“Rome! By all means, Rome. I will cherish my visit here in memory as long as I live.”
Though there are a lot of great older movies, the term “classic film” evokes some very specific feelings. Classic films show characters dealing with complicated and timeless emotions and situations. They’re fun and memorable without being overly sentimental. They transport you to another world that may or may not be based on reality, but is nonetheless fantastic. They have a sense of class and elegance that’s just missing in today’s movies. In my opinion, no movie is more classic than Roman Holiday. Directed by William Wyler (Ben Hur, The Best Years of our Lives) and starring Gregory Peck and, for her first major movie ever, Audrey Hepburn, this is a movie that, for me, is the quintessential classic film and will always be one of my favorites.
The story follows Ann, a young princess, as she stops in Rome for her diplomatic tour of Europe. She’s grown very tired of her responsibilities and everyone telling her what to do, so she escapes one night to see the city as a normal person. She quickly meets Joe, an American journalist who initially doesn’t recognize her. Once Joe discovers who she is (despite her best efforts to hide it from him), he hires a photographer and begins secretly recording their Roman holiday together to sell to newspapers. When the two develop feelings for each other, both of them question their responsibilities and duties as they struggle with what to do with those feelings.
What the world needs is a return to sweetness and decency.
As I said, Roman Holiday is the epitome of classic: it’s elegant, sweet, charming, and very nearly the opposite of vulgar. Much like the character of Princess Ann, there’s an innocence about this movie that’s both delightful and endearing. The set-up seems like a fairy tale, and there is a bit of sugary sweetness in the movie; but, as the ending shows, reality is an ever-present force in this movie that ultimately anchors our characters and keeps them from going too far into flights of fancy. While the romance is sweet, the ending is absolutely heartbreaking, and every part of the movie is beautiful.
But just because this film is classic doesn’t mean it’s not fun. It’s very funny, and you’ll feel like you’re on an adventure in 1950s Rome. From the out-of-control Vespa scene to the fist fight with the secret service to the ad-libbed scene with the hand-biting statue, there are many fun and memorable pieces that add up to one unforgettable whole. This is not a stuffy old movie only to be enjoyed by cinema connoisseurs. This is an enjoyable experience with plenty to offer modern viewers both young and old.
Roman Holiday is a great romantic comedy with vintage charm and emotional depth, and it’s one of my all-time favorite movies. It may not have the importance in cinema history of Casablanca or the fame of future Audrey Hepburn film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but it’s every bit as enjoyable as either of those. If you’re curious about classic films but have been intimidated by them or don’t know where to start, start here. This is a true classic that will be just as relevant sixty-four years from today as it is sixty-four years after its release.
Director: William Wyler
Genres: comedy, romance