The Best Movie of the 1960s

Very few decades have gone through the radical change from its start to its finish as the 1960s. Begun with the inauguration of the youngest U.S. president, John Kennedy, in 1961, it also marked the end of the presidency of World War II General Dwight Eisenhower. Richard Nixon, who later was hounded from office, was president as the decade ended. What had been a relatively tranquil America in 1960 closed with the tumult of public discontent with civil rights and the war in Vietnam. President Lyndon Johnson did not run for a second term due to the public’s huge criticism over the war. In 1968, two major public figures, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, were assassinated.

The subjects of the movies also went through a sea change. 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 such as 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 United States, 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 United States, the lowest number in 50 years. The following year saw more foreign films (361) than domestic films (141) released.

To identify the best movie 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.

The best movie of the 1960s was “Hara-Kiri” (1962). Here are the details:

  • 24/7 Tempo 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 apparently threatens to commit seppuku (hara-kiri) in order to gain pity and alms, only to be forced to follow through and be humiliated in the process. The other 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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