1964 Ten Best Movies

Among the films released in 1964 is The Three Lives of Thomasina, which has no great significance (apologies to Thomasina devotees) beyond being the first movie I saw in a theater. It is not on my list of 1964’s best movies, although in some strange sense it could have been, because these lists are not intended as a coldly objective rendering of the unequivocal Best, but as a personal account of film history.

That's an in-joke, you know.

That's an in-joke, you know.

And there is definitely nothing cold about the best film of 1964. A Hard Day’s Night catches joy in a true lightning-strike of combined events: the still-wet arrival of the Beatles, a New Wave in movies, the bursting talent of a young filmmaker, and the unfettered personalities of four musicians. I go on about it here. It just outpoints Dr. Strangelove, another film heralding change — as did the Godard and other films that year. 1964’s ten best:

1. A Hard Day’s Night (Richard Lester)

2. Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick)

3. Bande a part (Jean-Luc Godard)

4. Marnie (Alfred Hitchcock)

5. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Jacques Demy)

6. Charulata (Satyajit Ray)

7. The Naked Kiss (Samuel Fuller)

8. Red Desert (Michelangelo Antonioni) and Masque of the Red Death (Roger Corman)

9. Seven Days in May (John Frankenheimer) and Fail-Safe (Sidney Lumet)

10. Kiss Me, Stupid (Billy Wilder)

It’s totally bogus to pack on extra movies, and the numbering should be all off with the ties. But this list changed as I was typing it up, and I couldn’t resist the color experiments of Antonioni and Corman, or the tense exercises in political suspense from two TV veterans, Frankenheimer and Lumet. Kiss Me, Stupid is one of Wilder’s weirdest projects, and one that changes each time I watch it, but it finally slipped in ahead of such worthies as Woman in the Dunes and Night of the Iguana (which among other things has a Richard Burton performance that justifies a lot of lazy movie acting). I also would’ve loved a slot for a certain moment in film slapstick comedy, repped by three colorful directors: Blake Edwards (The Pink Panther and A Shot in the Dark), Jerry Lewis (The Patsy), and Frank Tashlin (The Disorderly Orderly). And A Fistful of Dollars, the crazed style of I am Cuba, the tough-mindedness of Michael Roemer’s Nothing But a Man…and Mary Poppins. It’s tough narrowing it down, even when you cheat.

Next week: 2005.

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