From Casablanca to the original West Side Story – classic films to watch this weekend
Nostalgia, fascino, comfort — these are just three aspects of classic movies that have kept fans coming back for more over the years. Whether it’s Audrey Hepburn’s timeless style in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Maureen O’Hara’s devotion to family in How Green Was My Valley or Gene Kelly’s legendary footwork in An American in Paris, classic movies truly allow fans to get lost in the saccharine beauty of a forgotten world. For viewing inspiration, we rounded up some of the greatest classic films from the 1940s, 50S, 60s and early 70s. Click through to see them all…
CASABLANCA: This WWII era romance staring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman won an Academy Award for Best Picture in 1944 — but it is the beautiful score, exotic scenery and melancholic love story that has transcended decades. Turn this black and white film on and listen to Bogart deliver one of his most famous (and totally improvised) line: ‘Here’s looking at you kid’.
SOME LIKE IT HOT: Can’t decide what kind of movie you’re in the mood for? Try this Marilyn Monroe classic for a bit of music, azione, comedy and romance. Originally released in 1959, the movie follows two male musicians who witness a mob hit and their hilarious attempt to conceal their identities while on the run with Marilyn and the rest of her all-girl band.
BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S: Another book adaptation, Breakfast at Tiffany’s tells Truman Capote’s fictional story of love and loss in 1960s New York City. The film cemented Audrey Hepburn’s status as Hollywood royalty – and the little black dress as a timeless fashion staple thanks to Holly Golightly’s adventures through the Big Apple from Sing Sing to 5th Avenue. If you’re in the mood for city scapes and an inexplicably lovable main character, Questo 1961 romcom is for you.
WEST SIDE STORY: If you’ve never seen West Side Story, a musical created by Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim in 1957, now is the time before Steven Spielberg’s remake is released. Inspired by Romeo and Juliet and originally created for the stage, the musical follows the lives of star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria as they navigate racism and gangs in New York City’s Upper West Side. After a successful run on Broadway and several other theaters across America, the show was released to much acclaim as a movie in 1961 starring Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Rita Moreno and George Chakiris.
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN: A Gene Kelly classic, this romantic comedy and musical will bring a smile to your face whether it’s your first or 50th time watching. Considered by many critics to be one of the greatest musicals ever made, Singin’ in the Rain follows Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds as their characters sing and dance their way through 1920s Hollywood and the silent film era. Tune in for a laugh, leave with the title song stuck in your head for days.
THE BIRDS: We might still be working from home, but after watching Hitchcock’s 1963 horror-thriller which focuses on a series of sudden bird attacks, you might be happy to stay indoors. Nel film, Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) witnesses strange bird activity in different scenarios until the feathered creatures make their way into her home. Hitchcock, widely remembered as one of the most influential directors in history, used some questionable tactics to create his movies which included tying real, live birds to his leading lady. Tippi spoke about filming the legendary scene which led her to take a week off of filming to heal physically and mentally in her memoir years later stating: ‘I heard Hitchcock yell, “Action!” and right on cue, the handlers began hurling those live birds at me. It was brutal and ugly and relentless.’
IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT: One of the American Film Institute’s best movies of all time, this early 1934 screwball comedy follows a coddled socialite’s (Claudette Colbert) attempts to free herself from her father’s governance and in the process, falls in love with a rogue reporter (Clark Gable). Storicamente, the film became the first to ever win all five major Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay. The feat has only since been matched by two other films, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Silence of the Lambs.
HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY: Equally delightful as it is tragic, How Green Was My Valley follows a young Angharad (Maureen O’Hara) and the Morgans, a hard-working Welsh mining family, during the late Victorian era when some country towns depended entirely on the husbands, fathers and brothers working in coal mines, despite dangerous working conditions. A stark reminder that family and friends are the most important things in life, the movie (which scooped up four Academy Awards in 1941) has since been preserved by the Academy Film Archive and the United States National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.
FUNNY FACE: While we may not be able to hop on a flight to Europe right now, we can live vicariously through photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire) and resistant could-be model Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn) who famously fly to France in the 1957 romcom to create a stunning fashion editorial with Paris’ most iconic attractions as a backdrop. Through many trials, tribulations and exquisite musical scenes written by George and Ira Gershwin, Astaire finally convinces Hepburn (a former shy bookstore employee) that she is not only the model Quality Magazine has been searching for, but the love interest Astaire has been looking for his whole life.
HIS GIRL FRIDAY: What happens when a newspaper editor is about to lose his star reporter AND former wife for good? Some serious comedy, nimble dialogue and plenty of surprises — and that’s exactly what you get in His Girl Friday, which follows editor Cary Grant and reporter Rosalind Russell’s final reporting endeavor together before she re-marries and settles down to start a family with another man. Oggi, the film is cited as an archetype of the screwball comedy genre and has since inspired many more film and stage productions.
ROMAN HOLIDAY: Down-to-earth princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) is tired of her daily duties and instead decides to explore Rome during an Italian tour. A sedative a doctor prescribed her, però, makes the young princess fall asleep on a park bench, where she is found by the chivalrous American reporter, Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) who takes her to his apartment for safety. When Bradley realizes who he’s been spending time with, he promises his editor an exclusive with the princess — until he unexpectedly begins to fall in love. An adorably refreshing film, Roman Holiday is sure to leave you smiling from ear to ear.
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA: If historical dramas are more your scene, look no further than this epic drama which has since been named the third greatest British film of all time by the British Film Institute and the best British film of all time in a 2004 Sunday Telegraph poll of Britain’s leading filmmakers. What makes the motion picture so fantastic? Based on the life of T. E. Lawrence, an archaeologist, army officer, diplomat and writer, the film brings Lawrence’s humanity to the forefront from his internal struggles with the violence of war to his eye-opening experiences in the WWI era Ottoman Empire — and the friends he makes there.
THE WIZARD OF OZ: From fabulous technicolor to the film’s fantastic music (including the now immortal tune Somewhere Over The Rainbow) Questo 1939 MGM production has made its mark on history and the hearts of decades of fans — even though it failed to make a profit when originally released by the studio in 1939. Adapted from L. Frank Baum’s children’s fantasy novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the film follows Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) as she tries to find her way home to Kansas while making friends (and enemies) along the way. According to the Library of Congress, the family favorite film is one of the most watched films in movie history and was thus selected by the government agency as one of the first 25 films for preservation in the National Film Registry.
ON THE WATERFRONT: Ranked by the American Film Institute as the eighth-greatest American movie of all time in 1997, this crime drama earned instant acclaim when it was released in 1954 with Marlon Brando starring as an imperfect hero who gets involved with mobsters before changing course and testifying in court to help a grieving sister. Even today, the film has a 98 percent critical score on Rotten Tomatoes, with a critical consensus that claims ‘Marlon Brando redefined the possibilities of acting for film and helped permanently alter the cinematic landscape,’ through his work.
LAURA: One of the greatest mystery movies of all time, Questo 1944 American film noir follows Manhattan detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) as he investigates the murder of the highly successful advertising executive, Laura Hunt (Dana Andrews). A classic whodunit, the detective questions Laura’s friends, including her trusted maid, the newspaper columnist who claims to have been Laura’s ‘mentor’ and her playboy fiancé. Who killed the beautiful young New Yorker? You’ll just have to watch the classic to find out.
THE GODFATHER: The ultimate mob drama and perhaps one of the greatest films of all time, Francis Ford Coppola and his all star-cast, including Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan and Diane Keaton bring the hidden world of the Italian mafia to light in this instant classic. Inspired by real-life mob boss Frank Costello, the drama follows Don Vito Corleone, his reluctant son and the family ‘business’ through many twists, turns and life lessons – including the famous instruction: ‘Leave the gun – take the cannoli.’
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS: Inspired by George Gershwin’s 1928 orchestral composition, Gene Kelly stars in this movie adaptation as Jerry Mulligan, an ex-soldier who stays in Paris to become a painter after the war and unexpectedly meets the lovely Lise Bouvier (Leslie Caron). A truly romantic film complete with orchestral triumphs and serious chemistry, critics have praised the masterpiece for decades, with the New York Times once claiming the closing dance number was ‘one of the finest ever put upon the screen’ and Variety firmly stating the film was ‘one of the most imaginative musical confections turned out by Hollywood in years’.
LA DOLCE VITA: Entitled ‘sweet life’ in inglese, this stunning film depicts the life of a paparazzo journalist living in Rome in search of a more substantial life while he drifts in and out of Italy’s most notable and glittery society events with remnants of the war (and it’s tragedies) popping up in unexpected places. Despite the film’s length (it runs for nearly three hours), il 1960 film has stood the test of time and still holds a gleaming Rotten Tomatoes critics consensus that states,’ La Dolce Vita remains riveting in spite of — or perhaps because of — its sprawling length.’
MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS: Another MGM technicolor production starring Judy Garland, this musical depicts the life of four sisters in the early 1900s through winter, primavera, summer and fall. We can thank the film for several of the classic songs we still know and love today including Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, The Trolley Song and The Boy Next Door. Turn it on, sing along and imagine yourself at the 1904 World’s Fair instead of inside your home.
THE MUSIC MAN: Ahead of the new Broadway adaption of the classic film starring Hugh Jackman as Harold Hill, take a step back in time with the original 1962 cast of singing Iowans including librarian Marian Paroo (Shirley Jones), Winthrop (Ronny Howard) and the music man himself, Harold (Robert Preston). The musical was one of the highest acclaimed movies of the year when it was released with one critic going so far as to say: ‘Call this a triumph, perhaps a classic, of corn, smalltown nostalgia and American love of a parade.’
REBECCA: Based on the novel by Dame Daphne du Maurier, Questo 1940 psychological thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock stars Laurence Olivier as the brooding widower Maxim de Winter and Joan Fontaine as the woman who becomes his second wife plagued by memories of de Winter’s first wife, Rebecca. The goosebump inducing flick won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1940 — making it the only Hitchcock film to win the award.
ALL ABOUT EVE: When aging superstar Margo Channing (Bette Davis) takes budding actress Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) under her wing, she never expects the young girl will turn on her — but in classic old Hollywood style, not everything is at is seems. The glamour, intrigue and amazing acting in the film landed 23 award wins and 18 nominations in the 1950 award season, including the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Best Costume Design.
12 ANGRY MEN: A court case drama that has transcended decades, this Henry Fonda production tells the tale of a conflicted jury deliberating a murder trial. As personal and professional issues come to light, Fonda and the rest of the jury must decide whether an inner-city teen is guilty or innocent of the accused crime — with a guilty verdict meaning death for the 18-year-old. Bringing timeless questions of morality and values to light, the spectacular film was named the second-best courtroom drama ever by the American Film Institute in 2014, 57 years after the original release.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC: A delightful family flick, this stage to screen movie follows Julie Andrew’s Maria from Nonnberg Abbey (a Benedictine monastery) to the home of widower Captain Von Trapp, played by Christopher Plummer. Von Trapp hires Maria as his governess to help care for his seven children, but the woman becomes an integral part of the family, while the children come of age, war rages and Vienna falls to the Nazis – with some of the best loved songs in film along the way. The film is a lovely musical that will remind you that with a little help from your friends, you can get through anything.
AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER: Considered one of the most romantic films of all time – and the inspiration behind the modern day Sleepless in Seattle – this CinemaScope and DeLuxe Color flick follows Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr’s characters on a cruise from Europe to New York City and the affair that ensues — each promising to meet again on top of the Empire State Building six months later. You’ll just have to watch the famous film to see how it ends!
HOW TO STEAL A MILLION: Come for Audrey Hepburn’s groovy fashion looks (all designed by Givenchy) in this 1960s film and stay for the titillating heist that involves Audrey (Nicole), Hugh Griffith (Charles Bonnet), Peter O’Toole (Simon Dermott) and the forged masterpieces the trio pass off as prized sculptures. With Paris looming in the background, this thrilling comedy will have you on the edge of your seat.
THE APARTMENT: Part romance, part drama, insurance worker C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) regrets lending his Upper East Side apartment to his boss Fred MacMurray when he finds out the man is having an affair with Baxter’s crush, the elevator girl. With major Mad Men vibes, Baxter must soon decide between keeping his boss happy (and advancing his career) and the girl he loves — a must watch for anyone in the mood for some serious drama.
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE: Set in Downtown New Orleans, this southern gothic film based on Tennessee Williams’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name follows southern belle, Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) from small-town Mississippi to the New Orlean’s apartment her sister Stella Kowalski (Kim Hunter) shares with her husband Stanley (Marlon Brando). Blanche’s amorous disposition, però, gets her in trouble — and causes problems in her sister’s already tumultuous marriage. Essentially unknown before the movie’s release, the role made Marlon Brando a star and cemented both Brando and Leigh as Hollywood royalty.