lerner & Lowe classic musical.
This movie is pure magic and scrumptious to behold onscreen.

Romeo and Juliet
Franco Zefferelli delivers my favorite and the best Shakespeare movie of all time in the tale of the star-crossed lovers.  Leornard Whiting and Olivia Hussey deliver spot-on performances that elevate this movie to absolute greatness.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Bond.  James Bond.
George Lazenby delivers the finest performance of Bond ever onscreen in the best Bond movie of all time.
I've blogged about this movie (and other James Bond movies) extensively.  See post here:
A personal favorite.

Before I conclude this entry, I can't not mention some of the other great movies of the 1960's (and perhaps a few stinkers as well).
I addressed 1960 earlier as one of the best years for film of the 60's but consider 1962 with not only Lawrence of Arabia but also the movie adaption of the musical The Music Man with Robert Preston iconic performance and Shirley Jones as effervescent as ever (and super-talented too, no lip-syncing here), The Miracle Worker with two incredible female performances from Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke as Helen Keller, the remake of Mutiny on the Bounty starring Marlon Brando and Trevor Howard giving an incredible performance as Captain Bligh, and finally, the iconic How the West Was Won starring half of Hollywood (just kidding) in the other great epic Western of the 1960's.
And speaking of epics, consider Cleopatra in 1963 (Rex Harrison, Richard Burton, and Elizabeth Taylor in the title role and dozens and dozens of costumes).
And let's give a shout-out to Richard Burton as Becket in 1964 alongside Peter O'Toole.  Does it get any better?
Well, let me throw this out when thinking of iconic performances.  How about Sean Connery as James Bond in Goldfinger in 1964?  The best Bond movie?  The case could be made.
And how about another shout-out to another Cleopatra co-star with Rex Harrison in Agony and the Ecstasy of 1965 along with a certain Charlton Heston.
Did anyone mention epics of the 1960's?  Doctor Zhivago of 1965.
1967's Best Picture winner was In the Heat of the Night with a stellar performance by Rod Steiger and cool as the other side of the pillow Sidney Poitier.
Paul Newman gave his best performance in the ultimate guy movie - Cool Hand Luke in 1967.
1968 was an interesting year as the musical Oliver won Best Picture, Charlton Heston played with the monkeys in Planet of the Apes and the worst movie of all time (IMO) 2001: A Space Odyssey was released.
Truly, the 1960's was a great decade for movies.  I wish I could have seen some of these in the theatres.
I have been lucky enough to see Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen which may be the best movie of the decade so I'm satisfied and this concludes my survey of the Best Pictures of each year of the 1960's.

Coming Soon - the 1970's

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