10 Great 1960s Movie Classics You Probably Haven’t Seen

The 1960s was the decade when the Golden Age of Hollywood came to an end. Some veteran directors had their best work behind them like the great Billy Wilder. Newer directors were just getting started like the multi-faceted Peter Bogdanovich. Even though black and white films were still going strong, color was rapidly taking over the cinemas.

All in all, there were some great standout films with unique talents at the helm. And just because these movies are over 50 years old doesn’t make them inferior to the films of today.


1. Days Of Wine And Roses (1962)

Director Blake Edwards is known for his many comedy movies, especially the ones with Peter Sellers including The Pink Panther franchise. Prior to that, Edwards took on the serious subject of alcoholism with this film. It stars the legendary Jack Lemmon who delivers a dramatic performance that’s every bit as strong as any of his comedic performances. The versatile Lee Remick plays his wife and eventual drinking buddy who leads Lemmon from a casual drink to an addiction.

What makes this film so compelling is the truth behind Lemmon and Remick’s performances. Watch out for a brilliant scene where Lemmon searches for a bottle that he planted in a greenhouse. When he can’t find it, the alcoholic frustration causes him to destroy plants until he finds his bottled joy. Lemmon and Remick were so intriguing to watch that they nominated for several awards for their work in the film. Henry Mancini would win an Oscar and Grammy for his music. As a frequent collaborator of Edwards, Mancini composed many scores including the famous Pink Panther theme. Along with The Lost Weekend and Leaving Las Vegas, this goes down as one of the best films about alcoholism in cinema.


2. One, Two, Three (1961)

James Cagney stars as you’ve never seen him before – as an executive for the Coca-Cola company in a fast-talking comedy directed by the celebrated Billy Wilder. Earlier in his career, Cagney was known for playing gangsters. The line “you dirty rat” came from his 1931 movie Taxi where Cagney delivers a similar line which should be noted is not verbatim. However, he won an Oscar for playing the Broadway Legend George M. Cohan in the 1942 film Yankee Doodle Dandy. Cagney in fact got his start in vaudeville and this award-winning performance showed his incredible range as an actor. Here you can see one of his great comedic performances.

As for Wilder, he had an incredible run of movies from Double Indemnity in 1944 through the Oscar-Winning 1960 Best Picture – The Apartment. This would be his follow-up and while it’s a must see, it couldn’t find the success of Wilder’s previous hits. The film is fast and funny and shows that Cagney could do anything.


3. Seconds (1966)

A still from Joel Frankenheimer's 1966 film "Seconds."

Rock Hudson was the quintessential movie star back in the 1960s. After many romantic lead roles, he took on something extremely different – a psychological horror film directed by the incredibly talented director John Frankenheimer. With the amazing cinematography of two-time Oscar winner James Wong Howe, this film is a unique cinematic experience. Hudson took the role to get away from romantic comedies and show he had range which he certainly does. Frankenheimer was coming off a string of successful films including the classic The Manchurian Candidate and Seven Days In May.

This film was clearly ahead of its time as it received bad reviews and bombed at the box office. Over the years, the film has gained cult status and is a favorite among celebrated directors such as Bong Joon-ho who directed the Academy Award’s Best Picture of 2019 – Parasite. When you watch this undiscovered treasure, you’ll wonder why this film isn’t more appreciated.


4. The Bedford Incident (1965)

The Bedford Incident

Before Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman went toe to toe in Tony Scott’s Crimson Tide, the amazing Sidney Poitier and rugged Richard Widmark were aboard the USS Benford. This was the directorial debut of James B. Harris who had previously produced Stanley Kubrick’s earlier films like Paths Of Glory and Lolita. He wanted to make a serious film about nuclear weapons, so he directed this film while Kubrick went off to direct the classic Dr. Strangelove which poked fun at the subject.

Harris pulls it off with a strong dramatic movie that has a shocking conclusion you won’t see coming. Keep an eye out for an appearance from Donald Sutherland in one of his earliest film roles. Poitier and Widmark are amazing together and should have paired up again. Since they didn’t, it makes this film even more special.


5. No Way To Treat A Lady (1968)

No Way to Treat a Lady (1967)

Jack Smight is a name that most people aren’t aware of, but he directed some of the biggest movie stars of the time including Paul Newman, Warren Beatty and Charlton Heston. In this film, he has the versatile Rod Steiger, the inviolable Lee Remick in her second film on this list and the always delightful George Segal. Steiger plays a calculating serial killer who goes incognito in various uniforms to trick his victims.

The film is based on the novel of the same name by the legendary screenwriter and novelist William Goldman. An early draft of the novel was seen by actor Cliff Robertson who recruited Goldman to adapt the short story Flowers For Algernon into a screenplay. Robertson rejected the script and Goldman went on to adapt a novel into the script for the Paul Newman vehicle Harper, also directed by Jack Smight. While the style of this film reeks of the 60s, it’s still a lot of fun to watch with wonderful acting by all and a great deal of tension throughout.