If you ask AFI, the 1960s had some of the top movie songs of all time. I… don’t always agree. The high points are definitely up there, though.
10. “Talk to the Animals,” Doctor Dolittle (1967)
Not only is the song silly in the extreme, but because of Rex Harrison’s limited vocal range, he speaks it instead of singing. Doctor Dolittle‘s studio put the full-court press into its Oscar campaign for this movie in a desperate attempt to recoup its costs, netting an inexplicable Best Picture nomination and an equally inexplicable win here over The Jungle Book‘s “Bare Necessities” or Casino Royale‘s “The Look of Love.”
9. “Days of Wine and Roses,” Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
AFI ranked this at #39 in its list of “100 Years, 100 Songs” for cinema, but it puts me right to sleep.
8. “The Shadow of Your Smile,” The Sandpiper (1965)
This was a popular song in its day (it also won a Grammy for Song of the Year), but like “Days of Wine and Roses,” it works like a sleeping pill on me.
7. “Never On Sunday,” Never On Sunday (1960)
This is a curious song because the film’s version, sung in Greek by Melina Mercouri, has precious little to do with the English version that became popular. The words “Never On Sunday” never appear in the Greek version, which is about a woman reflecting on the joy she felt in her old hometown (the Greek title would be “a Pedia tou Pirea,” or, “The Children of Piraeus”). In English, it’s a strange pop song about how you can kiss the singer any day of the week except Sunday. The Greek version and its catchy tune have been popular all over the world, but there’s probably a reason the English one died out.
6. “Born Free,” Born Free (1966)
This cheesy little ditty mostly lives on as a punchline in comedic bits, but at least it lives on–which is more than a lot of songs can claim. Matt Monro also executes it well.
5. “The Windmills of Your Mind,” The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
What happens when you try to cross a Bond theme with a Simon and Garfunkel song? This.
4. “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head,” Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
Yes, it’s cheesy, but I love this song–even if it feels left-field for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
3. “Call Me Irresponsible,” Papa’s Delicate Condition (1963)
Ever since its release, “Call Me Irresponsible” has been a favorite song to cover among singers. That list includes Brenda Lee, Frank Sinatra, Gloria Estefan, Tony Bennett, and Michael Bublé. The original version, sung by Jackie Gleason, doesn’t hold up to its successors, but it’s easy to see how it became so wildly popular.
2. “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” Mary Poppins (1964)
Mary Poppins is chock full of great songs, and “Chim Chim Cher-ee” is no exception. It’s a pitch perfect choice to embody the cheerful wit, playfulness, and subtle melancholy of the film’s score.
1. “Moon River,” Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
I love this song. Audrey Hepburn’s rendition isn’t the strongest version, but it remains a gorgeous song with a timeless melody and lyrics. One of the all-time best movie songs ever (AFI ranked it #4 on its list “100 Years, 100 Songs“).
Next, we’ll go back to the Best Original Song winners of the 1950s, but in the meantime, you can also look at my Academy Awards page for much more content.