Greetings, Glancers! Welcome back to my series of posts examining those movies intelligent people call Essential – and whether the rest of us should agree. Check out my explanation post for more info, and have a look at my 1961 Oscars posts if you have additional time to waste. Onwards!
A Raisin In The Sun
Why It May Be Considered Essential: One of the first films to feature a predominantly African American cast including Ruby Dee and Sidney Poitier. Preserved by the USA National Film Registry.
Why It May Not Be: Dated even though still topical, no-one remembers it, didn’t do huge business.
What I Think: Even Wannabe Critics and Film Nerds will likely miss out on this one, probably essential for Fans of the cast.
Breakfast At Tiffany’s
Why It May Be Considered Essential: Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Blake Edwards, one of the most iconic Romances of all time. Top 15 grossing movie that year. Won two Oscars, nominated for three others. Moon River. Preserved by NFR.
Why It May Not Be: It’s old?
What I Think: One of the most obviously all around Essential Movies of the 60s. You don’t get to be a Critic, Film Nerd, or Film Fan without seeing this. Casuals and Careless will know it and should see it.
Why It May Be Considered Essential: Nominated for five Oscars including Best Picture and Actor.
Why It May Not Be: It has an unfortunate name. Most people won’t care about the cast. It wasn’t successful. I don’t think anyone remembers it outside of devout stage fans.
What I Think: Essential only if you’re determined to see every film nominated for Best Picture. No-one else needs to seek this out, as enjoyable as it may be.
Judgement At Nuremberg
Why It May Be Considered Essential: Preserved by NFR. Top 15 Grossing film that year. The most famous film about one of the most important Court Cases ever. Stanley Kramer directs. Spencer Tracey, Burt Lancaster, Max Schell, Judy Garland, William Shatner, Marlene Dietrich appear among others – some of the biggest names in Hollywood History. Nominated for 11 Oscars with Schell winning Best Actor.
Why It May Not Be: It’s old and modern audiences may not know all of the historical nuances.
What I Think: Essential for Wannabe Critics and Film Nerds. Should be essential for Film Fans – a must see for Courtroom Drama fans or fans of the cast. No-one else will be interested in finding it.
Last Year At Marienbad
Why It May Be Considered Essential: Directed by Alain Resnais. Masterpiece of surrealism. Influenced David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, nominated for an Oscar two years after release.
Why It May Not Be: Surrealism is a tough self and this is ambiguous as films get. There are no easy answers and most people like a beginning, middle, and end with clear structure.
What I Think: Essential for Wannabe Critics. Film Nerds should give at least one Alan Resnais film a go, so why not this. Surrealist Fans should see it. No-one will care.
Why It May Be Considered Essential: Antonioni, Mastroinanni, Jeanne Moreau.
Why It May Not Be: Who?
What I Think: A dense Italian drama about a collapsing relationship – not going to be an easy sell to a modern audience. Wannabe Critics should see it, Film Nerds should try, if you’re not a fan of Antonioni or the cast you’re not going to chase it down.
Why It May Be Considered Essential: Jacques Demy. Anouk Aimee.
Why It May Not Be: Again, who?
What I Think: If you’re not a fan of Demy or Aimee, or a devotee of the French New Wave you won’t care.
Lover Come Back
Why It May Be Considered Essential: Nominated for an Oscar. Rock Hudson and Doris Day. Screwball comedy in an world of Executives.
Why It May Not Be: Old, dated, corny, not well remembered.
What I Think: Only essential if you like the two stars.
One Eyed Jacks
Why It May Be Considered Essential: Directed by and starring Marlon Brando.
Why It May Not Be: Other than the above, there isn’t much to recommend it to people.
What I Think: An interesting curio and essential for Brando fans. Wannabe Critics and Film Nerds should be aware of it and therefore should see it, but wouldn’t class it as essential for them.
One Hundred And One Dalmations
Why It May Be Considered Essential: It’s Disney. Cruella De Vil. Spawned a Live action sequel or two. Top 10 Grossing Film of the year.
Why It May Not Be: It was during a dark period for Disney where their films were not doing so well, critically or commercially and suffers from being a little dull. The songs aren’t great.
What I Think: Even though Disney films were not great during this time, this one proved they could still make a lot of money on a small budget. Aside from the wacky and dark story, it’s quite a plain story but as it is a Disney animated movie it should be considered Essential for almost everyone. The Casuals may have seen it when younger or if they have kids of their own, and same goes for The Careless – not as vital as some Disney movies, more important than others – so somewhere in the middle.
Splendor In The Grass
Why It May Be Considered Essential: Natalie Wood. Warren Beatty. Elia Kazan. Top ten grossing film of the year. Won one Oscar and nominated for another.
Why It May Not Be: Teen drama from an era long gone. Most modern audiences won’t care about the cast. Stupid name?
What I Think: A fine school-based drama with good performances and timeless arguments, but a setting and style and period which will not resonate as easily with modern viewers. Only essential for fans of the cast, not essential for Film Nerds and not high up the must see list for Wannabe Critics.
Why It May Be Considered Essential: One of the first films of its kind, a pseudo-documentary, but based mostly on the lives of young Native Americans who have left their reservations and moved to the big city.
Why It May Not Be: See above. No-one has ever seen it.
What I Think: I have no idea.
The Guns Of Navarone
Why It May Be Considered Essential: 2nd highest grossing movie of the year. Gregory Peck. David Niven. Anthony Quinn. Nominated for Best Picture, Director, Score, Writing, and others and won for Best Visual Effects.
Why It May Not Be: In the pantheon of great war action movies, this one has maybe been overshadowed by some others. Modern audiences looking for action aren’t likely to look so far in the past.
What I Think: One of the finest WWII era action movies and a perennial seasonal British favourite. Essential for Film Nerds more than Wannabe Critics, but both groups should see this. Essential for War fans, interesting enough that channel surfers may catch it and be drawn in by the cast and the action.
Why It May Be Considered Essential: Paul Newman. Piper Laurie. George C Scott. Nominated for Best Picture and 8 other Oscars, winning for Set Decoration and Cinematography.
Why It May Not Be: Old and Black and White?
What I Think: One of the best Sports movies ever with some iconic performances and characters. Essential for Wannabe Critics, Film Nerds, and fans of the cast. Fans of Pool and Snooker should consider it essential. Likely too distant now for Casuals or Careless to go looking for it.
Why It May Be Considered Essential: One of the finest ghost/haunted house movies ever, dense and gothic.
Why It May Not Be: Old, BW, not many obvious scares, and probably too stodgy and sterile for modern audiences.
What I Think: A classic in the British horror genre, but a slow-burner which only certain horror fans will appreciate. Essential for Wannabe Critics, less essential for Film Nerds and horror fans, not essential for anyone else.
The Ladies Man
Why It May Be Considered Essential: A Jerry Lewis comedy.
Why It May Not Be: Not many modern viewers will care about the above.
What I Think: Only essential for Lewis fans.
Why It May Be Considered Essential: Miller. Huston. Gable. Monroe. Arguably more famous for the Production issues than the end result. 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Why It May Not Be: Monroe may remain a household name, but how many modern viewers have actually seen one of her films? If they have, it’s not this one. A flop on release.
What I Think: Filmed as Miller and Monroe were separating and Huston was drinking heavily. Monroe was in rehab during production. Gable died days after filming finished, Monroe a year later. An interesting film to be aware of due to its troubled history, so Essential for Film Nerds and Wannabe Critics. Essential for fans of the cast due to strong performances. Not essential for anyone else.
Through A Glass Darkly
Why It May Be Considered Essential: Bergman. Won Best Foreign Film Oscar. Harriet Andersson. Max Von Sydow. 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Why It May Not Be: See above.
What I Think: Bergman, so again if you want to be a critic or call yourself a Film Nerd, you have to have seen a few Bergman films. This one is a good mixture of accessibility, art, and heavy themes. Essential for Bergman fans – no one else will give a damn.
Why It May Be Considered Essential: Bunuel. Won the Palme d’Or.
Why It May Not Be: See above.
What I Think: Same as Bergman – you need to see some Bunuel and this is as good a place to start as any. Again, no-one else will care.
West Side Story
Why It May Be Considered Essential: Best Picture winner, top grossing film of the year, won Oscars for Best Director, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, and six more. One of the most famous and popular musicals of all time.
Why It May Not Be: Musicals. They’re balls.
What I Think: Arguably the end of the traditional epic Hollywood musical – what more could be done after this? If you’re going to watch one, it may as well be this. Essential for Film Nerds, Wannabe Critics, and Fans – Casuals and Careless will be aware of it and may as well see it but depending on preferences may not seek this out.
Why It May Be Considered Essential: Kurosawa. Mifune. Swords. Basis of A Fistful of Dollars. One of the best Samurai movies ever. Influential.
Why It May Not Be: Old. BW. Foreign.
What I Think: Essential for Film Nerds, Wannabe Critics, and Kurosawa fans. Like Japanese movies? Then this is essential. Casuals and Careless will not care unless they happen to like old Samurai movies.
Let us know in the comments which movies of 1961 you feel are Essential viewing – feel free to borrow my categorizations or choose your own definitions!
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