1960 Ten Best Movies

A good year in the cinema, especially for a new kind of European movie that would not only change the way we think about film but also the way we think about the director. The stars of the arthouse (Truffaut, Fellini, Godard, Antonioni) come through with gems, even if La dolce vita would not become a phenomenon in the U.S. for another year. Nothing could be the same after the jump-cuts of Breathless and the ennui of L’avventura.


Twelve cabins, twelve vacancies.

But at the top is an American film that truly goes all the way. Nothing has withered Psycho‘s power over the years; in fact it’s a movie that, far from relying on its immediate twists for its effect, actually becomes more troubling the more you look at it. In its final direct-to-camera confrontation with its main character (Anthony Perkins gives one of the great performances), Hitchcock completes the breakdown of the usual viewer-to-movie relationship. It still brings on a shiver.

A link to more on Psycho below. The ten best movies of 1960:

1. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock)

2. L’avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni)

3. A bout de souffle (Breathless) (Jean-Luc Godard)

4. Shoot the Piano Player (Francois Truffaut)

5. Rocco and His Brothers (Luchino Visconti)

6. La dolce vita (Federico Fellini)

7. Peeping Tom (Michael Powell)

8. The Apartment (Billy Wilder)

9. When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Mikio Naruse)

10. Comanche Station (Budd Boetticher)

Some Fellini fans might be surprised at the relatively low spot for La dolce vita, and maybe I’ll re-evaluate when I see it again. Along with its merits as a movie, I cherish the adolescent memory of watching it on the Canadian TV station and trying to figure out what the hell it was all about. But I don’t quite love it, at least not in the way I love the Truffaut and Visconti titles, and Breathless has to be up there because every minute of it bristles with the announcement that things are going to be very, very different from now on.

The also-rans include strong but not 10-worthy titles (Kurosawa’s The Bad Sleep Well, Bergman’s Virgin Spring, Satyajit Ray’s Devi), and also a few Hollywood pictures that are unusually satisfying entertainment: Spartacus (Kubrick working for The Man), The Magnificent Seven (John Sturges), and Elmer Gantry, Richard Brooks’s intelligent adaptation of the Sinclair Lewis novel. In the latter category would also be Vincente Minnelli’s Home from the Hill and Fred Zinnemann’s The Sundowners, two deliberate pictures that quietly express the personalities of their directors. And Jerry Lewis made The Bellboy, his debut as a director and a distinctive, inventive movie.

I go on about Psycho here.

Next week: 1989.