Blast From the Past: 10 Great Films From 1961 to Watch Now

Film

1961 was quite a year. West Side Story won Best Picture, Elvis Presley starred in Blue Hawaii and Wild in the Country, JFK became the president, and technicolor was alive in all its beautiful glory. Let’s take a look back on 10 great films from ’61 that you can enjoy from the comfort of home.

BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S, dir. Blake Edwards

Moooooon river. How fabulous was Holly Golightly? Loosely based on Truman Capote’s novella, the classic tale features a charming (and unforgettable) performance from leading lady Audrey Hephburn, whose portrayal of a New York sociality is beyond whimsical and yet enchanting. George Peppard stars as the love interest, Paul Varjak. The film won two Oscars for Best Original Score and (duh) Best Original Song for “Moon River”, which was recognized by the American Film Institute as the fourth most memorable song in Hollywood history.

Available to watch on: Google Play, VUDU, M-Go, iTunes, YouTube, Amazon

LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD, dir. Alain Resnais

A film such as Last Year at Marienbad feels like a dream—it’s beautiful, meandering, and entirely mysterious. Critics were divided upon its release: some hailed it as a masterpiece and others labeled it “incomprehensible.” As transfixing as it is alluring, the film’s constantly moving and mischievous cinematography is masterful. The question of the film is whether a man and a woman met “last year” at a chateau in Marienbad. The rest is visceral and unconventional storytelling that even filmmaker Peter Greenway has cited as being the most important influence in terms of filmmaking. Watch Blur’s music video for “To The End” after you’re done watching the movie. 😉

Available to watch on: Hulu Plus, Amazon, VUDU, Google Play, YouTube

101 DALMATIONS, dir. Clyde Geronomi, Wolfgang Reitherman, Hamilton Luske

Apart from Miss Ursula from The Little Mermaid101 Dalmatians‘ Cruella De Vil is my favorite villainess in a Disney film. This film was the 17th animated feature to emerge from Walt Disney Animated Classics Series. Before 101 Dalmatians was even made, Sleeping Beauty had been box-office failure the previous year. It was then decided that a more approachable (and inexpensive) technique of animation would be introduced: xerography during the process of inking and painting traditional animation cels. The classic family film has been reissued at the theaters four time (1969, 1979, 1985, and 1991).

Available to watch on: Google Play, VUDU, Amazon, YouTube, iTunes

SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS, dir. Elia Kazan

Famed writer William Emge wrote Splendor in the Grass, the tale of a man struggling with unrequited love and heartbreak, and won an Oscar at the 1962 Academy Awards. Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty star as the two star-crossed lovers in high school. The title is taken from a line in a poem William Wordsworth wrote. It read:

“What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind…”

Available to watch on: Google Play, VUDU, Amazon, YouTube, iTunes

A RAISIN IN THE DUN,  dir. Donald Petrie

Lorraine Hansberry’s titled play was envisioned and brought to the screen by Donald Petrie (Sybil) in 1961. This heart-wrenching story of a family striving for their American dream, amidst prejudices against them, features an absolutely riveting performance by the lead Sidney Poiter. It was met with great reception as it had been nominated for the prestigious Palm D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

Available to watch on: Google Play, VUDU, Amazon, YouTube, iTunes

THE CHILDREN’S HOUR, dir. William Wyler

Audrey Hephburn had quite a year in 1961. Alongside Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which premiered in the fall of 61, The Children’s Hour came out just two months later. Shirley MacLaine won a Golden Globe for her performance as one of the two schoolteachers accused of being lesbians by a troubled student and whose every aspect of life becomes more difficult amongst the local community. The film was based on the original play written by Lillian Hellman. Though the film only grossed a low 2.5 million dollars critics were favorable of the two lead performances by these grand actresses.

Available to watch on: Google Play, VUDU, Amazon, iTunes, YouTube

THE INNOCENTS, dir. Jack Clayton

If you’re a fan of horror films like The Sixth Sense, The Others, or even The Woman in Black, you must give The Innocents a look. After all, the film’s inspired by the classic Henry James tale “The Turn of the Screw”. What could possibly go wrong with two children, a haunted mansion, and a well-dressed governess (Deborah Kerr)? It’s one of the earliest films that pushed “psychological horror” as it didn’t rely so heavily on the shocks and its use of lighting was cleverly crafted. It also had synthesized electronic sound (generated by Daphne Oram)for the cinemas, which was groundbreaking.

Available to watch on: YouTube

YOJIMBO,  dir. Akira Kurosawa


1860. The near end of the Tokugawa shogunate era. Kurosawa regular Toshiro Mifune stars as a rōnin arriving in a small town divided by two competing crime lords. The catch? Both sides hire the newly arrived outsider as a personal bodyguard. Kurosawa claimed that the 1942 film noir classic The Glass Key was a beneficial source for the film’s plot. Film theorists point to other films. Sergio Leone later remade the film. That film was A Fistful of Dollars, which was released just three years later. Oh Hollywood! Always remaking…

Available to watch on: HuluPlus, Amazon, iTunes, VeOh (for free)

LA NOTTE, dir. Michelangelo Antonioni

The follow-up to L’Avventura and second installment of Antonioni’s trilogy is La Notte. Just like L’Avventura, the film stars Marcello Mastroianni and, yes, the one and only Monica Vitti. This time Antonioni focuses on the day of a life of a married couple whose relationship, filled with lack of care and infidelities, is withering away. Stanley Kubrick has listed the film as one of his top ten favorite movies—obviously, he had great taste.

Available to watch on: HuluPlus, Amazon, iTunes

JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG, dir. Stanley Kramer


Coinciding with the real-life Adolf Eichmann trial, Judgment at Nuremberg explores a heated trial of four Nazi judges convicted for their war crimes. The film was actually inspired by Judges’ Trial before the Nuremberg Military Tribunal in 1947. The film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won for Best Actor (Maximilian Schell) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Abby Mann). The film won against West Side Story (also nominated for 11 Oscars and winner of Best Picture) for the riveting screenplay that truly deserved the gold.

Available to watch on: Vudu

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