Filmhash List: 10 Best 60s Period Films

A list from the esoteric brains behind Filmhash. If you have a list topic, let us know, and we’ll…come up with something!

In honor of X-Men: First Class opening today, here is our list of the ten best period films for the 1960s.

10. Across the Universe

This film metaphorically traces the career of The Beatles through the fascinating mind of Julie Taymor. A lush production that weaves Beatles songs though the events of the 1960s. Some may not find this as charming as I do, but the visuals are worth seeking this out. Plus awesome cameos by Bono, Salma Hayek, and Eddie Izzard!

9. Pirate Radio (The Boat That Rocked)

A fun British comedy directed by Richard Curtis (Love Actually) about a fictionalized pirate radio station off the coast of Great Britian in 1966, Pirate Radio meanders too much to be great. However, I always enjoy seeing a cast of actors who obviously had fun making a movie together, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Nick Frost, Chris O’Dowd and the rest of the cast had a great sense of camraderie. That helps carry the film, the only other notable accomplishment is an awesome soundtrack.

8. A Serious Man

One part loving tribute to the Coens’ upbringing in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, and part Jewish fable, A Serious Man is a seriously weird film. It’s really a set of connected vingettes dealing with one family’s trials and tribulations in 1967, centering on Larry Gopnik, the family’s patriarch. Larry undegoes a series of trials during the film, including his wife wanting a divorce, his brother living in his house and trying to keep a low profile, a vote for tenure, grade bribery, and a crisis of faith. Meanwhile his son deals with bullies and his impending bar mitzvah. The tone is dark, but only occasionally bleak, and the film deftly captures the feeling of not being sure of how best to deal with life’s problems.

7. That Thing You Do

The first of three Hanks movies on this list, this is Hanks’ love letter to mid-60s rock and roll, and specifically The Beatles. A wonderful, joyous film, and one of the great rock ‘n’ roll films. Definitely watch it if you haven’t seen it.

6. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery/The Spy Who Shagged Me

A spoof of the early James Bond films, as well as the spy genre in general, the greatness of the first Austin Powers movie has beocme somewhat lost since half of the lines in the film became annoying pop culture catchphrases for years after the film’s release. The movie begins in 1967, and a lot of the humor in the middle of the film is derived from Austin Powers being a fish-out-of-water in the 1990s, given how much attitudes on sex, women, and relationships have changed. The sequel heightens this by having the characters travel back to 1969, though it loses the “fish-out-of-water” subplot for it.

5. Catch Me If You Can

Another film centered on real events, this is the biographical film of Frank Abignale, Jr. supercon artist and check fraud extraordinaire. There are many scenes in this film which obviously serve as the inspiration for the new fall show Pan Am, and the whole movie is centered on Frank’s idea of what it means to be cool in 1963. While some of the details were changed to enhance the father-son aspects of the story (Spielberg directed this after all), this is a fantastic film. Also of note, this is the first time I noticed Amy Adams. Sigh.

4. Thirteen Days

Like this weekend’s new X-Men offering, this film centers around the Cuban Missile Crisis. While the film has been criticized for overstating the role of Kenny O’Donnell in the Crisis, it nevertheless portrays a historical version of inside the Kennedy Administration. It is also one of those rare films based on true events, where the audience knows the outcome, but the film is still very suspenseful and masterfully acted.

3. National Lampoon’s Animal House

A landmark comedy, this 1978 film popularized the college comedy as well as the “gross out” comedy genre, and is a fantastic movie. The year 1962 was chosen for the setting because the writers felt it was the last innocent year in American history, with the homecoming parade at the film’s end occuring the November 1, 1963, the day before the Kennedy Assasination. This allows the film to sidestep anything about Vietnam draft dodging and other social issues directly, and allowing the characters to revel in the college experience of the time. However, the way the film is written it includes indirect references to the War, the Kent State shooting, and other topics. This dual mentality allows the filmmakers to comment on other events without compromising the characters.

2. American Graffiti

It is easy to watch this film now and dismiss it as some sort of Boomer nostalgia (which I loathe), but because it was made in 1973, it’s way too early for that. It’s actually a landmark film in the “teen” genre, and pioneered the “into the night” film as well. It’s a fantastic, brilliant film, and Lucas’ best directorial effort. Definitely check it out, as this film captures the “teen moment” moving from the late 50s to the early 1960s. It’s a time before the Kennedy Assassination, Watergate, and counterculture. And the ending is unforgettable, though now it may seem cliche due to so many films copying it (including one on this list). It’s a shame this film gets buried under Lucas’ current legacy, Star Wars and Indiana Jones. I wish he had made more movies like this (not sequels like More American Graffiti, which seems to be terrible).

1. Apollo 13

Apollo 13 is a masterful film, and I’d probably list it in my all-time top 10. If you know anything about the production of this movie, it’s that the amount of detail that went into the props and sets is astounding, from the space suits to Mission Control, everything was made for the film, but reproduced authentically. All of the shots in the film were made for the movie, nothing is borrowed from actual NASA footage. Not only that, but the weightlessness was filmed in zero g, on board a specially designed aircraft, with the sets for the capsule and lander built inside! Even thinking about this movie makes me nostalgiac for a real space program.