Many argue over what the best decade of cinema is. Surely, most point to the 1960s as being a major stepping stone for Hollywood, primarily with the emergence of the New Hollywood era in the mid-1960s. There’s a lot you can zero in on from the 1960s alone, and in this case, let’s discuss seven key American films from the decade.
Keep in mind, some of these directors might not be American; it’s just the cast, and studios are from the U.S., hence why they fall under this category. Some people are nitpicky about that stuff, but I’m sure most of you, if not all of you, regard these as American films anyway.
Logline – A Phoenix secretary embezzles $40,000 from her employer’s client, goes on the run, and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother.
Psycho was a critical and commercial success and remains one of the most influential and iconic horror movies ever made. The film is primarily looked back on for its innovative use of narrative structure and for its bold approach to storytelling. The film’s infamous twist ending has since become a classic cinematic moment and has been imitated and parodied countless times. Who doesn’t love Psycho?
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Logline – The story of T.E. Lawrence, the English officer who successfully united and led the diverse, often warring, Arab tribes during World War I in order to fight the Turks.
Directed by David Lean and starring Peter O’Toole, Lawrence of Arabia is widely regarded as one of the greatest epic films ever made, and it continues to be celebrated for its sweeping visuals, its epic scope, and its powerful performances.
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
Logline – An insane American general orders a bombing attack on the Soviet Union, triggering a path to nuclear holocaust that a war room full of politicians and generals frantically tries to stop.
Directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Peter Sellers, Dr. Strangelove is widely regarded as one of the greatest black comedies ever made. The film was also one of the first films to use multiple roles for a single actor, with Peter Sellers playing three different characters.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
Logline – A bounty hunting scam joins two men in an uneasy alliance against a third in a race to find a fortune in gold buried in a remote cemetery.
What would Westerns be without The Good, the Bad and the Ugly? The film is known for its iconic characters, its memorable score by Ennio Morricone, and its epic showdowns. It explores complex themes related to violence, greed, justice, and isolation and remains a seminal work in the history of the Western genre.
In Cold Blood (1967)
Logline – Two ex-cons murder a family in a robbery attempt before going on the run from the authorities. The police try to piece together the details of the murder in an attempt to track down the killers.
Based on Truman Capote’s non-fiction novel of the same name, In Cold Blood tells the true story of the 1959 murders of the Clutter family in Kansas, and the subsequent investigation and trial of the killers, Richard “Dick” Hickock and Perry Smith. It’s a powerful and thought-provoking film that explores complex themes related to crime, punishment, social inequality, and the search for meaning in life.
The Graduate (1967)
Logline – A disillusioned college graduate finds himself torn between his older lover and her daughter.
Few films are as hilarious as The Graduate, even when you look back on it through a contemporary lens. The film tells the story of Benjamin Braddock, a recent college graduate who finds himself adrift and disillusioned in suburban California. He becomes romantically involved with Mrs. Robinson, an older woman, and friend of his parents, but eventually falls in love with her daughter, Elaine. It’s a trip, to say the least.