Special Report

The Best Movies of the '60s, According to Data

The 1960s marked a turning point in cinema, as the motion picture industry began to move away from Hollywood studios and a “New Hollywood” took hold – one that was defined by independent producers and saw the emergence of a host of young directors, making movies for a new generation of disaffected youth. (They weren’t all hits, however. These are the worst movies of the 1960s.)

The youth influence embraced risky subject matter, cynicism toward traditional values, and a reverence for anti-heroes like Paul Newman’s Cool Hand Luke. The so-called “direct cinema” style of documentaries, pioneered by directors including D.A. Pennebaker, began to influence filmmakers of the era with its photojournalistic realism and commitment to objectivity.

Foreign films also began making a splash in the U.S., with European arthouse, spaghetti Westerns, and Japanese films becoming ever more popular in the states. While Old Hollywood was still churning out hits, their releases were declining. In 1963, only 121 features were released in the U.S. – the lowest number in 50 years – and 1964 saw more foreign films (361) than domestic films (141) released.

To identify the best movies of the 1960s, 24/7 Tempo developed an index using average ratings on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, and a combination of audience scores and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, considering the 1,123 films released during the 1960s out of more than 22,000 movies obtained from these databases. All ratings and scores are as of February 2022 and were weighted equally. Only movies with more than 5,000 votes were considered.

Click here to see the best movies of the ‘60s, according to data

Of the 25 best movies of the ‘60s, the vast majority are foreign films, with numerous films coming out of Japan, Italy, and France, as well as individual films hailing from Mexico, Czechoslovakia, and Sweden. The list includes classics by veteran directors like Billy Wilder and Alfred Hitchcock, as well as political satire from up-and-coming directors like Stanley Kubrick. Directors with repeat hits include Akira Kurosawa, Jean-Pierre Melville, and Sergio Leone – the king of spaghetti Westerns. (If you’re a fan of Leone’s biggest star, here are Clint Eastwood movies ranked worst to best.)

Source: Courtesy of Embassy Pictures

25. 8 ½ (1963)
> 24/7 score: 2.74
> Imdb user rating: 8 (115,788 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes meter: 98%
> Directed by: Federico Fellini
> Starring: Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimée, Sandra Milo

Referred to as “a film with itself as its subject,” this autobiographical comedy by Italian surrealist filmmaker Federico Fellini follows a famous director suffering from a creative blockage as he attempts to direct an epic science fiction film – which happens to be a film called “8 ½.” Fellini’s use of self-reference, fantasy, and dream sequences does nothing to detract from the film’s intimate portrayal of a director’s personal and professional trials.

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Source: Courtesy of Docurama

24. Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back (1967)
> 24/7 score: 2.75
> Imdb user rating: 7.9 (9,270 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes meter: 100%
> Directed by: D.A. Pennebaker
> Starring: Bob Dylan, Albert Grossman, Bob Neuwirth, Joan Baez

Following Bob Dylan and his contemporaries on his 1965 tour of England, this uncensored portrait of the capricious young star set the stage for the modern rock documentary, catching a full range of behind-the-scenes encounters in cars, hotel rooms, and backstage. Dylan is seen as a quarrelsome and reluctant press subject even as he craves prestige for his artistry. Throughout the film, the moments of musical coalescence somehow make up for the cantankerous temperament of a 24-year old genius.

Source: Courtesy of United Artists

23. The Apartment (1960)
> 24/7 score: 2.75
> Imdb user rating: 8.3 (176,686 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes meter: 93%
> Directed by: Billy Wilder
> Starring: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston

When a lonely office worker allows his higher-ups to use his apartment for illicit affairs in order to secure a raise, he ends up falling for a woman who is secretly seeing his boss. Despite criticism for its depictions of adultery, this romantic comedy is widely regarded as one of the greatest romantic films ever made. Director Billy Wilder, a five-time Academy Award-winner, is remembered for pushing the boundaries of Hollywood censorship and broadening the range of what was deemed acceptable to portray on film.

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

22. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
> 24/7 score: 2.75
> Imdb user rating: 8.3 (285,781 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes meter: 94%
> Directed by: David Lean
> Starring: Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins

This epic film with a running time of 227 minutes rejects melodrama and standard tropes, instead relying on stunning visuals, an award-winning musical score, and a visionary cinematic style that would influence a host of future directors, including Steven Spielberg. The historical drama is based on the experiences of British Colonel T.E. Lawrence who served as an advisor to Bedouin forces in their revolt against the Ottomans during WWI. It won seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director

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Source: Courtesy of United Artists

21. The Great Escape (1963)
> 24/7 score: 2.75
> Imdb user rating: 8.2 (239,122 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes meter: 94%
> Directed by: John Sturges
> Starring: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson

Based on a book of the same name, this wartime adventure film is a fictionalized rendition of fighter pilot Paul Brickhill’s first-hand account of a mass escape of prisoners from a supposedly escape-proof Nazi POW camp in 1944. Lead Steve McQueen won best actor at the Moscow International Film Festival and went down in history for performing an epic motorcycle chase scene (with the final jump over a six-foot barbed wire fence performed by stuntman Bud Etkins.)

Source: Courtesy of Toho Company

20. When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960)
> 24/7 score: 2.76
> Imdb user rating: 8 (4,211 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes meter: 100%
> Directed by: Mikio Naruse
> Starring: Hideko Takamine, Tatsuya Nakadai, Masayuki Mori, Reiko Dan

A resourceful 30-year-old widow in the bar district of Ginza is hesitant to remarry, which would dishonor her late husband, and decides to open her own bar instead. But at every step, she is set back by social obligations and constraints. This portrait of a woman struggling to sustain herself in a male-dominated world is considered the magnum opus of director Mikio Naruse, who is remembered for skillfully addressing the social injustices that women face in modern Japanese society.

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Source: Courtesy of Janus Films

19. Through a Glass Darkly (1961)
> 24/7 score: 2.76
> Imdb user rating: 8 (24,778 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes meter: 100%
> Directed by: Ingmar Bergman
> Starring: Harriet Andersson, Gunnar Björnstrand, Max von Sydow, Lars Passgård

Known for his dark but empathic explorations of personal struggles amid fractured families, Swedish director Ingmar Bergman portrays the deteriorating psyche of a young woman who hallucinates that she’s being visited by God after a schizophrenic episode that landed her in a mental institution. Her father, meanwhile, attempts to use her as a muse while her neglected teenage brother struggles with a lack of guidance and sexual outlet in his life. The feature won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Source: Courtesy of Cowboy Pictures

18. The Bad Sleep Well (1960)
> 24/7 score: 2.76
> Imdb user rating: 8 (12,392 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes meter: 100%
> Directed by: Akira Kurosawa
> Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Masayuki Mori, Kyôko Kagawa, Tatsuya Mihashi

One of four noir films by Akira Kurosawa, this crime mystery is a critique of corruption that takes the form of a loose adaptation of “Hamlet.” It follows a young man out for revenge, who climbs the corporate ladder in order to get close to the powerful men responsible for his father’s death. It has been called the least appreciated of Kirosawa’s many works starring Toshirô Mifune, but maintains a critic score of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Source: Courtesy of Rialto Pictures

17. Army of Shadows (1969)
>24/7 score: 2.76
> Imdb user rating: 8.1 (23,030 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes meter: 97%
> Directed by: Jean-Pierre Melville
> Starring: Lino Ventura, Paul Meurisse, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Simone Signoret

Although this film about French Resistance fighters during WWII was neither widely seen nor well-received upon its initial release, it was restored and re-released in 2006 to critical acclaim. It captures the atmosphere of paranoia and tension surrounding the betrayal of a Resistance leader, his escape from a Nazi prison camp, and his tireless fight against fascism, painting an unglamorous picture of what it means to resist.

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Source: Courtesy of Shore International

16. Ivan’s Childhood (1962)
> 24/7 score: 2.77
> Imdb user rating: 8 (35,438 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes meter: 100%
> Directed by: Andrei Tarkovsky, Eduard Abalov
> Starring: Nikolay Burlyaev, Valentin Zubkov, Evgeniy Zharikov, Stepan Krylov

A film that explores that tragedy and human cost of war, “Ivan’s Childhood” recounts the journey of a young Russian orphan as he joins a group of partisans and then the army to avenge the death of his family at the hands of the Germans, losing his innocence in his attempt to make sense of what is ultimately senseless. This poetic film is striking in its refusal to glorify war, capturing the stark contrast between Ivan’s idyllic childhood memories and his sacrificed adolescence.

Source: Courtesy of Janus Films

15. Yôjinbô (1961)
> 24/7 score: 2.77
> Imdb user rating: 8.2 (119,934 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes meter: 95%
> Directed by: Akira Kurosawa
> Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Eijirô Tôno, Tatsuya Nakadai, Yôko Tsukasa

When a wandering samurai passes through a rural town that is being plagued by two warring criminal gangs, he attempts to play each side off of the other in order to rid the town of their presence. The film incorporates elements of satire and comedy along with violent action sequences and multiple plot twists. It has inspired numerous adaptations including the spaghetti Western film “A Fistful of Dollars.”

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Source: Courtesy of Artists International

14. Le Samouraï (1967)
> 24/7 score: 2.78
> Imdb user rating: 8 (49,965 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes meter: 100%
> Directed by: Jean-Pierre Melville
> Starring: Alain Delon, François Périer, Nathalie Delon, Cathy Rosier

This neo-noir crime thriller follows an austere and methodical Paris hitman whose career and life are suddenly jeopardized when witnesses see him leaving the scene of one of his hits. As he attempts to cover his tracks, he finds himself deeper and deeper in a hole he cannot escape. With minimal dialogue and a brilliant play of light, shadow, and color, this highly stylized film builds suspense with a minimalistic approach to action.

Source: Courtesy of East West Classics

13. High and Low (1963)
> 24/7 score: 2.79
> Imdb user rating: 8.4 (41,973 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes meter: 95%
> Directed by: Akira Kurosawa
> Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Yutaka Sada, Tatsuya Nakadai, Kyôko Kagawa

The class divide in post-war Japan is on full display in this noir crime thriller. The film portrays a wealthy businessman who faces an impossible decision when kidnappers who are attempting to abduct his son for ransom accidentally take the son of his chauffeur. His morality comes into question as he struggles to choose between losing his fortune to ransom the child, and maintaining the tenuous grip he has on his company.

Source: Courtesy of Toho Company

12. Sanjuro (1962)
> 24/7 score: 2.79
> Imdb user rating: 8 (37,445 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes meter: 100%
> Directed by: Akira Kurosawa
> Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Keiju Kobayashi, Yûzô Kayama

A companion piece to Yôjinbô (1961), this black-and-white period drama follows the clever but unprincipled wandering samurai Sanjuro as he helps a group of young warriors fight corruption and rescue a kidnapped official and his family. This largely comedic action film strays refreshingly from the darkness and brutality of its predecessor, while still providing the sword fights and mayhem necessary for an exemplary samurai film.

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Source: Courtesy of Allied Artists Pictures

11. The Battle of Algiers (1966)
> 24/7 score: 2.79
> Imdb user rating: 8.1 (58,522 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes meter: 99%
> Directed by: Gillo Pontecorvo
> Starring: Brahim Hadjadj, Jean Martin, Yacef Saadi, Samia Kerbash

This Italian neorealist film about the Algerian War of Independence from France was shot on location, utilizing mostly non-professional actors who had lived through the war, and was edited to reflect documentary-like realism. It highlights both the extreme tactics of the guerilla fighters and the illegal methods undertaken by the French to quell the revolution, showing the cruelty that war brings out in all who participate.

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

10. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
> 24/7 score: 2.80
> Imdb user rating: 8.5 (321,111 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes meter: 95%
> Directed by: Sergio Leone
> Starring: Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards

From the King of spaghetti Westerns, Sergio Leone, comes an epic tale of revenge, mistaken identity, and land conflict set in the unforgiving and rugged town of Flagstone. When a railroad baron sends his thug to scare off the man who owns the only water source in the valley, the thug instead kills the land owner and his children while attempting to blame the crime on a local bandit. The nearly three-hour movie flopped at the box office after executives cut key scenes, but the original cut has been restored and is available to watch at its full length.

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Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros./Seven Arts

9. Cool Hand Luke (1967)
> 24/7 score: 2.80
> Imdb user rating: 8.1 (173,379 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes meter: 100%
> Directed by: Stuart Rosenberg
> Starring: Paul Newman, George Kennedy, Strother Martin, J.D. Cannon

This prison drama stars Paul Newman as an inmate and rebel without a cause who repeatedly puts his life in danger by refusing to submit to authority. Although his audacity inspires the other inmates, his lack of creed or conviction ultimately leads him down a dead-end road. The anti-establishment tone of the film was reflective of the budding counter culture movement of the late ’60s, and Newman’s character Lucas Jackson remains one of the greatest movie heroes of all time.

Source: Courtesy of International Film Exchange

8. The Shop on Main Street (1965)
> 24/7 score: 2.80
> Imdb user rating: 8.2 (8,676 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes meter: 100%
> Directed by: Ján Kadár, Elmar Klos
> Starring: Ida Kaminska, Jozef Kroner, Frantisek Zvarík, Hana Slivková

This Czechoslovakian film, set in Nazi-occupied Slovakia during WWII, recounts the fascist regime’s Aryanization program that pit neighbor against neighbor. It follows a quiet carpenter who is appointed as the Aryan controller of an elderly Jewish woman’s haberdashery, and the moral struggles he faces as the two become friends. Meanwhile, the authorities begin rounding up Jewish citizens for forced relocation.

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

7. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
> 24/7 score: 2.81
> Imdb user rating: 8.4 (476,714 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes meter: 98%
> Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
> Starring: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn

This black comedy by Stanley Kubrick is a satire on the Cold War that portrays the catastrophic dangers of letting the wrong person come into a position of power. It follows the frantic efforts of a slew of politicians and military officers who attempt to prevent nuclear war by calling off an imminent bombing that was ordered by a psychopathic general. It is widely considered one of the greatest – and funniest – films ever made.

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Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

6. Psycho (1960)
> 24/7 score: 2.81
> Imdb user rating: 8.5 (647,654 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes meter: 96%
> Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
> Starring: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin

A quintessential horror film whose shower scene is one of the most infamous moments in cinematic history, “Psycho” depicts the unfortunate fate of a woman on the run with stolen cash as she stops at a small motel and meets its polite but eerie proprietor. Although it was shot in black-and-white with a small budget and received initial mixed reviews, “Psycho” has become one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most popular films.

Source: Courtesy of Azteca Films Inc.

5. Macario (1960)
> 24/7 score: 2.82
> Imdb user rating: 8.3 (3,322 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes meter: 100%
> Directed by: Roberto Gavaldón
> Starring: Ignacio López Tarso, Pina Pellicer, Enrique Lucero, Mario Alberto Rodríguez

This Mexican supernatural film by master of noir Roberto Galvadón is based on a fable as recounted by novelist B. Traven. It portrays the fate of a poor, hungry man who unwittingly makes a deal with Death on the Day of the Dead so that he might improve his family’s fortune. Death gives the man a bottle of water that will heal any illness, and the man’s luck changes…for a time.

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Source: Courtesy of Toho Company

4. Woman in the Dunes (1964)
> 24/7 score: 2.83
> Imdb user rating: 8.5 (19,402 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes meter: 100%
> Directed by: Hiroshi Teshigahara
> Starring: Eiji Okada, Kyôko Kishida, Hiroko Itô, Kôji Mitsui

When an entomologist misses his bus back to town after searching for insects among desolate sand dunes, some locals insist that he stay at the house of a widow for the evening, deep at the bottom of a sand pit. The next day, he realizes he’s been duped by the townsfolk who have enslaved the widow and have now enslaved him. With no way to climb out of the sand pit, he plots his escape, even as he begins to fall for his fellow captive.

Source: Courtesy of Cinema 5 Distributing

3. The Sorrow and the Pity (1969)
> 24/7 score: 2.83
> Imdb user rating: 8.2 (3,806 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes meter: 100%
> Directed by: Marcel Ophüls
> Starring: Helmut Tausend, Marcel Verdier, Alexis Grave, Louis Grave

This documentary explores the reactions of the French populace to the Vichy French government’s acceptance of Nazi occupation and fascism during WWII. Extended interviews with resistance fighters, French collaborators, and German officers reveal the numerous reasons for the collaboration, including xenophobia and antisemitism. The film highlights the role of ordinary people’s morals in times of societal upheaval.

Source: Courtesy of United Artists

2. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
> 24/7 score: 2.88
> Imdb user rating: 8.8 (736,575 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes meter: 97%
> Directed by: Sergio Leone
> Starring: Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef, Aldo Giuffrè

A quintessential spaghetti Western, this masterpiece by Sergio Leone follows an unlikely pair of gunslingers searching for a cache of Confederate gold, and a homicidal mercenary who wants the gold for himself. Double crosses, mistrust, and plenty of gun fights punctuate the film, while a musical score by Ennio Morricone effectively incorporates gunshots, yodeling and howling coyotes.

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Source: Courtesy of Shochiku Films of America

1. Hara-Kiri (1962)
> 24/7 score: 2.88
> Imdb user rating: 8.6 (52,747 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes meter: 100%
> Directed by: Masaki Kobayashi
> Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Ishihama, Shima Iwashita, Tetsurô Tanba

This period drama takes place during the early Edo Period of the 17th Century and recounts the tales of two samurai, one who apparently threatens to commit seppuku (harakiri) in order to gain pity and alms – only to be forced to follow through, and humiliated in the process – and one who appears to be earnest in his desire to end his life. But before he goes through with his ritual, he tells a tale that sheds light on the motivations of his humiliated comrade. A commentary on power and authority, “Hara-Kiri” is considered one of the greatest samurai films of all time.

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