Nolte: What Should’ve Won the Best Picture Oscar – 1960 to 1969

best picture oscar
Shamley Productions/ Paramount Pictures

In part five of this series we look at the movies that should have won the Best Picture Oscar between 1960 and 1969.

Let’s begin…


  • What Did Win: The Apartment

Director, co-writer Billy Wilder took home all kinds of Oscars for his heartwarming look at life as a corporate drone in Manhattan as told through a poignant love affair between Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine.

Gorgeously shot in black and white widescreen, but like so many classic movies, the script is so good the story worked just as well on a 13-inch black and white TV.

  • What Should’ve Won: Psycho

Long after you’ve memorized all the shocking twists, director Alfred Hitchcock’s low-budget masterpiece still delights. Psycho is an act of pure filmmaking and craftsmanship, a journeyman director announcing to the world he does not require big budgets or stars to wow an audience.

Elia Kazan’s forgotten but timeless Wild River is a close second place.

See also: Spartacus, Elmer Gantry, La Dolce Vita, and Inherit the Wind.



  • What Did Win: West Side Story

The dazzling opening scene is shot on-location, on a real city street. Then, for whatever reason, we’re moved indoors, into obvious sound stages and artificial sets… The movie never recovers. The only thing that feels real is Oscar-winner Rita Moreno.

West Side Story is no stinker, just over-praised.

  • What Should’ve Won: El Cid

Director Anthony Mann’s epic adventure in myth-making is proof of just how much TV and home video shape our tastes. Due to countless lawsuits with producer Samuel Bronston’s estate, El Cid was lost (along with Bronston’s lesser-but-still-great Fall of the Roman Empire) for decades and is still not available in the U.S. on Blu-ray.

A truly unforgettable cinematic experience and not just a historical epic… Just as epic is the endlessly complicated and smoldering love affair between stars Sophia Loren and Charlton Heston (who reportedly despised one another).

See also: Judgment at Nuremberg, The Guns of Navarone, The Misfits, One-Eyed Jacks, A Raisin in the Sun, One; Two, Three; King of Kings, The Children’s Hour, and Barabbas.



  • What Did Win: Lawrence of Arabia

Who’s going to argue with this choice…?

Not me.

  • What Should’ve Won: Lawrence of Arabia

See also: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Music Man, The Longest Day, Sweet Bird of Youth, The Miracle Maker, The Manchurian Candidate, Merrill’s Marauders, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Hell Is for Heroes, Birdman of Alcatraz, and Days of Wine and Roses.



  • What Did Win: Tom Jones

Have to admit I’ve never seen this. Anything described as “British” and “bawdy” feels like homework. Obviously, I’m not alone. When’s the last time anyone talked about Tom Jones?

  • What Should’ve Won: Hud

This is still one of the most effective examinations of how pure evil can appear tolerable in the form of something as charismatic and physically beautiful as a young Paul Newman.

See also: Lilies of the Field; America, America; High and Low, The Great Escape, and From Russia with Love.



  • What Did Win: My Fair Lady

Unquestionably delightful but like West Side Story, it never feels real. Time has not been kind to this one.

  • What Should’ve Won: The Americanization of Emily

The Mighty James Garner and Julie Andrews are perfectly cast in writer Paddy Chayefsky’s dark comedy about a principled coward and the prim and proper British widower who falls for him.

There has never been another movie like it.

See also: Zorba the Greek, Seven Days in May, Dr. Strangelove, Becket, Goldfinger, The Pawnbroker, Night of the Iguana, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, and Fail-Safe.



  • What Did Win: The Sound of Music

Who’s going to argue with this one…?

I am…

  • What Should’ve Won: Zhivago

Director David Lean’s achingly beautiful story of an adulterous love affair doomed by the horrors and turmoil of the Russian Revolution is a revelation in how to tell a deeply personal story against history’s sweep and grandeur. My favorite Lean movie, which is saying a lot.

See also: The Agony and the Ecstasy, King Rat, Von Ryan’s Express, and most especially, The Spy Who Came in the from the Cold.



  • What Did Win: A Man for All Seasons

A movie for all seasons, especially in this hideous era of the Woke Gestapo, of a political and media establishment outlawing eternal and biological truths for the sake of political expediency.

  • What Should’ve Won: A Man for All Seasons

Easy pick.

See also: The Sand Pebbles, Grand Prix, Alfie, Harper; The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly; El Dorado, and Blowup.



  • What Did Win: In the Heat of the Night

Terrific movie perfectly directed by Norman Jewison in a time when liberals still knew how to make issue movies… The on-location cinematography is another plus.

  • What Should’ve Won: WE HAVE A TIE — Bonnie and Clyde

Arthur Penn directs the hell out of The Movie That Forever Changed Hollywood by turning a gangster picture into a timeless allegory about fighting the corrupt establishment. No one could have played Clyde other than Warren Beatty, a legitimate artist willing to take enormous chances. Name another movie star who, in 1967, would’ve eagerly agreed to play an impotent, homosexual sociopath.

An absolute delight from beginning to end.

  • Cool Hand Luke

The Christ Tale as told through a reprobate who chooses death over conformity, who starts a revolution by refusing to surrender his individualism to The Man.

If you catch me on the right day, I’ll tell you Cool Hand Luke is the greatest movie ever made.

See also: The Graduate, The Dirty Dozen, Hombre; To, Sir with Love; and Point Blank.



  • What Did Win: Oliver!

The Academy sure loved big-budgeted, widescreen musicals in the sixties. Oliver! Is a perfectly entertaining musical you’ll want to introduce to your kids before MTV ruins their attention spans.

  • What Should’ve Won: Rosemary’s Baby

Not an easy choice considering the competition below… And yet it kind of was.

Director Roman Polanski’s still-horrifying examination of paranoia, American ambition, and the bond between mother and child is as perfectly cast as any movie you’ll ever see. And even before we get to the horror-horror, Polanski makes us squirm by way of the real-life domestic horror of those ever-intrusive neighbors you can never seem to get rid of.

See also: Planet of the Apes, 2001: Space Odyssey, Bullitt, Lion in Winter, Will Penny, The Swimmer, The Odd Couple, Night of the Living Dead, The Boston Strangler, The Great Silence, and Once Upon a Time in the West.



  • What Did Win: Midnight Cowboy

This poignant look at the unlikeliest of friendships is gritty, hilarious, inspiring, heartbreaking, and was, at the time, X-rated.

  • What Should’ve Won: I Abstain

The Wild Bunch? Easy Rider? Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?  Midnight Cowboy…?

Can’t do it. You can’t make me.

See also: True Grit, Support Your Local Sheriff.

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