The 1960s proved a wonderful time for cinema. Many great innovations were made, and many classics were released to widespread acclaim. Acting and visual effects were getting better, and Hollywood hadn’t quite realized the concept of a “blockbuster,” so the decade was filled with more standalone, experimental works.
Critics and audiences don’t often get along, but sometimes they do. Sometimes Oscar winners are “boring” and dry movies that favor theme over an engaging story or adventure, and sometimes they are rich movies that anyone can watch and enjoy. According to IMDb, these are those movies.
10 Oliver! (1968) – 7.4
By 1968, the swingin’ ’60s were in full effect. Yet here was a very old fashioned movie. Based on Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist and the British musical Oliver!, this movie dominated the 41st Academy Awards, earning a show-high ten nominations and five wins.
The wins included Best Art Direction, Sound, Best Score of a Musical Picture, Director for Carol Reed, and Best Picture. It was also a huge success at the box office, taking in $77 million worldwide – about $570 million today. However, the 7.4 IMDb score signals a somewhat tepid, if still good, audience response.
9 West Side Story (1961) – 7.5
Often considered one of the best musicals of all time, West Side Story burst onto the scene on October 18, 1961. It was the highest-grossing movie of the year, making just under $20 million in the United States and Canada – about $175 million today. It is also the most awarded film of the 1960s, receiving ten wins at the 34th Academy Awards.
These include Best Film Editing, Costume Design, Cinematography, Art Direction, Sound, Scoring, Supporting Actress for Rita Moreno, Supporting Actor for George Chakiris, Director for Robert Wise & Jerome Robbins, and of course, Best Picture.
8 A Man For All Seasons (1966) – 7.7
Also based on a play, A Man for All Seasons is a biographical film concerning Sir Thomas More, the famous opponent of the Protestant Reformation and adversary of Henry VIII. His adversarial behavior eventually resulted in his execution in July of 1535.
The movie earned eight nominations at the 39th Academy Awards and won six – Best Costume Design, Cinematography, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Actor for Paul Scofield, Director for Fred Zinnemann, and Best Picture.
7 Mary Poppins (1964) – 7.8
Mary Poppins is one of the most legendary films ever made and one of the few movies from the ’60s to still have a firm hold in the pop-culture consciousness. The 7.8 IMDb user score is very respectable, and the movie earned $31 million in its original domestic run – over $250 million today.
It was also a huge success at the 37th Academy Awards, earning thirteen nominations and five wins. These included Best Special Visual Effects, Film Editing, Music Score, Song for Chim Chim Cher-ee, and Actress for Julie Andrews. Unfortunately, it was released the same year of…
6 My Fair Lady (1964) – 7.8
…George Cukor’s legendary My Fair Lady. This movie had the distinction of being the most expensive in history at $17 million – about $140 million today. Luckily, the investment paid off. My Fair Lady grossed $72 million in its original run ($600 million today) and dominated the 37th Academy Awards, winning a night-high eight.
These included Best Costume Design, Cinematography, Art Direction, Sound, Scoring of Music – Adaptation, Actor for Rex Harrison, Director for Cukor, and Best Picture. Funnily enough, it ties with 1964’s other masterpiece on IMDb, with both movies sitting at 7.8.
5 In The Heat Of The Night (1967) – 7.9
Starring Sidney Poitier as Virgil Tibbs, In the Heat of the Night concerns Tibbs investigating a murder in Mississippi. The movie was released in a turbulent time in American history and quickly followed the race riots that occurred in cities like Detroit, Newark, and Milwaukee.
Despite earning just seven nominations (behind Doctor Dolittle‘s nine and both Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and Bonnie and Clyde‘s ten), In the Heat of the Night was the night’s big winner, taking home five awards. It received Best Film Editing, Sound, Adapted Screenplay, Actor for Roger Steiger, and Best Picture.
4 Doctor Zhivago (1965) – 8.0
David Lean was one of the most commanding directors of the 1960s, and he continued his incredible and historic reign with Doctor Zhivago. The movie stars Omar Sharif as the titular Dr. Zhivago, a physician who lives through the Russian Revolution and resulting Civil War.
It could make for dry viewing, but not in the commanding hands of Lean. The movie earned ten nominations at the 38th Academy Awards and won five – Best Costume Design, Cinematography, Art Direction, Original Music Score, and Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium. Best Picture ended up going to…
3 The Sound Of Music (1965) – 8.0
…the legendary The Sound of Music. The sound of this movie’s music is still being heard to this day, as evident by its very strong 8.0 IMDb score. It was a huge success in 1965, holding the top spot for thirty weeks, and by November 1966, it was the highest-grossing movie of all time with $125 million in gross receipts – $1.03 billion today.
It also tied with Doctor Zhivago at the 38th Academy Awards, winning five – Best Film Editing, Sound, Scoring – Adaptation, Director for Robert Wise, and the aforementioned Best Picture.
2 The Apartment (1960) – 8.3
The Apartment was quite steamy and controversial in its day, as it involved characters conducting extramarital affairs in the titular Upper West Side apartment. While Psycho, released that same year, may have proved more popular and enduring, The Apartment was the big critical success.
It earned ten nominations at the 33rd Academy Awards and took home five – Best Film Editing, Art Direction (Black and White), Screenplay, Director for Billy Wilder, and Best Picture. It’s also a huge success with general audiences, scoring a very respectable 8.3 on IMDb.
1 Lawrence Of Arabia (1962) – 8.3
David Lean’s other masterpiece, Lawrence of Arabia is one of the most influential films ever made. A true epic in every sense of the word, Lawrence of Arabia was made for $15 million – roughly $130 million today.
The money was well worth it, and both the movie’s scope, sense of adventure, and glorious 70mm cinematography remain astounding to this day. The movie earned ten nominations at the 35th Academy Awards and won seven – Best Film Editing, Cinematography, Art Direction, Sound, Music Score, Director for Lean, and Best Picture.
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