Charly Gordon (Robertson) is a mentally retarded baker's assistant who becomes a man of genius after a well-meaning neurosurgeon, Dr. Nemur (Leon Janney), performs an experimental brain surgery he's successfully attempted on a lab mouse. As he adjusts to a new world of emotion and intelligence, Charly begins having feelings for his special-ed teacher, Alice Kinian (Bloom). But Nemur soon realizes that Charly's faculties are not permanent, and that he will eventually regress.
Why we love it
Inspired by his own portrayal of Charly in a TV adaptation of Daniel Keyes's story "Flowers for Algernon," Robertson helped mount this big-screen production with himself again in the title role, and earned a Best Actor Oscar nod for his efforts in 1968. Charly clearly symbolizes the ideals of late '60s flower power, a point continuously reinforced by Ravi Shankar's musical arabesques, but Robertson brings a heart-wrenching gravity to his performance that elevates and enriches Charly as a romantic drama, making it more than a sentimental curio of the hippie era.