A Beginners Guide to Classic Movies

I have often found my friends and family are very resistant to the idea of watching old movies; why is that so? This question has been raised multiple times among friend groups and online forums. I think the most common answer I find is that people are alienated by the low production quality of old movies which pales in comparison to modern extravagant movies. However, this can’t be all that holds viewers back, there is more to it.

I initially came to the conclusion that modern viewers are alienated by the trappings of the past. The cars, furniture and the clothes are all different, and to some this might be a very interesting and an attractive explanation, but to others watching a classic is like visiting a museum. I soon realized this cannot be the case, since modern audiences cheerfully enjoy movies and TV shows set in the past. A perfect example of this would be TV shows like Mad Men and movies like LA Confidential. It’s apparent elements like retro fashion and style are actually elements that attract viewers more than they alienate them.

More recently, my opinion is that people are hesitant to watch a classic movie because of the slow pace and the values represented by these old movies. Audiences have a hard time comprehending the moral, religious and social beliefs portrayed in these old movies; for example it might be difficult to appreciate a romantic comedy where a man and a woman go out for a date and don’t end up in bed. If you consider modern movies and TV shows set in the past, they usually portray a certain aspect of that time period and impose the values of our own generation into the movie.

These are my speculations as to why I believe old movies are often avoided by audience today, although I’m not sure these reasons tell the whole story. In any case, what do you do if you want to get into classic movies? If you have finally decided that old movies aren’t just for dull, pretentious people, there are numerous guides and lists available on the inter-webs regarding which movies are the best. I have compiled a list of three of my all time favourite classic movies with a brief spoiler free synopsis.

12 Angry Men (1957)

The 12 Angry Men.

The 12 Angry Men.

12 members of a jury, locked inside a small room for an hour and a half. Sounds boring, but this character driven movie wonderfully shows how prejudice can tip the scales of justice. The story follows the journey of 12 members of a jury and their realization of their prejudice as they are asked to determine the fate of an inner-city teen.

It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

James Stewart as George Bailey, with his wife and daughter.

James Stewart as George Bailey, with his wife and daughter.

It’s A Wonderful Life is the perfect family Christmas movie. The movie’s popularity lies in the fact that this film displays the value of a single individual and the contribution they can make to the greater good. James Stewart plays George Bailey, an average Joe who battles everyday problems like raising and providing for his family. When the pressure mounts, George sees no way out but suicide. The movie revolves around the divine intervention of a guardian angel to help George in his time of distress, and to help him realize the consequences his life has on the world around him. This classic is bound to lift your mood and will have you saying “it truly is a wonderful life!”

Rear Window (1954)

James Stewart stalking his neighbors in Rear Window.

James Stewart stalking his neighbours in Rear Window.

Alfred Hitchcock, chances are you have heard of him, here is why. Rear Window is one of Hitchcock’s finest thriller. This master piece is filled with mystery, suspense and sprinkled with humour and romance. The film takes you through an adventure with a crippled man sitting in his room. That’s right, the movie revolves around a photographer who is wheelchair-bound due to his broken leg. With nothing better to do, this photographer spies on his neighbours from his apartment window and becomes convinced that one of them has committed murder.

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