While your New Years resolutions are likely very serious business involving life-changing events, we like to have a few smaller (and more attainable) ones to keep us motivated. One of which is to fill in our old movie knowledge gaps. We’ve all seen “Casablanca” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” but have you seen “Bringing Up Baby” or “Funny Face?” Since every good resolution needs a list to check off, we’re putting our group brain together to create a comprehensive guide.
MR.SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, 1939
Restore your faith in dirty Washington politics and watch Jimmy Stewart, the idealistic and naive man who believes in America, the legal system, and sticking it to the corporate bullies, teach you what it means to filibuster.
HIS GIRL FRIDAY, 1940
This fast-paced talkie from the golden age of Hollywood comedy, starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, is one of many fabulous play adaptations to make it to the big screen in the earlier days of commercial film—and the main character was changed to a woman, so bonus points. The wardrobes are incredible, it’s timelessly funny, and it’s a wonderful use of sound, especially in that era. AND it’s on Netflix. What more do you need?
NORTH BY NORTHWEST, 1959
No classic movie list would be complete without an Alfred Hitchcock film. “North by Northwest” is a signature suspense flick from Hitchcock, but also a love story where you find yourself questioning who you can trust. Eva Marie Saint is flawless and no one will ever compare to Cary Grant. (Notice how a few of his more memorable movies made this list?) Often noted as one of the best movies of all time, if you haven’t seen “North By Northwest” you’re missing out.
THE LION IN THE WINTER, 1968
Before Dame Judy Dench, Helen Mirren, and Maggie Smith taught us what it meant to be indomitable women, there was Katherine Hepburn kicking ass and taking names. In this film she plays Queen Eleanor to Peter O’Toole’s Henry II as he’s trying to choose his heir to the throne. The power politics, courtly jockeying, and her sheer force of will show that even in the Dark Ages, women were still the real power behind the throne.
SOME LIKE IT HOT, 1959
Marilyn Monroe may take top billing in this, but Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis going undercover as women in an all-female jazz band steal the show. They spend the entire time dressed as women, while trying to woo Ms. Monroe and hide from the Mafia. It’s slapstick comedy at its best and highlights Jack Lemmon’s unbelievable comedic presence.
MODERN TIMES, 1936
In the 1936 comedy “Modern Times,” Charlie Chaplin is at his best as a befuddled tramp amidst a swiftly changing capitalist world. His struggles with finding and keeping work and generally trying to stay afloat mirror ours today, except he makes it hilarious instead of stressful or tragic. He is and always will be the king of physical humor, and this, the last film of his famous “Little Tramp” character, is a Chaplin masterpiece as well as a fascinatingly astute treatise on life in the industrialized world.
Espionage! Seduction! Patriotic Duty! Nazis! Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman are brilliant in one of Hitchcock’s most suspenseful works. Utilizing an an array of stunning film techniques and artfully sidestepping the prudish production codes of the era, Hitchcock skillfully weaves a complicated tale of lustful intrigue and female sexuality in the face of governmental patriarchy. Claude Rains’ portrayal of a thirsty Nazi makes for a perfectly dynamic villain. This film is captivating from start to finish, and aesthetically beautiful with its use of true blacks and whitest whites.
DR. STRANGELOVE: OR HOW I LEARNED HOW TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB, 1964
A Stanley Kubrick satirical masterpiece on the Cold War, it’s pretty much the top of any politics major must-watch list as it follows an inadvertent nuclear apocalypse. Its dark humor includes the complete absurdity as the military and politicians continue to adhere to their rigidity even as the world is ending, and has the classic line: “Gentlemen, there’s no fighting in the war room!”
GRAND HOTEL, 1932
One of the first ensemble casts, “Grand Hotel” directed by Edmund Goulding follows several characters around a luxurious hotel unraveling their thoughts, desires, and secrets. The cast includes Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, and John Barrymore. This movie has all that 1930s, black and white charm that so many of us appreciate.
IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, 1934
Frank Capra’s “It Happened One Night” centers on Ellie’s (Claudette Colbert) struggle to free herself from her family’s constraints. Her rebellious spirit takes her from an annulled marriage to King Westley (put together by her overbearing father) all the way to penniless, hitchhiking adventures with Peter Warne (Clark Gable). Ellie’s goal is to make it back to Westley, but of course, in the end, her rebellious spirit leads her back to Peter.
SUNRISE: A SONG OF TWO HUMANS, 1927
Because every old cinema list deserves a silent film, F.W. Murnau’s “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” is absolutely perfect. The whole movie is available right there, as are dozens of silent films. Films prior to 1923, and a great deal prior to 1930, failed to properly register themselves, making copyright laws useless. Murnau’s film looks at the temptation of sex and Hollywood through an adulterous husband and the mistresses plot to murder his wife.
FUNNY FACE, 1957
Before there was “The Devil Wears Prada” there was “Funny Face” with Audrey Hepburn as Jo Stockton, a shy amateur philosopher who gets swept up into the world of haute couture in this 1957 musical. Maggie Prescott, whose personal mission is to tell American women what to wear, chooses Jo as the new face of her fashion magazine. Jo travels from New York City to Paris for a photo shoot. The film features a dazzling array of high fashion, wrapping Hepburn in gown after gown designed by Hubert de Givenchy. Oh, and Fred Astaire is in it, too.
DADDY LONG LEGS, 1955
Nothing screams 1950s musical like “Daddy Long Legs,” a comedy featuring the multi-talented Leslie Caron and the long-legged Fred Astaire. The film follows French orphan Julie Andre (Caron) as she takes a trip across the Atlantic to attend college at the expense of her anonymous benefactor, whom she calls her “daddy long legs” (Astaire). Smart, witty, creative, and full of dancing, this is one of the best, though often least-watched, musicals from the era.
THE KING AND I, 1956
This film is fabulous for its music, which is in large part influenced by its setting, 1860s Siam. Schoolteacher Anna Leonowens (Deborah Kerr) goes to what is today Thailand to teach the King of Siam’s (Yul Brynner’s) children. The film explores colonialism and the conflicting pressures of developing countries to modernize and preserve their own cultures, all while a love story develops between two of the most different of characters. It’ll make you laugh, cry, and sing for days.
There’s hardly a funnier combination than Frank Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine. Despite the foreign setting (19th-century France) “Can-Can” explores many struggles 20-somethings still deal with today, including that of wondering whether the man you’re with will ever settle down. MacLaine, the owner of a nightclub famous for performing the illegal dance, can’t convince her long-time boyfriend (Sinatra) to marry her. She takes desperate measures that will have you roaring with laughter.
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