Essential Movies – 1960

Psycho': The horror movie that changed the genre | EW.com

Greetings, glancers! As promised/threatened in my spectacular viewer categorization post (remember that???), I wanted to have a look at what truly classifies a movie as ‘essential’. My main point in the post linked above is that ‘essential’ is subjective to the viewer, but if we can roughly classify viewers then we can perhaps distinguish between what is essential for each viewer type, and what is not. Now, this is not scholarly in the slightest, nor is it researched in any way aside from in my own head between 1 and 2 am when I can’t sleep. Take it with as many pinches of salt as you like, and perhaps some vinegar.

I’m going to do a thing – this thing; I’m going to look back at my Oscars posts and take the major nominated and award winning movies, and also check out a few lists of the Best Movies of that particular year, and I’m going to break them down into what is ‘essential’ for each viewer type. In other words, this is a pointless thing, like licking the underside of a table, throwing a Guava at a cat, Brexit, or indeed, watching movies. All those things happen, regardless of how pointless they are so I’ll be damned if I’m going to let something like necessity get in my way.

We should get one thing out of the way – as per my other post – The Critic should view all films as necessary, as should The Wannabe. If you are a Critic, or if you want to be a Critic, then every movie is essential. Sure some movies are more essential but rather than muddy the waters we’ll just skip The Critic and assume that they should aim to watch every movie ever made and we’ll let The Wannabe cover those italic areas. That leaves us with The Film Nerd, The Fan, The Casual, The Careless, and The Twat. The Twat doesn’t really count either because they are barely human.

For the list of films, I’ll use my own Oscars posts which cover both the Official Winners and Nominees and my own personal picks, and I’ll also use filmsite.org for anything not covered in my posts. Finally, it won’t be as important in these early years, but as time goes on it will be – I’ll also use Wikipedia and IMDB to cover the biggest grossing films of each year so that we don’t just get critic’s choices filling the list. Lets do this!

The Alamo

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

It was both directed by and starred John Wayne, one of the biggest stars in Hollywood history, it won a (minor) Oscar and was nominated for several more, it won a Golden Globe for Best Score, it has a large and varied cast of important actors of the time, and is probably the most famous movie based on the significant historical event.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

John Wayne was a huge star, but it isn’t one of his most fondly remembered or best films. In the rest of the cast there aren’t any or many names which The Fan, The Casual, or The Careless will recognise – Frankie Avalon, maybe? Richard Widmark, Laurence Harvey, possibly? For a film now 57 years old (at time of writing), it isn’t one which comes up in typical discussions of the best movies of the year or the decade.

What I Think:

Not essential for any of our groups, though John Wayne fans and Wannabes will likely get to it eventually. A Wannabe critic may gloss over certain films from certain eras or genres, and this one doesn’t have enough significance to pull in such viewers with any urgency – same goes for The Film Nerd.

The Apartment

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Directed by Billy Wilder and starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley Maclaine, and Fred MacMurray. It was nominated for ten Oscars and won five – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Film Editing, and Art Direction. It was one of the Top Ten Grossing films of the year and critical praise remains high.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Billy Wilder was once a household name, but not any more outside of Film Nerds, Critics, and Wannabes. It’s a black and white comedy featuring moral ambiguities which likely don’t exist anymore, so much of the humour and satire will not work for a modern, casual audience.

What I Think:

Every Wannabe critic should see every Billy Wilder movie, and The Apartment is one of his most successful. As an important and influential comedy, The Film Nerd should consider it essential. The Fan will only see it as essential if they are a Wilder or Lemmon fan, though it is still recommended for general movie fans. The Casual And The Careless will not seek out this movie and it is unlikely they will have heard of it; if they stumble upon it while channel hopping, it is unlikely that it will grab their attention.

L’Avventura

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Directed by Antonioni. That’s pretty much it.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

It’s old, it’s foreign, it’s weird.

What I Think:

Essential for Antonioni fans, but not his finest work. Wannabe critics should consider it essential but given the film’s age and lack of enduring cultural significance it seems unlikely that many will get to it. Not essential for Film Nerds or any other group.

The Bad Sleep Well

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Kurosawa. Mifune.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Old. Foreign.

What I Think:

Not one of Kurosawa’s most famous films, but it’s still Kurosawa and Mifune, and therefore is essential for Wannabe Critics and Film Nerds. Not essential for anyone else, unless you’re a fan of Kurosawa.

Black Sunday

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Mario Bava. One of the first gore films, influential on many horror films and directors which followed, and generally considered among the finest horror movies ever.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Foreign. Old. Weird. Dated effects, dodgy acting, and dubbing.

What I Think: Essential for horror fans. Out of all Mario Bava films this is the one most Wannabe Critics should see and Film Nerds should try it out. Other viewers do not need to see this.

Breathless

Why It Could Be Considered Essential: Jean Luc Godard writes and directs. One of the first and best movies of the French New Wave movement which inspired and influenced later generations of Hollywood directors. Frequently considered one of the Best Foreign movies of all time and usually appears on Critical lists of the best films ever made.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Foreign. Old. Weird. The regular American or British person will not know who Jean Luc Godard is, nor will they care about the French New Wave.

What I Think:

Essential for Wannabe Critics – you can’t be a critic without seeing this and understanding its significance. Essential for New Wave or Godard fans. Film Nerds should see it and should consider it essential. Not essential for anyone else.

Butterfield 8

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Starring Elizabeth Taylor who won an Oscar for her performance. Controversial. One of the highest grossing movies of the year.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

No-one remembers it or talks about it now, so much of its importance has waned over time. Taylor herself didn’t rate the film.

What I Think: Not essential for Film Nerds and therefore not essential for the other categories, but a must see for Liz Taylor fans. Not important enough that Wannabe Critics will have it at the top of their to do lists.

Elmer Gantry

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Stars Burt Lancaster who won an Oscar, it won two more Oscars, and was nominated for several others including Best Picture. A prescient film about truth and lies.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Most modern viewers will not care about Burt Lancaster, or a film about selling religion to small town America. It didn’t make a lot of money and isn’t a film you see referenced elsewhere or talked about in general.

What I Think:

Essential for Lancaster fans, Film Nerds and Wannabe Critics may get to it eventually, but there is a long list of films ahead of it.

Exodus

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Directed by Otto Preminger, won an Oscar for Best Score, nominated for two others, and stars Paul Newman. 3rd Grossing film of the year.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Most people today will still be aware of Paul Newman, but outside of fans he won’t be a draw. Otto Preminger was once prolific and taboo-breaking but won’t be a familiar name to most.

What I Think:

One for Newman, Preminger, or fans of the other cast members. A significant political film but better to stick with the book, but hardly essential. Wannabe critics should see it at some point, but Film Nerds won’t need to seek this one.

From The Terrace

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward work together. Top 10 Grossing film.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Think of Paul Newman films and you don’t think of this. Have you heard of it? No, you haven’t.

What I Think:

Not essential for anyone.

Inherit The Wind

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Spencer Tracey, Stanley Kramer, Gene Kelly, nominated for four Oscars. Relatively important subject matter covering free speech, McCarthyism, science, religion, fact, and faith.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

No stars that modern audiences will be aware of and a subject matter that may appear to be dated no matter how relevant it is in today’s climate.

What I Think:

Wannabe Critics should get to this one at some point, as should Tracey and Kramer fans as one of their best films. Film Nerds should get to it too, but like others here it is not as vital as a bunch of movies.

Jigoku

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Groundbreaking visuals and one of the most famous and important Japanese horror movies ever.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Modern Western viewers have enough trouble watching foreign movies, they aren’t going to be interested in one over fifty years old.

What I Think:

Essential for fans of Japanese Horror, Wannabe Critics, and Film Nerds. Not quite essential for fans of horror of Japanese Cinema in general. No one else will care.

Late Autumn

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Ozu. One of few films with 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Old. Slow. Foreign.

What I Think:

Wannabe Critics and Film Nerds should see at least one Ozu film – this isn’t one of his most famous, but is as well received as any. No-one else will care.

La Dolce Vita

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

One of the most famous and influential foreign movies ever, always listed as one of Best Films Ever. Directed by Fellini, won an Oscar for Best Costume Design, noted has having iconic styles and imagery.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Same as always – old and foreign, and people most modern audiences won’t be aware of.

What I Think:

A film you feel everyone should see, but in the grand scheme of things it’s a hard sell. There is something here for everyone and it is absolutely essential for Film Nerds and Wannabe Critics. I’d like to say most in The Fan category should see this but it’s unlikely that Casuals or The Careless will ever be interested.

The Magnificent Seven

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Steve McQueen. Yul Brynner. Charles Bronson. James Coburn. Eli Wallach. One of the best remakes of all time. Had several sequels, TV series, and its own remake. Iconic score.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Too lightweight and fun to be considered among the greats? I don’t know.

What I Think:

Essential for Wannabe Critics, Film Nerds, Fans. If a casual was planted in front of this, they would love it, and chances are most in The Careless category would too. One of the best Westerns ever and simply one of the most fun films of all time, packed with action, one-liners, an iconic cast and a terrific score – no reason not to see this.

Night And Fog In Japan

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Directed by Nagisa Oshima, who critics love.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

You know the drill, slow, old, foreign. Oshima is not as highly regarded as Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, Ozu.

What I Think:

Wannabe Critics should get to it, Film Nerds will probably pick some of his other films ahead of this. Not essential for anyone else, unless you’re a fan.

Ocean’s 11

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Sinatra. Sammy Davis Jr. Dean Martin. One of the original heist movies. Led to a remake which also had several sequels. Top 10 grossing film.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

It’s not very good. It was been overshadowed by the sequel.

What I Think:

I’d consider the remake the more essential choice as it is more likely to be seen by The Fan, The Casual, and the Careless. Even for Film Nerds and Wannabe Critics it isn’t going to high on their watch list, but essential for fans of The Brat Pack.

Peeping Tom

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

A controversial and innovative, shocking and groundbreaking movie. Historically notable for effectively ending Michael Powell’s career in Britain. That Powell – of Powell and Pressburger fame who have several essential films and therefore others should be considered for viewing too. Now considered one of the best British movies and horror movies ever.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

It doesn’t have star power for modern viewers who will not be as shocked or impressed by the violence or techniques. Some weirdos don’t like horror.

What I Think:

Essential for Wannabe Critics, Film Nerds, and horror fans. Most in The Fan category should try to see it but given the choice will go for Psycho first.

Please Don’t Eat The Daises

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Doris Day. David Niven. Top 10 Grossing Film.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

You’ve never heard of it. Doris Day and David Niven likely won’t be a draw for anyone today, and the comedy, while not dated necessarily, is a little light and fluffy.

Psycho

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

One of the most famous and acclaimed horror movies ever by arguably the greatest and most famous movie director of them all. Inspired countless imitators, essentially created a sub-genre, and was followed by a series of sequels, a remake, and an acclaimed TV series. Contains some of the most famous music and moments ever seen, moments which have been repeated and lampooned endlessly in the decades since.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

It’s old and black and white and some people don’t like that sort of thing?

What I Think:

I think you know what I think. One of the most important horror movies ever and in my opinion this is the moment that modern Cinema began. Everyone needs to see it.

Spartacus

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Kubrick. Kirk Douglas. Olivier. I am Spartacus. Highest grossing movie of the year, won a load of Oscars.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

It is very long, and some people don’t like that.

What I Think:

Kubrick’s first major hit – Wannabe Critics and Film Nerds should view every Kubrick film as essential. Depending on age and a variety of other factors, The Careless should see this, Casuals likely won’t care, should be essential for most in The Fan category though other Kubrick films will place higher on their must see list.

Suns And Lovers

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Nominated for Best Picture, Director and more, won Best Cinematography, Jack Cardiff directs one of DH Lawrence’s most important novels.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Most modern viewers will not care about the cast, Jack Cardiff, or DH Lawrence. It’s a watered down version of the book too.

What I Think:

Not essential for anyone, though Wannabe Critics may get to it eventually.

The Sundowners

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Nominated for Best Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay. Fred Zinnermann, Robert Mitchum, Deborah Kerr, Peter Ustinov.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

It didn’t win any of the Oscars and none of the people above will matter to anyone outside of Wannabe Critics and Nerds.

What I Think:

Not important enough to be considered essential for anyone, but Mitchum fans will see it.

Swiss Family Robinson

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Top five grossing film that year, probably the best version of the story.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Dated, and no-one today will care about any of the cast.

What I Think:

A good, family oriented adventure film that you may want your kids to watch, but not essential for any particular group.

Village Of The Damned

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

The best adaptation of Wyndham’s book and features several iconic moments which are referenced in later works.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Dated, no-one will care about the cast, horror fans watching for first time likely won’t have the scares and sensations generated at the time of release.

What I Think:

A classic chiller but hard to say it’s essential even for Film Nerds and Wannabe Critics. Horror fans should give it a go, and it’s a good introduction to horror and sci-fi for younger or newer horror fans.

The Virgin Spring

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

One of Bergman’s most famous and mainstream works and critics will say every Bergman film is essential.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Old, black and white, foreign.

What I Think:

If you’re going to pick any single Bergman film to watch, it should be this or The Seventh Seal. Essential for Bergman fans, Wannabe Critics, Film Nerds should see it, no-one will will give a toss.

The Young One

Why It Could Be Considered Essential:

Luis Bunuel. Critics love him. 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Why It May Not Be Considered Essential:

Luis Bunuel… who?

What I Think:

A lesser Bunuel work, but fairly conventional and simple – not avant-garde. Only possibility of this being essential will be for Bunuel fans and Wannabe Critics, but even then it’s touch and go.

Well, that was bubbling lump of garmonbozia. If you have any thoughts about any of the above or feel that any of my opinions have counter arguments then feel free to launch those in the comments. I’ll have an alternative post coming up shortly which takes a different approach to Essential Movies, and I’ll (try to) follow that through for the rest of the years from 1960 onwards!

Tell it like it is!

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