I’m working on a post about action movies, and it’s not jelling.  Sometimes this happens, whaddya gonna do.  Needing something to clear out the writer’s block, I recalled at one point being asked about recommendations for old movies.  Well, of course I can oblige on that front.

We’ll start here.  That gets us back to 1971.  We’ll go back to 1961 in this post.  Ready?

1970: Colossus: The Forbin Project (imdb) (wikipedia).  So many good movies in 1970.  Patton.  MASH.  Five Easy Pieces.  A Man Called Horse.  Colossus hits two sweet spots for me: nerdy movies about ubercomputers, and disaster movies.  So it gets the nod.

1969: I’m taking the easy way out and picking True Grit (imdb) (wikipedia).  So many good runners up this year… Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Alice’s Restaurant.  Easy Rider.  The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (for the kids).  The original The Italian Job.  Once Upon a Time in the West.  Midnight Cowboy!  Support Your Local Sheriff!

1968: Criminey, just look at the top 10 films.  They’re all good.  I’m taking the easy way out again and picking 2001: A Space Odyssey (imdb) (wikipedia).  It’s flawed, but it’s 44 years old and it stands up.  That’s remarkable for an SF movie.  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which has my favorite musical number of any movie ever (Me Ol’ Bamboo).  Funny Girl.  Hang ’em High.  The Odd Couple.  Five Card Stud.  Bullitt.  Rosemary’s Baby, which I can’t recommend on good conscience any more because of Polanski.  The Shakiest Gun in the West, Don Knotts at his family friendly best.

1967: Wait Until Dark (imdb) (wikipedia).  I can’t say why without spoiling the movie.  If you’ve seen the movie, feel free to rot13 your guess in the comments.  Oh, another great year… Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, To Sir, With Love, The Dirty Dozen, The Graduate, Cool Hand Luke, Dr. Doolittle (another kid movie that is excellent), A Fistfull of Dollars, Hombre, In Like Flint, In The Heat of the Night, Ultraman!  This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse!  (get really drunk for that last one, it’s camp at its worst)  Okay, strike that last one off the list and Ultraman only counts if you’re the type of person who can’t get enough Godzilla movies.  Still, great, great year for the movies.

1966: Fantastic Voyage (imdb) (wikipedia).  Easily not the best movie of the year, but this one is one of the earliest SF movies I ever saw and I was completely captivated.  So much fun!  Other notables: The Russians Are Coming!  The Russians are Coming!  A Man for All Seasons, The Professionals, Fahrenheit 451 (best adaption), The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, Our Man Flint, The Sand Pebbles.  Side note: did you like the Austin Powers movies?  They’re making fun of James Coburn in Our Man Flint and In Like Flint more than they are making fun of James Bond.  Just for the record.

1965: Thunderball (imdb) (wikipedia).  Confession time, I love The Sound of Music.  But I can watch the big underwater scene in Thunderball seven or eight times in a row and adore every minute of it.  Crazy confession time: I’ve never seen Doctor Zhivago.  Me!  I’ve never seen Doctor Zhivago!  Other good candidates: The Cincinnati Kid, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Gamera, The Ipcress File, The Sons of Katie Elder, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, That Darn Cat! (another good ol’ kid movie).

1964: Viva Las Vegas (imdb) (wikipedia).  Yeah, that’s right, I said it.  This movie is fun, dammit.  Another excellent year: Mary Poppins, From Russia With Love & Goldfinger (the first is better), Father Goose, Dead Ringer (she’s got Betty Davis eyes), Dr. Strangelove, Fail-Safe, My Fair Lady (great year for musicals), Topkapi, The Unsinkable Molly Brown (damn.. really good year for musicals!), Zorba the Greek, and Zulu.

1963: The Great Escape (imdb) (wikipedia).  If, for some godawful reason, you have not seen this movie, stop what you’re doing and download it or go rent it, for cryin’ out loud.  Charade.  Bye, Bye, Birdie.  Tom Jones.  The Birds.  Beach Party – which is terrible, but you have to see it, it’s a responsibility for all Americans.  The Damned, a little known UK classic.  The Haunting, a much better-known UK classic, but under-appreciated by modern day horror genre followers.  The Nutty Professor, an actually funny Jerry Lewis movie.  The Pink Panther.  Vincent Price in The Raven.

1962: To Kill A Mockingbird (imdb) (wikipedia).  Gregory Peck’s second-best movie.  Another year where the top 10 grossing films are all pretty good candidates.  Robert Preston absolutely kills in The Music Man, my second choice for this year.  A UK production of Billy Budd.  Hatari!  (which needs editing but is a great romp if you take a long intermission in the middle).  How The West Was Won, which ought to be watched as a piece of cinema history.  Lolita.  King Kong vs. Godzilla.  The Longest Day.  The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (running hard on Westerns in the 60s!).  Mutiny on the Bounty – not as good as the 1935 version but so, so much better than the Mel Gibson iteration.  What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?  (edited to add) Tod points out I missed The Manchurian Candidate in the comments, and Rose mentions Lawrence of Arabia.  Both of these movies belong on this list! (/edited)

1961: The Guns of Navarone (imdb) (wikipedia).  Remember when I said TKAM was Peck’s second-best movie?  This one is his best.  Anthony Quinn and David Niven are stellar.  The scene in the house before they pull off their attack on the guns is one of my top 10 favorite Angry Man Rant scenes.  Still, a parade of other good candidates this year.  West Side Story.  Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  El Cid.  Judgement at Nuremberg.  The Hustler.  The Parent Trap, which is a great kid’s movie.  Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, which is notable as an early Armageddon flick, and as bad as it is otherwise.. as a fan of disaster movies I have to mention it.  Yojimbo, my favorite Akira Kurowasa movie.

Another decade down!  Next time we’ll hit the 50s, and that means that I’ll un-apologetically be harping on 50s monster movies.


Patrick is a mid-40 year old geek with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master's degree in Information Systems. Nothing he says here has anything to do with the official position of his employer or any other institution.


  1. I’ve always found 2001 to be cold and distant. I can see how its good, but it just doesn’t touch me. Bullit is genesis of just about every modern cop/action movie. Such a great movie. Such a shame it has inspired so many crappy movies. After Clint took Bullitt and amped up the crazy for Dirty Harry, the concept was close to played out.

    • The only problem I have with Bullitt is that half the people I know who saw Bullitt *hated* Bullitt.

      I notice a high correlation between “people who like Bullitt” and “people who like Travis McGee”.

      2001 is supposed to be cold and distant.

      • “2001 is supposed to be cold and distant.” Well yeah it worked so well it always puts me to sleep.
        I love Bullit and i had to google Travis McGee to find out who he is. If you hate Bullit, you better hate cop/action movies in general. Maybe its not violent enough for people now.

      • People hate Bullit? Seriously? That’s still one of the best car chases ever filmed. Steve McQueen is still just about the coolest cat ever filmed.

      • 2001 is supposed to be cold and distant.

        This hearkens back to the discussion ab0ut “Where the Wild Things Are” (movie), which most agreed really captured the emotional resonances of childhood, but in so doing became an unpleasant cinematic experience.

        I love “2001.” But I do think there are maybe 20 minutes of strangely-colored barren landscapes with choirs singing eerily in the background that could maybe have met the editing room floor.

  2. A Man Called Horse.

    Very tangentially, I recently learned that Jared Harris (Lane on Mad Men) is Richard Harris’s son. (Also Rex Harrison’s stepson.)

  3. A UK production of Billy Budd. When I was in high school and we read Billy Budd, myteacher showed us this version. This year, my son’s English class read Billy Budd, and his teacher showed it to them as well. A classic.

  4. Great list. Looking forward to 1930-60, which is my love. Especially 30s.

    Go see Dr Zhivago!

    • I’d enjoy a look in the other direction from Rose’s suggestion — the 1970’s were a tremendously creative and interesting time in film.

      No reason not to do both, though.

      • Agreed about both. I tend to think in a gross generalization that movies are slightly more oriented toward female tastes in 30-60, and more toward male tastes in 60-80.

        I also just happen to like chatty genre-adhering films, as a rule (with many many exceptions on either side).

    • From stories I’ve heard, Dr Zhivago is a movie that is responsible for one of the big fights between my parents. (Apparently, it has to deal with the character of one of the peasant girls.)

      As such, I’ve never seen it.

  5. Support Your Local Sheriff is probably my answer to Russell’s question the other day.

    I don’t understand how a western like that got made. It’s probably one of the funniest comedies I’ve seen and I don’t think that I could name a single joke for you… “I didn’t have time to group my shots” is the only one that comes quickly to mind and, yeah, it’s not that funny on paper. Or digital whatever.

    Yet it’s one of the best Westerns I’ve ever seen (after Josey, Unforgiven, and True Grit).

  6. Holy cow! There are soooo many movies. I’m going to have to come up with a system if I’m going to watch any number of these. Between the two posts, I’ve only seen like 5 of the movies you mention.

    • If you give me your top N favorite movies, I’ll try to prioritize everything based upon genres that you prefer.

      • Aww, thank you. You must be really sweet or really bored ;). Either way, thanks!

        First, I have a little one, so anything kid-friendly is going to be the easiest to cue up. Out of the movies you mentioned in this post I’ve seen MASH (watched it while I was staging managing the play actually), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I liked them all.

        I figured I would start with My Fair Lady because I have seen the play a few times and love it, of course. Same with West Side Story. I know I need to watch Easy Rider because I ride and it is embarrassing to have never seen it.

        I can’t give you a list of favorite movies because I’ve seen so few and I’m terrible at picking favorites of anything. I like musicals, comedy, drama, and I’m getting into sci-fi (never seen Star Wars, but I probably should). Romance isn’t my favorite, but I’ll watch good ones. I have a difficult time watching horror movies without cover my eyes the whole time.

  7. I am seriously impressed with how complete this list is, and how much I agree.

  8. Bullitt is a pretty good movie.
    So is North by Northwest, though I’m not exactly sure of its year of release.

    • Glark, that and The Manchurian Candidate?

      I’m fired.

  9. Has anybody here seen The Wild Bunch? I think it is many powers of ten better than either True Grit or BC and the SD Kid? Spoiler alert, The Wild Bunch is violent.
    I agree that Wait Until Dark is a truly fierce movie that proves Alan Arkin has some serious acting chops.

  10. I don’t know if it’s a product of the year or what, but I’m glad to see someone recognize Thunderball as one of the best Bond films.

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