From Agnès Varda and Stanley Kubrick to François Truffaut and John Frankenheimer, here are 10 great films from 1962 to enjoy right now.
LOLITA, dir. Stanley Kubrick
The classic (and controversial) Vladimir Nabokov novel was adapted into Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 picture and remains a provocative film after all these years. A middle-aged man (Peter Sellers) known as “Humbert Humbert” falls for the young Dolores “Lolita” Haze (Sue Lyons, who won a Golden Globe for “Most Promising Newcomer”) under the roof of his hostess (Lolita’s mother) Charlotte Haze (Shelley Lyons). Because of extremely strict censorship at the time, Stanley Kubrick said he would’ve never made the film if he only knew beforehand. (The “nymphet”, as described in the film and original novel, and desired title character was played by a 14 year old Sue Lyon.) Good thing he made the film.
Available to watch on: Amazon, GooglePlay, iTunes
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?, dir. Robert Aldrich
One of the most famous (and widely publicized) actress feuds occurred during the making of this 1962 cult classic that had been nominated for five Academy Awards. A wildly delusional child star known as Baby Jane Hudson (Bette Davis) keeps her physically ill and overlooked sister (Joan Crawford), a victim of a car accident, hostage in a withering house. The Baby Jane character has been widely referenced in pop culture and there was even an Italian spinoff spoof of the film appropriately titled Whatever Happened to Baby Toto? The UK gave the film an X rating and then later an 18 rating in 1988. It wasn’t until 2004 that the film was resubmitted earning it a 12 rating. It’s become considered “camp” and “black comedy” because of its devious performances and high drama so if that’s your forte it’s essential to view.
Available to watch on: VUDU, GooglePlay, Amazon, iTunes, YouTube
THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, dir. John Frankenheimer
John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate was released at a crucial moment in American history when the Cuban Missile Crisis was going full-throttle. Frank Sinatra stars as Maj. Bennett Marco, a U.S. platoon who suffers horrifying nightmares about the Korean War, creating suspicions of a brainwashed Staff Seargant Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) whose been credited for saving the other soldiers’ lives when held hostage Manchuria in Communist China. The conspiracy begins to escalate as the future of America’s people is threatened and it’s a taut suspense tale.The film’s political horror still resonates and was later remade by famed director Jonathan Demme and starred Denzel Washington and Liev Schreiber as the two main leads. May I also add Meryl Streep plays the controlling mother behind the brainwashed Sergeant?
Available to watch on: Netflix DVD
JULES AND JIM dir. François Truffaut
Set during WWI, Truffaut’s masterpiece Jules and Jim chronicles a most difficult love triangle involving a French bohemian named Jim (Henri Serre), an Austrian named Jules (Oskar Werner), and a woman named Catherine (Jeanne Moreau), later married to Jules. Time Magazine named the film’s soundtrack one of the “10 best soundtracks” in the “All Time 100 Movies List” thanks to the eloquent work by composer Georges Delerue. A major ode to the bohemian lifestyle, Jules and Jim is also a milestone in the French New Wave. Its use of newsreel footage, dolly shots, voiceover usage, and freeze frames are utilized for the film.
Available to watch on: Amazon, iTunes
KNIFE IN THE WATER, dir. Roman Polanski
Before there was Rosemary’s Baby and Repulsion, Polanski had his first feature film Knife in the Water nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards. A married couple invites a hitchhiker to join them on their sailing journey resulting in rivalry and suspicions. The film was shot in Poland and the difficulty of shooting on water aboard a ship left the crew limited with space (the film crew had to use safety harnesses as they were hanging on the side of the boat).
Available to watch on: Vudu, Amazon, iTunes, YouTube
DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES, dir. Blake Edwards
My name is Joe Clay. I’m an alcoholic. Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick star in this eye-opening tale of a relationship dwindled by the omnipresence of alcohol. At a time when the organization Alcoholics Anonymous was just becoming more prevalent and alcohol abuse was on the rise, the film’s depiction of a tumultuous relationship shook audiences. It was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Actress and Best Actor. The film’s theme song won the Oscar for Best Original Song. Days of Wine and Roses is a cautionary tale that showcases these two lead actors’ incredible talents.
Available to watch on: Google Play, VUDU, Amazon, YouTube, iTunes
IVAN’S CHILDHOOD, dir. Andrei Tarkovsky
Based on a short story written in 1957 by Vladimir Bogomolov, Ivan’s Childhood follows a young orphan named Ivan and his life set against the backdrop of WWII. It was also one of the very few Soviet films, alongside The Cranes Are Flying and Ballad of a Soldier, that expressed a strong sympathy for its characters amidst the war rather than “glorify the war experience”. Ivan’s Childhood won the Golden Lion award at the annual Venice Film Festival. Filmmakers Ingmar Bergman, Krzystof Kieslowski, and Sergei Parajanov have credited the film as a major influence.
Available to watch on: Amazon, Hulu, iTunes
CLEO FROM 5 TO 7, dir. Agnès Varda
In Paris, a pop star named Cleo (Corrine Marchand) wanders the streets of Paris as she awaits her medical results. The film’s been noted for its bizarre structure (its precise timing as we follow the story), symbols (mirrors are throughout the film reflecting self-obsession) and its themes that include existentialist questions seen through the feminine perspective of its title character. The film was entered into the 1962 Cannes Film Festival.
Available to watch on: Hulu
MAMMA ROMA, dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini
The emotional centerpiece of Mamma Roma is a relationship between a mother and son. The mother, Mamma Roma (Anna Magnani), is trying to make ends meet by selling vegetables and being a prostitute. Her sixteen-year old son named Ettore (Ettore Garofolo) discovers his mother is a prostitute and the maternal bond is threatened. Anna Magnani is incredible in this Pasolini film, a landmark in Italian cinema that introduced provocative ideas.
Available to watch on: Hulu
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, dir. Robert Mulligan
Harper Lee’s Pulitzer prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird had its revival onscreen with hot Hollywood actor Gregory Peck’s Oscar winning performance starring as Atticus Finch, the town lawyer of (fictional) Maycomb, Alabama, who takes on the case of a convicted black man accused of rape. The film’s poignancy relies heavily on great direction and top-notch performances that make the film a classic to be viewed over and over again.
Available to watch on: iTunes, Google Play, VUDU