The Best 10 Films of the 1960s (That I Have Seen)

by George Watches Things

Today, we continue the Best of the Decades feature. Four down, five to go. This week, I graciously present my picks for the ten best films from the 1960s, and you graciously tell me I mention Billy Wilder and Alfred Hitchcock too much. But don’t worry, this will, sadly, be the last week I’ll have them on my lists. Enjoy and feel free to comment with your own picks.

10. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

When we talk about large or small movies today, it’s usually a clear-cut no-fuss discussion. Battle of Los Angeles: big. The Kids Are All Right: small. But it wasn’t always this way. Take, for your consideration, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. This film was both broad (in the good, non-Whitney way) and detail-oriented. Oh, and that soundtrack. It gets me every time. Runner-ups: Charade, The Pink Panther, Playtime, and That Darn Cat!.

9. The Birds

And the madness begins. Long ago, on a now-defunct feature called “Required Viewing,” I called The Birds “truly terrifying” and I said that all Hitchcock’s best films rely on a “degree of coincidence.” I don’t usually like coincidence, but I never seemed to mind it when Hitch did it. Just look at North by Northwest, a film that even I think is as flimsy as a cardboard cutout of Ted Danson. Somehow, though, that film works. And while the birds the movie was named after might not be as real as the character Jessica Tandy lays down here, the coincidence factor and the film itself both work too.

8. A Shot in the Dark

A Shot in the Dark is the best (and probably my favorite) Clouseau/Pink Panther film. You’ve got “sex” scenes with bombs in them, nudist colonies with too few guitars, and hilarious murders galore in this 1964 comedy classic. When and if I ever make a top comedies list, A Shot in the Dark will be high on it.

7. Planet of the Apes

An oldie but an iconic goodie. 1968’s Planet and 2011’s Rise are two very different films in tone, but suspiciously follow basically the same plot arc.

6. 2001: A Space Odyssey

An interesting comparison for 2001: A Space Odyssey is The Tree of Life. I wasn’t sure what was going on 100% of the time in either movie, but I’m so very glad I sat and watched them all the way through. What happened to Keir Dullea, though? Did he not ever have a career?

5. The Manchurian Candidate

Speaking of interesting comparisons, I think The Manchurian Candidate makes an incredible companion piece with one of the following picks. If you’ve seen both the films, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

4. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

A classic. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is the best western of all-time (no, Meek’s Cutoff is not an appropriate selection). I have never seen it all the way through until last year, despite having seen certain parts more than 10 times each. Clint Eastwood does more with silence than anyone, and his silences are on display here.

3. The Apartment

The second best final line in a Wilder film

Yes, another Billy Wilder. The Apartment is one of his best two films, and it goes from wildly satirical to beautifully dark in an instant, then switches back and forth as it pleases. Baxter’s “friends” at work are great, but the neighbors are the best.

2. Psycho

"I'm so glad Community is back."

Psycho was my favorite film before I discovered Some Like it Hot, and I still really love it. But, I must admit, there is one sixties film that is better. And that film is…

1. A Hard Day’s Night

If we’re comparing these films to the film of the last calendar year, which I have already done to 2001: A Space Odyssey (with The Tree of Life), then why not just say that A Hard Day’s Night was the 60s’ The Artist? It’s black-and-white; it’s old school, but still manages to be fresh and somewhat innovative; it allows its characters to breathe and come to life on screen; and I love and will defend them both.