1966: A Revolution in Movies

 Posted by on March 27, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Film, Season 5
Mar 272012
Blow-Up (1966)

1966 was the year that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) discarded the outdated Hayes code and enforced a new ratings system for new releases.  It had become obvious to MPAA president Jack Valenti that  the current film and cultural environment was becoming less family friendly and more emotionally and sexually intense.  Although considered mild by today’s standards, major studio films such as Blow-Up  and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? ( both 1966), were among the first to feature nudity and profanity. Revised several times over the years, these rating set the standard for age restrictions at the movies. The  original rating labels were as follows:

  • G: General Audiences – Suggested for General Audiences – (all ages)
  • M: Mature Audiences – Suggested for Mature Audiences – Parental Discretion Advised
  • R: Restricted – People Under 16 Not Admitted Unless Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian
  • X: Adults Only – People Under 18 will not be Admitted (changed to 17 later that year)

The movie season from summer of 1966 (when A Little Kiss occurs) to that winter introduced a plethora of  films both traditional and cutting edge.  You could see how Hollywood was attempting to reach the under-30 generation with radical films, the kinds that would make Betty’s Junior League lock up their kids. Many films in 1966, even romantic comedies, were becoming edgier. The Mad Men characters are always referencing movies, I’m sure there will be a lot of water cooler chats at SCDP over these.

Here are some popular movies that premiered from June to December of 1966:

BRITISH IMPORTS  The British Invasion continues, and Caraby Street rules. The first two of these were promoted as comedies, but both had dark underbellies:

ALFIE:  A reckless womanizer (Michael Caine) learns that there are consequences for his actions  (Hello, Don!)

GEORGY GIRL: A plain wallflower (Lynne Redgrave) tries to break out of her shell to find love, with surprising results. (Hey Peggy!)

BLOW-UP: A suave high fashion photographer (David Hemmings) uncovers a mystery which becomes a question of what is real. (I bet Harry would like this.)

FOREIGN FILMS    Paging Don Draper, your weekday afternoons have just been booked. A lot of  foreign love stories this year with similar names!

MASCULIN FEMININ: 15 Documentary-style French vignettes about love, sex, and the Pepsi Generation, by director Jean-Luc Goddard. (I can see Megan wanting to see this).

UN HOMME ET UNE FEMME: A widower and widow meet and discover that love can bloom again after tragedy. (This is more Don’s speed).


THE SAND PEBBLES:   Sailors in the 1920’s explore the mysteries of China (Maybe Bert would convince Roger to see this with him).

THE GOOD, THE BAD, & THE UGLY: The third in the trilogy of Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns by Sergio Leone. (The ultimate action movie for Don and Lane’s next outing).


THE WILD ANGELS: A precurser to Easy Rider, Peter Fonda speaks for much of the younger generation here when he makes demands for his Hell’s Angels Chapter. 


BATMAN The biggest pop-phenomenon of 1966—Batman is everywhere. And you know Bobby is first in line!

And finally, from the ridiculous to the sublime, sadly, they don’t make them like this anymore:


WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? An unsuspecting couple are invited to what becomes a  hellish dinner party with College professor George and his spiteful wife Martha.

A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS: The trials of Sir Thomas More as he opposes Henry VIII’s first divorce. The Best Picture Winner for 1966. A magnificent film, not necessarily revolutionary in its telling, but definitely inspiring for any determined to defend their beliefs and lifestyle, even at the cost of defeat.


  9 Responses to “1966: A Revolution in Movies”

  1. I loved the rundown of movies from 1966, and I would’ve loved it even more had Jack Valenti’s name and the title of the film “Un homme et une femme” had been spelled correctly. Thanks for the great blog.

    • Please forgive my misspellings. The spell check wasn’t on and I was too hasty. I promise you, I will improve. -Therese

  2. This was an amazing time for movies. Like mentioned above, it was the time between the demise of the Hays code and the creation of MPAA ratings. Movies, especially during this time, really helped me understand how much we changed socially as a nation in the 60s.

  3. Although I was born over 2 years before July 1934 when Joseph Ignacius Breen actually was able to totally enforce the Production Code of the Motion Picture Industry (which was created circa 1929 under the direction of Will Hays the first head of what is now the MPAA) I never was involved in production of those marvelous “Pre-Code” films.

    In the later 1930’s I did appear as a child actor in a some movies made under the Production Code. My career as a studio executive trainee started in June 1948, so many times I butted heads with the old Code office and later the Film Rating Board.

    My opinion is none of these code plans make a lick of sense. If you get the joke, then you have already been exposed to that material. If you do not understand the joke or scene, it will not harm you.

  4. I think there may be an error in this post, or I misread it. The old production code ended in 1966, but the MPAA system mentioned in the post wasn’t instituted until 1968. Part of Mark Harris’s book, Pictures at a Revolution, was that the films released in 1967, and nominated for best picture in 1968, were being made in a culture where the old system was gone, but there wasn’t a new one in place yet. If I did in fact misread the post, my apologizes to the author.

  5. Nice. 67 was THE year, however. THE GRADUATE/ BONNIE AND CLYDE/ IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT. Mercy.

    • Yes, I thought “what about the Graduate?” – but missed the year.

      I played this one Saturday Night as the teenagers were preparing to go do their social thing – I mentioned that it was a great film and that it was “wicked”.
      What did I mean by that?

      “Just watch and see”

      The movie delayed their busy Saturday Night by about an hour. My daughter, who has a keen cinematic sensibility (and who has written/directed/shot/edited three short films) was especially impressed by the cinematography.

  6. And Blow-Up became notorious for a scene of Hemmings frolicking with a naked Jane Birkin and Gillian Hills, who several years earlier recorded a little ditty called “Zou Bisou Bisou”. Everything is connected, it seems…

  7. I wonder if any of these movies will be mentioned this season? I’d love to see Don’s reaction to Virginia Woolf

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.