Nightman’s Top Films Of The 1960s

I continue my summary of my favourite films by year and by decade with this, my favourite films of the 1960s.

10: Yojimbo (Japan 1961)

While Kurosawa and Hitchcock dominated my favourites of the 1950s, the two directors feature less here. This is another Kurosawa answer to a Western favourite, which would again be borrowed and remade in America. Toshiro Mifune is awesome (of course) as a Samurai who decides to pit the two warring sides of a small town against each other for his own gains. There are epic one liners, visuals, and the odd spot of action to keep even the most vocal foreign movie detractor happy.

9: The Jungle Book (Disney 1967)

People of my generation, growing up in the 80s and 90s, saw this on a yearly basis during childhood. I’m not sure why, but it always seemed to be there. It’s still one of the most satisfying and purely entertaining Disney movies – for us boys there was none of that romantic nonsense, just arsing about in the jungle with animals. Great songs, plenty of laughs, and many memorable characters make this one of the best Disney films ever.

8: The Birds (1963, USA)

Hitchcock’s final huge hit, and another departure for the director who spent most of the decade moving away from the sort of films he used to make. This is one of the few with a female protagonist/antagonist as we follow Tippi Hedren to Bodega Bay for the sake of some foreplay pranking. It isn’t long before things get weird, with minor bird attacks becoming widespread, massive, and terrifying. I love every performance here, and I love how almost nothing is explained, unlike most Hitchcock films. Sometimes birds just shit on you for no reason – other times they go for the throat.

7: Psycho (USA, 1960)

Hitchcock brought the horror film kicking and screaming into the modern world with Psycho. No longer was it ghosts or other worldly creatures to fear, but it was a friendly, helpful face – a neighbour, or someone you may have known your entire life. Decades ahead of its time from a technical and thematic standpoint, Psycho was not only a revelation upon release but remains shocking in today’s world of blank faces and faux reactions. If you’re reading this post then you’ve already seen the movie – it spawned a bunch of sequels and a pretty decent TV prequel series, and it has been parodied perhaps more than any other single horror film. Even with all of that, it can still be watched and enjoyed for its many merits.

6: Jason And The Argonauts (USA/UK, 1963)

Probably the only film on my list that purists will sneer at, and that’s fine – it’s a personal list. I’ve wrote about it before, but I’ve always loved myths and legends. Those are what probably got me into reading and writing, and from an early age I was obsessed with the adventures, the heroes, the quests, and monsters. When I wrote stories in school I would borrow plots, places, and character names from these stories. I studied Latin in school for seven years because of this. I did a year of Classical Studies at University because of this. I still say the perfect Greek Legend movie has yet to be made, but when I was young films such as Jason And The Argonauts were eye-opening – someone else clearly shared my obsession and wanted to see the stories put on film. This has it all for me – the adventure, the story about fulfilling one’s destiny and making a perilous journey, the disparate characters thrown together in vignettes – all those things which also made me first enjoy film as a form.

5: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly (Italy/Germany/Spain/US, 1966)

The pinnacle of the Western and it’s not even a ‘true Western’. When I was young I was not a fan of Western movies. If I wanted action I would turn to Arnie, and if I wanted nice shots of wide expanses I would look out my window. It was Spaghetti Westerns which changed my mind – they seemed more realistic, they had more violence, and things were less black and white. When you grow up in a war zone of sorts you either join a side or you get sick of the whole thing and realize that there are no sides – only death. The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly has sides, but it has layers and blurring boundaries. It also has one of the best scores ever, it also looks spectacular, and it has three of cinema’s best bad-asses being bad ass.

4: The Great Escape (USA, 1963)

I don’t really know how this is viewed in America, but in Britain watching this is a tradition. Everything about this film is perfect – score, cast, story. The first time I watched this, it was probably one of the oldest and longest films I had chosen to sit down and get through. It zipped by and each time I watch it, it never seems to get any older or slower. Again, if you’re here you know the story – a bunch of Allied Troops in a German POW camp decide to escape – that’s it. Again you have the assembly of characters introduced in near vignette style, each with their own particular skill or use, and the whole film builds up to (insert title here) where the troops make a break for freedom. It’s wonderful how it all builds, and how the last thirty minutes show the various groups and individuals outside the camp trying to evade capture. Probably my favourite War film ever.

3: The Magnificent Seven (USA, 1960)

I mentioned above how I never really liked Westerns when I was young. This is my favourite Western of all time, and really pulled me towards the genre. In many ways it’s one of the films which made me interested in ‘older’ movies. When I was younger – and I mean my early teens or before – I didn’t pay much attention to films which were made before I was born. There were exceptions of course, Star Wars, Jaws, The Bond Series, and Martial Arts movies. The Magnificent Seven was one of the first gateway films for me – a film made twenty three years before I was born that had more bad-ass moments and characters than a hundred other movies combined. Again as I’ve stated before, this film perfects the whole assorted group of characters introduced in vignette style, coming together for a shared purpose. That purpose is basically a suicide mission – protecting a group of poor and elderly farmers from a group of violent schemers led by the great Eli Wallach. What’s not to like? Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner, Charles Bronson, a terrific Bernstein score, laughs, action, one-liners, even a tacked on romantic sub-plot. It’s fantastic, and another one of those films which never fails to entertain and that you can enjoy from any point of its running time if you happen upon it while channel hopping.

2: You Only Live Twice (UK, 1967)

My favourite Connery Bond movie, by quite some distance, and one of my top five favourite Bond films, You Only Live Twice is a lot more fun than most of the early outings. It ticked a lot of boxes for me when I was young – Japan, Ninjas, secret bases, epic fights and stunts, dogfights, piranha death, and more. It’s maybe the first instance of showing Bond in a tragic light – he gets married and his wife is promptly killed, something which would become commonplace in the series, and even though it’s a sham wedding it reinforces the fact that this is a solo, solitary life of little more than constant sacrifice and danger. This has some of the best sets in the series and many of my favourite moments.

1: The Night Of The Living Dead (1968, USA)

What else can I say about the best horror movie of the decade, and one of the best ever? Would I like there to have been a bigger budget, perhaps bigger actors? I don’t think so – it’s perfect as it is, and just as chilling as it ever was. This is where it all began. A brother and sister are visiting a graveyard apparently situated some distance from the nearest large town. Within moments they are attacked randomly, with one seemingly being killed and the other escaping to a nearby farmhouse. From there, the horror truly begins as reports of the dead coming back to life and attacking the living emerge and a group of assorted survivors converge in the house and try to survive the night. Just like real life, opinions differ, tempers flare, and… well, if you haven’t seen it I’ll just let you experience it for yourself. This is horror, this is is film at its most relevant, potent, filmmaking at its most raw and honest, and an absolute must for anyone calling themselves a film fan.

Let us know in the comments what your favourite films of the 1960s are – do you have any hidden gems or do you stick to the mainstream? How many films are a product of Hollywood, or do you have any non-US entries?

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Best Original Score – 1973

Official Nominations: The Way We Were. Cinderella Liberty. The Day Of The Dolphin. Papillon. A Touch Of Class. The Sting. Jesus Christ Superstar. Tom Sawyer.

The Way We Were and The Sting were the respective winners this year, and it’s hard to argue against the choices. Marvin Halmlisch’s score was a huge success, mainly thanks to the title song which we all know – misty water coloured memories and all that. The rest of the soundtrack is fine, easy jazz and romantic string led compositions. John Williams is back again with Cinderella Liberty – a film no-one knows but which is perfectly fine. It’s not one of the great man’s greatest in that it lacks a major theme instead rambling through loose jazz albeit in an energetic style. The Day Of The Dolphin is one even fewer people know (about dolphin assassins) – it does have a lovely main theme and some extravagant horn pieces but much of the soundtrack is your standard mixture of watery harps and creepy strings. Jerry Goldsmith is back with Papillon, a French inspired score of evocative strings and accordions which convey yearning and fear. A Touch Of Class is another case of ‘it has a popular song so we’d better nominate the soundtrack’. It’s average and it doesn’t need to be here.

The Sting is The Sting. It’s one of the only film scores one of my music teachers in school would ever allow discussion of. Hamlisch got his second win of the night (in the same category no less) for it, adapting a bunch of Scott Joplin standards while adding his own bonuses. Not really my style, but it’s so damn catchy and fun you can’t really complain. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Andre Previn adapt Jesus Christ Superstar – a mammoth score fusing many styles – it’s pretty chaotic too but good stuff.

My Winner: Papillon.

My Nominations: Papillon. Jesus Christ Superstar. The Sting. The Exorcist. American Graffiti. Badlands. Don’t Look Now. Enter The Dragon. Live And Let Die. Robin Hood. Serpico. The Wicker Man.

If we’re good with having soundtracks that are purely adaptation or mostly filled with songs, then we have to have American Graffiti here. I mean I don’t really agree with simply selecting songs, especially here when it’s so easy to pick songs from an era to evoke a feeling for that era. Then again, the songs do fit and the songs are good, so I’m caught. I’m not going to pick it as a winner anyway, but it does feel right including it. If there’s one film from 1972 whose soundtrack is instantly recognizable, and impossible to separate from the film, it’s The Exorcist. The moment you hear those opening sinister notes of Tubular Bells, you know what it is and where it’s from, even if you haven’t seen the movie – it’s probably the second most famous horror movie them ever, after Jaws. I sometimes terrorize my kids by playing horror movie themes on car journeys, and even though they are decades away from watching the movie, they know there’s something terrifying about this one. One interesting thing about the soundtrack is much of it doesn’t even appear in the movie, but is still creepy as hell.

Sticking with iconic horror movie scores, another one I blast in my car is The Wicker Man – one which is a world away from the futuristic Eastern influences of The Exorcist. Celtic and other folk music is the star here, many loves songs and pieces which are just ‘off’ enough to be unsettling. Pino Donaggio was a singer and musician when Roeg approached him to score Don’t Look Now, even though he had no experience with movie soundtracks. It is peppered with tender piano pieces, string notes stretched and held to torturous lengths, and unnerving funeral rites organ sections. Moving away from Horror but keeping away from the US we find Enter The Dragon, probably the most famous martial arts soundtrack ever – ground zero for almost everything which has come since.

Over to the US and Badlands would influence a host of later soundtracks, most notably True Romance, while highlighting a mixture of carefree innocence and unknown threat. Serpico is a strange one, with the tracks ranging from cheesy US soap type themes to more classic 70s dramatic pieces. Disney wasn’t firing on all cylinders in the 70s, but Robin Hood stands out for being particularly anarchic and having plenty of whistle-along tunes while Live And Let Die has one of the best Bond songs and a great all round score – the first one not to feature John Barry. It’s a tough call and I would happy with at lest three or four of these to win.

My Winner: The Exorcist

Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 1969

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

10: Carry On Camping (UK)

9: The Damned (Italy/Germany)

8: They Shoot Horses Don’t They (USA)

7: Marlowe (USA)

6: Easy Rider (USA)

5: Midnight Cowboy (USA)

4: The Italian Job (UK)

3: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (UK)

2: Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (USA)

1: The Wild Bunch (USA)

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Four (Including the top grossing)

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: Two (Including the winner)

It’s All Gone

Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Okay. 3: Good. 4: Great

Another B-side from the There By The Grace of God release, this one continues in the light electronica vein. Opening with a whispering drum loop, a phat guitar riff joins in and throughout the song it returns here and there, replaced by subtle organ notes. It’s groovy, but it’s just a little boring – too much reverb on the vocals, too static and sleepy, and while the melodies are fine and the solo is okay, there isn’t a lot here to get me going.

Misheard Lyrics: Sleep the only thing to fill these holes/even if that Venus hasn’t told

Actual Lyrics: Sleep the only thing to fill these holes/even if that demon sells its soul

It’s All Gone: 2/Okay

Best Cinematography – 1973

Official Nominations: Cries And Whispers. The Exorcist. Jonathan Livingston Seagull. The Sting. The Way We Were.

The official winner this year was Sven Nykvist for Cries And Whispers – arguably a career award for his overall work with Bergman, though there is no doubting that the transition to colour use is stunning here. The Exorcist isn’t a film I typically think of when I think of award-winning cinematography, though once again there are a range of shots which encapsulate claustrophobia and heighten tension. Jonathan Livingston Seagull is not good, but again no getting away from how good it looks at times, while The Sting is at least notable for looking good, even if I attribute this more to the authenticity of costumes, sets, and music. Finally, The Way We Were seems like an unnecessary inclusion to drum up support for Streisand, Pollack, and Redford.

My Winner: Cries And Whispers

My Nominations: Cries And Whispers. The Exorcist. Enter The Dragon. Badlands. Don’t Look Now. High Plains Drifter. The Wicker Man.

Only two migrate to my list. Joining them is Bruce Lee’s biggest film Enter The Dragon, a film which still looks superb today with wonderful shots tracking the progress of the tournament from high above, interspersed with the close up work for the central fights. Malick’s debut Badlands is beautiful at regular intervals along with both Don’t Look Now and The Wicker Man which showcase optimal usage of location. Finally, another film whose power is derived in a great part from location is High Plains Drifter. I’d be happy with any of those last four films picking up the win.

My Winner: Badlands

Let us know in the comments which film of 1973 you think deserves the Best Cinematography award!

Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 1968

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

10: Barbarella (France/Italy)

9: Hell In The Pacific (USA)

8: If (UK)

7: The Producers (USA)

6: Planet Of The Apes (USA)

5: 2001 A Space Odyssey (UK/USA)

4: Bullitt (USA)

3: Rosemary’s Baby (USA)

2: Once Upon A Time In The West (Italy/USA/Spain)

1: Night Of The Living Dead (USA)

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Five (including the top grossing film)

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: Zero