1967 Best Picture: The Lion in Winter
This film, almost entirely set in a dreary 12th Century castle, is best remembered for its razor sharp dialogue, amply sprinkled with wit. Henry II (Peter O’Toole), during a family gathering over Christmas, battles his estranged wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katherine Hepburn) and three sons over the future of the English throne.
This movie is not everybody’s cup of tea. Betraying its stage origins, there is little action and much talking and is basically a filmed play. Some viewers may simply not enjoy two hours plus of steady repartee, no matter how brilliantly spoken by its two excellent leads. (Side note: A very young Anthony Hopkins plays one of the sons.)
1968 Best Picture: Oliver!
Director Carol Reed, best known today for directing the film noir The Third Man, turned to a different genre in this adaptation of Charles Dicken’s Oliver Twist. The result was a lively song and dance fest taken from the British stage.
Among the many fine performances in the movie, those that stand out the most are Ron Moody as the kindly Fagin and Oliver Reed (nephew of the director) as the paranoid Bill Sikes. Ten year-old Mark Lester is also more than adequate as Oliver.
This production would be the last musical to win as best picture until Chicago in 2002 and was also the last G-Rated film to win best picture.
1969 Best Picture: Midnight Cowboy
Joe Buck (Jon Voight) and “Ratso” Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman), two men with warped ideas of achieving the American Dream, cross paths in New York and become unusual friends. Buck is a disillusioned Texan with plans to become a gigolo and Rizzo is a seedy con-man and thief whose goal is to go to Florida and become important. Unable to fulfill their dreams, one dies and the other only finds only disillusionment and despair.
This film with its strong sexual themes, including homosexuality, earned an “X” rating when first released, but it was later changed to “R” after winning the Oscar. Not to everybody’s tastes, the film is, nevertheless, an interesting character study.
These Oscar winning best pictures, along with those from the earlier 1960s, helped make the decade a notable one for filmmaking.