1968 was a pretty momentous year for film. Among other things, it gave us one of the greatest motion pictures ever made and launched an iconic franchise now on its ninth feature entry. What were your favorite movies from that year?
As a refresher, Wikpedia has a list of movies released in 1968.
Given the year we’ve been asked to respond to and the movie that’s coming out this weekend, this Roundtable was obviously inspired by ‘Planet of the Apes’. However, my pick is the other movie featuring apes that year: Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece ‘2001: A Space Odyssey‘. Doing a little research on 1968 films to answer this week’s question, I was surprised to learn (was I the only one who didn’t know this?) that ‘2001’ and ‘Planet of the Apes’ were released in the United States on the same day. What a weekend that must have been for many moviegoers… but what a bummer that must have been for 20th Century Fox when the studio realized it released a gem of a sci-fi movie against what would come to be considered one of the greatest films of all time. Fortunately, in retrospect, both movies have earned their rightful spots as classics. But let’s be clear, while ‘Planet of the Apes’ is a great film, ‘2001’ is simply epic… even if, all these years later, I’m still not sure I understand that ending!
My favorite movie of 1968 has to be the prime choice of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. But of all the notable faves from that year, I think ‘The Devil’s Brigade‘ is my most “stumbled upon on cable and couldn’t turn off” film. The WWII Canadian elite and American misfit team-up carefully nails the beats of the genre with the help of an older William Holden.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
There is no film from the class of 1968 that I’d rather sit down and watch than ‘Bullitt‘. Steve McQueen perfected the template for the loner cop who plays by his own set of rules. With McQueen able to convey so much through facial expressions and physicality, ‘Bullitt’ rightly decides not to saddle him with reams of dialogue. Frank Bullitt isn’t as cynical or heartless as the Dirty Harrys that would soon follow. He doesn’t bed every woman who hovers into his plane of view like James Bond, nor does he lob out one quippy one-liner after another. McQueen has no need to lean on those standard issue crutches to exude cool, effortlessly outclassing the leads in most every last one of the action/thrillers that ‘Bullitt’ inspired.
The only thing about ‘Bullitt’ more iconic than McQueen’s performance is its epic ten minute car chase through the streets of San Francisco. Even after nearly five decades, it’s rarely been rivaled, well-deserving of the Academy Award for Best Editing this sequence was largely responsible for winning. The plot is engrossing, even if it doesn’t hold up to terribly close scrutiny, and director Peter Yates’ thirst for authenticity further sets ‘Bullitt’ apart from the rest of the pack.
Shannon and Brian already mentioned it, but ‘2001’ looms tall over anything else released in 1968, leaving all other movies that year (or that decade, frankly) scurrying beneath it like a bunch of prehistoric apes standing in the shadow of the monolith.
Nevertheless, 1968 produced a number of other gems, some that have even gone on to become classics. One of the best is Roman Polanski’s elegant horror thriller ‘Rosemary’s Baby‘, in which pregnant Mia Farrow fears that her overly-nosy neighbors may belong to a cult of Devil worshippers with ill intentions for her child. The film is a masterclass in suspense with tremendous psychological depth.
‘Planet of the Apes’ wasn’t the only big franchise that kicked off in 1968. A small-time industrial filmmaker from Pittsburgh by the name of George A. Romero threw together a little horror picture called ‘Night of the Living Dead‘ with nothing but a handful of his pals and a shoestring budget to work with. The movie invented the modern zombie genre and spawned several sequels, quasi-sequels, a remake and innumerable knockoffs (not the least of which is current TV smash ‘The Walking Dead’). Some of the production values and especially the acting are rather amateurish, but it remains an effective chiller.
Some other notable titles that year include Mel Brook’s hilarious comedy ‘The Producers‘, Steve McQueen’s very fun heist caper ‘The Thomas Crown Affair‘, and Roger Vadim’s loony sci-fi cheesefest ‘Barbarella‘.
What important movies from 1968 did we fail to mention? Tell us in the Comments.