Not all old movies are classic old movies. Just like not all old things are antiques, they are just old. There are even some who would suggest that all old movies are “classic”. I don’t believe that though.
Even experts don’t agree on which movies should be “a classic movie”.
I am going to try to explain what makes a classic movie a classic in my mind’s eye. This is not an all-inclusive breakdown, because emotions and upbringing etc. tend to overshadow objectivity.
It has to be well-made…
- With great acting:
- Gregory peck’s portrayal of General Savage in Twelve O’clock High (1949) is a great example. You can “see” his authority.
- Great music:
- The soundtrack to The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) would be an excellent choice to illustrate use of music to highlight what is being portrayed.
- Also, the Third man Theme from the movie The Third man underscores the movie’s suspense.
- Outstanding dialogue:
- An outstanding example is from The Third Man (1949) in which Harry Lime (Portrayed by Orson Wells) says “Don’t be so gloomy. After all, it’s not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long, Holly.”
It has to be believable …
It has to be believable enough so that you become absorbed in the movie so much that you become part of the story yourself. You become an eye-witness to what is going on; you are at the scene.
And it has to have memorable scenes…
Memorable scenes have a beginning, a middle and an end.
The last scene in Casablanca When Rick is telling Ilsa to get on the plane with Victor, her husband instead of staying in Casablanca with him. The beginning is when he tells Ilsa what to do, the middle is Rick explaining why, and the end is when Rick says “here’s looking at you kid”. You must see it if you haven’t already.
In reality, there is no conclusion, because “What is a great movie” is in the eye of the beholder. You can get lists of what are the greatest movies of all time, etc. But every list carries biases and opinions. I like my ideas, but I can only make suggestions as to what is a classic old movie, from my own perspective. I hope my ideas spark some of your own.