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Movies about the '60s: 10 must-sees

The new drama "Selma," which recreates the 1965 voting-rights marches led by Martin Luther King, Jr., could go down as one of the definitive films about a decade full of historic milestones and watershed moments. Here are 10 more movies about the 1960s worth seeing.

"Apocalypse Now"

Credit: United Artists

"Apocalypse Now" (1979): If Oliver Stone's "Platoon" tried to find moral meaning somewhere in the Vietnam War, Francis Ford Coppola's film does the opposite. Starring Martin Sheen as an Army man sent to assassinate a colonel who's gone off the rails (Marlon Brando), "Apocalypse Now" is an epic voyage into insanity. Coppola based his narrative on Joseph Conrad's classic story, "Heart of Darkness."

"A Hard Day's Night"

Credit: Janus Films

"A Hard Day's Night" (1964): The Beatles' first feature film, a free-spirited romp through a newly energized post-war London, brims with optimism and the promise of youth. Here are Ringo, Paul, John and George, fresh-faced and mop-topped, singing their early pop hits and gently tweaking the noses of an older, hidebound generation. That culture clash would turn serious soon enough, but for this brief, wonderful moment, everything seemed simply fab. Much credit goes to Richard Lester's masterful direction.


Credit: Warner Bros.

"JFK" (1991): You don't need to take conspiracy theories seriously to enjoy this electrifying political thriller from Oliver Stone and starring Kevin Costner as Jim Garrison, the New Orleans district attorney who attempted to prove that a shadowy network of ideologues and weirdos was behind John F. Kennedy's assassination. Packed with wild performances by Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Bacon, John Candy and Joe Pesci, "JFK" may stretch credibily but remains one of the most entertaining films of all time.

"Gimme Shelter"

Credit: Maysles Films

"Gimme Shelter" (1970): When did the 1960s end? If there was a single moment, it was the Rolling Stones' infamous concert at Altamont Speedway, a hopeful follow-up to Woodstock that included Santana, Jefferson Airplane and Crosby, Stills & Nash. An agitated crowd, a gaggle of Hells Angels and some kind of intangible bad vibes (The Grateful Dead were so spooked they refused to play) culminated in the stabbing death of a young black concertgoer, Meredith Hunter. The Maysles brothers, along with Charlotte Zwerin, captured it all on film, making for one of the most riveting and chilling documentaries you'll ever see.

"Malcolm X"

Credit: Warner Bros.

"Malcolm X" (1992): Denzel Washington played the controversial militant in Spike Lee's film and was nominated for a best acting Oscar (he lost to Al Pacino in "Scent of a Woman"). Critics heaped praise upon it, though the film was not exactly a blockbuster, perhaps because X, known for his pro-violence rhetoric, remains a discomfiting figure from the 1960s.


Credit: Warner Bros.

"Zodiac" (2007): David Fincher's film about the so-called Zodiac serial killer of the late 1960s and '70s shares some similarities with Oliver Stone's "JFK" -- both put forth theories of terrible crimes that cannot be proved. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the political cartoonist Robert Graysmith, who becomes obsessed with solving the crime; Robert Downey, Jr., is Paul Avery, a crime reporter driven slightly mad by the story. It's a haunting film, rich with period detail and shot in the amber tones of an old Kodak photo by cinematographer Harris Savides.


Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment

"Woodstock" (1970):. Michael Wadleigh's Oscar-winning documentary is the next best thing to actually being at the 1969 three-day music festival. The live performances touch on just about every genre and style of the decade -- Joan Baez, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, the late Joe Cocker -- but the film also mixes it up with the muddy audience members who helped turn a mere concert into an generation-defining moment.

"Chicago 10"

Credit: C7 Films Inc. / Roadside Attractions

"Chicago 10" (2007): This little-seen film recreates the courtroom trial following the protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Its approach is unusual -- it's animated. Featuring a grab-bag of excellent voice actors (Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber, Hank Azaria) and some surreal touches (Allen Ginsberg keeps floating), "Chicago 10" feels almost like an underground cartoon from the era: loopy, irreverent and mad as hell.

"The Doors"

Credit: Tri-Star Pictures

"The Doors" (1991): Much grousing and griping from critics who lived through the 1960s greeted Oliver Stone's bio-pic about Jim Morrison and his iconic rock band. Nevertheless, the film has gone down as something of a camp classic. Val Kilmer delivers a no-holds-barred performance as the gyrating singer, and the film is filled with memorably weird scenes of drug-taking, sexual voodoo and mental deterioration. Come to think of it, that describes the whole decade pretty well.

"Thirteen Days"

Credit: New Line Cinema / Ben Glass

"Thirteen Days" (2000): Roger Donaldson's drama about the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 seemed to get everything right: hot star Kevin Costner as a JKF staffer, a fine support cast (Ed Lauter, Dylan Baker), a tight script informed by newly declassified documents. Critics praised it, but for some reason the public stayed away. Kennedy's Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, was skeptical of the movie before its release but eventually called it "an absolutely fascinating portrayal."


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