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.
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.)
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