11 movies from the 60s that everyone should watch
The 1960s: the decade of hippies, The Beatles and Don Draper’s unstoppable mission to seduce as many women as possible.
It was also a decade of fantastic movies, with countless classics hitting cinemas and burning their way into our collective consciousness forever.
With so many great movies available, it’s hard to know where to start with 60s movies. Here are 11 (see? We couldn’t even get it down to 10) of our favourite movies from the era that we’d recommend everyone watches at least once – even if it’s just to sound more cultured at parties.
Pregnancy is terrifying. The morning sickness, the cravings, the slightly worrying thought that an actual person is growing inside you – the miracle of childbirth sounds a lot like a horror movie, to be honest.
You have to feel for poor old Rosemary, the star of Rosemary’s Baby. As well as dealing with the day-to-day horrors of pregnancy, she also has to handle some extremely creepy neighbours who may or may not be part of a Satanic cult determined to bring the Dark Lord to Earth. We’re not sure baby books offer advice for that kind of thing.
Rosemary’s Baby is a slow burner but thing start getting freaky once Rosemary and her slightly odd actor beau meet their neighbours. The weird shooting style and that unusual way some actors read lines back in the day make things even scarier.
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Although the 60s is best remembered for flower power and free love, a lot of people spent a great deal of the decade worrying about a nuclear bomb falling on their head and vaporising everything they love into dust thanks to ongoing dust-up between the US and the Soviet Union.
It was a very serious, very scary problem that almost led to total nuclear annihilation on a couple of occasions (the most famous being the 1964 Bay of Pigs incident), so naturally it inspired a lot of movies.
The best of them all isn’t a stern drama, though. Instead, Dr Strangelove is played almost entirely for laughs, highlighting the absurdity of it all through ridiculous characters and pitch-black humour.
Unsurprisingly, Stanley Kubrick’s direction is fantastic, as is Peter Seller’s performance(s) as numerous characters, including the iconic Dr. Strangelove. The satire holds up surprisingly well too (considering it was made 52 years ago) and will probably remain relevant until the Earth is eventually destroyed in a hail of nuclear fire. At least we’ll have some laughs on the way there, eh?
2001: A Space Odyssey
Stanley Kubrick bashed out classic movies like hot loaves of bread in the 60s, creating iconic masterpiece after iconic masterpiece.
The most iconic of them all is 2001. Even if you haven’t seen this movie, you’ve probably seen it parodied somewhere – the monoliths, the evil spaceship AI, the super freaky ending.
2001 is a vast, epic movie that explores everything from the creation of man to the possibility of alternative dimensions.
It also tackles a subject close to a lot of people’s hearts in 2016: the threat of intelligent machines killing us all. Although if they’re all as polite as HAL, the blinking red light that terrorises a space crew in 2001, we won’t mind too much.
In short, you really need to see this movie.
Lawrence of Arabia
You can tell how good a movie is by the list of people it’s influenced over the years. And Lawrence of Arabia has influenced some seriously impressive people, including George Lucas, Ridley Scott, Stephen Spielberg and Martin Scorsese.
This cinematic epic tells the tale of a British lieutenant in the Arabian Peninsula during World War 1. Tasked with masterminding various attacks, Lawrence struggles with his role in the war and the violence he inflicts on others, as well as his split loyalties between the British army and the Arabic tribes he meets.
Everything about this movie is epic, from acting heavyweights Peter O’Toole and Alec Guinness’ performances to the nearly 4 hour long runtime. Block out a few hours, find a comfy seat and prepare to be amazed.
Another Kubrick classic, this Roman-set epic follows a slave forced to become a Gladiator (the ancient kind, not the ITV kind). When he discovers he’s actually pretty nifty at the whole gladiator business, he decides to launch a rebellion against the Roman Empire with his fellow slaves.
With legendary performances from Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier and Peter Ustinov, one of the most iconic scenes of all time and a legendary director, Spartacus is the definition of classic.
Bonnie and Clyde
Considering most PG movies have at least some fighting or smooching in them nowadays, it’s hard to imagine a time when sex and violence in the movies were taboo.
Bonnie and Clyde is arguably the movie that opened the gore and nookie floodgates. It tells the tale of America’s most notorious outlaw couple, played by the Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, as they embark on a violent crime spree.
Although Bonnie and Clyde seems pretty frigid compared to a lot of movies released today (we’re looking at you, Mr. Tarantino), it was groundbreaking at the time and caused a lot of outrage. We’d hate to think what people back then would think of something like Hostel…
The third James Bond film is arguably the best of them all. In Goldfinger, Bond is tasked with foiling a maniacal chap called Goldfinger, who plans to break into Fort Knox and steal loads of gold. He also enjoys painting corpses gold and firing lasers at people’s privates.
Most people would probably be quite worried about tackling someone as dangerously quirky as Goldfinger, but not Bond. Instead, he drives around romancing a series of beautiful women, eventually attempting to take down Goldfinger between shaken Martinis. The coolest man in cinema has never been cooler.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
It’s hard to imagine now, but people were so sick of Spaghetti Westerns when The Good, The Bad and The Ugly was released that it got mixed reviews. Imagine that: one of the best films ever getting the equivalent of 50% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Luckily, the world opened its eyes and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is now rightfully regarded as a classic and the pinnacle of the Western genre.
At the centre of it all is Clint Eastwood’s The Man With No Name, who is competing with two other gunslingers to find buried Confederate gold. This mainly means having a lot of shootouts and bar fights.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly has strongly influenced a lot of directors, from Scorsese to Tarantino (who got composer Ennio Morricone – AKA the guy who wrote the theme song everyone associates with Westerns – to score his own tribute to Westerns, The Hateful Eight)
Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson set off an epic motorcycle ride across America because….well, why not?
Unfortunately, the gang find that American isn’t quite as welcoming as they’d hoped – even though they visit a load of hippie communes and smoke a lot of funny cigarettes.
Easy Rider is a classic piece of counterculture cinema that also captures the impending doom vibe signalled by the end of the 60s.
Apparently, a lot of Easy Rider’s shots and editing was designed to recreate the psychedelic experience of LSD too. Except much safer, and with motorbikes.
Only a director as masterful as Alfred Hitchcock could turn a film about common birds attacking people into something more terrifying than any film released in the past 10 years.
The concept really is quite silly, with a town terrorised by a swarm of evil birds who’ve gone off worms and fancy having a pop at people instead.
Hitchcock pulls it off through a brilliant build-up, which is part romantic drama and part comedy, that makes the eventual peckathon very scary. Honestly, you’ll be avoiding seagulls for weeks.
Just don’t get it confused with Birdemic, another film about killer birds which is brilliant for an entirely different reason.
Cool Hand Luke
Paul Newman, one of the coolest men to ever walk the Earth, plays a petty criminal sentenced to work on a prison farm for two years.
Our Paul doesn’t fancy that though, and he doesn’t think much to authority either. So, like any good rebel, he starts kicking up a fuss and generally being a pain in the bum, much to admiration of his fellow inmates. The prison officers aren’t so pleased though and start subjecting him to all kinds of horrific torture.
There’s a quite obvious Christian metaphor running through Cool Hand Luke, although you don’t have to be religious to appreciate what a brilliant movie it is. It also has quite a strong anti-Vietnam tone, like a lot of films of the time.
Night of the Living Dead
Shambling brainmunchers are everywhere these days, from movies and TV shows to comic books and novelty t-shirts. And we’ve all got Night of the Living Dead to thank.
George A. Romero’s classic horror established many of the characteristics we associate with zombies today, like the awkward shuffling, the moaning and the taste for brains. It also established the formula for pretty much every zombie movie ever: a bunch of people stuck somewhere with a group of monsters hungry for their head-mush.
Admittedly, time hasn’t been kind to Night of the Living Dead. Some of the scenes are borderline hilarious and you’ll see more gut-eating action in a talk-y episode of The Walking Dead, but any zombie lover owes it to themselves to see where our favourite hungry horrors got their start.
What is your favourite 60s movie? Let us know in the comments.
Featured image: Leo Hidalgo on Flickr