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DISCLAIMER: All film criticism is extremely subjective and there is no such thing as the definitive list of the Greatest (English-language) Films. Great Films can't be measured scientifically because greatness is extremely subjective. Just because we like a film doesn't mean that you will like it as well. Please feel free to leave us a comment with the films that you think are the greatest which we have not included on our list.

Not only was 1963 a big year for movies but it was also a big year for actors making their film debuts and the deaths of some truly great talent. Here is a snap shot of the American film industry.

Making Their Film Debuts:

  • Bob BalabanMidnight Cowboy
  • Bonnie Bedelia – The Gypsy Moths
  • Jill Clayburgh – The Wedding Party
  • Bruce Davison – Last Summer
  • Sam ElliottButch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • Farrah Fawcett – Love Is a Funny Thing
  • Melanie Griffith – Smith!
  • George LazenbyOn Her Majesty’s Secret Service
  • Ian McKellen – A Touch of Love
  • Ryan O’Neal – The Big Bounce
  • Al Pacino – Me, Natalie
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger – Hercules in New York
  • Sam Shepard – Me and My Brother
  • Christopher Walken – Me and My Brother
  • Emmet WalshMidnight Cowboy

 

Top-grossing Films

Rank Title Studio Gross
1. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 20th Century Fox $102,308,889
2. Midnight Cowboy United Artists $44,785,053
3. Easy Rider Columbia $41,728,598
4. Hello, Dolly! 20th Century Fox $33,208,099
5. Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice Columbia $31,897,253
6. Paint Your Wagon Paramount $31,678,778
7. True Grit Paramount $31,132,592
8. Cactus Flower Columbia $25,889,208
9. Goodbye, Columbus Paramount $22,939,805
10. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service United Artists $22,774,493
11. Winning Universal $14,644,335
12. Z Cinema V $14,283,305
13. The Sterile Cuckoo Paramount $13,982,357
14. The Stewardesses Sherpix Inc. $13,500,000
15. Run, Angel, Run! Fanfare Films $13,000,000
16. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Cinerama $12,600,000
17. A Boy Named Charlie Brown National General Pictures $12,000,000
18. The Wild Bunch Warner Bros. $10,500,000
19. Sweet Charity Universal $8,000,000
20. The Undefeated 20th Century Fox $8,000,000
21. Where Eagles Dare MGM $7,100,000
22. Alice’s Restaurant United Artists $6,300,000
23. Take the Money and Run Cinerama $6,080,000
24. Topaz Universal $6,000,000
25. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie 20th Century Fox $6,000,000
26. If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium United Artists $6,000,000
27. Once Upon a Time in the West Paramount $5,321,508

 

Academy Award Winners

Best Picture: Midnight Cowboy – Hellman-Schlesinger, United Artists

Best Director: John Schlesinger, Midnight Cowboy

Best Actor: John WayneTrue Grit

Best Actress: Maggie Smith – The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Best Supporting Actor: Gig Young, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

Best Supporting Actress: Goldie Hawn, Cactus Flower

 

Among Those Who Died In 1969:

  • January 1 – Barton MacLane, 66, American actor, The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  • January 3 – Howard McNear, 63, American actor, Anatomy of a Murder, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
  • January 4 – Violet and Daisy Hilton, 60, English conjoined twins, actresses, appeared in film Freaks
  • January 8 – Leslie Goodwins, 69, English director, The Mummy’s Curse, Mexican Spitfire
  • January 27 – Charles Winninger, 84, American actor, Destry Rides Again, The Sun Shines Bright
  • February 2 – Boris Karloff, 81, English actor, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Raven
  • February 5 – Thelma Ritter, 66, American actress, Rear Window, All About Eve
  • February 9 – Gabby Hayes, 83, American actor, The Man from Utah, In Old Oklahoma
  • February 11 – James Lanphier, 48, American actor, The Pink Panther, The Party
  • February 19 – Madge Blake, 69, American actress, The Long, Long Trailer, Batman
  • February 27 – John Boles, 73, American actor, Frankenstein, Stella Dallas
  • March 18 – Barbara Bates, 43, American actress, The Caddy, All About Eve
  • March 25 – Alan Mowbray, 72, British actor, Terror by Night, My Darling Clementine
  • April 2 – Fortunio Bonanova, 74, Spanish actor, Citizen Kane, An Affair to Remember
  • April 23 – Krzysztof Komeda, 37, Polish composer, Rosemary’s Baby, The Fearless Vampire Killers
  • May 3 – Karl Freund, 69, Czech-American cinematographer and director, Metropolis, The Mummy, Key Largo
  • May 24 – Mitzi Green, 48, American actress, Lost in Alaska, Skippy
  • May 27 – Jeffrey Hunter, 42, American actor, The Searchers, King of Kings
  • June 2 – Leo Gorcey, 51, American actor, Ghost Chasers, Spook Busters
  • June 8 – Robert Taylor, 57, American actor, Quo Vadis, Camille, Bataan, Ivanhoe
  • June 10 – Frank Lawton, 64, English actor, A Night to Remember, The Devil-Doll
  • June 13 – Martita Hunt, 70, Argentine-English actress, Becket, Great Expectations
  • June 19 – Natalie Talmadge, 73, American silent screen actress, Our Hospitality, Intolerance
  • June 20 – Rudolf Schwarzkogler, 29, Austrian experimental filmmaker, Satisfaction
  • June 22 – Judy Garland, 47, American actress and singer, The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St. Louis, A Star Is Born
  • July 5 – Lambert Hillyer, 75, American director, Dracula’s Daughter, Batman
  • July 5 – Leo McCarey, 72, American director, An Affair to Remember, Going My Way
  • July 7 – Erskine Sanford, 83, American actor, Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons
  • July 8 – Gladys Swarthout, 68, American singer, Romance in the Dark, Give Us This Night
  • July 13 – Bess Meredyth, 79, American screenwriter, The Unsuspected, Charlie Chan at the Opera
  • July 15 – Peter van Eyck, 57, Polish actor, The Wages of Fear, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
  • July 18 – Barbara Pepper, 54, American actress, The Rogues Tavern, Kiss Me, Stupid
  • July 26 – Raymond Walburn, 81, American actor, High, Wide, and Handsome, Third Finger, Left Hand
  • August 1 – Donald Keith, 65, American actor, The Plastic Age, Parisian Love
  • August 9 – Sharon Tate, 26, American actress, The Fearless Vampire Killers, Valley of the Dolls
  • August 14 – Sigrid Gurie, 58, American actress, Algiers, The Adventures of Marco Polo
  • August 15 – William Goetz, 66, American producer, studio executive, Sayonara, Les Misérables
  • August 26 – Martin Miller, 69, Czech actor, 55 Days at Peking, The Pink Panther
  • September 14 – James Anderson, 48, American actor, To Kill a Mockingbird, Take the Money and Run
  • September 19 – Rex Ingram, 73, American actor, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Thief of Bagdad
  • October 8 – Eduardo Ciannelli, 81, Italian actor, Gunga Din, Strange Cargo
  • October 12 – Sonja Henie, 57, Norwegian actress, former Olympic ice skater, Sun Valley Serenade, One in a Million
  • October 15 – Rod La Rocque, 70, American actor, Meet John Doe, The Shadow Strikes
  • October 28 – Constance Dowling, 49, American actress, Up in Arms, The Well-Groomed Bride
  • November 5 – Lloyd Corrigan, 69, American actor, Son of Paleface, The Thin Man Goes Home
  • November 8 – Dave O’Brien, 57, American actor, Captain Midnight, Brand of the Devil
  • December 3 – Ruth White, 55, American actress, To Kill a Mockingbird, No Way to Treat a Lady
  • December 7 – Eric Portman, 68, British actor, A Canterbury Tale, The Bedford Incident
  • December 16 – Luis Enrique Vergara, 47, Mexican filmmaker, House of Evil, Isle of the Snake People
  • December 22

The Greatest Films of 1969

 

***POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT FOR ALL***

 

Anne of the Thousand Days

Anne of the Thousand Days (UK)

D: Charles Jarrott

Starring: Richard Burton Genevieve Bujold Irene Papas

Richard Burton and Genevieve Bujold star as King Henry VIII of England and Anne Boleyn in this emotionally charged drama about one of history’s most famous tragic love affairs. Nominated for nine Academy Awards®, this magnificent Hal Wallis production features stunning technicolor photography and outstanding Oscar®-winning period costumes. Co-starring Irene Papas and Anthony Quayle, Anne of a Thousand Days, set against the pageantry and political intrigue of 16th century England, traces the ill-fated marriage between Anne and her King, from its spirited beginning to its tragic finale.

 

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

D: Paul Mazursky

Starring: Natalie Wood, Robert Culp, Elliott Gould, Dyan Cannon

The fifth highest-grossing film of 1969, and with four Oscar nominations (one was for Mazursky’s original screenplay) for Mazursky’s directorial debut film. Set against the time of the late 1960s sexual revolution, this social satire starred two bourgeois couples: documentary film-maker Bob Sanders (Robert Culp) and wife Carol (Natalie Wood), and Ted Henderson (Elliot Gould) and his wife Alice (Dyan Cannon). As a foursome, they experimented with New Age-y openness, enlightenment, therapy, and honesty – and the monogamous couples considered experimenting with swinging (or wife-swapping).

 

Poster for the movie "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid"

© 1969 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation − All right reserved.

 

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

D: George Roy Hill

Starring Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and Katharine Ross

Director George Roy Hill’s likeably entertaining, charming and amusing revisionist western was actually a comedy/drama and buddy film. Mixed together were impudent slapstick comedy, conventional Western action, contemporary music, and humorous dialogue to characterize the past and irreverently poke fun at typical western film cliches. It became one of the most-popular, appealing, beguilingly star-driven, tragi-comedy Westerns ever made. About two charming, legendary, turn-of-the-century, train-robbing outlaws – with comedy, drama, action, a witty script, and two handsome leads, Redford and Newman. The romanticized buddy film told of the friendship and camaraderie shared between the two handsome and humorous buddies, who mocked and defied authority and the Establishment. Their characters were loosely based on real-life, legendary outlaws Robert Leroy Parker (Butch Cassidy) and Harry Longbaugh (slick gunslinger The Sundance Kid) and the Hole in the Wall gang. The film’s early 1900’s anti-heroes were free-wheeling, non-chalant Butch (Paul Newman) and sharpshooting Sundance (Robert Redford), both with human fallible traits – their specialty was robbing trains, until they bungled their second attempt on the Union Pacific Express and were relentlessly pursued by authorities in a posse. With Sundance’s beautiful, school-teacher lover Etta Place (Katharine Ross), they fled to Bolivia (after a brief stopover in NYC) to seek further wealth and better luck. In the end, they were outnumbered and died in a blazing, hail of bullets, freeze-frame shootout, reminiscent of Bonnie and Clyde (1967). The ending of their fateful last stand mythologized and immortalized the two outlaw heroes for posterity. Featured the Oscar-winning Best Song “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” while Etta and Butch shared a bicycle ride.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "Easy Rider"

© 1969 Columbia Pictures − All right reserved.

Easy Rider

D: Dennis Hopper

Starring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson

Widely considered a generation-defining, youth-oriented classic, Dennis Hopper’s low-budget road film still engrosses those who remain nostalgic for 60’s era wanderlust – seeking inspiration for the next road trip. Two motorcyclist biker outlaws (drug-dealers) (Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper) embarked on a coast-to-coast odyssey across America in this landmark counter-culture road drama/travelogue, searching for the ‘real’ America. The film classic provided a scenic tour of parts of historic Route 66. Much of the early portion of their eastward odyssey was seen behind the opening credits, to the tune of Steppenwolf’s ‘Born to Be Wild.’ The two drug-dealing motorcycling heroes began their journey in the dusty Death Valley desert of Ballarat, CA, then crossed the Colorado River and cruised to Flagstaff, AZ, then north through the Painted Desert to Monument Valley. In the Southwest, they encountered wide open spaces, hippies in a northern New Mexico commune, skinny-dipping in a Rio Grande River gorge near Taos, a parade in the tiny frontier town of Las Vegas, NM, small-town rednecks and paranoia, drugs, and a drunken, jailed lawyer (Jack Nicholson). When they arrived for Mardi Gras in New Orleans, they found sex in a bordello, a psychedelic trip in a graveyard, and a violent end outside of Baton Rouge. This often-imitated but never-duplicated movie defined a generation and has the greatest 60’s soundtrack (featuring The Byrds, The Band, Steppenwolf, Jimi Hendrix, The Electric Prunes, and more). Made for $375,000, it went on to make multiple millions and change the pop culture landscape forever.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "Hello, Dolly!"

© 1969 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation − All right reserved.

Hello, Dolly!

D: Gene Kelly

Starring Barbra Streisand, Walter Matthau, and Michael Crawford

Matchmaker, Dolly Levi takes a trip to Yonkers, New York to see the “well-known unmarried half-a-millionaire,” Horace Vandergelder. While there, she convinces him, his two stock clerks and his niece and her beau to go to New York City, all the while trying to get the man she likes to fall for her.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

The Italian JobThe Italian Job (UK)

D: Peter Collinson

Starring: Michael Caine, Noel Coward, Benny Hill

Forget about the straight and narrow. Clever con Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) intends to go straight to the bank. Fresh from the slammer, he begins work on a heist that will either set him up for life-or send him up forever. Croker and his unruly lot of thieves take on the mob, the police and the gridlock traffic of Turin to rob a heavily armed shipment of gold bullion in The Italian Job. Entertainment legend Noel Coward (in his last film role) costars in this open-throttle caper as criminal mastermind Bridger. And Benny Hill, Raf Vallone and Rossano Brazzi add to the story’s fun and suspense as it zips from plan to robbery to escape to an ending that’s a cliffhanger in every sense of the word! Hold on tight!

 

The Learning Tree  The Learning Tree  

D: Gordon Parks

Starring: Kyle Johnson Alex Clarke Estelle Evans Dana Elcar

As an African-American teen in small-town Kansas in the 1920s, Newt Winger (Kyle Johnson) largely shrugs off the racial prejudice of his time and place. His calm and self-controlled perspective is in direct opposition to that of his quick-tempered friend, Marcus Savage (Alex Clarke). But when Marcus’ father, Booker (Richard Ward), murders a man — and Newt witnesses the crime — Newt realizes that going to the police could jeopardize both his friendship and his life.

 

Poster for the movie "Midnight Cowboy"

© − All right reserved.

Midnight Cowboy

D: John Schlesinger

Stars:  Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Sylvia Miles, John McGiver

An exceptional, provocative, gritty buddy film – a poignant, downbeat, and tragic drama. It was a portrait of a naive, small-town Texan Joe Buck (Jon Voight), a slow-witted, pretty-boy blonde, who transplanted himself to NYC. He unexpectedly became an unsuccessful male prostitute-gigolo in Manhattan. Out of necessity, he was forced to befriend slimy, tubercular, limping, homeless, petty thief and con artist Enrico “Ratso” Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman), the film’s anti-hero, who dreamt of making it rich in sunny Florida. The two established interdependent bonds of love and trust in the big city, both hoping for a better life elsewhere. The unglamorous, sickly Rizzo bonded with the disillusioned drifter and together they struggled to live a marginalized existence in American society. Once-controversial because it was originally rated X, this adult-oriented, Oscar-winning Best Picture film was made on location in New York to portray seediness, corruption, and big-city anonymity, and based on James Leo Herlihy’s novel.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "On Her Majesty's Secret Service"

© 1969 United Artists − All right reserved.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Director:  Peter R. Hunt

Stars:  George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas

James Bond tracks archnemesis Ernst Blofeld to a mountaintop retreat where he’s training an army of beautiful but lethal women. Along the way, Bond falls for Italian contessa Tracy Draco — and marries her in order to get closer to Blofeld. Meanwhile, he locates Blofeld in the Alps and embarks on a classic ski chase.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (UK)

D: Ronald Neame

Starring: Maggie Smith, Pamela Franklin, Robert Stephens

Jean Brodie (Maggie Smith) is a free-spirited teacher at a Scottish girls’ school during the 1930s. She encourages her young pupils to embrace romantic ideals, educating them about love and art rather than hard facts. However, her controversial teaching philosophy draws the ire of the school’s headmistress, Miss Mackey (Celia Johnson), and, as Miss Brodie becomes entangled in a love triangle, her behavior towards her favorite students becomes increasingly manipulative.

 

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

D: Sydney Pollack

Starring: Jane Fonda, Michael Sarrazin, Susannah York, Gig Young

In the midst of the Great Depression, manipulative emcee Rocky (Gig Young) enlists contestants for a dance marathon offering a $1,500 cash prize. Among them are a failed actress (Jane Fonda), a middle-aged sailor (Red Buttons), a delusional blonde (Susannah York) and a pregnant girl (Bonnie Bedelia). Days turn into weeks as the competition drags on and people either drop out or expire. Rocky, however, will do anything for publicity and initiates a series of grueling derbies.

 

Poster for the movie "True Grit"

© 1969 Paramount Pictures − All right reserved.

True Grit

D: Henry Hathaway

Stars:  John Wayne, Kim Darby, Jeremy Slate, Dennis Hopper

The murder of her father sends a teenage tomboy, Mattie Ross (Kim Darby), on a mission of “justice”, which involves avenging her father’s death. She recruits a tough old marshal, “Rooster” Cogburn (John Wayne), because he has “grit”, and a reputation of getting the job done. The two are joined by a Texas Ranger, La Boeuf (Glen Campbell), who is looking for the same man (Jeff Corey) for a separate murder in Texas. Their odyssey takes them from Fort Smith, Arkansas, deep into the Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma) to find their man.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "The Wild Bunch"

© 1969 Warner Brothers/Seven Arts − All right reserved.

The Wild Bunch

D: Sam Peckinpah

Starring:  William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Edmond O’Brien

A controversial, brutally-violent, late 60s Western about the demise of a desperate, small gang of aging outlaws in the early 1900s that still clings to codes of honor, loyalty, and courage. Pike Bishop (William Holden), leader of the ‘wild bunch,’ is hired for their final job. In the stunning opening sequence, the gang – disguised as US Cavalry soldiers, ride into a Texas town and rob the railway office’s bank. The boss of the railroad hires a mercenary, bounty-hunting posse, led by Pike’s former buddy Deke Thornton (Robert Ryan) to pursue them, as the gang flees into Mexico, during the revolution of 1914. They are double-crossed by an anti-revolutionary dictator/Generalissimo Mapache (Emilio Fernandez) after the hijacking of weapons from a US ammunitions train. Attempting to redeem themselves by opposing an entire corrupt Mexican platoon, they are massacred in the famous, ultra-violent, slow-motion, colorful bloodbath finale.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Women in Love (UK)

D: Ken Russell

Starring: Alan Bates Glenda Jackson Oliver Reed

Close friends Rupert Birkin (Alan Bates) and Gerald Crich (Oliver Reed) begin romances with siblings Ursula (Jennie Linden) and Gudrun Brangwen (Glenda Jackson). After the couples wed, they take a joint honeymoon to Switzerland, where things begin happily — but they become increasingly complicated as the trip continues. Rupert and Ursula are determined to stay faithful to one another, while the aloof Gerald and the eccentric Gudrun turn to infidelity and sexual exploration.

 

Did your favorite make our list of the greatest films of 1969?

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