When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked back at 1963, it gave its Best Picture award to Tom Jones—the movie, not the singer. It isn't very memorable, and I didn't put it on my list.
1. The Birds
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Evan Hunter, from a novel by Daphne Du Maurier
Some say this is Hitch's silliest movie. I say it's his scariest.
2. Ikarie XB-1
Directed by Jindřich Polák
Written by Polák and Pavel Juráček, from a novel by Stanislaw Lem
This just might be the most stylish space-fiction film of the '60s—and yes, I've seen 2001.
3. The Silence
Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman
The final and finest segment of Bergman's Silence of God trilogy.
4. The Leopard
Directed by Luchino Visconti
Written by Visconti, Pasquale Festa Campanile, Enrico Medioli, Massimo Franciosa, and Suso Cecchi d'Amico, from a novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
I'm not sure what it says that Burt Lancaster's best performance features someone else's voice.
5. This Sporting Life
Directed by Lindsay Anderson
Written by David Storey, from his novel
The other notable William Hartnell role of 1963. And with its flashback structure, it features several jumps through time. Hmm.
6. The Great Escape
Directed by John Sturges
Written by James Clavell and W.R. Burnett, from a book by Paul Brickhill
"Perhaps we're being too clever. If we stop all the breakouts, it will only convince the goons we must be tunneling."
7. The Haunting
Directed by Robert Wise
Written by Nelson Gidding, from a novel by Shirley Jackson
How I resented this picture the first time I saw it! The campy beginning relaxed my defenses and let me feel superior to the material, and by the time its superbly crafted chills were jolting me in my seat I was too proud to admit I'd been taken in. Forgive me, Haunting: You're a great horror movie, and I regret ever claiming to dislike you.
Directed by Jean-Daniel Pollet with Volker Schlöndorff
Written by Philippe Sollers
"...if someone, somewhere, was slowly attempting to take your place..."
Directed by Georges Franju
Written by Jacques Champreux and Francis Lacassin, from a story by Louis Feuillade and Arthur Bernède
A semi-surrealist semi-superhero story.
Directed by Alain Resnais
Written by Jean Cayrol
The art of the abrupt edit.
11. Winter Light (Ingmar Bergman)
12. The Servant (Joseph Losey)
13. Hud (Martin Ritt)
14. An Actor's Revenge (Kon Ichikawa)
15. High and Low (Akira Kurosawa)
16. Moth Light (Stan Brakhage)
17. 8 1/2 (Federico Fellini)
18. Renaissance (Walerian Borowczyk)
19. To Parsifal (Bruce Baillie)
20. Charade (Stanley Donen)
Finally, a tip of the hat to the Zapruder film. I stuck it into my top 10 as a joke when I made my first 1963 list a decade ago, and while I don't feel the need to repeat the gag this time I don't want to toss out the picture entirely either. It isn't art, but it has attracted so much meaning over the years, just by its proximity to history, that it can work like art if you let it. So let's put it adjacent to the list instead of inside it—in the back and to the left.
Of the films of 1963 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in The Fire Within, Suzanne's Career, and Hallelujah the Hills.