“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.
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“What are you afraid of? No one’s asking you to have a baby!”
Every once in awhile, a movie comes along that’s so hot and wildly funny that it gets banned in Kansas. The 1959 movie Some Like it Hot is one such movie. Directed by Billy Wilder (Sunset Boulevard, Double Indemnity) and starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon, this is widely considered one of the best comedies of all time. Though fairly tame by today’s standards, it was wildly inappropriate when it was released. More progressive cities like L.A. gave it a standing ovations, while other cities had people walking out (and, as I mentioned, it was initially banned in my home state of Kansas). But the movie is still hilarious today, and worth seeing for any comedy fan.
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“All memory of the brilliance of the young Tenenbaums had been erased by two decades of betrayal, failure, and disaster.”
We’ll probably never get a movie version of J.D. Salinger’s classic book Franny and Zooey; but The Royal Tenenbaums feels like it could be a sequel. Directed by art house director Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Fantastic Mr. Fox) and starring Gene Hackman and a host of other famous people, it tells the story of a troubled family that’s trying to discover what the word “family” means, even years after they’ve parted ways. It’s quirky, touching, and funny, and the Wes Anderson retro style is as charming here as anywhere else. Also, words can’t express how much I love the ending of this film. This is one of my all-time favorite movies and may be the most charming of Anderson’s films.
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“I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.”
Though often overlooked, disaster movies are big business. The airplane subgenre alone currently has 77 entries—and the movie Airplane! lampoons all of them. It was written and directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker, who were known mostly for sketch comedy at the time (Kentucky Fried Movie), but went on to write other parodies like the Hot Shots and Naked Gun series. It was also the first comedic performance of traditionally serious actors like Leslie Nielsen and Lloyd Bridges, who went on to be comedy legends. Whether you get the parody references or not, the movie is a serious contender for best comedy of all time and still holds up very well today.
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“There are two kinds of people in this world: winners and losers.”
In modern society, there’s a lot of emphasis placed on winning, while failing is an uncomfortable subject we don’t talk much about. That’s something Little Miss Sunshine tries to remedy. Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Ruby Sparks and many music videos) and starring Steve Carell, Toni Collette, and Greg Kinnear, this is a movie that says a lot about failure by talking about success. The point it makes is not heavy-handed or forced—in fact, it’s understated and quite entertaining. At its core, it’s a comedy with some dramatic elements that lets us know it’s alright to fall down from time to time.
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“Be careful with that gun! This ain’t no cartoon, you know!”
Every once in awhile, a movie comes along that asks, What if cartoons were real? These are usually cute and funny—for instance, Space Jam answers the age-old question of how well cartoons can play basketball. The original, though, is Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and it tells a very different story. Directed by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump) and starring Bob Hoskins and Christopher Lloyd, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a film noir that asks what happens when a cartoon murders someone. It follows the classic film noir formula, but injects it with classic cartoon gags and logic. The result is a darkly funny and unabashedly unique mystery-comedy that’s unlike any other movie out there.
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“I’m sorry I thought you were the murderer. But how was I to know he was as big a liar as you are?”
Describing a Hitchcockian mystery-thriller as “fun” may seem ridiculous, but that’s the first word that comes to mind for Charade. Directed by Stanley Donen (Singin’ in the Rain, Funny Face) and starring Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, this movie is equal parts comedy, mystery, and romance. Many of the lines and situations are genuinely funny, even silly, but it’s still a very competent mystery with plenty of twists and danger around every corner. As you can imagine, trying to build a romance through all of that also proves challenging for the characters, but that’s enjoyable too. Overall, this is a highly entertaining movie that’s a joy to watch.
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“Hawaii. All right, that’s good. That’s hard to trace, I guess. Wait… you changed your name to… McLovin?”
Two teens go on a minor quest to score with some girls. It’s a tale as old as time, and one that’s been done to death in film. What sets Superbad apart isn’t an original idea, but excellent execution. Directed by Greg Mottola (Paul, Adventureland) and starring Michael Cera and Jonah Hill, this is a highly accurate representation of high school life, and it is hilarious. And despite its often raunchy humor, the ending is actually fairly sweet and heartwarming. This is a stand-out film in the teen genre that will be remembered as a classic.
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“That rug really tied the room together.”
You’d be hard-pressed to find a movie that sums up the 90s better than The Big Lebowski. Jeff Lebowski, better known as The Dude, is the ultimate 90s anti-hero, with his relaxed demeanor, refusal to engage in productive society, and devil-may-care attitude. This movie, directed by the Coen Brothers (No Country for Old Men, Fargo) and starring Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, and Julianne Moore, is also one of the funniest (and most quotable) movies I’ve ever seen.
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“The only people who can afford to be artists in New York are rich.”
Danish Existentialist philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, in his book Either/Or, writes out a debate between two viewpoints on life: the aesthetic, which focuses on beauty and integrity, and the ethical, which focuses on morality and responsibilities. In the end, the answer is that nothing we do in this life, whether aesthetic, ethical, or anything else, will give us the meaning and fulfillment we desire—we have to find purpose independent of our beliefs and actions in something larger than ourselves. In a way, indie movie Frances Ha, co-written and directed by Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg) and co-written by and starring Greta Gerwig, has a similar message. It’s a movie about the idealism and values many modern young people cling to, and it paints a vivid picture of the dream of many young in their 20s.
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