1969 Movies

This is the ultimate guide to 1969 films. The Plex database takes the guesswork out of finding what you're looking for, creating a go-to hub where the best movies released in 1969 are at your fingertips. Designed to make your search efficient, Plex offers a streamlined way to explore a significant year in cinema.
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The Best Movies of 1969

In 1969, the film industry saw varied releases that were impactful in different ways.

Cactus Flower

Cactus Flower presents a quirky yet relatable scenario: Toni Simmons, under the impression that her married lover is hesitant to leave his wife due to his children, is in for a shock. Julian Winston, her lover and a dentist by profession, doesn't even have a wife, let alone children. He simply uses the excuse to dodge commitment. However, when he decides to get serious with Toni, she demands to meet his first wife. To solve this problem, Julian asks his nurse, Stephanie Dickinson, to pose as his spouse.

What makes this film unique is its focus on mistaken identities and the lengths to which people go to avoid emotional commitment. With a brilliant cast and a plot that keeps you guessing, Cactus Flower offers a glimpse into human behavior and relationships.

Easy Rider

Easy Rider gives us a slice of life that captures the spirit of the late '60s counterculture. Two hippies, Wyatt and Billy, acquire a significant sum from a drug deal and embark on a road trip from Los Angeles to New Orleans on their motorbikes. Their aim? To reach Mardi Gras and, eventually, live a carefree life in Florida. Along the journey, the pair encounters various individuals, each teaching them something new, either about themselves or society at large.

The film deftly tackles the themes of freedom, identity, and the dream of an alternate lifestyle outside the established societal norms. With the open road as their playground, Wyatt and Billy navigate both physical and metaphorical pathways, encountering a series of intriguing individuals who challenge their perspectives. Not everyone they meet sees the world as they do, revealing a divide even within counterculture groups.

Anne of the Thousand Days

Another film that stood out in 1969 is Anne of the Thousand Days, which centers on King Henry VIII's tumultuous relationship with Anne Boleyn. Henry discards his first wife, Catharine of Aragon, who fails to produce a male heir in favor of Anne Boleyn. Their relationship lasts for 1,000 days, and it sees highs and lows, joy and heartbreak before Anne ultimately loses her life on the executioner's block.

The film offers a deep dive into the emotional and political intricacies of royal life, specifically examining how personal desires can have far-reaching implications. It also brings to light the enormous pressure and expectations placed on Anne to produce a male heir for Henry, which proves to be a central conflict that ultimately leads to her downfall.

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

They Shoot Horses, Don't They? takes place during the Great Depression and focuses on the life of Gloria, a disenchanted young woman who feels her life is futile. After a suicide attempt, she moves to Hollywood with aspirations to become an actress. She meets Robert, a would-be director, and they decide to participate in a dance marathon, a popular event during the 1930s. The exhaustive dancing further diminishes Gloria's already fragile spirit, leading her to ask Robert to end her life.

The film offers a stark portrayal of the harsh conditions of the time and how they affected individuals' mental states. Gloria's interactions with Robert and her eventual plea to him to end her suffering provide insight into the depths of despair people can reach when their circumstances seem insurmountable.

True Grit

Set in 1880, True Grit tells the story of Mattie Ross, a young woman seeking revenge for the murder of her father. She hires aging U.S. Marshal Reuben "Rooster" J. Cogburn and is joined by La Boeuf, a young Texas Ranger. Together, they journey into perilous territory to capture her father's killer.

The film explores themes of vengeance and justice, questioning whether an unrelenting pursuit for retribution is enough to face the dangers that lie ahead. The characters are forced to confront not just the physical hazards of their journey but also the emotional and ethical complications of their quest for justice.

Hello, Dolly!

Hello, Dolly! revolves around Dolly Levi, a matchmaker who travels to Yonkers, New York, with the intent to set up "well-known unmarried half-a-millionaire" Horace Vandergelder. Dolly convinces Horace, his two stock clerks, his niece, and her suitor to come to New York City. Once there, she ingeniously fixes up the clerks with the woman Horace had been pursuing, while simultaneously scheming to become Mrs. Vandergelder herself.

This comedic musical film explores themes of love, ambition, and the lengths to which people will go to secure their own happiness. The film's tone is light and whimsical, providing a stark contrast to the other, more somber films of 1969. It's a reminder that amidst societal upheavals and personal quests, there's always room for love and laughter.

Midnight Cowboy

Midnight Cowboy is a poignant drama that delves into the life of Joe Buck, a naive young man from Texas who moves to New York City. Envisioning himself as a cunning hustler, he is quickly disillusioned when he realizes that he is the one being exploited. This changes when he meets Ratso Rizzo, a struggling, ailing man. What starts as a calculated partnership evolves into a deep friendship, both finding in each other a first true comrade.

The film is a sharp critique of urban life and the struggles it entails. Joe Buck's journey from a self-perceived hustler to a more understanding human being is noteworthy. His interactions with Ratso Rizzo showcase the raw, complex emotions that often accompany unlikely friendships.

Sweet Charity

Sweet Charity takes us into the life of Charity, a taxi dancer who, despite numerous setbacks, continues to have a positive outlook on life. Her ambition is simple: to find a good man who can take her away from her undesirable circumstances. She meets Oscar, who she thinks might be the one to rescue her from her unenviable lifestyle.

While the film is filled with musical numbers and dance sequences, it is far from being just an entertaining spectacle. Charity's journey highlights the optimism that many people hold onto, even when faced with insurmountable odds. It is a deep dive into human psychology, showcasing how hope and faith can keep us going even when reality suggests otherwise.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

This film introduces us to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, leaders of the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang. As times change and the Western frontier becomes more controlled, the duo finds themselves chased by a relentless posse after robbing one too many trains. The chase leads them through numerous landscapes, and they manage to evade capture through sheer luck. Finally, Butch comes up with a plan to escape to Bolivia.

The film not only provides action-packed sequences but also delves into the existential crises faced by outlaws during that period. It demonstrates the contrast between Butch's ingenuity and Sundance's raw skills. It's a commentary on change, on the encroachment of modernity into what was once a lawless territory.

The Sterile Cuckoo

The Sterile Cuckoo explores the complicated romantic involvement between two college students, Pookie Adams and Jerry. Pookie is a misfit with no family support, while Jerry is a quiet individual torn between fitting into Pookie's unconventional world or conforming to societal norms. Their relationship provides Jerry with the skills to navigate complex social situations that Pookie herself rejects.

This film brings a fresh perspective to the often romanticized concept of young love. It captures the emotional turbulence experienced by young people who are still trying to understand themselves and the world around them. The characters are complex and relatable, making it an exciting watch for anyone interested in psychological dramas.

1969 Movies & Industry Highlights

Top-Grossing Films of 1969

The top ten highest-grossing films of 1969 in North America are as follows:

  1. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  2. The Love Bug
  3. Midnight Cowboy
  4. Easy Rider
  5. Hello, Dolly!
  6. Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice
  7. Paint Your Wagon
  8. True Grit
  9. Cactus Flower
  10. Goodbye, Columbus

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, directed by George Roy Hill and starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, dominated the U.S. box office and became one of the highest-grossing films of all time. Midnight Cowboy, directed by John Schlesinger and starring Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman, won the Academy Award for Best Picture, despite being rated X.

Major Industry Events

Several significant events took place in the film industry in 1969. In January, Louis F. Polk Jr. became president and C.E.O. of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. In July, Kinney National Services Inc. acquired substantially all of the assets of Warner Bros.-Seven Arts. Also in July, Al Pacino made his film debut in Me, Natalie. The Venice Film Festival, which had been awarding prizes since 1932, did not give out any awards from 1969 to 1979.

The festival was revived in 1980 and has been awarding prizes ever since. In August, Kirk Kerkorian bought 24% of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, becoming the biggest shareholder. In September, Injun Trouble was released, becoming the final entry of Merrie Melodies before Warner Bros.-Seven Arts Animation was shut down. In November, Elvis Presley's film career ended with the release of Change of Habit. Jack and Jill: A Postscript became the first feature film to receive an Australian Film Institute Award.

Genre Theory

Filmmakers have used genre theory to produce new, unique, and different stories. As the art of film evolved, more and more genres developed as filmmakers moved towards finding new and creative ways to subvert and combine them. Concepts like the "rom-com" appeared, combining the traditional genre components of romance films and comedy films.

Newer, more niche genres like the "road movie" and "disaster film" popped up alongside hybrid genres like "buddy cop" and "sci-fi western." By examining and mashing up genre theory, filmmakers have unlocked and combined different components from disparate genres to create legendary results—like George Lucas's Star Wars, which combines science fiction, samurai, western, and other elements.