In the 1960s, elements of decay and division in society, especially U.S. society, were becoming more obvious, and 1960s sci-fi reflected this. (1)
The 1960s were a fertile ground for many movie genres. The decade saw a number of fine traditional westerns, as well as the advent of the iconoclastic, bombastic spaghetti western, sweeping epics (like Lawrence of Arabia, El Cid), the final heyday of the big-budget musical (West Side Story, The Sound of Music), the James Bond spy craze, etc. The Hammer Studios' horror boom was in full swing, the WWII spectaculars went from strength (The Great Escape) to strength (The Dirty Dozen), Disney still was cranking out some classics (like 101 Dalmations) and Gidget and the Beach Party movies catered to the younger crowd.
One genre that didn't exactly flourish, though, was the science fiction film.
Much like the decade itself, the 1960s were a transitional period for the science fiction film. The decade started out pretty much as a continuation of the 1950s, with most Hollywood sci-fi reduced to fun but generally cheap and cheesy kiddie or teenage monster fare, like The Leech Woman, The Angry Red Planet, The Manster and The Brain that Wouldn't Die. By the end of the 60s, though, the social upheaval, chaos and malaise of the post-JFK assassination, counter culture, Vietnam War-era world were beginning to seep in, eventually leading to the slew of serious minded, downbeat sci-fi films in the early to mid 1970s, such as The Andromeda Strain, Colossus: The Forbin Project, Soylent Green, A Boy and His Dog, and Silent Running, to name just a few.
In between were a handful of Hall-of-Fame sci-fi films, which clearly show this gradual transformation from more juvenile fare into darker territory. Below is my list, in chronological order, of what I consider to be the 10 best films of this type to come out of that decade, along with a few worthy runners-up. While films like The Birds and Night of the Living Dead could be legitimately classified as science fiction, albeit in a fringe sense, to me they fall more clearly in the horror genre and so I chose not to include them here, as good as they undoubtedly are.
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