10 Movies To Watch If You’ve Never Seen A Classic Film

By Chandra Chakravarthi

I’m a huge classic film buff. I have been since high school, and I still remember the moment when movies from another era (the ’60s and earlier) sparked my interest. My literature teacher made my class watch “Gone With The Wind,” and I remember rolling my eyes and sulking thinking, “I’m about to spend almost four hours watching a film that is sure to put me to sleep.” Movies should never be that long—unless it’s a Harry Potter film. Within 15 minutes, I was engrossed, and those 3 hours and 58 minutes flew by. Since then, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched it, and each time, I’m just as captivated by it as I was back in school. It wasn’t too long after that I discovered Turner Classic Movie Channel which plays old movies 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It’s been on ever since, and I couldn’t tell you how many I’ve watched.

It was hard for me to narrow it down to 10. I know there are quite a few that some think “should be” on the list, but I didn’t include them because they are boring even to a classic film nerd like me. I get why they are considered to be the best films of all time, but if you’ve never truly been exposed to classic movies before, those aren’t the ones to start with.

I chose movies based on some of my favorite actors who were too suave for their own good, actresses who were badass even in a time when the term feminism wasn’t openly discussed, catchy and intriguing plots for that era, and superb acting all around.

1. Bringing Up Baby (1938):

This is seriously one of the most absurd movies that I have ever seen. The antics that ensue throughout this film show you how far comedy has come. Nowadays, you can’t find a single comedy without some vulgarity or profanity. I’m just like any typical person who has a slightly inappropriate sense of humor, but you really have to hand it to these folks from that time period. They came up with a plot that is quite clever and tame, and it’s actually entertaining to watch.

2. Mildred Pierce (1945):

This is a great drama that is worth watching for any classic film novice. While some might argue this movie is pretty anti-feminist; I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. I think it’s amazing how the main character transformed into a smart, savvy business woman, and she wasn’t afraid to make mistakes and fall in love. You feel for her when she ends up losing both her children, but I think at the end of the movie, you know that she’ll move past it because she’s one tough broad.

3. Psycho (1960):

Even if you don’t like horror movies, this one is definitely worth watching because it’s so well done. From the creepy music, to the infamous shower scene, to the messed up psyche of Norman Bates, it has the whole package. What I also like about this film is that it isn’t gory like most scary movies are nowadays.

4. Charade (1963):

I think this is an underrated film. Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn have this amazing, palpable chemistry, and I wish they had made more movies together. This “whodunit” movie is very chic, kind of ludicrous, but surprisingly clever and did have me wondering who murdered Audrey Hepburn’s character’s husband. And if you are a fan of costume choices in movies, you’ll want to watch this simply for that. Givenchy designed some of Audrey Hepburn’s wardrobe for this film.

5. All About Eve (1950):

This movie has a group of badass women who depict the harsh realities of show business and the backstage life of Broadway. Bette Davis plays an actress who is entering her *GASP* forties, which is sadly considered to be old by showbiz standards, and has to witness younger actresses attempt to steal her spotlight. I think it’s safe to assume that ageism is still a major issue in Hollywood and maybe even in theater. This movie is interesting because it shows what some actresses will do to become famous with no scruples or morals.

6. Some Like It Hot (1959):

This is a hilarious movie that spoofs the old gangster movies with some romance and cross dressing involved. This slightly “racy” film came out in the ’50s, and I always associate that decade with sexual repression. It was great to know how well-received it was. Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis have impeccable comic timing, and Marilyn Monroe is such a delight. She had star written all over her in this film, and it’s tragic to know that if she didn’t have such a difficult personal life, she may be alive today.

7. Singin’ in the Rain (1952):

If you like musicals, then you have to watch this one. The music is so catchy, and the plotline is fun and light-hearted. This movie is set in the roaring ’20s and takes place when silent movies were transitioning into talkie films. It’s hard to imagine that’s how movies were back in the day, but I’d imagine to some degree what you see in this film isn’t all satirical. I’m sure people were freaked out by sound just as most of us can’t imagine watching a silent movie let alone a black and white one. I think most of us get upset when the sound randomly disappears when we’re watching a show on TV or online. Silent films would probably drive millennials crazy.

8. It Happened One Night (1934):

This movie is kind of a reverse Cinderella. It’s a comedy that was released during the Great Depression, and I can see why people needed these types of movies when reality was probably quite bleak for most people. Early on in the film, the main character doesn’t want to get married and decides to run away from her upper-crust life. Predictably, she ends up falling in love with the rather dashing Clark Gable towards the end of the movie, but props to the woman for fighting gender norms and choosing not to marry simply because it’s expected of her. She married because she ultimately fell in love.

9. Roman Holiday (1953):

I’ve never really been a fan of rom-coms, but if I had to choose I prefer the ones from the classic Hollywood era. Sorry not sorry. Audrey Hepburn portrays a princess who decides to shirk her duties and run away. Throughout the film, we get to watch her explore Rome and experience a bit of romance. I think we all secretly wish that we can skip class or take a sick day from work and simply spend the day doing whatever we want…whether it’s spending the day at home binge-watching Netflix or going out to get your nails done or simply sleeping in until noon. This is a sweet film that basically launched Hepburn into stardom.

10. Casablanca (1942):

OK, I had to include this one: A cliché classic film that probably has just as many recognizable lines of dialogue as “Gone With the Wind.” This is a sentimental love story where one woman is caught in a love triangle. It’s set against the backdrop of World War 2, which makes the story more dramatic, but there also are light-hearted moments that make you smile. In the end, she has to choose which character she can leave the country with, and it does tug at your heartstrings just a bit. This isn’t the type of movie that I would normally go for, but there is something magical about it that I simply can’t help but watch whenever it comes on TV. If you don’t watch this one, then you are missing out on one of the best classic films out there. I’m not even exaggerating.

 

I’m not sure why old movies make me so giddy with excitement. Maybe it’s for superficial reasons like the costumes and décor, which are worth obsessing over. Maybe it’s that I really believe the actors from the “Golden Age” of Hollywood were more talented than today’s stars. Or perhaps with the absence of social media and the Internet, classic film actors an air of mystery about them. Or maybe it’s that the movie industry didn’t have all the amazing technology that we do today, so people were more creative and that’s pretty remarkable. Movies have always been my escape, but there is something captivating and magical about classic films. It’s nice to see that they have withstood the test of time, and I hope that will continue to be the case. And if you try watching one or two, you might find yourself hooked too.

[divider]About Chandra[/divider]

ChandraChakravarthi

Chandra is southern born, hailing from Alabama, but is convinced she is a big city girl at heart. She might be guilty of using the word “y’all” too often and appreciates the awesomeness that is grits. She likes to work out, but only because it allows her to eat pizza and chocolate guilt-free. She is always willing to marathon the Harry Potter movies or watch a classic film. One of these days when she is making more money, she hopes to be world traveler and wants to set foot on all seven continents.

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