When the Motion Picture Academy looked back at 1962, it gave its Best Picture award to Lawrence of Arabia. I don't think that's a bad movie—it made it into my honorable mentions—but I don't think it's the year's best either.
1. The Exterminating Angel
Directed by Luis Buñuel
Written by Buñuel and Luis Alcoriza, from a play by Jose Bergamin
This was the first Buñuel film I ever saw. A couple dozen pictures later, it's still my favorite.
2. The Music Man
Directed by Morton DaCosta
Written by Marion Hargrove, from a play by Meredith Willson and Franklin Lacey
A real movie musical, completely liberated from the stage, with a sophisticated score and an anti-bluenose streak.
3. La Jetée
Written and directed by Chris Marker
Terry Gilliam remade/remixed this as Twelve Monkeys. I like that one too, but it can't match the poetry of the original.
4. Ride the High Country
Directed by Sam Peckinpah
Written by N.B. Stone Jr.
"You can have one, because the Lord's bounty is not for sale. The rest are a dollar each."
5. The Manchurian Candidate
Directed by John Frankenheimer
Written by George Axelrod, from a novel by Richard Condon
The book is fun, but it's also a mess. The screen version—or at least this screen version—is much better.
6. The Fabulous Baron Munchausen
Directed by Karel Zeman
Written by Zerman, Josef Kainar, and Jiří Brdečka, from a story cycle by Rudolf Erich Raspe
I'm a fan of Terry Gilliam's Munchausen movie too, but—as with La Jette—I like this earlier take on the tale better. It feels like it's set in a Cornell box.
7. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Directed by Robert Aldrich
Written by Lukas Heller, from a novel by Henry Farrell
"You mean, all this time we could've been friends?"
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Written by Kurosawa and Ryuzo Kikushima
Kurosawa's funniest film, though I wouldn't quite call it a comedy.
9. An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
Directed by Robert Enrico
Written by Enrico, from a story by Ambrose Bierce
One of two templates for Siesta, Jacob's Ladder, Lulu on the Bridge, Abre Los Ojos, The Sixth Sense, Vanilla Sky, and Donnie Darko.
10. Carnival of Souls
Directed by Herk Harvey
Written by John Clifford
The other template.
11. Pitfall (Hiroshi Teshigahara)
12. Cleo from 5 to 7 (Agnès Varda)
13. Lolita (Stanley Kubrick)
14. Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean)
15. The House Is Black (Forough Farrokhzad)
16. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (John Ford)
17. The Trial (Orson Welles)
18. Knife in the Water (Roman Polanski)
19. Hell is for Heroes (Don Siegel)
20. The Tom and Jerry Cartoon Kit (Gene Deitch)
If you're thinking to yourself, "Hey, didn't Jesse already mention The Fabulous Baron Munchausen when he listed his favorite films of 1961 last year?" then I congratulate you on your capacity for remembering blog trivia. You are correct. Apparently I had the wrong release date. Feel free to mentally revise last year's list by taking out Munchausen, bumping up everything below it, and inserting Jan Lenica's Nowy Janko Muzykant at #20.
Of the films of 1962 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in The Awful Dr. Orloff.