Special Report

The Most Successful Movies of the 1960s

When the 1960s dawned, America was emerging from a recession and the film industry was still feeling the effects of a financial slump caused largely by the increasing popularity of television in the 1950s. In addition, the way movies were made was changing as the restrictive Hollywood studio system ended. Nonetheless, the decade saw the release of a number of now-classic films, many of which were box office hits. (These were the best movies of the ‘60s, according to data.)

To identify the most successful movies of the 1960s, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on inflation-adjusted domestic box office gross (including the U.S. and Canada) on The Numbers, an online movie database owned by Nash Information Services. We considered the 833 movies with available data released between 1960 and 1969.

A new generation of actors and actresses – including international stars – began populating American screens in the ‘60s, and filmmakers tackled more controversial subject matter and took advantage of wide-screen technology such as CinemaScope to better compete with television. 

The latter factor had a major impact on movies, as evidenced by our list. Eight epics were among the most successful movies of the 1960s, virtually all of them with war or historical themes. One film – “ 2001: A Space Odyssey” – might be considered as the first space epic. 

The 1960s was also a golden era for musicals, such as “Funny Girl,” “My Fair Lady,” “West Side Story,” and “Sound of Music.” Family fare produced by Walt Disney, animated and otherwise, gave audiences “101 Dalmatians,” “Swiss Family Robinson,” “Jungle Book,” and “Mary Poppins.” (These are the most profitable kids’ movies of all time.)

Filmmakers such as Stanley Kramer made movies that challenged society’s conventions, like “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” and films such as “Bonnie & Clyde” and “The Graduate” empathized with the anti-hero.

Click here to see the most successful movies of the 1960s

Speaking of that film archetype, Paul Newman and Robert Redford played two of them in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” a Western that depicted the closing of the frontier. Another Western on the list, “How the West Was Won,” boasted an all-star cast that told viewers how the American frontier was opened.

All-star casts were the order of the day in many films in the 1960s, from the zany comedy “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” to war epics such as “The Longest Day.”

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

25. Spartacus (1960)
> Inflation-adjusted domestic box office: $383.7 million
> Starring: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton
> Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
> Run-time: 197 minutes

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Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

24. The Guns of Navarone (1961)
> Inflation-adjusted domestic box office: $384.1 million
> Starring: David Niven, Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, Anthony Quayle
> Directed by: J. Lee Thompson
> Run-time: 158 minutes

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros./Seven Arts

23. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
> Inflation-adjusted domestic box office: $387.4 million
> Starring: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Michael J. Pollard, Gene Hackman
> Directed by: Arthur Penn
> Run-time: 111 minutes

Source: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

22. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
> Inflation-adjusted domestic box office: $400.7 million
> Starring: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Daniel Richter
> Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
> Run-time: 141 minutes

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Source: Courtesy of Lopert Pictures Corporation

21. Tom Jones (1963)
> Inflation-adjusted domestic box office: $405.6 million
> Starring: Albert Finney, Susannah York, George Devine, Rachel Kempson
> Directed by: Tony Richardson
> Run-time: 128 minutes

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

20. Funny Girl (1968)
> Inflation-adjusted domestic box office: $409.8 million
> Starring: Barbra Streisand, Omar Sharif, Kay Medford, Anne Francis
> Directed by: William Wyler
> Run-time: 151 minutes

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Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

19. Psycho (1960)
> Inflation-adjusted domestic box office: $425.3 million
> Starring: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin
> Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
> Run-time: 109 minutes

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

18. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
> Inflation-adjusted domestic box office: $433.3 million
> Starring: Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn, Katharine Houghton
> Directed by: Stanley Kramer
> Run-time: 108 minutes

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

17. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
> Inflation-adjusted domestic box office: $444.4 million
> Starring: Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins
> Directed by: David Lean
> Run-time: 210 minutes

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Source: Courtesy of United Artists

16. It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)
> Inflation-adjusted domestic box office: $499.5 million
> Starring: Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney
> Directed by: Stanley Kramer
> Run-time: 205 minutes

Source: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

15. How the West Was Won (1962)
> Inflation-adjusted domestic box office: $501.7 million
> Starring: James Stewart, John Wayne, Gregory Peck, Henry Fonda
> Directed by: John Ford, Henry Hathaway, George Marshall
> Run-time: 164 minutes

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Source: Courtesy of United Artists

14. Goldfinger (1964)
> Inflation-adjusted domestic box office: $503.9 million
> Starring: Sean Connery, Gert Fröbe, Honor Blackman, Shirley Eaton
> Directed by: Guy Hamilton
> Run-time: 110 minutes

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

13. The Longest Day (1962)
> Inflation-adjusted domestic box office: $512.2 million
> Starring: John Wayne, Robert Ryan, Richard Burton, Henry Fonda
> Directed by: Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki, Darryl F. Zanuck
> Run-time: 178 minutes

Source: Courtesy of Buena Vista Distribution Company

12. Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
> Inflation-adjusted domestic box office: $536.9 million
> Starring: John Mills, Dorothy McGuire, James MacArthur, Janet Munro
> Directed by: Ken Annakin
> Run-time: 126 minutes

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Source: Courtesy of United Artists

11. Thunderball (1965)
> Inflation-adjusted domestic box office: $577.4 million
> Starring: Sean Connery, Claudine Auger, Adolfo Celi, Luciana Paluzzi
> Directed by: Terence Young
> Run-time: 130 minutes

Source: Courtesy of United Artists

10. West Side Story (1961)
> Inflation-adjusted domestic box office: $580.8 million
> Starring: Natalie Wood, George Chakiris, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn
> Directed by: Jerome Robbins, Robert Wise
> Run-time: 152 minutes

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Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

9. Cleopatra (1963)
> Inflation-adjusted domestic box office: $614.9 million
> Starring: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison, Pamela Brown
> Directed by: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
> Run-time: 248 minutes

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

8. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
> Inflation-adjusted domestic box office: $660.7 million
> Starring: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross, Strother Martin
> Directed by: George Roy Hill
> Run-time: 112 minutes

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

7. My Fair Lady (1964)
> Inflation-adjusted domestic box office: $709.9 million
> Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Stanley Holloway, Wilfrid Hyde-White
> Directed by: George Cukor
> Run-time: 170 minutes

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Source: Courtesy of Embassy Pictures

6. The Graduate (1967)
> Inflation-adjusted domestic box office: $797.2 million
> Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross, William Daniels
> Directed by: Mike Nichols
> Run-time: 105 minutes

Source: Courtesy of Buena Vista Distribution Company

5. The Jungle Book (1967)
> Inflation-adjusted domestic box office: $858.9 million
> Starring: Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot, Louis Prima, Bruce Reitherman
> Directed by: Wolfgang Reitherman
> Run-time: 78 minutes

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Source: Courtesy of Buena Vista Distribution Company

4. Mary Poppins (1964)
> Inflation-adjusted domestic box office: $1.0 billion
> Starring: Julie Andrews, Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns
> Directed by: Robert Stevenson
> Run-time: 139 minutes

Source: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

3. Doctor Zhivago (1965)
> Inflation-adjusted domestic box office: $1.0 billion
> Starring: Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin, Rod Steiger
> Directed by: David Lean
> Run-time: 197 minutes

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

2. The Sound of Music (1965)
> Inflation-adjusted domestic box office: $1.5 billion
> Starring: Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Eleanor Parker, Richard Haydn
> Directed by: Robert Wise
> Run-time: 174 minutes

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Source: Courtesy of Buena Vista Distribution Company

1. One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
> Inflation-adjusted domestic box office: $1.5 billion
> Starring: Rod Taylor, Betty Lou Gerson, J. Pat O’Malley, Martha Wentworth
> Directed by: Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wolfgang Reitherman
> Run-time: 79 minutes

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