“Mad Men” isn’t just a show about the 1960s and early 1970s; it’s deeply rooted in the era, quick to whip out a reference to historical events and even movies from the era. Now that its run is about to end, you may long for more of the same. Here are some movies that not only hail from the same period but show it in different lights.
‘The Apartment’ (1960) (Netflix Instant)
Creator/showrunner Matthew Weiner has cited this Billy Wilder Best Picture winner as one of “Mad Men”’s chief influences, and it’s not hard to see why: It’s an office dramedy set in the heart of New York in the same era. Its antagonist could even be Don Draper deeper into middle age: a self-hating exec (Fred MacMurray) having an affair with a pretty elevator operator (Shirley MacLaine), who instead falls for the sadsack drone (Jack Lemmon) who lends his apartment out for dalliances.
‘Patterns’ (1956) (Amazon Prime)
Weiner has also given shout-outs for this obscurity, which finds a pre-“Twilight Zone” Rod Serling writing about a high-powered New York exec (Van Heflin) battling with his conscience. Sounds vaguely familiar! The film also stars Everett Sloane, Ed Begley and “Network”’s Beatrice Straight.
‘Darling’ (1965) (Hulu)
The setting is Swingin’ London, but the scene in John Schlessinger’s angry drama is almost the same: the world of fashion and advertising. Julie Christie, in her Oscar-winning turn, plays an aspiring model whose cut-throat rise to the top alienates her bookish boyfriend (Dirk Bogarde) though attracts the wandering eye of a Faustian ad monster (Laurence Harvey).
‘I Am Curious (Yellow)’ (1967) (Hulu)
“Mad Men” has regularly namedropped or even shown bits from the period’s movies, none more eyebrow-raising than this Swedish import shocker — one of the first movies to show sex outside the porno circuit. As such it became one of 1969’s top box office draws, though, of course, the sex and nudity played only a small part. The bulk of it is a playful blend of doc and fiction, exploring the youth culture in Stockholm. In fact, it’s so ambitious it has a companion film, “I Am Curious (Blue).” (For another streaming great that once flickered in front of Don, seek out “Rosemary’s Baby” on Netflix Instant.)
‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’ (1967) (Netflix Instant)
Few films bridge the cultural transitions quaking through America in the late ’60s like this race drama, though it’s more old than new: Its stars (Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn) are Hollywood royalty, shown struggling with their daughter’s black fiance (Sidney Poitier). And it was made by Stanley Kramer, the epitome of stodgy, preachy liberalism (see also: “The Defiant Ones,” “Inherit the Wind”). It’s on the right side of history — and funnier than its reputation — but it’s still a bastion of good intentions.
‘Salesman’ (1968) (Hulu)
Don Draper was able to worm his way to New York City. If he had been less talented he might have gotten stuck in the purgatory that plagues the subjects of David and Albert Maysles’ legendary documentary, which hangs with traveling bible salesmen, most notably poor Paul Brennan — an aging huckster struggling to eke by with a career at which he’s never been too good.
‘You Only Live Twice’ (1967) (Netflix Instant)
For the men of SCP, few things captured their rollicking, jet-setting, debonair fantasies like the Bond series. The fifth outing may be the most carefree in its silliness, letting Sean Connery's 007 romp about Japan from one cliffhanger to the next, all building to the first clear shot we'd yet had of mega-baddie Ernst Blofeld (Donald Pleasance, with scar and cat). This is the one where he flies a little plane, destroys a volcano lair and, for 10 screen minutes, pretends to be a Japanese man.
‘The Graduate’ (1967) (Netflix Instant)
California has often been a siren song for the cast of “Mad Men,” and few films from the era are as casually West Coast as this monster hit, in which Dustin Hoffman, then 31, having an affair with his parents’ friend, played by Anne Bancroft, then 37. The source novel intended mopey Benjamin Braddock to be more of a WASPy Robert Redford type, but its star brought the kind of nebbishy awkwardness that elevated it to greatness.
‘The Panic in Needle Park’ (1971) (Netflix Instant)
“Mad Men” is into the ’70s now, which means that uptown from their offices lurked the addicts seen in this gritty urban drama, one of them played by Al Pacino in his startling screen debut. He plays Bobby, a small-time dealer who pollutes the world of a shy young woman (Kitty Winn) in a New York that will that will turn even more disheveled and dangerous through the decade.
‘Manhattan’ (1979) (Netflix Instant)
Jump forward to decade’s end and Manhattan is chasmically split between the have and the have-nots. The have-nots are the poor and the artists living in the Village; the haves are the types in Woody Allen’s black-and-white valentine to an imagined New York City that wasn’t quite. As in Paul Mazursky’s “An Unmarried Woman” (also on Instant), it treats New York City like a playground for the idle and wealthy, with Allen and Diane Keaton among the moneyed intellectuals waging a war of neuroses and one-liners.