Ah, the Swingin’ Sixties. The decade where Beatlemania swept the entire world. A time when the hippie youth would proclaim peace and love. The pointless Vietnam War began. British television would never be the same after the introduction of a certain Doctor Who, while Martin Luther King Jr. claimed he had a dream. And while said person was sadly assassinated, as well as President Kennedy, we also landed on the moon. But it wasn’t just clever astronauts that were shooting for the stars, down on earth it was Hollywood that wanted bigger and better movies to entice audiences to the cinema screens. The 60’s showcased an incredible amount of box office sensations. Here I shall be looking at just ten of them. An incredibly hard choice I can tell you. This may be controversial to some, as I have missed out a few classics that I adore. But this is a mixture of films that I feel really represent the progression of cinema. These first five out of ten motion pictures really capture the masterclass of acting, filmmaking, and most importantly, storytelling. So sorry, but as much as I love them, no Carry On films.
Let’s do the numbers game, shall we? SEVEN days in total to shoot the famous shower scene. SEVENTY SEVEN camera angles to capture the terror that was unfolding. FIFTY edit cuts and ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY seconds of pure menace. SIXTY EIGHT years on, it is still one of the most influential and downright scariest scenes in history. All, it should be noted, with no shot of the knife penetrating Janet Leigh’s naked body. With screeching violins, a shadowy figure brandishing a knife, and quick cut-aways, it’s all psychologically embedded into the mind as the most terrifying murder we’ll ever witness. The scene has been copied to death ever since its release, but never bettered. Anthony Perkins perfectly embodies a disturbed young man running a forgotten motel, executing the immortal line “We all go a little mad sometimes.” To carry a conversation about the subject of slasher films, there’s only one film you should start talking about. Without Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, the world of horror films would be very different indeed.
WEST SIDE STORY (1961)
We all know the story of star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. But have you ever seen Shakespeare’s play in a song-and-dance form? Well, you have now!! Swapping the backdrop of fair Verona to the smokey back alleys of New York in modern times, West Side Story is the most celebrated adaption of the ageless tragic tale of two youngsters who only see each other as themselves and look past their families violent rivalry. Winning a staggering ten Academy Awards, it sails through iconic tune after iconic tune. Maria, America, I Feel Pretty, plus many more, all throughout you can’t help but click along to the rhythm of Leonard Bernstein’s score. Just from the bombastic opening overture, it welcomes you to one of the most successful musicals ever made. For never was a story of more woe/ Than this of Maria and her Tony.
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962)
Unfortunately, prejudice and stereotyping will always be present no matter how far we’ve moved forward in this world. Set in the 1930’s. Written/made in the 1960’s. Still viewed in the present day. Time has not aged this masterpiece, or its subject of race, family and overcoming hatred to do what’s right. Lawyer Atticus Finch plays both mother and father to his children, and angel to the innocent man he’s defending, but devil in the eyes of the local community because the accused man is ‘different’. Creating enemies along the way, he gains the love and respect of his children, teaching them the powerful lesson that judging a book by its cover is much the same as not stepping into a person’s shoes and hearing his side. As the kids then see for themselves and learn that behind a creepy old house, lives a gentle giant. A hit with critics when released, an enthralling speech inside the courtroom also earned Gregory Peck an Academy Award. Courtroom dramas don’t come better than this.
THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963)
If you ever find yourself in P.O.W. camp…. then don’t watch this for research. However, if you ever find yourself on a Sunday afternoon undecided on what to watch, look no further than this war epic. And if you’ve ever had the misfortune not to have seen Steve McQueen jumping over barbed wire fences on a motorbike riding away from Germans, then you would instantly recognize the unbelievably catchy theme tune. One that is pretty much embedded into British society, it can even be heard from football fans in stadiums. With a stellar team on display, even The Avengers would quiver in fear. Alongside McQueen itching to escape are Richard Attenborough, Donald Pleasance, James Garner, Charles Bronson, James Donald, just to name a few. I have to say, this is my all time favourite film. I’ve watched it as many times as Captain Hiltz has attempted to escape. And that’s a lot I can tell you. Bonus points who knows how many….
DR. STRANGELOVE (1964)
Loaded with enough satire to fill an atomic bomb, and three brilliant performances from Peter Sellers, Dr. Strangelove is dangerously on the money with the threat of nuclear war today. It’s as if Stanley Kubrick had a crystal ball handy on set. When a General goes “a little funny in the head,” and is obsessed with “bodily fluids”, initiates Plan R to drop warheads into Mother Russia. Hearing of this insane plot, the President of the United States must unite with the Russians to prevent the fly boys from reaching their targets or risk the detonation of the doomsday device which would end of all human life. Expecting nothing less from Peter Sellers, he excels as a British RAF Officer, being twenty cents short in a phone booth. One of his more serious roles, but with deadpan wit, he plays the American President who will not tolerate fighting in the war room. On top of that, he stars as the title character, a former nazi that constantly needs to keep his salutes in check. Alongside the comic genius is George C. Staff, taking on the role of the energetic Chief of Staff who is afraid of letting the enemy into the war room for fear of them “seeing the big board”. One of Kubrick’s finest work with Sellers, Sellers and Sellers on top of his game.
Part 2 will be coming soon. What do you think should be the remaining 5 movies that defined this decade?
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by George Millard