The Most Memorable Movies of All Time – Part 3: the 50s and 60s

In a previous post, I identified what I thought was the most memorable movies of the 30s and 40s.   Today I continue by looking at the movies of the 50s and 60s.  In particular, I think it is interesting to compare the most memorable movies with the movie selected as the best picture of the year.   At the end of this list I pick the most memorable movie of this time period.  In my last segment, I will pick the most memorable movie of all time using the finalist from each time period.  Of course, any list compilation is made to be disagreed with so I welcome other views on these movies.

To recap, here are the criteria for choosing the most memorable movie from each year:

  • Memorable movies become part of our culture.  They may directly become part of our culture, showcase stars who become part of our culture, or launch a genre that becomes part of our culture.
  • Sequels of memorable movies are not eligible.

Based on comments I received after my last post, I added a lot more direct link to film clips.  Every quote on this list is linked to the video of that quote.  I also added a few more.

As an interesting note, in the 40 years I have examined so far, only three of the Academy Award winners made my list as the most memorable movie of the year.  An additional nine made my honorable mention list.  So 28 of the 40 Oscar winning movies during this period did not meet my criteria for being memorable.

1950 – Cinderella

Quotes – Bippity Boppity Boo

Comments – This Disney classic is still one of the best.  While there have been many versions of Cinderella, this version is by the most famous.  As far as an effect on our culture, how many times has a movie been called a Cinderella story? ironically, this includes the recently released Fifty Shades of Grey.  In a personal note when our daughter was one to two years old, she must have watched Cinderella at least three hundred times.  For some reason, she fixated on the villainous cat and whenever she wanted to watch it she asked for “Meow Cat.”

Honorable Mention – Annie Get Your Gun |Sunset Boulevard, Born Yesterday

Best Picture – All About Eve

1951 – A Streetcar Named Desire (Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh)

Quotes  – Hey Stella!“I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers,

Comments – This movie has amazing acting led by Marlon Brando, cementing his claim to stardom and women’s fantasies, and Vivien Leigh winning her second best actress award.

Honorable Mention – Alice in Wonderland, The African Queen, Strangers on a Train, The Day the Earth Stood Still

Best Picture -An American in Paris

1952 – Singin’ in the Rain (Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor)

Quotes  –  I’m Singin’ in the Rain 

Comments – Over sixty years later, Gene Kelly’s title masterpiece is still arguably the most famous one person song and dance routine ever.  Interestingly, only two songs, Make ‘Em Laugh and Moses, were original to this movie.  All of the other songs, including the title tune, had been used elsewhere before.

Honorable Mention – High Noon

Best Picture -The Greatest Show On Earth

1953 – Peter Pan

Quotes  – You can fly!  You can fly!  You can fly!

Comments – Once again a Disney animated film is the most remembered.  The Peter Pan ride still has the longest lines in the Magic Kingdom.   One can debate whether the book, the Disney movie, or the play originally starring Mary Martin had the biggest role in embedding Peter Pan as a fixture in our culture and in our cabinets:

Honorable Mention – From Here to Eternity |Shane |Gentlemen Prefer Blondes |Stalag 17 | Roman Holiday | Kiss Me Kate

Best Picture -From Here to Eternity

1954 – White Christmas (Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye)

Quotes  –  I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.

Comments – Bing Crosby’s rendition of Irving Berlin’s classic title song remains a favorite and is forever associated with this movie, but most people don’t know (including me until now) that it Crosby first sang it in the 1942 movie Holiday Inn.

Honorable Mention – Brigadoon |Godzilla |  Rear Window | The Caine Mutiny |A Star is Born |On the Waterfront

Best Picture – On the Waterfront

1955 – Oklahoma (Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones)

Quotes  – Oklahoma where the wind comes sweepin down the plain!

Comments -This was Rogers & Hammerstein’s first big hit.  Every high school has performed its since then at least twenty times.

Honorable Mention – East of Eden

Best Picture – Marty

1956 – The Ten Commandments (Charlton Heston)

Quotes  – Behold his mighty hand!

Comments -This movie defines the biblical epic.  Charlton Heston is and will always be Moses.

Honorable Mention – The King and I |The Searchers |The Bad Seed |Carousel |Forbidden Planet |Giant |Invasion of the Body Snatchers | Love Me Tender

Best Picture – Around the World in 80 Days

1957 – An Affair to Remember (Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr)

Quotes  – See comments.

Comments -I will confess that I have never seen this movie.  I have, however, heard quite a bit about it, particularly the planned meeting on the roof of the Empire State Building but I personally am not aware of any famous quotes from the movie.  Nevertheless, I have heard so many women say they have watched it many times and cried every time. The movie Sleepless in Seattle paid reverence to An Affair to Remember.  I seriously considered naming Old Yeller as the most memorable movie of the year.  Together these movies made 1957 the weepiest year in movie history.

Honorable Mention – The Bridge on the River Kwai |Gunfight at the OK Corral | Old Yeller

Best Picture – The Bridge on the River Kwai

1958 – The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (special effects by Ray Harryhausen)

Non -Quote  – Ray Harryhausen’s monsters

Comments This was a tough year to pick a winner.  There were a lot of memorable movies, but there wasn’t one that greatly stood out from the rest.  I finally decided on the Seventh Voyage of Sinbad.   It was one of my favorite movies as a kid.   I couldn’t tell you any of the actors and until I saw this clip I couldn’t quote a single line from this movie.  But I remembered the monsters and the special effects.  Ray Harryhausen was the master of special effects for that era.  Incidentally, almost fifty years later, Universal Studios Islands of Adventure now has an Eigth Voyage of Sinbad stunt show.

Honorable Mention – South Pacific | Auntie Mame | Cat on a Hot Tin Roof |Gigi |The Defiant Ones |Damn Yankees | The Fly |  Vertigo

Best Picture – Gigi

1959 – Some Like it Hot (Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe)

Quotes  – Well, nobody’s perfect.

Comments –  In 2000, the American Film Institute named Some Like It Hot the funniest American movie of all time.  Its comic device of having men hide out pretending to be women has often been duplicated but never been equaled.  This was was a great year for memorable movies.  I was strongly tempted to choose Plan 9 from Outer Space by being memorable for being what many people call the worst movie ever made.

Honorable Mention – Sleeping Beauty | North by Northwest | Pillow Talk | The Diary of Anne Frank |Gidget |Li’l Abner | The Mummy | Plan 9 from Outer Space | Porgy and Bess | The Shaggy Dog | Ben-Hur

Best Picture – Ben-Hur

1960 – Psycho (Anthony Perkins)

Non-Quote  – The Shower Scene

Comments –  Alfred Hitchcock made many memorable movies but Psycho is by far the movie that is most embedded in the American culture.  The new TV series, The Bates Motel will be starting its third season next week.  Alfred Hitchcock

Honorable Mention – Spartacus  |The Little Shop of Horrors | The Magnificent Seven

Best Picture – The Apartment

1961 – West Side Story (Natalie Wood)

Quote  – I just met a girl named Maria.

Comments –  Great music, great choreogropy, and an emotion-wrenching modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet made West Side story a classic.

Honorable Mention – The Parent Trap | One Hundred and One Dalmations | Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Best Picture – West Side Story

1962 – To Kill a Mockingbird (Gregory Peck)

Quote  – You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.

Comments –  After 1939, 1962 ranks as the second best year for memorable movies in my research so far.  Lawrence of Arabia, The Music Man, The Miracle Worker, and Dr. No all would have been the most memorable movie of any other year.  The American Film Institute ranked Gregory Peck’s Atticus Finch as the greatest movie hero of all time.  I and almost every other school child in America saw To Kill a Mockingbird as part of our education.  It is the one lesson in school that nobody ever forgets.

Honorable Mention – Lawrence of Arabia | The Music Man |Gypsy |What Ever Happened to Baby Jane | The Miracle Worker | Dr. No | King Kong vs. Godzilla | The Manchurian Candidate

Best Picture – Lawrence of Arabia

1963 – The Pink Panther (Peter Sellers)

Non-Quote  –  The character Inspector Clouseau

Comments –  The year 1963 made me question my self-imposed rule against sequels.  From Russia with Love was the second James Bond movie.  The first James Bond movie, Dr. No, came out in 1962 and it would have ranked as the most memorable in almost any year that didn’t have To Kill a Mockingbird, and I was sorely tempted to rank it as the most memorable movie of the year in compensation.  At the same time, The Pink Panther first establishes Peter Sellers in the unforgettable role of Inspector Clouseau, but the character didn’t reach his zenith until later films such as A Shot in the Dark in 1964 and The Return of The Pink Panther in 1975.  The best Clouseau quotes and scenes were all from later films.

The reason I set this rule in the beginning is that so, for example, we didn’t have eight years in a row of Harry Potter movies on the list.  I finally decided, however, that my original rule was a good one.  The original movie is what begins the memory.  Later installments may surpass the original, but the original is the key, and it should “compete” in its own year.  A sequel shouldn’t be recognized as a consolation prize.

Honorable Mention – It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Nutty Professor, The Great Escape

Best Picture – Tom Jones

1964 – Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke)

Quote  –  Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

Comments –  Mary Poppins is without any close competition the favorite movie of my childhood.  The story was literally and figuratively magical, the music was captivating, and the insertion of live characters into animated sequences was groundbreaking.

Honorable Mention – My Fair Lady | A Fistful of Dollars | The Unsinkable Molly Brown | Dr. Strangelove

Best Picture – My Fair Lady

1965 – The Sound of Music (Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer)

Quote  –  The hills are alive with the sound of music.

Comments – Picking the Sound of Music as the most memorable movie of 1965 is as simple as do re mi.  For the last fifty years, I doubt any music teacher has ever had to teach an American child what the names of the seven notes are.

Honorable Mention – Dr. Zhivago

Best Picture – The Sound of Music

1966 – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton)

Quote  –  What a Dump!

Comments – The poet Virginia Woolf gained far more fame from being referenced in this play and movie title than she ever got from her poetry.

Honorable Mention -none

Best Picture – A Man for all Seasons

1967 – The Graduate (Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft)

Quote  –  Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me? | Plastics

Comments – While 1966 had a paucity of memorable films, 1967 was quite a memorable year in cinema with numerous films that made an impact.  Among these, Mike Nichols’ The Graduate stands out, from the soundtrack by Simon and Garfunkle, the witty script, and Dustin Hoffman’s brilliant acting.

Honorable Mention – The Jungle Book | Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner | Bonnie and Clyde | The Dirty Dozen | Camelot | Cool Hand Luke | Dr. Dolittle | In the Heat of the Night

Best Picture – In the Heat of the Night

1968 – Planet of the Apes

Quote  –  We finally really did it.  You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell! | Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!

Comments – 1968 was another great year for movies.  It illustrates perfectly too the difference between a wonderful movie and a memorable movie.  Oliver won the Academy award for best movie of 1968.  Personally, I love Oliver.  It has a classic story and a delightful musical score.  To me, personally, it is a very memorable movie.  It didn’t last though.   I would have guessed at the time that the song Consider Yourself would become a classic.  It didn’t.  The movie didn’t stay as part of the American culture.  The memorable line, “Please sir, may I have some more?” can be attributed more to the book than to the movie.

In contrast, Planet of the Apes is part of our culture.  The surprise ending at the statue of liberty is classic.    It spawned numerous sequels with a reboot in 2001.  This last year,   In 2014, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was one of the most popular movies of the year.  In fact, all of the honorable mention movies have had a greater impact on our culture than Oliver.

Honorable Mention – 2001: A Space Odyssey | Funny Girl | The Love Bug | The Odd Couple  | Rosemary’s Baby | Night of the Living Dead |  The Producers

Best Picture – Oliver!

1969 – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 

Quote  – Kid:  I can’t swim.   Butch: Are you crazy? The fall will probably kill you.

Comments – Redford and Newman were one of the great teams in movie history.  This movie made them legendary together.

Honorable Mention – Easy Rider | True Grit

Best Picture – Midnight Cowboy

1950-1969 – The Sound of Music

1 thought on “The Most Memorable Movies of All Time – Part 3: the 50s and 60s

  1. Pingback: The Most Memorable Movies of All Time – Part 6: The Greatest Movie of All Time | Ralph Koppel

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