The 12 Best Modern Movies Set In The 1960s

Leonardo DiCaprio Catch Me If You Can


If a movie comes out that’s set in the 1960s, odds are very high I’ll go see it. Even if the story sucks, I’ll be entertained by the sets and the fashion and the hairstyles. That’s why I started watching and obsessing over Mad Men. Sure, I also happen to be invested in the story and the characters, and I think it’s brilliantly written, but a huge part of my attention during any given episode is devoted to looking at things.

The show’s returning to AMC this Sunday at 10 PM for its seventh and final season. So in honor of a series that might as well be called That ’60s Show, I thought it would be fun to look at some of the best modern movies also set in that decade. And by modern I mean from the 21st century. As much as we love our cell phones and our tablets and our hovercrafts (those exist now, right?), we also can’t resist pining over the way it was fifty years ago… and then going right back to texting, because OMG how could you live without it?

1. Catch Me If You Can

I’m obsessed with this movie. I’ve watched it far too many times to count, and I think it’s one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s most underrated roles. I defy you to watch it and not spend a week fantasizing about being on the run from the law with 1960s-garbed Leo. It’s inevitable.

2. The Help

As fun as it is to ogle bouffant hairstyles and men in sleek suits, it’s also nice when a period piece can address the social issues of the time. Especially when it features so many fabulously talented actresses.

3. Across the Universe

Also known as the movie that led to 14-year-olds everywhere downloading the soundtrack and pretending they were total Beatles fans. But hey, who could really complain about listening to great music for two hours while trippy dance numbers happen?

4. A Single Man

This movie looks so good I want to eat it. That makes sense since it was directed by fashion designer Tom Ford. It was also the movie that made me look at Nicholas Hoult and go, “Wait, that’s the kid from About a Boy???”

5. Down With Love

This movie has kind of a bad rap, but I don’t understand why. I think it’s a pretty clever homage to sex comedies of the 1960s, the type that starred Doris Day and Rock Hudson. Plus Ewan McGregor is in it. I see no problem.

6. Taking Woodstock

This is a great one to watch now because it’ll prepare you for what will presumably be the time period of Mad Men‘s next season. Last season ended on Thanksgiving 1968, so I’m guessing we’ll be in 1969 at some point. Will we see Don Draper at Woodstock?

7. An Education

So far the movies on this list have been set in the United States, but here’s a great one set in England. It was Carey Mulligan’s breakout role, and it’s an amazing coming-of-age story with lovely costumes.

8. Dreamgirls

Remember when Beyonce was in a movie? Remember when Jennifer Hudson belted that song out so hard you thought she’d have to be hospitalized? Remember when Eddie Murphy made his last good movie? That all happened with Dreamgirls.

9. Brokeback Mountain

The only thing better than cowboys is 1960s denim-jacket-wearing cowboys. And it’s an added bonus if they look like Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger. And if it’s in a really great movie that a lot of people would agree was robbed by Crash at the Oscars.

10. Moonrise Kingdom

This is definitely not my favorite Wes Anderson movie (Rushmore wins that prize), but I was still obsessed with the way this movie looked. Anderson’s movies have always had quite a ’60s aesthetic without being explicitly set in the 1960s, but this one was and it looked amazing.

11. Saving Mr. Banks

A movie that tells the backstory of a classic Disney movie and stars Emma Thompson and is set in the 1960s? Where do I sign?

12. That Thing You Do!

Okay, so this one is cheating a little because it was released in 1996, and that is so not the 21st century. But I couldn’t not put it on here. It’s probably my favorite movie set in the ’60s, and that includes movies that were made in the ’60s. It’s hilarious and heartwarming and there’s great music and cool clothes and ahhh I want to go watch it now.

You can reach this post's author, Jill O’Rourke, on twitter.
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    • elle

      I had the same reaction when watching A Single Man: I thought he looked vaguely familiar, ran off to IMDB and then went holy shit that’s what Marcus turned out to look like? Good for him. Also its just a really beautiful movie and Julianne Moore looks gorg in it. I love Down With Love too, never got the hate for it.

      • Jill O’Rourke

        Same, I had to look him up and couldn’t believe it.

    • Jenni

      OMG this reminded me to listen to the entire Dreamgirls soundtrack tonight.

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    • J_Doe5686

      I love “That thing you do” I was obsessed and as I write this comment I can hear the soundtrack… love it!

      • Jill O’Rourke

        It’s so fun!

    • markmywords

      Thank you so much for putting this list together. There were quite some movies I had seen trailers of and forgot about. And I totally agree about Mad Men. It’s brilliant, amazing to look at and the best (for me) are the storytelling of each character and their interactions. And I love me some Emma Thompson. And Disney. Gonna go for Mr. Banks and the Help first and work my way through. For me, you really nailed it with this article. Thanks so much.

      • Jill O’Rourke

        Thanks for reading! Glad you liked it.

    • beauty

      You should watch Hitchcock

    • Martine

      Argh. There is a reason no one saw any of these films. Most of us are just fed up with cry baby Political Correctness. Its boring. Any movies that don’t seem to be about how very, very difficult it was to be black, or female, or gay, or how bad capitalism is?