The B+ Movie Guide: Part XXI

In May of 2012, Colin said I should make a list of movies that need to be seen, because he felt there were huge gaps in what he’d seen, and wanted something to do. The idea was that I’d make up a list, as “homework” for him, and he’d use that as things to watch.

So we came up with a giant list of 500 movies that worked, and Colin went about finishing it. And now that it’s finished, we’re gonna write it up. Because you don’t watch a giant list of movies without documenting that you did it.

We’re going through the entire list, little by little, for posterity’s sake. And here’s the next set:


The Apartment (1960)


One of the most perfect movies ever made. Top five or six all-time for me. Billy Wilder. Jack Lemmon. Shirley MacLaine. Every second of this movie is perfect, and you need to have seen it. (2)


This movie was a LOT of fun. Billy Wilder based the concept on Brief Encounter, which is great subject material to begin with, but he turned it into a comedy. It’s a Jack Lemmon Billy Wilder movie, and it won Best Picture back when comedies were able to win that award. I need to watch this again like…tomorrow.

Breathless - 10

Breathless (1960)


Essential movie. Godard, New Wave. No excuses here. (2)


Thought I would like it less than I did, probably because I have a very specific idea about the New Wave. Of course, I enjoyed The 400 Blows more than this, but there’s definitely something more stylistic about this. This is properly New Wave, with the criminal who idolizes Bogart and the American woman who plays along in her broken French. Actually, her French was pretty good. But you’re watching this movie for the ending, which…yeah, you watch this, take a shower, go have a drink, come back and think about it. It’s one of those.

Inherit the Wind - 96

Inherit the Wind (1960)


This is one of those movies people forget is a masterpiece. I remember seeing this in high school for the first time, not really knowing much about it, and being blown away by it. It’s perfect. The actors, the directing, the writing all of it. Perfect. And then I forgot how good this was over time. And I watched it again fairly recently and was reminded of how perfect this is. This is one of the greatest American movies ever made, and it barely gets any credit for being one of those. (Also a trial movie, by the way. Spencer Tracy and Fredric March are absolutely incredible.) This is about the Scopes Trial. And that’s all you need to know. Everyone needs to see this at some point during their lives. (2)


I love a good trial drama and this is way up the list as far as trial dramas go. I thought it was a given that this was a masterpiece, so I watched it and confirmed that to be the case, but talking to Mike I was surprised to hear that it wasn’t as prominent in the collective memory as it probably should be. I mean, the story is an all-time classic; every high school kid should have a preferred McCarthyism allegorical play with either Inherit the Wind or The Crucible. Inherit the Wind is the one I prefer (though the writing in The Crucible is probably better) for its story, and they took that and threw Spencer Tracy at it. Spencer Tracy is one of the biggest names among American leading men who I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t seen enough of until starting this list. I’d seen random awesome stuff of his, like Captains Courageous, but not later awesome stuff like this. And then this sets him up for another courtroom drama that — well, we’ll get to that.

It’s also worth noting that there are three TV movies made after this, two of which are worth a look on cast alone. There was one in the 1980s with Kirk Douglas and Jason Robards and then the one in the 90s with Jack Lemmon and George C. Scott. 

La Dolce Vita (1960)


Fellini. A great movie. 8 1/2 is his masterpiece, but this is his other masterpiece. It’s much longer, and possibly more accessible than 8 1/2, but it’s every bit as good. I try not to go overboard on foreign films unless they’re truly essential. So if one is here, you can be pretty sure it’s essential. (3)


I have no idea what I watched here, but I’m glad I watched it. You’re along for the ride, and it’s an experience. Fellini made films that make you feel a certain way when you watch them, which is silly to say because every film makes you feel a certain way, but the complexity of feeling here is of a higher caliber. There’s a sort of pleasantry that I derived from this era of Italian film that I didn’t find as much of in the New Wave, which might be why I find it easier to lose myself in these movies and stare at the screen for three hours without looking up, and then still find myself unable to tell you what just happened. It’s like a form of hypnosis, this movie.

The Magnificent Seven - 65

The Magnificent Seven (1960)


Can my thoughts just be the theme song to this movie? (2)


This is one of my favorite Westerns ever. Taken from Seven Samurai, star-studded, amazing score, great color, and a thought experiment on how American involvement abroad would unfold during the 1960s. This movie is pretty close to perfect and should be watched by any fan of the genre. It’s actually a great gateway Western too, for people who don’t think they enjoy Westerns too much. You’ve got Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Charles Bronson, ELI EFFING WALLACH…and all the archetypes we know and love from Western movies. My girlfriend, who doesn’t know movies at all, put this on randomly while looking through Amazon Prime. She doesn’t know how Westerns work at all, and loved this movie.

Peeping Tom (1960)


This one is… something. Michael Powell was one of those filmmakers who was ahead of his time. He made a movie in 1960 that would essentially be what horror movies became decades later. And it was so new and so unsettling at the time that he basically never worked again. The techniques he uses here and the way he (like Psycho does) fashions a movie from the point of view of the killer are truly ahead of their time. This is one of those movies you won’t come across immediately when you start watching movie (not like North by Northwest and ones like that), but this is very much as essential as those and is a movie most people will tell you that you need to have seen. (3)


This made me sad, because there was still a lot of The Archers about it, twisted as the story may have been. It was a really messed up movie — there’s no doubt there. But it’s a bummer that it ended his career the way it did, because this movie would have been lauded only a decade later. During the late 70s, this would have been a proper success. Some of the cinematography is revolutionary, but you have to watch it knowing that people weren’t ready for it at the time.

Psycho (1960)




This is a movie people have seen. Honestly, the GIF that Mike posted isn’t the moment that sticks with me from this movie. The moment I can’t get out of my head is when Martin Balsam is going up the stairs and they cut to the aerial shot as he comes out and stabs Balsam suddenly. The music and stuff. That shot haunts me. And then Balsam has the look of confusion as he falls down the stairs backwards. Eesh. What a creepy movie. I watched it again for the list because why not?

Spartacus - 145

Spartacus (1960)


It’s Spartacus. Need I say more? (3)


Kirk Douglas in sandals. I still prefer The Vikings, but that’s just because I enjoy fun. Spartacus is a solid epic during those waning epic years. Kubrick knew what he was up to. I also enjoyed how one of the marks of the hero was how he refused to rape a woman. That’s legitimately how part of this movie goes. He doesn’t rape a woman, and we’re supposed to be like, “Oh man, he’s got the chin dimple and does rape. HERO.” I don’t rape, but I also have no chin dimple. Shucks. 

The Sundowners (1960)


This is one of my personal choices. Not essential, just damned good. And fun. This is one of those movies that you just love. There’s no rationale behind it. You just love it. I remember reading about some guy who died who had allegedly watched the most movies of anyone of all time, and randomly, this was what he said was his favorite movie. And I thought that was cool.

Basically, Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr and their kids live in Australia. And he refuses to settle down anywhere. Every time they build a home, he has the itch to leave and go somewhere else. He prefers that kind of life, but she wants them to have a home for a change. And the movie mostly meanders among their adventures. There’s a horse race, and a sheep shearing contest (which is amazing). It’s just one of those movies that is fun to watch and hard to not like. It’s incredible. I’m saying everyone needs to see it, because it’s one where, if everyone did, most people would realize how good it is and love it. (3)


Mike told me, before I watched this: “This movie is going to make you care deeply about the outcome of a sheep shearing contest. Trust me.” I was pretty hooked for that scene, to be honest. It’s almost Cool Hand Luke, only instead of Paul Newman with eggs, it’s Robert Mitchum with sheep. Peter Ustinov has a great supporting performance here, too. It’s one of the movies on the list about people and things I’d ordinarily have zero interest in, but the movie was great to watch.


Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)


The title does all the work for me. Also, Mickey Rooney — perhaps the single most racist film performance of all time. (2)


Living in Japan, I have to answer to that Mickey Rooney performance pretty often. Japanese people like the movie, but they’re all like, “What the hell was THAT about?” I like this movie a lot, but I’ve always had a slight reservation about telling people how amazing it is because there’s a type of person who knows and loves this movie and this movie alone among Audrey Hepburn’s filmography. Like, it’s not the only thing she did that was great by a long shot, but people treat it like a cult film that defines her entirely. “Ohmygod I LUVVVVVV Breakfast at Tiffany’s!!! Audrey is my FAV!!!” First of all, don’t talk or spell like that, and one exclamation point will do. But if you’ve never seen anything else she’s done, go check those out too, because she made more than one movie. Great though this is. 

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Final Thoughts:


Seriously, though, about Mickey Rooney. This list is almost completely self-explanatory. The only two you’d have to make look at are Peeping Tom and The Sundowners. Peeping Tom is still essential, even if it doesn’t have the same immediate presence as the others on the list. And The Sundowners is up there enough to where it works, but I’m also taking that as one of those discretionary choices that I reserve. Because I think that movie is essential.


Totally agree. The Sundowners probably isn’t super essential, but it’s worth seeing because if you ever meet someone who’s seen it, they’ll be blown away that you know it, and it’s a great movie. Peeping Tom is worth watching for the sake of Michael Powell, who didn’t deserve the reception he got from it. You’re not going to see another movie like that from 1960. Holy cow, we’re in the 1960s. Things are moving right along. You know, this article process makes it seem like I watched less than I did. It’s a lot of movies.

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More movies tomorrow.

One response

  1. BlueFox94

    Honestly, outside of Audrey Hepburn, “Moon River”, and the wardrobe, Breakfast At Tiffany’s is just okay and tad forgettable. Except Mickey Rooney, of course, which isn’t exactly something I want to remember.

    July 28, 2015 at 1:38 pm

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