When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked back at 1966, it gave its Best Picture award to A Man for All Seasons. That one just missed my top 10; here's what made the list instead:
1. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Directed by Sergio Leone
Written by Leone, Luciano Vincenzoni, Age Incrocci, and Furio Scarpelli, from a story by Leone and Vincenzoni
"In this world there's two kinds of people, my friend: those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig."
Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman
It's either the original 3 Women or the original Fight Club, depending on how you prefer to interpret the story.
Directed by John Frankenheimer
Written by Lewis John Carlino, from a novel by David Ely
If Philip K. Dick had written a Twilight Zone, it would've looked something like this.
4. The Battle of Algiers
Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo
Written by Pontecorvo and Franco Solinas
In the '60s, would-be Guevaras watched this to teach themselves revolution; four decades later, the Pentagon screened it for tips on fighting terror. Whatever else they found in it, both groups got to see one hell of a movie—a film so utterly unflinching in its amorality that it feels more like a dispassionate documentary than a propaganda picture.
5. Punch and Judy
Written and directed by Jan Švankmajer
A surreal and brutal take on the world's most famous puppet show.
6. Death of a Bureaucrat
Directed by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea
Written by Alfredo L. Del Cueto and Ramon F. Suarez, from a story by Alea
A dissident Cuban comedy. Like Kafka crossed with Laurel and Hardy.
7. Le deuxième souffle
Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
Written by Melville, from a novel by Jose Giovanni
"It's easier to find someone who's hiding. They lead an unusual life."
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
Written by Antonioni, Tonino Guerra, and Edward Bond, from a story by Julio Cortázar
The Zapruder film of arthouse pictures.
9. The Shooting
Directed by Monte Hellman
Written by Carole Eastman
The Zapruder film of westerns.
10. Andrei Rublev
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Written by Tarkovsky and Andrei Konchalovsky
I'm not a Tarkovsky cultist, but I do admire this fresco of a feature. The fourth chapter—"The Feast"—is the high point.
11. A Man for All Seasons (Fred Zinnemann)
12. Et Cetera (Jan Švankmajer)
13. Who Wants to Kill Jessie? (Václav Vorlíček)
14. Alfie (Lewis Gilbert)
15. El Dorado (Howard Hawks)
16. A Report on the Party and the Guests (Jan Němec)
17. Death of the Gorilla (Peter Mays)
18. The Cut-Ups (Antony Balch)
19. Lapis (James Whitney)
20. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (Bill Melendez)
Note that The Cut-Ups was co-written by William Burroughs and The Great Pumpkin was written by Charles M. Schulz. (I have no big point to make about that; it's just that those two don't often get to appear in the same lineup.) Also worth noting: The U.S. usually dominates my movie lists, but this time there are only two American pictures in the top 10. This wasn't a great era for Hollywood. (Czechoslovakia, on the other hand, was clearly punching above its weight.)
If that Battle of Algiers blurb sounds familiar, it's because I included the movie in my 1965 list last year. Apparently I misdated it, so here it is again in its proper place. If you want to fill last year's list back up to 20 places, add Tokyo Olympiad to the honorable mentions.
Finally, a special Golden Punchline Award to After the Fox. Most of it is mediocre—just another forgettable film wasting Peter Sellers' talent—but that final gag is great.
Of the films of 1966 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Endless Summer and The Big Gundown.