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Best Years for Film: 1962

by alex peterson
Why is up for speculation, but there is no question that 1962 in particular saw the release of a greater number of masterpieces, from a modern perspective, than did the years surrounding it. 1961 had “Viridiana” and “Yojimbo” along with a few French New Wave greats. 1963 had “Bay of Angels,” “The Birds” and “55 Days at Peking” but those are relative dry cycles compared to the year they sandwiched. 1962 was packed with late masterpieces by Ozu, Ford, Hawks and Welles, mid-period gems by Kurosawa, Melville and Bunuel as well as the well-known emergence of talent like Truffaut, Marker, Varda and Polanski. And those filmmakers don’t make up… Read more

Why is up for speculation, but there is no question that 1962 in particular saw the release of a greater number of masterpieces, from a modern perspective, than did the years surrounding it. 1961 had “Viridiana” and “Yojimbo” along with a few French New Wave greats. 1963 had “Bay of Angels,” “The Birds” and “55 Days at Peking” but those are relative dry cycles compared to the year they sandwiched. 1962 was packed with late masterpieces by Ozu, Ford, Hawks and Welles, mid-period gems by Kurosawa, Melville and Bunuel as well as the well-known emergence of talent like Truffaut, Marker, Varda and Polanski. And those filmmakers don’t make up half of what was available in theaters that year. It makes someone born in 1984 irrationally nostalgic for a time when a film buff didn’t have to be satisfied with waiting for work from Haneke, Tsai, Kiarostami or Paul Thomas Anderson to trickle its way past financiers and into the occasional art house theater.

Though I have to be satisfied with what Criterion makes available, the following great movies also were in ‘62: Being Two Isn’t Easy, Hatari!

Were we at a seminal crossroads in the history of the movies, when talent from the classic era were still vibrant while the filmmakers they’d influenced were coming into their own? Or do the years surrounding ’62 stand out just as well, in other ways?

Below is a list of my favorite movies from ’62, and in contrast here are the top five movies at the box office from the same year:
1. Lawrence of Arabia
2. The Longest Day
3. In Search of Castaways
4. The Music Man
5. That Touch of Mink

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