The Top Ten Films of 1965
At the end of the year, as we do every year, we’ll be counting down the Top Ten Films of 2015 according to Flickchart’s global rankings. In the months leading up to that, we’re going to be taking a look-back and seeing what Flickchart users think are the best movies of ten, twenty, thirty years ago and so on.
The 1960s were a time of turmoil in the both the film industry and the world at large. The middle year of the decade saw the Civil Rights Movement kick into high gear, with the assassination of Malcolm X and the marches from Selma, AL to the capital Montgomery. Also in 1965, the hopes and dreams of the flower child generation were shattered by the coming of the Vietnam War, which would embroil the world in a highly controversial and costly ten-year conflict. The times they were a-changin’, and it was painful in many ways. (Bob Dylan also shocked his folk music peers by going electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.)
Things weren’t much more stable in the film industry. The original movie moguls who founded and ran the major studios in the so-called Hollywood Golden Era were mostly dead or retired by 1965, studios had long been divested of the theatre chains that buffered their bottom line, changing social mores had undermined the power of the Production Code (which would lead to the introduction of the MPAA rating system in 1968), and the popularity of television had forced moviemakers to seek out all sorts of things to keep younger, more fickle audiences coming to see movies. The answer in the sixties? Epics. Epic dramas, epic musicals, epic romances.
The top box office films of 1965 bear out the popularity of epics, as well as of family-friendly fare – The Sound of Music, Doctor Zhivago, Thunderball, Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, That Darn Cat, The Great Race, and more. Come to the movies, bring the family, it’ll be much bigger and better than that screen in your living room, we promise! Several of these movies have actually stood the test of time, appearing on our Flickchart Top Ten as well. We also see the influence of foreign cinema, as French and Japanese cinema reach great heights in the ’60s. The Americans of the ’60s loved their epics, but it was also the first great period of the cinephile, and many of those films that filled arthouse cinemas and intellectual magazines in 1965 have also made their way into Flickcharter’s hearts.
With no further ado, here are Flickchart’s Top Ten Films of 1965.
So many holiday films are coated in a thick layer of sentimentality as characters discover that Santa Claus exists and that family members get to come home after all and that Christmas Spirit is the key to all things magical. A Charlie Brown Christmas wants nothing to do with that. One reason the special is so enduring is that the Peanuts kids, as they did in their comic strip, march through their lives acutely aware of the melancholy and the bittersweet. Charlie Brown is sad at Christmastime and doesn’t know why, and his friends aren’t much help at all, simply spouting off “we give up” statements such as, “Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest.” But because it doesn’t shy away from these less cheerful moments, the quiet redemption at the end is that much more meaningful. When Charlie Brown is called out as a failure for the umpteenth time after his compassionate nature leads him to choose the wrong tree, we can’t help but sympathize with him, and when the Peanuts gang decides to decorate that “wrong” tree after all and sing carols around it, it’s immensely satisfying to see the group’s quiet acceptance of the outcasts after all, both the tree and the little boy. – Hannah Keefer
- Currently ranked #1097 of all time
- Ranked 57824 times by 6989 users
- Wins 55% of matchups
#9. Red Beard
The position of the samurai is hereditary, so it did not disappear in times of peace. Japan’s warriors simply had to find something to do other than fighting each other. In this Akira Kurosawa film, Yuzo Kayama‘s character is a doctor, apprenticed to a stoic older physician known as “Akahige” or “Red Beard” (Toshiro Mifune). Mifune, who had embodied the martial prowess of medieval samurai in many previous Kurosawa epics, now exemplifies the quiet inner strength of a Renaissance-era samurai-turned-professional. The master-apprentice dynamic between Mifune and Kayama is relatively predictable, but this allows a diverse cast of supporting characters to take the spotlight. Each patient in Akahige’s clinic suffers from mental maladies, and each story receives its due attention. “The Mantis,” an isolated woman whose mating habits reflect the insect’s, is at the center of a tense scene early on. A distraught man’s flashback to a chance meeting under windchimes provides a visual, sonic, and emotional peak late in the film. Finally, there is a pair of children whom the doctors struggle to help. In an expertly staged fight scene involving one of the kids, Akahige shows that the martial arts still have a place in a peacetime. Yet this final black-and-white Kurosawa film (and the final one to feature Mifune) goes a step further by asking “What then?” – David Conrad
- Currently ranked #1052 of all time
- Ranked 6450 times by 335 users
- Wins 55% of matchups
“Do you know what turns darkness into light?” “Poetry.”
Jean-Luc Godard was fascinated by American genre film, and throughout his early career (1960-1966 or so), you can see him testing out different genres, breaking them apart, putting them back together with European art film styles, modernist anxiety, a postmodern sense of play, and toward the end, his increasingly strong political views. With Alphaville, he turns to sci-fi, but it’s a sci-fi that’s both oddly mundane and weirdly other. The city of Alphaville is said to be futuristic, but is rather obviously 1960s Paris. It’s run by a sentient computer, the Alpha 60, built by Professor von Braun (yes, named for former Nazi rocket scientist Wernher von Braun). Private investigator Lemmy Caution (a popular character in pulp detective novels and films, played many times by Eddie Constantine before this, but he never played him again) visits the city, discovers a populace controlled by the banning of all emotion, falls in love with von Braun’s daughter (Anna Karina), and tries to find a way to destroy Alpha 60. The film is far from what people expect if they come to it as “a sci-fi film” – it’s as good an example of any of the idea that Godard “fails” at making genre films. Instead, he’s made a philosophical and political treatise on modern life, which is, of course, what most great sci-fi actually does, if more obliquely. – Jandy Hardesty
- Currently ranked #1048 of all time
- Ranked 10558 times by 650 users
- Wins 53% of matchups
After the Beatles‘ absurdist pseudo-concert pseudo-documentary film A Hard Day’s Night was a huge hit in 1964, they got back together with director Richard Lester to do it again in 1965. This time they had a bigger budget, color, international locations, and, like, an actual story, which goes like this: An eastern cult is about to sacrifice a woman to Kali, but discovers she’s missing the sacrificial ring. Ringo Starr has it, so he’s marked as the next sacrifice. HIJINKS ENSUE. And yes, it gets crazier and more absurd throughout, including a ski chase in the Austrian Alps, an excursion to the Bahamas, a secret pub cellar with a tiger in it, and Paul getting shrunk down to ashtray size. It’s partially a spoof on the James Bond films (see Thunderball below), but also the boys were puffing marijuana like it was going out of style (it wasn’t), so that makes the whole thing all the more ridiculous. Its absurdity puts it in direct lineage from The Marx Brothers Duck Soup on one end, and Monty Python and beyond on the other end, and while it seems quite slight even compared with the virtually plotless A Hard Day’s Night, it’s certainly a lot of good natured fun. – Jandy
- Currently ranked #959 of all time
- Ranked 19522 times by 1699 users
- Wins 46% of matchups
Ian Fleming had in mind from the beginning that he wanted to see his James Bond novels become movies. After finally securing a deal with Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, Fleming enthusiastically set about writing a Bond story intended directly for the screen. He collaborated with Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham, and the litigation that ensued has become a central subject of Bond lore. The relevant part is that Thunderball is a grander movie than its three cinematic predecessors and more ambitious than the novels Fleming had written to that point. Its scale notwithstanding, like Doctor Zhivago, the film feels bloated and lethargic in places, hampered in part by obvious complacency by Sean Connery. His relaxed demeanor undermines the high stakes – stolen atomic bombs used for extortion. Still, he’s Sean Connery and his charisma and screen presence carry the film. – Travis McClain
- Currently ranked #772 of all time
- Ranked 68177 times by 7020 users
- Wins 41% of matchups
Some movies require no introduction. The Sound of Music is half a century old, but you can still reference it in younger crowds and have a reasonable expectation of being understood. Nearly every song is part of the cultural zeitgeist — you might not be able to carry a tune, but you know that “do” is a female deer and “ti” a drink with jam and bread. More than being famous and catchy, though, The Sound of Music is a great piece of filmmaking. While it is long enough to require an intermission, not a scene is out of place and not a moment is wasted. When the Baroness (Eleanor Parker, an antagonist but one whom the movie largely respects) asks Captain von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) to give her a party, the next scene opens with the party in full swing. When Maria (Julie Andrews) gets the idea to make children’s play clothes out of old drapes, the next shot sees the children strolling out of the mansion in the finished product. With the exception of “Climb Every Mountain” and “Something Good,” most of the songs debut in the first half, leaving the second part for callbacks. One of the most subtle emerges from the film’s political content: when the Captain unintentionally insults the young Nazi Rolfe, his eldest daughter’s erstwhile suitor, by saying “You’ll never be one of them,” it mirrors a moment at the party when the Captain’s insult to a Nazi collaborator is misconstrued as a compliment. Tight writing, not to mention gorgeous design and perfect casting, make The Sound of Music arguably the best and inarguably the most successful musical adaptation of all time. – David
- Currently ranked #748 of all time
- Ranked 366113 times by 54119 users
- Wins 38% of matchups
#4. Doctor Zhivago
Though it stands alone, Doctor Zhivago may be said to belong to a filmographic duology. It shares a great deal of DNA with 1962’s Lawrence of Arabia. Both epics are directed by David Lean, feature incisive yet ambiguous Robert Bolt screenplays, benefit from Freddie Young’s sprawling color cinematography and Maurice Jarre’s memorable music, and include Alec Guinness and Omar Sharif in the cast. Bolt, here working from the novel by Boris Pasternak, excels at distilling complex historical moments into multifaceted individuals. As Russia tears itself in two at the end of World War I, a doctor (Sharif) becomes torn between his wife (Geraldine Chaplin) and the nurse with whom he previously served (Julie Christie). The latter woman, Lara, is fought over like Russia herself, with depressing results: she is raped by a condescending aristocrat (Rod Steiger), derided by her Stalin-esque cadre husband (Tom Courtenay), and obsessed over without purpose or gain by the bourgeois Zhivago. If their behavior toward Lara reflects the failings of their respective classes, most characters nevertheless remain ciphers. History is an unknowable, unstoppable tragedy, and all that decent folk like Guinness’s character can do is ride it out and pick up the pieces at the end. – David
- Currently ranked #646 of all time
- Ranked 35705 times by 3570 users
- Wins 38% of matchups
#3. Pierrot le fou
Though most consider Jean-Luc Godard‘s early career to go from 1960 to 1968 (when he abandoned making fiction films for a while to make essay films and documentaries as part of the Dziga Vertov Group), there’s a real sense that Pierrot le fou is the end of an era for him, too – he actually ends the film with a title card saying “Fin de cinema” (“the end of cinema”). Pierrot le fou is many things – a romantic idyll, an exploration of an incompatible relationship, a crime thriller, an adventure, a largely off-screen espionage tale – but it’s also Godard coming to terms with the failure of his marriage to his muse Anna Karina, and since “everything is cinema” for Godard, it plays out as a failure of romantic cinema on screen. Karina and Belmondo are reunited lovers who run off together, but his ultimate desire for peace and time to write clash with her ultimate thirst for adventure and danger. His eventual attempts to save her from a gun-running crime syndicate end only in despair. And yet while the film is something of an existential crisis for Godard, it’s also very light, funny, and colorful – a paradox that makes Pierrot le fou perhaps the most Godardian of the Godard’s pre-1968 films. – Jandy
- Currently ranked #351 of all time
- Ranked 10439 times by 645 users
- Wins 60% of matchups
While Roman Polanski‘s Rosemary’s Baby (1968) is more widely known in the horror genre, this gem from three years earlier is at least as good, if not better. Those two, together with Polanski’s 1976 film The Tenant, form the Apartment Trilogy, so-called because all three are psychological horror flicks taking place primarily in an apartment. Repulsion makes excellent use of its limited setting, as the tiny apartment inhabited by Carol (Catherine Deneuve) appears to close in on her — and us, as an audience — as the story progresses. Carol is a beautiful but almost painfully shy young woman sharing an apartment with her sister in London, and early on we begin to see that the titular repulsion refers to Carol’s emotional response to anything involving sex. As her fear progresses, we as an audience get pulled into a dark, terrifying world where everyone and anyone is a predator. It’s incredibly effective as psychological horror and is still chilling 50 years later. – Hannah
- Currently ranked #248 of all time
- Ranked 24936 times by 991 users
- Wins 59% of matchups
Easily my favorite film in the “Man With No Name” trilogy, For A Few Dollars More does the unthinkable and sidelines our hero in favor of both antagonists – the ruthless El Indio (Gian Maria Volonte), and the bounty hunter chasing him down, Col. Mortimer (Lee Van Cleef). Their conflict takes up most of the runtime and it’s interesting to see our Clint Eastwood hero content to tag along for the ride. What hooked me was the playful shootout between Mortimer and Eastwood’s character at the beginning. It seems a little goofy at first, with the gun sounds being particularly over the top, but the sequence plays out as two guys seeing what the other is made of. Another standout scene is the bank robbery, which is set up perfectly and has some of the best camera work I’ve seen. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about Sergio Leone‘s signature close-ups which serve much more of a purpose here than in the other two movies of the trilogy. Here the close-ups of El Indio emphasize his inner conflict. Does he know why Mortimer is there from the start? Is he wrestling with remorse for his past actions? He seems to be ready for the Col. when he makes his move. Perhaps he wants the showdown. There’s so much here to unpack and it’s this intimacy in storytelling that makes For A Few Dollars More my favorite and why I’m quite happy with it taking this top spot here on Flickchart! – Jonathan Hardesty
- Currently ranked #138 of all time
- Ranked 101727 times by 7799 users
- Wins 55% of matchups
The above list is Flickchart’s Global Top 10 for 1965, calculated based on the rankings of all users. We wanted to showcase some of our own personal favorites, so a few of us picked a favorite film of 1965 NOT included in the Global Top 10.
Jandy Hardesty – Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
Three take-no-prisoners women, fast cars, a hostage, an old man with a fortune, a mentally slow but physically imposing son, and a whole lot of desert – that’s the setup for Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, a piece of low-budget Russ Meyer trash that has become one of the most well-known and well-beloved cult films of all time. What on the surface seems like pure misogynistic exploitation (big boobs, big butts, tight costumes, and an attempted rape) turns out to be surprisingly empowering. Tura Satana is a force of nature as the main “pussycat” Varla. Within the first ten minutes, she’s initiated a high-speed game of chicken with a young man and his girl, then fought the man and killed him, and kidnapped his girlfriend. Yeah, Varla’s not a good person, and she does get her comeuppance, but along the way she doesn’t take shit from anybody. Roger Ebert points out that “breasts are not always presented as centers of desire. Instead, they’re weapons used to intimidate men.” And that is why this film has become central not only in cult film, in general, but also in Feminist and Queer Cinema. For me, there are some moments that are difficult to watch, but for the most part, watching these women kick ass (one of the earliest movies where that truly happens) is often quite cathartic and always entertaining.
- Currently ranked #1441 of all time
- Ranked 8461 times by 583 users
- Wins 47% of matchups
Ben Shoemaker – Bunny Lake is Missing
Saul Bass provides the title sequence, Laurence Olivier stars, and Otto Preminger directs this psychological thriller adapted from a novel of the same name. An American woman (who recently moved to London from New York) reports her daughter missing when she attempts to pick her up from her first day at a new preschool. The woman unravels as more people become involved: her brother, the school staff, and eventually the police. But is she crumbling under the stress of a fruitless missing person investigation or because she is lying about key details of her story? Olivier’s police superintendent must sift through the conflicting stories and clues to discover the truth that lies somewhere inside the tangled web. Preminger thought the novel’s denouement lacked credibility and altered it significantly (requiring many script rewrites before he was satisfied). The resulting film is an intense psychological study reminiscent of Hitchcock by the director of such great films as Laura and Anatomy of a Murder.
- Currently ranked #2916 of all time
- Ranked 3124 times by 180 users
- Wins 51% of matchups
David Conrad – Battle of the Bulge
This was and is one of the best-looking WWII movies to come out of Hollywood. It takes its landscaping cues from the then-recent David Lean epics, showing off snowy pine forests and blistering sand dunes without many regards to where and when the actual fighting took place. Since Lean was no longer working with him, Bridge on the River Kwai cinematographer Jack Hildyard was free to shoot the picture for director Ken Annakin. This was Annakin’s first color war epic, but just a few years earlier he had mastered large-scale battle sequences in the star-stuffed, expansive, explosive, historically-fastidious The Longest Day. Henry Fonda (and seemingly every other actor of the day) had had a bit part in that movie about the D-Day invasion, but in Battle of the Bulge, which tells of a German counteroffensive the following winter, Fonda stars as a worried staff officer who knows that the Nazis are not quite yet beaten. He is outshone on the other side of the battle by the pleasing scene-chewing of Robert Shaw (Jaws), and on his own side by Telly Savalas (The Dirty Dozen) as an irreverent U.S. sergeant running a side business with a female partner. Robert Ryan, Dana Andrews, and Charles Bronson round out one of the best war movie casts of the decade, one that probably was not surpassed until 1977’s A Bridge Too Far.
- Currently ranked #4552 of all time
- Ranked 2711 times by 163 users
- Wins 53% of matchups