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

1968

Bullitt (1968), 113 minutes, D: Peter Yates
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Charly (1968), 103 minutes, D: Ralph Nelson
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Faces (1968), 130 minutes, D: John Cassavetes
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Flesh (1968) (aka Andy Warhol's Flesh), 90 minutes, D: Paul Morrissey
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Funny Girl (1968), 151 minutes, D: William Wyler
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If... (1968, UK), 110 minutes, D: Lindsay Anderson
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The Lion in Winter (1968, UK), 134 minutes, D: Anthony Harvey
An historical, dramatic tale of dysfunctional family intrigue set in the court of British King Henry II (Peter O'Toole) in 1183, from James Goldman's sharply written screenplay (adapted from his own play). Ten years earlier, Henry II had imprisoned his wife, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katharine Hepburn, who won her third of four acting Oscars), as punishment for helping precipitate a civil war against him. His three treacherous sons who are also vying for the British throne consist of the eldest, the legendary and fiery Prince Richard the Lionhearted (Anthony Hopkins in his film debut), the quiet but dangerous middle son Prince Geoffrey (John Castle), and the youngest, the manipulative and thieving scoundrel Prince John (Nigel Terry). The three sons and estranged wife Eleanor are summoned by Henry to the castle for a Christmas family reunion in Chinon, France. He has decided to name one of his three sons as his heir to the throne. Adding to the intrigue and plotting of who will be favored (Henry favors John, while Eleanor favors Richard), the teenaged but cunning monarch King Philip II of France (Timothy Dalton in his film debut) is also invited, with his older sister Princess Alais (Jane Merrow) - Henry's mistress. The film shines with the performances and dialogue between the two leads: 36-year old O'Toole as the 50 year-old monarch, and 61 year-old Hepburn as his younger wife.

Night of the Living Dead (1968), 90 minutes, D: George Romero
One of the most important and influential horror films of all time - George Romero's ultra-low budget debut film shot in grainy black-and-white with an unknown cast reinvented the genre. The film was actually improved by its crude "drawbacks," since they lent a documentary feel and reality that made the film all the more horrific. The screenplay was taken from an unpublished short story Romero had written called Anubis, so-named after the Egyptian god of the dead. In the simple yet brutally relentless plot of claustrophobic horror, the 'living dead' (re-animated corpses) mysteriously rise from the grave for no known reason (though there are vague references to radiation from a fallen satellite), forcing a group of seven strangers to take refuge from the shuffling, hungry, flesh-eating zombies in an isolated Pennsylvania farmhouse. A capable black man (Duane Jones) assumes leadership as the army of corpses repeatedly try to enter the house during a terrifying siege, amidst both unspoken racial and generational tensions between him and a less capable, older white family man (Hardman). The images of the film are haunting, from the opening scene in the cemetery, where flighty female lead Barbra (Judith O'Dea) is teased by her brother Johnny (Russell Streiner in an uncredited role): "They're coming to get you, Barbra!" before being attacked by one of them, to the shot of the zombified little girl consuming her mother (often taken to be a social metaphor for the late 1960s youth of the nation rebelling against their elders). Meanwhile, news and radio reports from the mass media emphasize the panic and threat. The tragic ending comes from the actions of real mindless zombies -- living lynch mobs. While initially considered drive-in schlock, the film gained in popularity and critical respect, and raised Romero to great heights as a horror filmmaker. He would go on to make a zombie trilogy with the successful Dawn of the Dead (1978) and the lesser Day of the Dead (1985) - and more.

Oliver! (1968, UK), 153 minutes, D: Carol Reed
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Once Upon a Time in the West (1968, It./US) (aka C'era Una Volta Il West), 165 minutes, D: Sergio Leone
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Petulia (1968, UK), 105 minutes, D: Richard Lester
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Planet of the Apes (1968), 112 minutes, D: Franklin Schaffner
A thought-provoking and engrossing science-fiction film classic - a loose adaptation (by formerly blacklisted Michael Wilson and Rod Serling) of the Pierre Boulle novel La Planète Des Singes (Monkey Planet), about four NASA astronauts, including Colonel 'George' Taylor (Charlton Heston), who have traveled for centuries in cyrogenic suspension. After a crash landing on an Earth-like planet, they find themselves stranded in a strange and remote place dominated by English-speaking simians who live in a multi-layered civilization. The apes dominate society, and humans (who possess few rights) have been reduced to subservient mute slaves and are even hunted as animals. In danger of being castrated or lobotomized, Taylor cries out the memorable: "Get your stinkin' paws off me, you damn dirty ape!" The apes in this exciting and engaging action thriller include archaeologist Dr. Cornelius (Roddy McDowall), his scientist fiancee Zira (Kim Hunter) - an 'animal psychologist,' and malevolent, arrogant, government orangutan leader Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans). This Vietnam War, Cold War and Civil Rights era film makes many subtle points about race, animal rights, the establishment, class, xenophobia and discrimination. The film is most noted for its twist ending when George rides down a beach on horseback in the Forbidden Zone with beautiful mute cavewoman Nova (Linda Harrison), and suddenly he stops when he sees something, and dismounts to stare upwards; as the camera pans forward toward Taylor, through a spiked object, he exclaims: "Oh, my God! I'm back, I'm home. All the time, it was..." He drops to his knees: "We finally really did it." He pounds his fist into the sand and rails against Earth's generations almost 2,000 years earlier that had destroyed his home planet's civilization with a devastating nuclear war: "You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! Goddamn you all to hell!" The full object comes into view as the camera pans backward - the spiked crown of a battered Statue of Liberty buried waist-deep in beach sand. This film was also a pioneer in modern movie marketing, spawning not only four sequels and a 2001 remake (and two television series spinoffs), but also action figures and other similar merchandising, foreshadowing later merchandising for Star Wars (1977) and the Indiana Jones series.

Pretty Poison (1968), 89 minutes, D: Noel Black
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The Producers (1968), 88 minutes, D: Mel Brooks
Director Mel Brooks' debut film is a zany, often brilliant spoof comedy about Broadway productions and the Nazis that some consider in bad taste. A desperate, bankrupt, wild-eyed, hustling Broadway producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) greedily pairs up with his timid and high-strung auditor/accountant Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder in his first starring role). Together, they concoct an illegal 'sure-fire' scheme to make a million dollars from investors by producing the worst, most tasteless play ever made - a perverted Busby Berkeley romp offensively named Springtime For Hitler. Their plan backfires when the flop is actually a surprise hit. Although certain elements are now tame and have lost some comedic shock value since the late 60s, such as a cash-strapped Max being a gigolo for old ladies, the film is still daring, audacious and subversive. The lighthearted satire of Hitler, reminiscent of Chaplin's The Great Dictator (1940), with such lyrics as "Don't be stupid, be a smarty -- come and join the Nazi Party!" couldn't easily be produced today. (The studio would never have released Brooks' without the intervention of Peter Sellers, who convinced executive producer Joseph E. Levine to release it, the only compromise being a change from the original title Springtime For Hitler to The Producers.)

Romeo and Juliet (1968, UK/It.), 138 minutes, D: Franco Zeffirelli
The classic and immortal Shakespearean tale of forbidden, tragic, and star-crossed love. Adapted in this modern and realistic version by Zeffirelli for the first time with two teenaged leads as the youthful, innocent, strong-willed lovers Romeo (Leonard Whiting) and Juliet (Olivia Hussey). Their warring families, the bitterly-hateful Montagues and Capulets, doom their tender romance, with a first-time-ever scene of the nude couple on their wedding night. In gorgeous Technicolor, shot on location in Italy and enhanced by a memorable soundtrack from Nino Rota.

Rosemary's Baby (1968), 136 minutes, D: Roman Polanski
Polanski's first American film, from Ira Levin's best-seller - a convincing, creepy, psychological, Satanist horror/thriller about a young pregnant wife who suspects and has strange premonitions about diabolical forces (a witches' coven) threatening her unborn baby. Young newlywed couple Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and aspiring, out-of-work actor/husband Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavetes) move into a gothic NYC apartment complex, with intrusive, elderly next-door neighbors Roman (Sidney Blackmer) and nosy Minnie Castevet (Ruth Gordon). With a fertile imagination, Rosemary gradually believes that she hasn't been impregnated by her husband but by the Devil.

Targets (1968), 90 minutes, D: Peter Bogdanovich
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The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), 102 minutes, D: Norman Jewison
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2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, UK), 139 minutes, D: Stanley Kubrick
Kubrick's metaphoric, thought-provoking, grandiose, science-fiction landmark film, with space travel to Jupiter, the mysterious appearance of enigmatic monoliths, and the presence of the film's major protagonist - an omniscient super-computer. A three-act, visionary, visually dazzling, wide-screen masterpiece, with mind-blowing special effects. The first monolith appears to prehistoric ape-men, awakening them to the use of tools as killing weapons. Further monoliths on the Moon and floating in space somewhere near Jupiter, seem to coax humankind to make evolutionary leaps and transcend bodily and technological limits. A team of robotic-like astronauts Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Poole (Gary Lockwood), during a voyage to Jupiter to investigate a radio transmission, are terrorized by the arrogant, humanistic, on-board computer HAL 9000 (voice of Douglas Rain). With the mission aborted and following a psychedelic light-show, Bowman is reborn within an embryonic divine life form that floats in space.

Yellow Submarine (1968, UK), 85 minutes, D: George Dunning
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