The top-grossing movies of the 1960s range from blockbuster musicals to one of the greatest bond movies of all time.
The 1960s were a different time in Hollywood. There were many successful movies, but the idea of the “event” image and the “summer blockbuster” would not take hold until the 1970s. The decade was something of a transitional period, dominated by both Hollywood classical and musicals, as well as by avant-garde directors who embraced countercultural themes while pushing cultural boundaries.
These are the 19 highest-grossing movies of the 1960s
1. the sound of music (1965) – $158 million
The classic musical tells the true story of the singing von Trapp family and their escape from the Nazis in Austria to Switzerland. The musical starred Julie Andrews and was a huge critical and commercial success. the film epitomizes family entertainment and adds a touch of historical perspective. many of his musical numbers have become iconic and entrenched in the cultural landscape. two of the most memorable performances are do-re-mi and the hills are alive. The film grossed $158 million worldwide for 20th Century Fox and is widely considered one of the most successful musicals of all time.
this makes the sound of music the highest grossing movie of the 1960s
2. the jungle book (1967) – 137 million dollars
The last film produced by Walt Disney before his death, The Jungle Book, was a huge success for the studio and became one of the most successful animated films of all time. the film tells the story of an abandoned baby literally raised by wolves. The film was one of Disney’s last big animated hits before a dramatic drop in quality and popularity in the 1970s and early 1980s. The film grossed $137 million for Disney from its initial release, and subsequent re-releases have increased that figure considerably. The musical comedy based on Rudyard Kipling’s book got a live-action remake in 2016.
3. the graduate (1967) – $104.6 million
Mike Nichols’ comedy about a bored and disillusioned college graduate who has an affair with the wife of his father’s business partner only to fall in love with his daughter, the graduate, was considered somewhat scandalous in 1967. Also, the character Benjamin Braddock’s desire to chart his own destiny and break free from the confines of his life connected with audiences in the late 1960s. The use of Simon and Garfunkel’s music in the film was groundbreaking at the time; Although it was not a musical, the music helped set the tone and mood of the film.
although mrs. robinson is the song that is most associated with the film, the sound of silence is the most relevant. it is used three times as a framing element: in the opening credits, in the middle of the film, and in the final scene. The film grossed $104.6 million for footage of the Avco Embassy and is considered one of the greatest comedies of all time.
4. butch cassidy and the sundance kid (1969) – $102 million
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid tells the story of two outlaws who end up fleeing the United States for Bolivia. The film is loosely based on fact, drawing inspiration from the wild gang. The film paired Paul Newman and Robert Redford, mixing comedy, action, and adventure. Newman and Redford’s chemistry and likability helped fuel the film’s success (the pair would reconnect a few years later). The film grossed $102 million for 20th Century Fox, making it one of the biggest of the decade.
5. my fair lady (1964) – 72 million dollars
The musical comedy drama finds Eliza Doolittle learning how to speak properly from the arrogant phonetician Henry Higgins. A traditional Hollywood musical done right, My Fair Lady touches on issues of class division and personal identity. Based on George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, the film swept the Academy Awards, winning eight, including Best Picture. The film grossed over $72 million at the box office for Warner Bros.
6. ball of thunder (1965) – $63 million
The top-grossing movies of the 1960s include two bonus movies. The fourth James Bond film, Thunderball, was also the most successful in the franchise until 1973’s Live and Let Die. Starring Sean Connery, the film followed James Bond as the evil Specter Organization schemes to steal a pair of atomic bombs and bailing out nato, which, in james bond movies, is about as typical as it gets. the movie received pretty decent reviews on its way to becoming the biggest movie of the year. generated $63 million for United Artists.
7. Cleopatra (1963) – 57 million dollars
cleopatra was the most successful movie of 1963. it also lost money after its release due to its huge budget of 44 million dollars. Starring Elizabeth Taylor, the film was meant to be an epic story, but ultimately fell short of expectations. The historical drama tells of the doomed marriage of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, and their quest for power. It was very well received by critics at the time, earning nine Oscar nominations, but is largely forgotten today. The film grossed $57 million for 20th Century Fox.
8. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – $57 million
Stanley Kubrick’s groundbreaking sci-fi epic became a cultural touchstone. the film involves the origins of man, a mysterious monolith, and a malfunctioning computer that seems to have far more of a personality than the astronauts it’s meant to serve. The movie is when Kubrick was at his peak as a filmmaker, after Dr. strange love Kubrick followed in 2001 with A Clockwork Orange (1971), Barry Lyndon (1975), and The Shining (1980). A visionary masterpiece known for its deliberate pace, 2001 initially brought in $57 million for MGM.
9. guess who’s coming to dinner (1967) – $56 million
Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn starred together for the ninth and final time as parents who meet their daughter’s African-American fiancé, played by Sidney Poitier. the film was noted for its positive portrayal of an interracial relationship, at a time when such relationships were not only taboo, but actually illegal in some parts of the country. The subject matter presented in the film was rarely treated by the film industry in the 1960s. Tracy died just 17 days after the film was completed. The film was a critical and commercial success, generating $56 million for Columbia Pictures on a budget of $4 million.
10. funny girl (1968) – 52 million dollars
Funny Girl is a musical comedy based on the life of Broadway star Fanny Brice. The film follows Brice’s career in vaudeville and her tumultuous relationship with her husband. Barbra Streisand won the Oscar for best actress, and the film was praised for its music. Funny Girl would help cement Streisand as a star and generate more than $52 million at the Columbia Pictures box office.
11. golden finger (1964) – 51 million dollars
The third james bond movie is also considered one of the best of all time in the series. In the movie, Goldfinger has an elaborate plan to crash the gold market and make a fortune. James Bond of course has to figure out the plan and stop it. and there’s a character named pussy galore. This exciting bond movie was original for its time and has been copied and imitated many times. the film raised $51 million for United Artists.
12. the love bug (1968) – 51 million dollars
The real star of the love bug is the volkwagon beetle known as “herbie”. In the film, a hapless race car driver finds himself behind the wheel of “Herbie,” a car with a mind of its own. . herbie tries to set up our hero with a girl and is excellent at racing; after all, you don’t need to drive the vehicle. Silly family fun, this film generated over $51 million in box office receipts for Disney and spawned several sequels.
13. bonnie and clyde (1967) – 50 million dollars
warren beatty produced and starred in this story about american outlaws clyde barrow and bonnie parker. the film was considered groundbreaking at the time of its release. its depiction of violence, sexual issues, and overall tone were out of step with standard, tamer Hollywood fare. The film’s approach and antihero leads have more in common with modern storytelling, which really made it stand out from its contemporaries.
The fact that the film was told from the perspective of criminals and those who stood up to the forces of the establishment (police, banks) struck a chord with audiences in the late 1960s. The film would gross 50 million dollars for warner bros.
14. Midnight Cowboy (1969) – $47 million
jon voight and dustin hoffman star in this buddy drama that tells the story of a naïve male prostitute who arrives in manhattan and befriends a low-level con man. The Midnight Cowboy was well regarded upon its release, primarily due to the performances of Voight and Hoffman. the relationship between the two misfit characters is what gives the film its staying power and why it remains influential on cinema even today. The film won the Oscar for Best Picture and grossed $47 million at the box office for United Artists.
15. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) – $46 million
director stanley kramer set out to make the epic comedy to end all epic comedies. the end result is a bit confusing. the concept, a group of motorists run into a dying man who gives them clues about a fortune, not bad. motorists head off to find their fortune in a wild cross-country race, and the comedy begins.
The movie is a bit dated and full of over-the-top humor that doesn’t always hold up. Kramer assembled an all-star cast that included Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Spencer Tracy, Ethel Merman and Mickey Rooney. The film grossed $46 million for MGM on a budget of $9.4 million.
16. the odd couple (1968) – $44 million
walter matthau stars as a careless sportswriter who finds himself living with an uptight, meticulous neat freak played by jack lemmon. This story of friendship and accepting people for who they are was based on Neil Simon’s play of the same name. Audiences enjoyed the chemistry between lemmon and matthau as an odd couple growing up and learning to appreciate each other. The odd couple produced a television series and also a sequel in which Lemon and Matthau reprise their roles 30 years later. The film grossed $44 million for Paramount.
17. West Side Story (1961) – $43.6 million
west side story, the romantic musical inspired by romeo and juliet, is considered one of the best musicals ever made. The film follows the rivalry between two street gangs: the Jets and a Puerto Rican gang called the Sharks. The film reflected the genuine racial tension of the time in New York due to the increase in the Puerto Rican population. In the movie, Tony, the co-founder of the Jets, falls in love with Maria, the little sister of the leader of the Sharks. the film won 10 Academy Awards, the most for a musical. contributed $43.6 million to mgm against a budget of $6 million.
18. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) – $37.4 million
Lorenzo de Arabia tells the epic and historical story of the British officer T.E. lawrence and his adventures in the middle east during the first world war. they send him to the region to build alliances and establish diplomatic ties with Arab groups living under the Ottoman empire. Eventually, Lawrence and his Arab allies start a guerrilla war against the Ottoman Empire.
The american film institute considers lawrence of arabia to be the best film ever made in its “epic” category. The film won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and grossed $37.4 million for Columbia.
19. psychopath (1960) – 32 million dollars
Just barely making it onto our list of the highest-grossing movies of the 1960s is Psycho. Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller was a sensation from its release. Psycho’s unusual structure, in which the central character and point of view of the story repeatedly change, helps the film build tension and a sense of uncertainty for the audience. In the film, bank clerk Marion Crane embezzles some money and leaves town only to find herself at the Bates Motel. Anthony Perkins gives one of the truly great performances in the horror genre as Norman Bates.
perkins was so good he was typecast; fortunately for him, psycho spawned several sequels. although it might be considered tame by today’s standards, the film helped establish the modern horror image and was considered graphic and terrifying in its time. The film grossed $32 million for Paramount on a small budget of just $800,000. it also makes our list of the highest-grossing horror movies of all time.