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14 Best Movies of the 1960s on Netflix Right Now

April 13, 2019
16 min read

The 1960s was a time of radical change, unrest, movements, struggles, and culture. A number of important events that would shape human society as we know it happened during the 1960s. The Civil Rights Movement rocked the United States, the Vietnam War roared on, men were sent to space and the moon for the first time. This period also saw an immense cultural upheaval. A lot of age-old beliefs and ideas were done with, and a new youth movement came bursting forth. The Beat Generation of poets and writers of the 1950s became cultural gurus in the 1960s, evolving their beliefs into the hippie movement. A rock ‘n roll phenomenon was felt on both sides of the Atlantic which was taken to a stratospheric level after The Beatles toured the United States for the first time and started a massive wave called the British Invasion which later saw other bands like The Rolling Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd, and others take over the music of America.

The 60s was also a decade that witnessed major revolution in cinema. It was the time when the language of cinema was made to stand in front of a jury and had its formulaic structure questioned and broken down. After their initial successes with ‘400 Blows’ (1959) and ‘Breathless’ (1960), Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard became huge cultural icons of a radical change in cinema. The 1960s sounded the death toll of the studio-dominated movie machinery Hollywood had become. The first blow would be dealt by Alfred Hitchcock when he refused to bow down to the wishes of Paramount and decided to produce the film ‘Psycho’ (1960) himself.

Following Alfred Hitchcock and the French New Wave icons, America witnessed its own cultural revolution in filmmaking, now dubbed the ‘New Hollywood’. The movement actually flourished in the 1970s, but the 60s became the time when the ideas of New Hollywood were firmly established. The change happened with two movies specifically — ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ (1967), directed by Arthur Penn, and ‘Easy Rider’ (1969), directed by and starring the madman of movies, Dennis Hopper. These two films completely radicalized notions of what can, rather should, be shown in cinema. The brilliant box office success of both these films shook the studios to their very foundations as they realized their beliefs and systems were getting too old for the ages.

With several cultural shifts in filmmaking, a group of film students, now popularly known as the ‘Movie Brats’, found their feet in the 60s and would go on to conquer the world in the later years. The group included Martin Scorsese, Brian de Palma, Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas. With all that said, here’s the list of really good 60s movies on Netflix that are available to stream right now. The list includes names ranging from the B-movies to absolute film classics. There are also several Bollywood films from the 1960s which are available for streaming on Netflix.

14.  Prince (1969)

One of the few Bollywood movies from the 1960s that can be found on Netflix, ‘Prince’ is a tale of identity, greed, and man’s quest for meaning in life. Shammi Kapoor, who is popularly known as ‘The Elvis Presley of India’ because of his looks and unique dance moves, plays the lead character of Shamsher/ Sajjan Singh in the movie. He is a prince who is too engulfed in his life of riches and treats anyone and everyone with disdain.

However, Shamsher never manages to find inner peace despite having all the riches in the world, and thus turns to a local priest for help. With the priest’s advice, Shamsher fakes his death and goes to a village to live life as an ordinary man. Here, a widow mistakes him for her deceased son Sajjan, and Shamsher, instead of correcting her, takes on this new identity. Later, he is located by two royal officials who assume that he is just a man with a striking resemblance to their deceased prince, and they ask Sajjan to assume the identity of the prince for a huge sum of money. Things get complicated for Sajjan when he agrees to pose as himself. The movie is still popular among lovers of Bollywood classics. It also boasts of an iconic soundtrack.

13. Thunderball (1965)

‘Thunderball’ is the fourth film of the James Bond franchise. Sean Connery reprises his role as the greatest spy in cinema history, James Bond. Here, we find Bond trying to locate two nuclear bombs stolen by the international criminal organization called SPECTRE. The evil organization is threatening to use the weapons to cause massive destruction unless they are paid $100 million in diamonds. Bond manages to meet with the second-in-command of SPECTRE, Emilio Largo, but it is a while before he realizes that SPECTRE is planning to blow up Miami Beach. It is upon Bond to save the lives of thousands of innocent people by foiling Largo’s plan. The movie was a huge box office success despite receiving mixed reviews. John Stears was awarded an Academy Award for the movie’s visual effects.

12. Professor (1962)

Another movie starring Shammi Kapoor makes its way on this list. Directed by Lekh Tandon and written by Abrar Alvi, ‘Professor’ tells the story of a young, unemployed man called Pritam Khanna who is in dire need of a job to help his terminally ill mother. He comes across an opening where an elderly woman is looking for a professor to home-school two girls, but the condition is that only people above the age of 50 will be considered for the post. In desperation, Khanna disguises himself as a 50-year-old and manages to get the job. Things start becoming complicated when his employer falls for him, and Khanna himself falls in love with one of his students.

11. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ is the first James Bond film to be made after Sean Connery decided to quit playing the iconic character after five movies. George Lazenby, who was an unknown actor and model until then, was chosen to play Bond. In this film, Bond is after Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the head of the international criminal organization, SPECTRE. To locate the criminal mastermind, he takes the help of a Portuguese criminal called Marc-Ange Draco who himself is a member of a European Crime Syndicate called Unione Corse. When Bond manages to find Blofeld, he sees that the head of SPECTRE is brainwashing a group of women in Switzerland to use them as tools of spreading bioterrorism. It falls upon Bond to prevent this major global catastrophe. This became the second story in which Bond gets married.

10. Amrapali (1966)

Directed by Lekh Tandon, Amrapali is a historical drama based on the conquest of the Indian province called Vaishali by the ruler of Magadha, Ajatshatru. The king decides to conquer Vaishali after falling in love with the famous courtesan, Amrapali. However, while he is busy fighting and taking over the province, Amrapali leaves her job and joins Gautam Buddha as his disciple. Sunil Dutt portrays the character of Ajatshatru in the movie while Vyjayanthimala plays the titular character. ‘Amrapali’ was India’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars. Despite its poor commercial run, the movie was declared a classic. The war sequences in the film were also lauded by critics. Bhanu Athaiya, who is the first Indian to win an Oscar, is the costume designer of this movie.

9. West Side Story (1961)

‘West Side Story’ is surely among the most popular musical films ever. It is the story of two lovers who have fallen between an intense street gang rivalry in New York. Tony and Maria are the two lovers, and each of them is very close to the leaders of the two opposing gangs — the Jets and the Sharks. While Tony is a co-founder and former member of the Jets, Maria is the sister of Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks. ‘West Side Story’ was nominated for a total of 11 Academy Awards, out of which it managed to bag ten including Best Picture and Best Director for Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins. Numerous critics have called the movie a complete masterpiece and praised its technical aspects as well as the brilliant adaptation from stage to screen. The 2000 Bollywood movie ‘Josh’ is an unofficial remake of ‘West Side Story’.

8. Cool Hand Luke (1967)

If we are to look at some of the cinematic milestones of the 1960s, ‘Cool Hand Luke’ will surely be a major part of the conversation. The film is based on a 1965 book of the same name written by Donn Pearce. The story follows a character called Lucas Johnson, who is sentenced to two years in prison after being arrested on charges of vandalism. Luke is a free-spirited person who does not want to be bound by the rules of the prison. He even falls out with the prison gang, but later manages to earn their respect. However, the authorities do not like him at all because they feel his free-spirited nature is infectious and harmful for the other prisoners. They try to break him down using punishments, both physical and mental, until Luke himself begins to contemplate the possibility of a jailbreak.

There is an abundance of Christian imagery in the film to portray the character of Luke as a modern-day Jesus Christ who is in the prison to uplift the spirits of his fellow prisoners. ‘Cool Hand Luke’ takes a firm anti-establishment stand, keeping in perspective the strong anti-war emotions that were sweeping over America as a reaction to the Vietnam War. It is, without a doubt, one of the most important movies of the 60s.

7. Doctor Zhivago (1965)

Directed by David Lean, ‘Doctor Zhivago’ is a romantic drama film adapted from the book of the same name by Boris Pasternak. The leading character, Yuri Zhivago is an orphan raised by his aunt and uncle. When he grows up, Yuri develops a relationship with Lara Guishar. Lara, on the other hand, is also in an affair with a businessman called Victor Komarovsky. Komarovsky was her mother’s lover and that is how Lara met him in the first place. Yuri later marries his cousin Tonya. The two former lovers meet after ages only to discover that the spark between them has not died out completely.

‘Doctor Zhivago’ is considered by many to be one of the finest films ever made, but there are some critics who have not taken too kindly to the length and boring pace of the movie. It was awarded five Academy Awards — Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Costume Design. The American Film Institute placed ‘Doctor Zhivago’ at the 39th position on their list called ‘100 Years…100 Movies’.

6. The Graduate  (1967)

‘The Graduate’ is one of the most iconic pieces of cinema to have come out of the United States in the 1960s. The movie is based on the book of the same name written by Charles Webb. The story centers around a young man named Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) who has come home after graduating from school. While most of his friends and family congratulate him on his success, the wife of his father’s business partner, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), has something else on her mind. She tries to seduce Benjamin and have an illicit affair with him. Benjamin does try to resist the temptation at first, but later gives in and starts seeing her regularly at a hotel. In the meantime, he goes out with the Robinsons’ daughter, Elaine, (Katharine Rose) and treats her badly so that there is no chance of a romance developing between them.

Later, problems creep up when Benjamin realizes that he does feel comfortable around Elaine and that his relationship with her mother has no goal and will only create problems in his life. ‘The Graduate’ received unanimously positive reviews and shot Dustin Hoffman to superstardom. Interestingly, neither Hoffman nor Rose were the first choices for playing their characters. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunnaway were considered for the parts of Benjamin and Elaine respectively. They had to turn it down because of scheduling conflicts with ‘Bonnie And Clyde’ (1967). Mike Nichols was awarded an Academy Award for Best Director for his work on the film.

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5. The Dirty Dozen (1967)

Based on  E. M. Nathanson’s novel bearing the same name, ‘The Dirty Dozen’ is one of the greatest war films of all time. The story follows a group of convicts who are in prison for extreme offenses like rape and murder. During the Second World War, the American Army decides to hire these people and make them travel deep inside the Nazi heartland in occupied France to kill an important official working under Hitler. We follow these characters as they try and breach Nazi security across France as they get their job done. Though criminals, these men show some real vigor and strength while fighting. They have been promised immunity and reduced sentences if they manage to get the job done.

The movie boasts of an ensemble starcast, with Charles Bronson, John Cassavetes, Tim Busby, Jim Brown, Donald Sutherland, Clint Walker, Colin Maitland, Al Mancini, and Telly Savalas as members of the Dirty Dozen among others. Upon its release, the movie was loved by the audience but many critics, including Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, criticized it for its violence. Over the years, ‘The Dirty Dozen’ has become a classic of American cinema, and it has been placed at #65 on the American Film Institute’s ‘100 Years…100 Thrills’ list.

4. You Only Live Twice (1967)

The fifth film in the James Bond series, ‘You Only Live Twice’, directed by Lewis Gilbert, was produced after the satirical ‘Casino Royale’ (1967). The movie follows the charismatic British secret agent as he travels to Japan to find out the truth behind the disappearance of both Soviet and American spacecraft while in orbit. Bond finds that the evil organization SPECTRE has something to do with the event and that they are working independently under orders from an unspecified Asian government. The idea behind creating this problem is to make the two superpowers grow more hostile towards each other. The famous British author Roald Dahl wrote the screenplay for this movie. Director Lewis Gilbert later directed two other James Bond films- ‘Moonraker’ (1977), and ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ (1979). The film was not that well received when it was first released, with critics pointing out flaws in the plot structure. Some even criticized its extensive focus on the gadgets used by Bond.

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3. Mughal-E-Azam (1960)

One of the greatest Bollywood films ever made, ‘Mughal-E-Azam’ is an epic story of love and honor. It depicts the relationship between two of the greatest Mughal rulers of India, Emperor Akbar (Prithviraj Kapoor) and his son Salim (Dilip Kumar), later known as Emperor Jahangir. Salim’s love for a courtesan, Anarkali (Madhubala) is discovered by his father who cannot accept the fact that his son wants to marry a woman with no royal heritage. When Akbar arrests Anarkali to stop the couple from continuing their relationship, Salim gathers an army and revolts against his father. However, he loses the battle and is sentenced to death. Akbar says that he shall grant Salim his life if Anarkali decides to accept the punishment on his behalf.

‘Mughal-E-Azam’ boasts of a great soundtrack which has been cited by many to be among the best in Bollywood history. The movie was the then-most expensive Indian film made and was a thunderous box office success. It was re-released after being digitally colored in 2004 and again rocked at the box office. Prithviraj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar were both praised for their performances in the film.

2. The Wild Bunch (1969)

If you love Western films and have not yet laid your eyes on Sam Peckinpah’s ‘The Wild Bunch’, you are doing yourself a great disservice. Highly controversial during its release, ‘The Wild Bunch’ is probably the most violent and action-packed Western film ever made. It follows a gang of outlaws who are slowly aging and have to hang up their guns before it’s too late. Before calling it quits, they want to loot one last time and have targeted a railroad office. However, they are being chased by a gang of bounty hunters hired by the railroad officials to protect their goods. This film has some of the most epic and intense gun battles you’ll ever see in American movies. The American Film Institute has listed it as the sixth best Western ever made. The National Fim Registry of the United States considers this film as “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant”, and thus has selected to preserve it in the Library of Congress.

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1. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

‘Bonnie And Clyde’ influenced and broadened the horizon of American cinema like no other film from the 1960s. Film aesthetics of the coming decade, when American cinema witnessed a new revival through New Hollywood, was hugely shaped by this film. Arthur Penn directed the screenplay penned by David Newman and Robert Benton. The film was produced by Warren Beatty who also plays the role of Clyde Barrow in the movie.

The story follows two outlaws, Bonnie and Clyde, as they loot and murder all across the country. They are extremely ruthless, not batting an eyelid even before putting down officers of the law. However, their fun does not last long when highwaymen and police officials start hunting them in large numbers. The movie won two Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actress (Estelle Parsons) and Best Cinematography (Burnett Guffey). Bonnie And Clyde’ is frequently cited as one of the best crime films of all time despite being subject to harsh criticism after release on grounds of its portrayal of violence.

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