1. Jules and Jim (Francois Truffaut): A tragic story but made with such cinematic joy, it’s hard not to feel exuberance when watching it. A film that feels so alive and full of vibrancy, made by the one filmmaker who loved film perhaps more than anyone else.
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick): In my opinion, Kubrick’s best film and still the best science fiction film ever made, highly entertaining, metaphysical, and eye-popping. A real game changer.
3. Late Autumn (Yasujiro Ozu): A personal favorite of mine by the greatest director who ever lived (a subjective opinion I know). A very beautiful film with high drama and comedy coming together wonderfully. Again another story by Ozu about family and loss, but done with Ozu’s usual visual flare, it’s so subtle and delicate I ache when I watch it.
4. Playtime (Jacques Tati): Tati’s comedic film is one of the most complex and visually stunning comedies ever made. Creating his own city set in the process, Tati brings up visual gags that rely so much on what we are seeing and hearing. He brings back silent comedy as an art form and creates one of the great cinematic worlds in the process.
5. Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard): Godard’s bitter but beautiful look at a failing marriage and the life of compromising your art is one of the great cinematic experiences ever made. Godard always pushed the limits on film form and this one is one of his absolute gems.
6. Yojimbo (Akira Kurosawa): Atypical Samurai film with Toshiro Mifune playing a samurai for hire and getting two ruthless families fighting off one another. Mifune’s samurai is a hero for the ages and Kurosawa’s direction is wonderfully precise.
7. Chimes at Midnight (Orson Welles): Having just watched this for the first time this year, I was completely entranced by Welles’ film. This is probably my favorite Shakespeare adaption put to screen. Welles was born to play Falstaff as he puts an ironic and tragic spin to Skakespeare’s clown.
8. Cool Hand Luke (Stuart Rosenberg): In one of the great performances put to screen, Paul Newman portrays a rebel with a cause as a man caught on a chain gang. A social-conscious story that’s both parts entertaining, sobering, and somber.
9. 8 and a half (Federico Fellini): Fellini’s masterpiece of a filmmaker suffering through a science fiction film he has no ending to. A gripping, surreal, personal film that has influenced countless filmmakers throughout the years.
10. Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone): The epic spaghetti western to end all spaghetti westerns. Sergio Leone brings to life the west in the most operatic way possible giving great performances to Charles Bronson, Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, and the beautiful Claudia Cardinale in the process.
Honorable Mentions: Fellini’s other masterpiece of the 60s “La Dolce Vita”. Godard’s body of work in the 60s should be studied particularly “Breathless”, “Band of Outsiders”, “Vivre Sa Vie”, “A Woman is a Woman”, “2 or 3 Things I Know About Her”, “Pierrot La Fou” and “Weekend”. Truffaut was no slouch either with his second feature “Shoot the Piano Player” as well as his continuing exploration of Antoine Doniel in “Stolen Kisses”. Ozu died with one last masterpiece about nostalgia with “An Autumn Afternoon”. Kurosawa had the crime film “High and Low”. Leone had the Dollars Trilogy of films. Anonioni had “L’Avventura” and “Blow-Up”
Hollywood basically had a lull of greatness as they were transitioning from old to new Hollywood, it wasn’t their best decade. However old war horses still had a stream of masterpieces. Hitchcock of course had “Psycho” and “The Birds” and his underrated “Marnie”. John Ford kept tradition and the west alive with his revisionist “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”, and Howard Hawks was up to his old tricks in “Hatari!” Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn made one of the most entertaining crime/caper/comedies “Charade”
“The Great Escape” is one of the great war adventures, Paul Newman literally owned the decade with “The Hustler”, and “Hud” capping it off with Redford in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. “Easy Rider” may have aged a bit, but I still find the hippy message empowering. “Woodstock” showed that rock documentaries could not only show music, but a time and a mood in America. “Bonnie and Clyde” ushered in new Hollywood and nothing would be the same. A new complicated director Sam Peckinpah came in with classics like “Ride the High Country” and “The Wild Bunch”. And “Lawrence of Arabia” was the epic to end all epics. The 70s were looking pretty promising.
What’s your favorite film of the 1960s? Any I missed, be sure to comment.