The ’60s were a time of change and rebelliousness. There was rock ‘n’ roll, there was the civil rights movement, there were tragedies and assassinations, and cinema quickly started changing to reflect the times.
This decade was a turning point for cinema. With the decline of theater-goers due to the popularity of television, the US film industry was having a hard time, meaning that an unprecedented number of foreign films like Akira Kurosawa‘s High and Low arrived at American movie theaters. With the rise of independent movies and a change in the way genres like the film noir and the comedy were made, the ’60s were definitely an interesting time to be a movie fan.
10) The Japanese Equivalent of a Hitchcock Masterpiece — ‘High and Low’ (1963)
One of the many masterpieces of legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, High and Low is about a wealthy business man who falls victim to blackmail: His chauffeur’s son is kidnapped and it’s up to him to pay the ransom.
The crime thriller is the 89th highest-rated movie on IMDb with a terrific score of 8.4, and it isn’t hard to see why. Aside from having a fascinating structure and riveting slow-burning story, it’s an admirable display of the skills of Kurosawa as a director and Toshirô Mifune, who plays the protagonist, as an actor.
9) Kubrick’s Unaparalleled War Satire — ‘Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’ (1964)
Aside from having one of the most peculiar movie titles ever, Stanley Kubrick‘s Dr. Strangelove revolutionized the satire subgenre by mixing sophisticated dark comedy with a story about a nuclear holocaust started by an unhinged general.
The film is a masterful farce the likes of which audiences have never seen again. It has phenomenal cinematography, a brisk and enjoyable pacing, and Peter Sellers and George C. Scott delivering some of the greatest and funniest performances of the decade. Because of this and more, the film has an 8.4 on IMDb.
8) Haunting, Erotic, Unforgettable — ‘Woman in the Dunes’ (1964)
In this underrated Japanese classic, an entomologist (Eiji Okada) suffers extreme torture after being taken captive by the residents of a poor seaside village.
A haunting and mysterious erotic thriller, Woman in the Dunes is a true Sisyphean hellscape that’s impossible to look away from in any given scene. The imagery and symbolism are stirring and the screenplay is top-notch, giving the movie a score of 8.5 on IMDb.
7) A Very, Very Busy Student — ‘Operation Y and Other Shurik’s Adventures’ (1965)
This Soviet comedy presents three stories about Shurik (Aleksandr Demyanenko), a young student. In them, he fights criminals, falls in love, confuses apartments, and passes exams. You know, regular young student stuff.
The movie, which has an 8.5 on IMDb, is celebrated by users as one of the funniest Russian comedies ever. In all three segments, the humor is surprisingly complex and the performances are hilarious, making this one of the biggest classics to ever come out of its home country.
6) The Most Famous Plot Twist in Cinema History — ‘Psycho’ (1960)
One of the last films in the career of the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, Psycho is a horror thriller about a Phoenix secretary (Janet Leigh) who embezzles $40,000 dollars and leaves town, staying at a remote and mysterious motel run by a young man (Anthony Perkins) with a manipulative mother.
This is not only perhaps Hitchcock’s last masterpiece—It may very well be his best movie, as proved by its terrific score of 8.5 on IMDb. It’s scary, it’s exciting, it’s pristinely written, and it remains one of the most iconic horror movies after more than six decades.
5) The Father of the Spaghetti Western — ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ (1968)
In a decade full of great Westerns, Once Upon a Time in the West stands above most others. It’s a nearly three-hour-long film about two men protecting a woman whose land and life are endangered by the growing closeness of the railroad.
Empowered by director Serio Leone‘s magnificent and elegant style, and featuring one of composer Ennio Morricone‘s most evocative works, the film’s use of its settings and the way it explores the concept of progress are admirable. For all its incredible merits, the movie has an 8.5 on IMDb.
4) Death Before Dishonor — ‘Harakiri’ (1962)
The title of Masaki Kobayashi‘s Harakiri references an old Japanese ritual consisting of suicide by way of disembowelment. The film is a jaw-dropping work of art about an old samurai who arrives at a feudal lord’s home and asks for an honorable place where to commit harakiri.
This is one of those films that make you think they’re going somewhere only to take a 180-degree turn all of a sudden. It’s surprising, it’s exciting, it’s astonishingly well made, and it’s definitely worthy of its score of 8.6 on IMDb.
3) Life Is Not a Whipped-Cream Cake — ‘The Witness’ (1969)
Banned in its home country of Hungary for its outspoken criticism of the post-WWII communist regime, The Witness sees a criminal surprisingly elevated into an imoprtant position generally reserved for the communist elite.
Referred to by some as the best satire about communism, The Witness has gained an unparalleled cult status in Hungary, with several quotes from the movie even having become part of everyday speech in the country. It’s thoughtful, scathing, hilarious, and a must-watch for fans of the genre, who have given it an 8.7 on IMDb.
2) Love Is the Condition for Being Human — ‘The Human Condition III: A Soldier’s Prayer’ (1961)
The final part in Masaki Kobayashi‘s legendary war trilogy has Kaji (Tatsuya Nakadai), after the Japanese defeat to the Russians, leading the last remaining men through Manchuria.
The Human Condition III isn’t only as masterful as the two movies that came before it (which happen to be among the highest-rated movies of the ’50s on IMDb), it might even be the best. It’s one of the most ambitious, visually striking, emotionally moving dramas in cinema history, as proved by its score of 8.8 on IMDb.
1) The Civil War Wasn’t Hell. It Was Practice — ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ (1966)
It’s hard to find anything to say about The Good, the Bad and the Ugly that hasn’t been said before. It’s the mother of all spaghetti Westerns, and maybe even the best in the entire Western genre. It’s a Sergio Leone masterpiece about three men combing the American Southwest while the Civil War rages on, searching for $200,000 dollars in gold.
Whether because of its staggering scale and visual flair, memorable characters and performances, or intricately complex plot, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly holds an amazing score of 8.8 on IMDb, making it the site’s 10th highest-rated film. It’s not surprising, since it’s one of the greatest classics ever made.
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