It can be a daunting task to define what makes one film rise heroically above another, but there are some films that set off a firestorm of emotions within us animating the heartbreak of loss or the way we felt when we first fell in love. A classic film is like spending time with a good friend. Here are some films that through time have been considered classics.
Some films dared to be avant-garde and opened doors for cinematic greats to follow. Metropolis, considered the most expensive silent film ever made, is a 1915 German futuristic tale with Messiah overtones about the power struggle of city planners versus laborers who toil underground, complete with seductive sirens, full orchestration, and never before seen special effects. Ben Hur, at $15 million, was the most expensive film made in the 1950s. The film featured a spectacularly choreographed chariot race laden with upwards of 15,000 extras that took over three months to complete. Sunset Boulevard, one of the most acclaimed film noir stories narrated by a dead man (in the opening scene the film’s star is found floating in a Beverly Hills swimming pool). The film gave us an entertaining, tongue-in-cheek, but also realistic portrayal of the greed and manipulation of the Hollywood studio system.
Movies that Defined an Age
Some movies defined our lives and set the cultural tone for the decade. When Grease appeared on the big screen it defined not only John Travolta’s career but also the eclecticism and bad wardrobe of the 1970s. In Rocky, Stallone’s Rocky Balboa took us to the height of emotion becoming the new poster child for the underdog. Flash Dance, Bonnie and Clyde, and Annie Hall defined period clothing and set trends on fashion runways.
The Greatest Love of All
The Beatles declared “all you need is love” and the classic movies gave us plenty to sing about. While Love Story gave us the definition of love; Gone With the Wind showed us epic love that lasted through famine, war, and fire. An Affair to Remember pitted love against duty and in Casablanca love’s antagonist was patriotism. A Star is Born had a love story so grand that it had to be retold over several decades: first in 1937 with Janet Gaynor and Frederick March, in 1954 with Judy Garland and James Mason, and in 1976 with Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.
Feelings… Nothing But Feelings
Over the years, Hollywood has given us many feel-good tearjerkers. Who doesn’t enjoy a movie where everything works out in the end? In Casablanca we rooted for two people to escape the Nazis and in The Sound of Music for an entire family to escape the Nazis. E.T. and The Wizard of Oz reinforced the feeling that no matter how far away you go it’s always a good idea to “phone home.” Tootsie and It Happened One Night made us laugh, cry, and cheer for our hero to get the girl in the end.
Whether they are funny, highly dramatic, suspenseful or shock-inducing, classic movies resonate in our subconscious and haunt our dreams long after viewing them and we will watch those films time and time again reliving memories of when they first made us laugh, cry, or scared us silly, but we will never forget them.