More directly to the point about the 1960s being a mythic period of experimentation in cinema, is there really another studio film from the era comparable to 2001: A Space Odyssey? If not, as I think is the case, an outlier doesn't make for a strong argument that the past was superior to the present.
Good point. Here's a list of the American films that came out in 1968
, the year of 2001
's release. There are some good and/or important movies on there, like Planet of the Apes, The Odd Couple, Night of the Living Dead
, and The Producers
, but the most experimental and unusual film I can find on the list other than 2001
is the Monkees' Head
It's true that a lot of SF films of the '60s and '70s were thoughtful exercises like PotA, Fahrenheit 451, A Clockwork Orange, Rollerball, Silent Running, Soylent Green, The Andromeda Strain
, and the like -- but they were heavily outnumbered by flashy FX-laden adaptations of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne novels; comedies like Barbarella, The Computer War Tennis Shoes
, and Sleeper
; big action movies like Fantastic Voyage, Capricorn One, Damnation Alley
, and Westworld
; ambitious failures like The Illustrated Man, Logan's Run,
; and a truly staggering number of B-grade monster movies from the US, Europe, and Japan. So the range of subject matters in the pre-Star Wars
era was as broad as it is today. While the proportion of big FX-laden sci-fi blockbusters is greater post-1977 than pre-'77, there was still a substantial number of them in the '50s, '60s, and '70s.