When the counterculture movement started, it gave birth to a surplus of cool 1960s actors on cinema screens. From John Travolta to Bruce Lee, there was no shortage of remarkable men on the screen during the 1960s, and we’ll be looking at some of the coolest from that decade in this video! Join Facts Verse as we explore the coolest leading male actors of the 60s.
During the early days of his Hollywood career, John Travolta found himself typecast in the role of a cool guy. Of course, this didn’t turn out to be a very bad fate for the burgeoning actor. John got his start performing on the sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter, before transitioning into iconic film roles. The actor’s two most memorable performances appear in the films Grease and Saturday Night Fever, both of which premiered in the late 1970s.
Gene Hackman acted in Hollywood for around half of a century before eventually deciding to call it quits to pursue a career as a novelist instead. The beloved actor now peacefully writes in his own free time and has released several acclaimed novels since giving up acting!
Gene rose to prominence after appearing in 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde. In the film, Gene played the character of Buck Barrow. After his breakout performance, he would go on to appear in several successful features in an even larger capacity. Some of the actor’s biggest hits have included The French Connection, Hoosiers, and the original Superman.
Jack Nicholson is equally known on the screen as a cartoonish psychopath and a laidback cool guy. Although his energetic and larger-than-life performances in films such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Shining, and Batman may be his most memorable, the actor’s turns as more mellow characters, such as the retired astronaut in James L. Brooks’ Terms of Endearment, have proven his range.
Jack Nicholson has appeared in an immense number of films over the course of his career, though he prefers to lay low nowadays. Some of the actor’s biggest hits besides the aforementioned films include As Good As It Gets and The Witches of Eastwick. Besides being known for his iconic persona, Jack is also known for his art collection! Jack is a connoisseur of fine art and is said to have a collection that matches those found at some world-class museums. Another thing that makes Jack so cool is his love of sports. The actor has been a Laker’s season ticket holder since 1970.
Besides being one of the biggest Hollywood stars of his day, Gregory Peck has also garnered a reputation as being one of the industry’s preeminent activists of the Golden Age. When many of the actor’s peers were getting blacklisted for supposed Communist affiliations in the 1940s, Gregory used his clout in the industry to try and do something about it.
Gregory’s support of his comrades during the 1940s wasn’t the actor’s last brush with politics. In fact, the actor became more and more interested in his various causes as he got older and even considered running against Ronald Reagan as governor of California during the 1970s.
In later years, Gregory was an incredibly outspoken protestor of the Vietnam War. Gregory was such an outspoken detractor of America’s war efforts that Richard Nixon was said to have placed the actor on his list of enemies.
Although people might not think of Michael Caine as being “cool” nowadays, he was certainly one of the coolest actors around during the 1960s. The actor has since become the epitome of class thanks to his turns as characters such as Batman’s butler Alfred in The Dark Knight, but he got his start playing cool guys in films like 1969’s The Italian Job.
Jon Voight is another actor that became known separately for his persona in later life than his more early days as a Hollywood cool guy. Although modern audiences will most likely think of Jon Voight in his multiple villainous roles, the actor got his start playing a cool guy in films like Midnight Cowboy. Besides Midnight Cowboy, some of Jon’s biggest hits have included Deliverance and Coming Home.
James Caan broke onto the scene portraying the character of Sonny Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 The Godfather, which was an adaptation of the novel of the same name. The film went on to become an even bigger success than the novel that inspired it, leading to a massive career for it’s stars, including James Caan. Although James Caan has certainly made a name for himself as a Hollywood actor, he is an equally passionate martial artist. The actor has practiced karate for several decades, becoming a master.
Robert Redford is another classic film star that has developed a reputation as being a bit of a cool guy, and much of this stems from his performance in the 1970 feature Little Fauss and Big Halsy. The film cast Robert as a motorcycle racer, and the image of Robert on his bike solidified the actor as one of the coolest of his generation.
If Robert Redford looked cool on his motorcycle, Paul Newman looked even cooler while he was driving his racecar. Paul started racing cars in the 1970s, though he would register for races under an alias so as to not allow his celebrity status to distract from his skills as a racer.
Over the course of Paul’s career as a racer, he won four separate national championships. In 1995, Paul became the oldest driver ever to participate in a sanctioned race as part of the winning team. He was 70 years old at the time.
Besides being known for his confident and poised demeanor, Sydney Poitier has risen to the status of a Hollywood legend thanks to the fact that he became the first black performer to ever win an Academy Award for Best Actor. Sydney won the award in 1964 for his role in the film Lilies of the Field.
Besides his role in Lilies of the Field, Sydney can also be seen in the classic films In the Heat of the Night and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Later in the actor’s career, he shifted his focus towards directing feature films. In 1974, Queen Elizabeth II knighted the beloved actor.
Although David Bowie may be best known as one of the most popular and influential musical artists that have ever lived, he was also a fairly prolific movie star! David Bowie made his breakout film performance starring in the strange Nicolas Roeg feature The Man Who Fell to Earth. David played an alien, not dissimilar from the character of Ziggy Stardust.
After David’s acclaimed performance in the cult film The Man Who Fell to Earth, he continued acting. Besides the aforementioned film, another of David’s notable feature roles was in Jim Henson’s 1980s fantasy feature Labyrinth.
Al Pacino may be best known as one of the most respected actors of his generation, but he’s also unfortunately a bit of a womanizer! He has notoriously never been married during his lifetime, though he has several children and has been romantically linked to several different women during his career. Some of the women that Al Pacino has been involved with include Beverly D’Angelo, Diane Keaton, and Kathleen Quinlan.
Burt Lancaster is an actor that found himself typecast in a variety of tough-guy roles during his early career, though he later tried to branch out and perform as more complex and lighthearted characters when he was given the chance. One of the actor’s most memorable roles was starring alongside Audrey Hepburn in John Huston’s The Unforgiven.
Over the course of Burt’s career, he was nominated for an Academy Award four separate times. Sadly, he only won once before his 1994 death, with his win coming as a result of his performance in the film Elmer Gantry.
Ryan O’Neal was merely a soap opera star when he was offered the opportunity to appear in the 1970 feature Love Story. He was hesitant at first, but eventually decided that taking the role was a good choice for his career. His instinct proved correct, as Ryan O’Neal was thrust into superstardom thanks to his role in the film! The actor subsequently appeared in a variety of other memorable features over the course of the remaining decade, including Paper Moon and Barry Lyndon.
Steve McQueen was so cool during the height of his fame that his performances even saw him being nicknamed “The King of Cool” by his fans. The actor was often cast in the role of a tough antihero, and it wasn’t hard for the counterculture audience of the 1960s and 1970s to relate to his on-screen persona. Some of the actor’s most memorable films included The Great Escape and The Magnificent Seven. Before his death in 1980, there was a period of time where Steve McQueen was the highest-paid actor in the world!
Bruce Lee is widely regarded as being the figure that made martial arts popular in American cinema! The actor burst onto the scene with his martial arts films during the 1960s and the 1970s, though he only performed in a handful of films before his untimely death in his early 30s.
Besides appearing in a handful of iconic films, Bruce Lee was also a writer and a director! Bruce Lee wrote and directed one of his most iconic films, which is The Way of the Dragon. The film also featured Chuck Norris in an early role. After breaking out stateside with Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee sadly passed away while filming The Game of Death.
There were many more cool leading men that came out of the 1960s, but the aforementioned actors represent the coolest of the cool! Comment down below to share if there’s an actor that you think should’ve been included in this video, or if you were surprised to learn about just how cool any of these leading men truly are (or were). As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!