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30 Best '60s Movies

Yojimbo (1961)

Why It's The Best: One of Akira Kurosawa's many classics, Yojimbo has, like plenty of his other flicks, been subject to remakes (including A Fistful Of Dollars and Last Man Standing ), although part of its timelessness comes from its simple story, itself inspired by various sources including Dashiell Hammett.

Kurosawa regular Toshir Mifune stars as the wandering Ronin who chances upon a village ruled by rival gangs. The katana-flinging badass sets the opposing factions off against each other in what becomes a thrilling action movie.

Defining Moment: The pistol versus sword duel.

Blow-Up (1966)

Why It's The Best: Michelangelo Antonioni's swinging thriller captures the London of the decade in all its swinging glory, while probing beneath the surface to examine the nature of photography, art and existence.

David Hemmings' David Bailey-esque snapper goes about his glamourous business, before being drawn into a criminal plot after unwittingly commiting a dead body to film. Of its decade stylistically and thematically, Blow-Up has proved hugely influential.

Defining Moment: The much aped fashion shoot sequence in which Thomas straddles model Veruschka for her close-up.

Belle De Jour (1967)

Why It's The Best: Catherine Deneuve's bored housewife Séverine doesn't connect sexually with her perfect-on-paper doctor hubby, so she remedies it by becoming an afternoon prostitute.

Director Luis Buñuel is well known for his surrealist pictures ( Un Chien Andalou , L'Âge d'Or ) but here he plays it relatively straight, keeping the subversion in the content rather than the form (though the fantasy daydreams do become more pervasive), as he has fun playing with expectations in a surprisingly un-vulgar way.

Defining Moment: Séverine's neatly played opening daydream.

The Jungle Book (1967)

Why It's The Best: Disney's take on Rudyard Kipling's stories is a perennially popular entry in the mouse house's animated canon, thanks largely to the swinging beats and irrepressible characters.

Baloo comes with Phil Harris' distinctive voice, and he seems like such a cool friend that it's a wonder man-cub Mowgli decides to leave the jungle at all, while Shere Khan (George Sanders) exudes oily menace without having to lose his cool. 101 Dalmatians could jostle with The Jungle Book for best Disney animation of the '60s though…

Defining Moment: Baloo spouting off about 'The Bare Necessities'.

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly (1966)

Why It's The Best: The final instalment in Sergio Leone's spaghetti western trilogy sees Eastwood's nameless poncho-wearer united with Lee Van Cleef's Angel Eyes and Eli Wallach's bandit, Tuco.

Plot-wise it's nothing new, but as with the other entries in the trilogy (and, indeed, Once Upon A Time In The West ), it's really about Leone's way with set-pieces, stylish visuals and offbeat humour. And the score ain't half-bad, too…

Defining Moment: The three-way Mexican standoff.

The Italian Job (1969)

Why It's The Best: '60s superstar Michael Caine plays the superbly named Charlie Croker, a fresh out of pokey crim who sets about completing the titular heist after a friend died planning it.

If it feels a little dated in places (is there a female character in it who's not a 'fit bird'?), but not when it comes to the final Mini chase: fresh and thrilling, it can still set the sturdiest stomachs on edge.

Defining Moment: The "You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!" scene typifies the sense of fun that makes a large-scale international robbery feel like a bit of lads' shenanigans.

Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Why It's The Best: Roman Polanski's first US movie has remained one of his enduring successes. Don't let the air of black humour fool you, this is seriously terrifying stuff.

Mia Farrow is front and centre as the put-upon mum-to-be, and Polanski wrings every drop of fear out of the unlikeliest sources.

Defining Moment: Rosemary's bizzaro dream sequence.

Night Of The Living Dead (1968)

Why It's The Best: George Romero's first (and arguably best) zombie film redefined what would become a cinematic staple. The set-up is strikingly swift, as a couple visiting a cemetery are set upon by a mysterious old bloke with a taste for human flesh.

They seek refuge in a boarded-up house with a handful of survivors, banding together in an effort to outlive the night's onslaught. Romero cranks up the tension with some superbly-judged set-pieces and an unsentimental approach to offing his characters.

Defining Moment: The morning after, Ben (Duane Jones) is relieved to see some fellow human survivors heading his way...

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (1969)

Why It's The Best: It's the story of the greatest chums that the western genre has ever seen. Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) are a Robin Hood and Little John of the Old West, before a train heist gone wrong sees them on the lam.

The pair, and Sundance's lover, Etta, head to South America, but their lifestyle inevitably leads them to trouble, and a legendary final shootout.

Defining Moment: Butch takes Etta for a spin on his bicycle.

Peeping Tom (1960)

Why It's The Best: A sinister thriller that all but finished Michael Powell's directing career in the UK. Initially abhorred by critics on release, Peeping Tom found new life thanks to champions like Martin Scorsese, who has since brought the movie to wider attention.

Creepy and still relevant today, Tom uncannily implicates the cinema patron in the murders, by way of Mark Lewis' passion for film and his weapon of choice: a modified video camera. Chilling stuff.

Defining Moment: That opening POV shot, following a future victim through the seedy streets of Soho.

Matt Maytum
Matt Maytum

I'm the Deputy Editor at Total Film magazine, looking after the long-form features there, and generally obsessing over all things Nolan, Kubrick and Pixar. Over the past decade I've worked in various roles for TF online and in print, including at GamesRadar+, and you can often hear me nattering on the Inside Total Film podcast. Bucket-list-ticking career highlights have included reporting from the set of Tenet and Avengers: Infinity War, as well as covering Comic-Con, TIFF and the Sundance Film Festival.