The Best Picture Race In Review: The 1960s


Ah, the 60s. Both the studio system and the production code collapsed as Hollywood struggled to remain relevant during a time of great social upheaval. The Academy alternated between nominating films that took chances and nominating films that cost a lot of money. It led to some odd best picture lineups.

1960

The Alamo

The Apartment

Elmer Gantry

Sons and Lovers

The Sundowners

Won: The Apartment

Should Have Won: The two best and most influential films of 1960 — Hitchcock’s Psycho and Kubrick’s Spartacus — went unnominated. Of the nominees, The Apartment deserved its victory.

1961

Fanny

The Guns of Navarone

The Hustler

Judgment and Nuremberg

West Side Story

Won: West Side Story

Should Have Won: Again, of the films nominated, the Academy made the right decision. West Side Story earned that victory. When you’re a Jet, you’re the best. That said, I do so wish that Breakfast at Tiffany’s had been nominated. (Of course, if I had the power to go back and change the nominees, I would also have the power to remove all of the scenes with Mickey Rooney as Holly’s neighbor. That’s the good thing about having power.)

1962

Lawrence of Arabia

The Longest Day

The Music Man

Mutiny on the Bounty

To Kill A Mockingbird

Won: Lawrence of Arabia

Should Have Won: Now, this was a great year for films! With the exception of Mutiny on the Bounty, all of the nominees deserved to be there. There were a lot of other films released that year that probably deserved to be nominated as well: Advise and Consent, The Manchurian Candidate, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Whatever Happened To Baby Jane, Days of Wine and Roses, Lolita, David and Lisa, The Miracle Worker, and so many others. It’s so hard for me to pick between Lawrence of Arabia and To Kill A Mockingbird. In the end, and this should not be taken as criticism of Lawrence of Arabia at all, I probably would have voted for To Kill A Mockingbird.

1963

America, America

Cleopatra

How the West Was Won

Lillies of the Field

Tom Jones

Won: Tom Jones

Should Have Won: If 1962 featured one of the strongest best picture lineups, 1963 features one of the weakest. In a unimpressive field in which only two best picture nominees also received nomination for best director, Tom Jones seems like the obvious winner. That said, Cleopatra is such an amazing disaster that I’d probably have to vote for it just to make sure that the world never forgot it. From Russia With Love was released in the UK during this year but it wasn’t released in the U.S. in time to qualify for the ’63 Oscars. Still, I’m going to pretend that it was and name it the best film of 1963.

1964

Becket

Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Mary Poppins

My Fair Lady

Zorba the Greek

Won: My Fair Lady

Should Have Won: My Fair Lady is a good example of a film that won because the Academy was trying to pretend that it was still the 1950s. I would have voted for Dr. Strangelove.

1965

Darling

Doctor Zhivago

Ship of Fools

The Sound of Music

A Thousand Clowns

Won: The Sound of Music

Should Have Won: While international cinema was breaking boundaries and challenging audiences, the Academy was honoring My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music. The 1965 best picture line-up is not a particularly strong one and A Thousand Clowns is somehow even more annoying than The Sound of Music. (“Yessir, that’s my baby” — SHUT UP!) That said, for me, Darling is the clear winner.

1966

Alfie

A Man For All Seasons

The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming

The Sand Pebbles

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Won: A Man For All Seasons

Should Have Won: Another weird lineup. A Man For All Seasons isn’t bad but it still feels more like homework than cinema. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was a groundbreaking film and featured Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton at their best. Alfie made a star out of Michael Caine. That said, the more I thought about it, the more I liked The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming. It’s a likable comedy. It’s a bit lightweight. But, of all the nominees in this admittedly imperfect lineup, it’s probably the one I would want to watch more than once.

(That said, if I was in charge of the ’66 nomination, the Best Picture lineup would have been: Blowup, Juliet of the Spirits, Seconds, Kill Baby Kill, A Man and A Woman, and The Oscar, just to mess with people. The ratings for my Academy Awards would be so low that the Oscars would probably never be televised again.)

1967

Bonnie and Clyde

Dr. Doolittle

The Graduate

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner

In The Heat of the Night

Won: In The Heat of the Night

Should Have Won: In The Heat Of The Night isn’t bad but it’s also not The Graduate. The Graduate gets my vote, even though I know Benjamin and Elaine probably broke up as soon as they got off that bus.

1968

Funny Girl

The Lion in Winter

Oliver!

Rachel, Rachel

Romeo and Juliet

Won: Oliver!

Should Have Won: What a weird line-up! Consider some of the eligible films that were not nominated: Petulia, Pretty Poison, The Good The Bad and the Ugly, 2001, Planet of the Apes, Rosemary’s Baby. Oliver! is better than My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music but it still feels like a film that won largely because it was a big production. Out of the nominees, I guess I would vote for …. Romeo and Juliet. I know The Lion in Winter is great but Romeo and Juliet brought Shakespeare to vibrant life.

1969

Anne of the Thousand Days

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Hello, Dolly!

Midnight Cowboy

Z

Won: Midnight Cowboy

Should Have Won: The Academy was really struggling to find itself in 1969. Here are some of the eligible films that were not nominated: Once Upon A Time In The West, The Wild Bunch, Easy Rider, Medium Cool, Alice’s Restaurant, They Shoot Horses Don’t They?, Last Summer, and Bob & Ted & Carol & Alice. Instead, the best picture lineup was made up of: an international political thriller, a buddy comedy, an X-rated film about New York hustlers, an overproduced musical, and an old-fashioned historical drama. That said, out of the nominees, I think the Academy made the right choice. Though the film has a few pretentious moments, Midnight Cowboy remains an effective portrait of life on the fringes of society.

Now, put on your bell bottoms. Do a line of coke. Turn on the Bee Gees. Coming up in about an hour — it’s the 70s!

Midnight Cowboy (1969; Dir by John Schlesinger)

One response to “The Best Picture Race In Review: The 1960s

  1. Pingback: Lisa’s Week In Review: 4/19/21 — 4/25/21 | Through the Shattered Lens

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.