25 Great Films of the 1960s You Might Not Have Seen

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It’s no secret that we’re movie lovers at Water’s Edge of Lake Wales – our community movie theater is a testament to that fact. Because of this, we decided to craft a series on our blog highlighting some of the best lesser-known films within various decades.

Since our previous entry focused on 1950s films, let’s take a look at the terrific movies to come out of the 1960s.

  • The Flight of the Phoenix
    Most people know Jimmy Stewart from his work in It’s a Wonderful Life, Harvey, Rear Window, and a variety of westerns, but one of his best performances came in this Robert Aldrich film. Following an emergency landing in the Sahara Desert, a plane’s crew has to work together to survive, reconstruct their plane, and discover a saboteur. Featuring the stellar supporting work of Richard Attenborough, Peter Finch, and Ernest Borgnine, this is one adventure film you don’t want to miss!
  • A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
    Based on the Broadway play and featuring the music of Stephen Sondheim, A Funny Thing is without a doubt one of the best comedy films of the 1960s. The great Zero Mostel of The Producers fame turns in a wonderful comedic performance in this farce set during ancient Rome, and the incomparable Buster Keaton delivers his final onscreen role.
  • Inherit the Wind
    Based on the play of the same name, which was in turn based on the Scopes “Monkey” Trial, this stirring courtroom drama finds Spencer Tracy pitted against Fredric March, making for some mesmerizing viewing. Also of note is Gene Kelly, who turns in a career-best dramatic performance, dropping his signature singing and dancing temporarily and exchanging them for some H. L. Mencken cynicism.
  • The Lion in Winter
    Another film based on a classic Broadway play, The Lion in Winter stars Peter O’Toole as an aging King Henry II who vies for power and control within his combative royal family. Katherine Hepburn and Anthony Hopkins also star in this biting family and political drama.
  • The Guns of Navarone 
    This men-on-a-mission World War II film features a who’s who of 1960s talent, including Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn and Richard Harris. The plot focuses on a group of soldiers tasked with destroying German superguns on the fictional island of Navarone that are making ship passage impossible. J. Lee Thompson of Cape Fear fame directs this tense wartime thriller.
  • The Bellboy
    Jerry Lewis’ first stint as director produced one of his best films. Created as a type of modern silent film at the time (Lewis’ character does not speak until the end of the film), The Bellboy allowed for a variety of great sight gags and impressive physical comedy. Even if you’re not normally a fan of Lewis, this is one you might want to try.
  • Django
    Long before Quentin Tarantino released Django Unchained came this seminal spaghetti western from Sergio Corbucci. Corbucci, a contemporary of the better-known western director Sergio Leone, is often thought of as the other major figure in the spaghetti western subgenre, and for good reason. His films had the same rough-around-the-edges feel and grit as Leone’s, and he delivered some explosive and memorable sequences. Be sure to give this one a watch.
  • Jason and the Argonauts
    A little more famous than some entries on this list, this film is still one you might not have seen if you missed it in your youth. Featuring perhaps the best and most fun special effects work of stop motion master Ray Harryhausen, this 1960s film is big, bold, and filled with swashbuckling adventure!
  • The Innocents
    Truman Capote penned the screenplay for this adaptation of The Turn of the Screw, and the results are stellar. Deborah Kerr headlines as a governess tasked with caring for two wealthy children, and who begins to experience events which could either be the result of insanity or the paranormal. This wonderful and moody horror film is a tense, slow burn, perfect for October Halloween viewing. Martin Stephens, child star of Village of the Damned, delivers a haunting performance.
  • A Raisin in the Sun
    This poignant drama based on the play focuses on the struggles of a black family as they move into a suburban area and are met with a variety of financial hardships and neighborhood prejudices. Sidney Poitier leads an impressive cast and delivers one of his best onscreen performances.
  • A Hard Day’s Night
    Everyone knows the Beatles’ music, but a lot of people haven’t seen their film work. While some of their movies are fairly weak, A Hard Day’s Night stands out as something special, being regularly recognized as one of the best British films ever made, as well as one of the best films about music. Essentially a series of sketches and music videos featuring the Fab Four, A Hard Day’s Night is a fun and funny treat. And what a soundtrack!
  • Once Upon a Time in the West
    Sergio Leone helped make a name for himself and alike Clint Eastwood with the western “Dollars Trilogy” – A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – but arguably the director’s best work can be found in Once Upon a Time in the West. More refined and polished than the Dollars Trilogy, and featuring electric performances by Charles Bronson and a villainous Henry Fonda, the film is a stellar piece of craftsmanship. Famed composed Ennio Morricone provides the score.
  • The Collector
    This dark crime thriller stars Samantha Eggar and a young Terence Stamp, better known to American audiences for staring as General Zod in the Christopher Reeve Superman films. Those who’ve seen The Silence of the Lambs will note a lot of similarities in the plot and cinematography.
  • They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
    Sydney Pollack, director of The Way We Were and Three Days of the Condor, delivered this biting Depression-era satire of the media that seemingly predicted the rise of reality shows. Jane Fonda gives a dynamic performance, as does Red Buttons in a heartbreaking supporting role.
  • The Great Silence
    Another notable Sergio Corbucci western, this film is often considered to be one of the best spaghetti westerns to come out of the genre. The film’s central plot focuses on a mute gunslinger squaring off against a group of bounty hunters led by Klaus Kinski in a terrific villainous performance. Once again, Ennio Morricone provides an excellent score.
  • Batman: The Movie
    A lot of people grew up with the campy Batman TV show, but some may have missed the film that was released between the first and second seasons. Just as goofy and fun as the show, the movie featured all the heavy-hitting villains – The Joker, The Penguin, Catwoman, and The Riddler – alongside the dynamic duo themselves played to perfection by Adam West and Burt Ward. Holy blast from the past, Batman!
  • Fahrenheit 451
    This adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic novel does justice to its source material thanks to the efforts of François Truffaut. Set in the future, the film follows “fireman” Guy Montag, a man whose profession dictates he burn books to keep them out of the public’s hands. If you’ve ever read the classic dystopian novel it’s based on, be sure to give this film version a look!
  • Planet of the Vampires
    Don’t let the hokey, Saturday-afternoon-matinee title fool you – this is one sci-fi tale that has a little more going on than it seems. Filmed by celebrated Italian director Mario Bava, the production is heavy on moody and surreal visuals rarely seen in the creature features of its day. The aesthetics and story beats have also been noted as a major influence on science fiction classic Alien from Ridley Scott.
  • The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
    Based on the classic John le Carré book of the same name, this Cold War spy film features le Carré’s typical stripped-down, no-nonsense approach to espionage which lacks the bells, whistles, and exaggerations of the James Bond series. Richard Burton provides a strong central performance.
  • The Little Shop of Horrors
    Less well-known than the off-Broadway musical and subsequent film it spawned, this original by schlockmeister Roger Corman is by no means a great movie, but it’s one worth checking out to see the similarities and differences to its later adaptations. It also features a fun supporting role by a young Jack Nicholson.
  • Fail Safe
    Released the same year as classic black comedy Dr. Strangelove, this film also focuses on the perils of nuclear war but provides a much more serious take. Directed by celebrated filmmaker Sydney Lumet and starring a host of Hollywood stars, this is a tense thriller worth seeking out.
  • Eyes Without a Face
    This French horror film pushed the envelope in its day, laying the groundwork for later classics like Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, and The Shining. Focused on a mad scientist and his experiments, the film features a somber and moody atmosphere, and a memorable soundtrack.
  • Manos: The Hands of Fate
    Not a good film in the traditional sense – it’s often called the worst movie ever made – but one that’s so bad it’s good. Extremely hokey and poorly constructed, this film is virtually unwatchable on its own, but Mystery Science Theater 3000’s send-up of it is a must-see.
  • Yellow Submarine
    Another of the Beatles’ better film efforts, this animated musical presents a whimsical fantasy story accompanied by trippy visuals and the Fab Four’s stellar songs. Essentially a prolonged, immersive music video, it’s quite the experience!
  • A Shot in the Dark
    While most people remember Peter Sellers’ Pink Panther films, they may not recall the series’ origin. In the original Pink Panther, Sellers’ Clouseau is the considerably minor comic relief in an otherwise straight-forward caper movie. It wasn’t until 1964’s A Shot in the Dark that Clouseau headlined one of the films, making for arguably the series’ best effort with plenty of laughs to be found. Henry Mancini’s score is also a highlight.

Thanks for reading! We hope you’ve found a few selections from this collection of classics to add to your Netflix queue or your mental list during your next library visit. Be sure to follow our blog for more entries in this series, along with plenty of senior living insights.

And if you’d like to know more about our on-site movie theater, along with all of our other amenities and services, feel free to contact us!