Classic Movies

It is tough to sway people stuck in their ways. This task becomes more difficult when trying to attract people to what seems a lesser product. This is exactly the problem with classic movies.

It’s Oscar season, so let’s dive into why the classic movies are a must see, and maybe do a little convincing along the way.

  1. These are the originals. They are the first books, plays, musicals, and stories adapted on the big screen. The original is impressive simply because this is the first group who took on the challenge.
  2. Originals mean produced a long time ago, therefore, minimal technology to work with. This is certainly true with special effects and sound editing. These movies were largely, and almost exclusively reliant on the actors who graced the screen. This makes the movies at first feel simple, even though most of them depict incredibly dramatic times, such as the World Wars, Great Depression, segregation, and crime-ridden cities controlled by organized, corrupt gangsters. An initial sense of calm combines with a difficult topic and makes the movie unique in how it captivates the viewer. 
  3. Most story lines in popular films today have been adapted or loosely based on these originals. Developing a knowledge of the classic gives you a greater sense of understanding when watching current films. It also enhances your appreciation for the product you are viewing, and enables you to compare.
  4. These movies take you back to a different time in American and global history, and help you experience what time was like. The film may take place immediately after an event, therefore, marking the film as a trailblazer. The story may have been a satire or depiction of an earlier time because of something else going on at the time of its production. A short back story on each classic film helps signify the relevance.
  5. Movies today do not have the feel of the classics. Today, films are typically louder, and offer the viewer a greater sense of suspense. The technology captivates you, more than the acting and the story.

OK, there is a chance you have interest in giving the classic films a try. If so, here is how you can get started. IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, and most major websites compile their own ‘Top 100’ greatest film lists. These are all a tad overwhelming, and traditionally have no clearcut consensus. The simplest list is the compilation the American Film Institute put together. They have two versions. The latter version is ten-years removed from the first list, and provides a change in ranking, as well as films that dropped out or got added. They also break down top films by genre in case one type of film captivates you more than another. Every classic film has an exceptional Wikipedia page explaining the back story, and relevance. TCM typically provides a great 3 – 5 minute video short doing this, as well.

Let me give you some personal favorites based on the genres, and maybe this will be a guide to get you started.

Westerns

Classic westerns are a great end of the day, time to relax movie. They’ll calm you down, and help ease any stress you have. They help you escape.

  • Shane
    • Certainly the most ‘hollywood’ western, as it is gut wrenching throughout. This heartwarming tale takes you on a long and emotional ride.
  • Giant
    • The movie will likely take you a few nights to finish as it is an Epic in the form of a western. It has a little something for everyone. Striking it rich with oil, cattle farms, Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, and everything you can think of when you think of Texas to say the least. It’s a wonderful film with amazing story lines that take you through the entire life journey of two families and all of their crosshairs.
  • The Searchers
    • The best John Wayne film, period. It’s also a semi sentimental one that draws you in quick, and doesn’t disappoint at the end.

Epics

These films require some endurance, but will leave you beyond satisfied in the end.

  • Lawrence of Arabia
    • T.E. Lawrence commands a group of Arab soldiers in WWI for Great Britain. He is one of the most enigmatic characters in the history of film, which makes this film a must see. There are countless ways to dissect Lawrence’s journey during the war. He is a hero, a failure, or somewhere in between. Everyone has different opinions.
  • Gone with the Wind
    • This is intentionally not included in the Romance category. This film has it all. It is a complex story, taking you through the lives of many in a southern town before, during, and after the Civil War. It has some of the most iconic quotes and scenes in movie history. The characters are some of the most complicated ever depicted. 

Romance

  • It Happened One Night
    • The original romantic comedy done in 1934, yet still relevant today.
  • Casablanca
    • The romantic film that receives all the high praise and deservingly so. One can watch Casablanca ten times and think differently about it each time. It’s a twist of a love story during WWII that can spark debate with a fellow watcher for over an hour. Just watch the modern classic When Harry Met Sally to get a head start.
  • The Best Years of Our Lives
    • This depiction of three separate servicemen and their return to reality post WWII. It could be classified as an Epic. You ride an emotional roller coaster on this film. It sucks you into something you hadn’t ever given much thought to. What happened when these men returned from war? How did they readjust? Work, marriage, and everything in between. A very intriguing movie.
  • The Grand Hotel
    • It’s the first film to put a variety of big stars together on the big screen. It has a heck of a cast all in one movie, intertwining their lives as they stay at The Grand Hotel. A fun, easy to watch film.

War

  • Deer Hunter
  • Apocalypse Now
  • The Bridge on The River Kwai
    • All three will eat at you as you watch the distraught, tough reality of war depicted on the big screen. All three have main characters who are deeply flawed individuals. It is war that ruined these men. The darkness of these films strike you, and remind you of how brutal war truly is.

Mystery

For me, suspense director Alfred Hitchcock controls the top movies in this category.

  • Rebecca
    • His first film to receive praise from the Academy Awards. Rebecca is a mystery thriller that is amazingly done for 1940.
  • Rear Window and Vertigo
    • Two other suspense classics done by Hitchcock. Vertigo feels like completing a puzzle that will leave you shocked at the end. Rear Window is an amazing film based on how it’s shot. The movie is almost entirely set in one room. A man, who is bedridden due to injury begins to notice something very suspicious across the way.
  • Chinatown
    • Finally, a mystery film not in the Hitchcock genre is Chinatown. An ending that provides a quote as iconic as the entire film.

Musicals

These aren’t the best depicted on the big screen, but there is one that makes the cut.

  • Singing In The Rain
    • This musical, which provides songs you’re certain to know, is a satire of Hollywood in the 30s at the rise of talking films, and the demise of silent ones.

Gangster

  • The Godfather Trilogy
    • Need I say more? Especially, Part Two.

Film Noir

An era of movies in Hollywood providing a very unique type of old, but truly classic film.

  • Sunset Boulevard
    • The most iconic film in this genre. Lines you’re sure to recognize. The story of an aging actress struggling with the reality of her career coming to an end. If you enjoy it, then Double Indemnity and Anatomy of a Murder won’t disappoint.

Drama

  • The Grapes of Wrath
    • The film is a journey through life while focusing exclusively on family values. It begins in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl which led farmers away from their lands to start a new life out West. We follow our family migrate to California against their will and watch their struggles. The movie makes you laugh, drives you to tears, and like every Steinbeck book, it will leave you wondering at the end. It’s the harsh reality of a real story adapted into film, and it’s an American part of history that shouldn’t be missed.
  • All About Eve
    • A true classic in every aspect. We follow Eve, an aspiring socialite who recently moved to New York, who weasels her way in with Broadway stars. What our friend Eve does after her big break provides us with a wonderful story. This all happens while featuring the amazing acting of Bette Davis in what is likely one of the best performances by a female lead in movie history. “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”
  • Kramer vs. Kramer
    • A wonderfully produced film, featuring two incredible acting performers from the husband, Dustin Hoffman, and the wife, Meryl Streep. The movie begins with Streep leaving Hoffman. They have a seven-year old boy, who Streep abandons as well. You can guess from the title what happens in the rest of the movie.
  • Network
    • A movie from the early 1970s that is probably more relevant today than it was then. It truly was a film before its time. What an incredible movie offering some iconic lines and amazing monologues. You can watch this multiple times and get a better understanding of the many underlying messages. It is a must watch in the era we live in today.
  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf
    • If Bette Davis gave the best performance in All About Eve, then Elizabeth Taylor at least tied her in this movie. The movie takes place in real time and begins with Taylor and her husband drunkenly returning home from a cocktail party. They invite a younger couple over for more drinks, and the wheels rapidly fall off. Watch this minute-by-minute disaster and experience some of the best acting and intense drama you’ll ever see on film.

Crime

  • Bonnie and Clyde
    • How can you not like watching a young Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty take up a life of crime and begin shooting and robbing banks throughout the country. It’s just a fun adaptation of one of America’s most intriguing true crime stories.
  • On The Waterfront
    • “I coulda been somebody. I coulda been a contender.” Marlon Brando portrays our flawed hero Terry Malloy in this classic. It is a gut-wrenching tale that you have to watch. The movie takes place on the docks of NYC during an era where the crime bosses ran the city. It shows Malloy struggle between good and evil, especially when evil rests in his own brother.

Comedy

  • Auntie Mame
    • Mame is an eccentric New York socialite in the roaring 20s living the life. The Great Depression hits soon into the movie, and her recently orphaned nephew is dropped off on her doorstep. This is simultaneous with her impending bankruptcy from the stock market crash. Follow Mame as she rebuilds herself and raises her young nephew. Just a beautiful movie.
  • Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to the Love the Bomb
    • A comedy of epic proportions mocking the Cold War. The satire from the film is one of the best ever done. You will certainly be entertained by this movie.

Science Fiction

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
    • The first twenty minutes of this movie will either have you wanting to watch the next two hours or wondering why you just watched the first twenty minutes. Either, or, you have to give it a try. This deeply thought-provoking and wildly misunderstood science fiction masterpiece will lead you rushing to film blogs at its conclusion to figure out what other people feel about the movie and what it means for life in general. No one interprets this film the same.
  • A Clockwork Orange
    • A true science fiction fantastical gem, but one that proves difficult to watch at times. It’s a very mind-blowing movie to say the least, but wonderfully done and a must see.

 

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