Greatest Films of the 1960s
Greatest Films of the 1960s


Greatest Films of the 1960s
1960 | 1961 | 1962 | 1963 | 1964 | 1965 | 1966 | 1967 | 1968 | 1969

1960

The Apartment (1960), 125 minutes, D: Billy Wilder
A Best Picture-winner - a classic, caustically-witty, satirically cynical, melodramatic comedy about corporate politics - and a bitter-sweet romance. In a bid to get ahead, an ambitious, lowly, misguided and young insurance clerk C. C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) generously lends out the keys to his NYC apartment to his company's higher-up, philandering executives for romantic, adulterous, extra-marital trysts, including to his callous married boss J. D. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray). Baxter's own budding crush toward his building's elevator operator - melancholy, and vulnerable Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) turns ugly when he discovers he has been outsmarted - she is the latest conquest of his boss - and has attempted suicide in his apartment. Baxter's next-door, philosophizing doctor/neighbor Dr. Dreyfuss (Jack Kruschen) convinces Baxter to confront the craven ethics of his superiors - and he wins the affections of Fran.

L'Avventura (1960, It./Fr.) (aka The Adventure), 145 minutes, D: Michelangelo Antonioni
The first part of a trilogy, followed by La Notte (1961, It./Fr.) (aka The Night) and L'Eclisse (1962, It./Fr.) (aka The Eclipse).

A Bout De Souffle (1960, Fr.) (aka Breathless), 90 minutes, D: Jean-Luc Godard
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Butterfield 8 (1960), 109 minutes, D: Daniel Mann
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La Dolce Vita (1960, It/Fr.) (aka The Sweet Life), 174 minutes, D: Federico Fellini
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Elmer Gantry (1960), 146 minutes, D: Richard Brooks
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Inherit the Wind (1960), 127 minutes, D: Stanley Kramer
This absorbing liberal "message" film portrays the famous and dramatic courtroom "Monkey Trial" battle (in the sultry summer of 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee) between two famous lawyers (Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan), who heatedly argue both sides of the case. Film-maker Stanley Kramer both produced and directed this film that modified and slightly disguised the historical event by changing the names of the prototypical characters and making them fictional figures, and placing the action in fictional Hillsboro, Tennessee. Its story centers around the issue of evolution vs. creationism and the prosecution of 24 year-old Tennessee teacher John T. Scopes (in the film, Bert Cates played by Dick York) for violating state law by teaching Darwin's theories of evolution. [In fact, Scopes deliberately agreed to challenge the Tennessee legislature's statutes and become the test case for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) by teaching theories that denied the Biblical story of the divine creation of man.] The film's title was taken from the Biblical book of Proverbs 11:29: "He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind." Kramer's film was also designed as a protest against the repressive thinking of the 50s McCarthy era. Much of the film's story (and dialogue), written into a screenplay by Nathan E. Douglas (Nedrick Young was the blacklisted screenwriter's real name) and Harold Jacob Smith, was based on the successful Broadway play (by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee) that first starred Paul Muni and Ed Begley. The film stars two major Oscar-winning giants and veterans of the cinema with remarkable career-high performances - Spencer Tracy (as Darrow- Henry Drummond) and Fredric March (as Bryan - Matthew Harrison Brady) - who had never before acted together in a film. And Gene Kelly, cast against type, plays cynical newspaper columnist E. K. Hornbeck, a character based on the acid-penned writer/reporter H. L. Mencken.

The Magnificent Seven (1960), 126 minutes, D: John Sturges
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Peeping Tom (1960, UK), 109 minutes, D: Michael Powell
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Psycho (1960), 109 minutes, D: Alfred Hitchcock
The greatest, most influential Hitchcock horror/thriller ever made and the progenitor of the modern Hollywood horror film, based on Robert Bloch's novel. A classic, low budget, manipulative, black and white tale that includes the most celebrated shower sequence ever made. Worried about marital prospects after a lunch tryst with her divorced lover (John Gavin), blonde real estate office secretary Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) embezzles $40,000 and flees, stopping at the secluded off-road Bates Motel, managed by a nervous, amateur taxidermist son named Norman (Anthony Perkins). The psychotic, disturbed "mother's boy" is dominated by his jealous 'mother', rumored to be in the Gothic house on the hillside behind the dilapidated, remote motel. The story includes the untimely, violent murder of the main protagonist early in the film, a cross-dressing transvestite murderer, insanity, a stuffed corpse, and Oedipal Freudian motivations.

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960, UK), 90 minutes D: Karel Reisz
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Spartacus (1960), 185 minutes, D: Stanley Kubrick
A somewhat dated, uneven historical costume (and sword and sandal) epic adapted by openly-credited, blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (thereby breaking the abhorrent system) from left-leaning Howard Fast's 1952 fictionalized novel about a slave revolt in Rome between 73-71 BC. This is the story of Thracian Spartacus (Kirk Douglas), first introduced as a slave in the Libyan mines who is sold to slave trader Lentulus Batiatus (Peter Ustinov), and becomes under his training a skilled gladiator. He is forced, for pure entertainment's sake, to fight to the death and kill fellow gladiator/friend Draba (Woody Strode). Growing resentment forces Spartacus to kill his captor-owner and instigate a revolt among his fellow slaves. He moves from town to town in the countryside and recruits freedom-fighting slaves along the way, threatening Rome itself and fueling a power struggle and in-fighting between two influential figures in the ruling class: the philosophical Roman senator Gracchus (Charles Laughton) and the power-hungry Roman general Marcus Crassus (Laurence Olivier). Eventually, Spartacus' forces are overwhelmed, and he is captured and marched to Rome, with Crassus desirous of the sexual favors of his wife Varinia (Jean Simmons). During the film's production, there was a change of directors (from Anthony Mann (famous for El Cid (1961)) to Stanley Kubrick, who wasn't permitted his usual directorial freedom, resulting in a decidedly un-Kubrick-like film) and rampant ego clashes amongst the actors. Additionally, the Hayes Code removed, among other things, homosexual innuendo and various depictions of gore (such as severed limbs). The 1991 re-release of Spartacus restored much of what was cut from the film, including the notorious bathhouse scene featuring the sexual advances of Crassus toward slave servant-poet Antoninus (Curtis), with dialogue dubbed by Anthony Hopkins for the deceased Olivier: "Do you consider the eating of oysters to be moral and the eating of snails to be immoral?... My taste includes both snails and oysters." Although anachronistic in costuming and accents, and overly long with some 'wooden' acting, Spartacus remains one of the more beloved and intelligent gladiator films (and a model for Ridley Scott's Gladiator (2000)), with such memorably powerful scenes as the large scale battles with thousands of extras, and the famous climax with the moving "I am Spartacus!" scene when Spartacus is crucified under orders of Crassus along with hundreds of other slaves, and a disguised Varinia risks capture to show him his infant son.

The Sundowners (1960), 133 minutes, D: Fred Zinnemann
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The Time Machine (1960), 103 minutes, D: George Pal
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