A Man for All Seasons (1966)
The '60s were a halcyon era for British historical drama: Becket (1964), The Lion in Winter (1968), Anne of a Thousand Days (1969). All are gripping and masterful, but the most stirring of the bunch is A Man for All Seasons, based on Lawrence of Arabia/Dr. Zhivago scribe Robert Bolt's play about Sir Thomas More, stalwart in his refusal to back King Henry VIII when the heir-deprived monarch breaks with the pope and establishes the Church of England to legitimize his divorce from Catherine of Aragon and remarriage to potential baby factory Anne Boleyn. Bolt's More, vividly portrayed by Paul Scofield (in an Oscar-winning turn) is a witty, incorruptible master of diplomacy who's less keen on dissing the behavior of king and countrymen than on exercising the freedom to act according to his own conscience. Bolt gets props for not demonizing the opposition--Henry (played by Robert Shaw with cunning and charm) isn't evil, just a scalawag who prioritizes convenience over consistency and doesn't get why More is being such a hard-ass. Which sounds more than a little typical of the spirit of our times; More may indeed by the titular man for all seasons, but his brand of individualism and conviction would probably go over about as well in the new millennium as it did in King Henry's court.