Whether it’s a cold, drizzly day in the winter or a devastatingly hot one in the summer, there’s almost always an excuse to make some buttered popcorn and have a cozy movie moment. If I want to be über cozy, I’ll pick a classic film because they tend to provide the most magical movie viewing experience. From the dramatic performances to the incredible costumes, watching a classic film always leaves me feeling inspired.
Sadly, I don’t think watching classic film is in fashion for many and I think that’s because of a misconception that black and white means boring. I have to admit, older films are often very different than contemporary cinema. Prior to Marlon Brando’s entry into Hollywood, film acting was wholly theatrical and went on to stay that way even after his breakout role in A Streetcar Named Desire in 1951. That theatricality maybe doesn’t translate very easily to us now that we’re so accustomed to modern acting. I could write a lot here, but I digress!
I made this list because I wanted to share some classic movies that I recommend for everyone but especially ones that are good entry points for someone who hasn’t seen a lot of older movies but maybe wants to start. My definition of “classic” is typically pre-1980s. The oldest film on this list dates back to 1939 and the most recent from 1964. Yes, there are three Audrey Hepburn movies on this list of ten, but what can I say? They’re so good!
roman holiday (1953)
I often say this is my favorite film of all time and it’s just so sweet and easy to watch. I actually think it’s a great primer for someone who is new to classic film because it’s not as dense as many classics can be. It still feels fresh almost 70 years later (crazy to think about). The story is about Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) who is in Rome for a press engagement when she runs away from her hotel, only to be found sleeping on a bench by American journalist Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck). Cue an adorable scene on a Vespa!
rear window (1954)
Another classic I consider to be really accessible is Hitchock’s Rear Window. It’s about a newspaper photographer (Jimmy Stewart) who is confined to his apartment with a broken leg when he thinks he sees his neighbor commit a crime through his back window. He and his girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly) spend the movie investigating and trying to prove his suspicions right.
This iconic film is a must for anyone who loves cinematic fashion and drama. Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) is a nightclub owner in Casablanca, Morocco who is confronted by his old love Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) when she comes into town to ask for Rick’s help to get her husband Victor, who is fleeing the Nazis, out of the country.
an american in paris (1951)
This is a really fun musical with some amazing dancing and an interesting set up. It’s one of those movies that just makes you feel really good watching it. An ex-GI and painter Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly) moves to Paris to fulfill his dream of being a painter. He falls for Lise Bouvier (Leslie Caron), but is also pursued by an American heiress who is interested in his art.
funny face (1957)
Another super feel good movie, this one stars Audrey Hepburn as Jo, a girl who works in a bookstore in New York and is approached by fashion photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire) to become a model. She’s stubborn intellectual and initially refuses but is eventually drawn into the fashion world in Paris. SO much good dancing and beautiful clothes.
little women (1949)
Now’s a good time to watch this version of Little Women since yet another remake is soon to come out starring Timothée Chalamet and Saoirse Ronan. This version stars Janet Leigh, June Allyson, Margaret O’Brien, and Elizabeth Taylor as the March sisters who grow up in New England during the Civil War.
A perfect movie for Halloween, but really great any other time of year as well. Rebecca is my other favorite Hitchock movie, based off of the novel by Daphne du Maurier. A young woman (Joan Fontaine) marries a mysterious widower (Laurence Olivier) and moves into his seaside manor, Manderley, where she is confronted by the ghost of his dead wife, Rebecca.
breakfast at tiffany’s (1961)
If you haven’t already seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s, get on it! There’s so much more to this story than what is often portrayed (the iconic black dress and eccentric main character). Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) is a socialite who dabbles in some questionable activities to fund her life in the city. She intrigues her new neighbor (George Peppard) who comes to find out the truth about her identity.
the women (1939)
There’s a 2008 remake of this movie with Meg Ryan and Eva Mendes that isn’t incredible but it’s still a fun watch. However, you should definitely watch the original which features an incredible cast of all women (really cool piece of history for the time) including Joan Crawford, Joan Fontaine, Hedda Hopper, and Norma Shearer. The story is about a woman who finds out her husband is having an affair with a salesgirl, which results in a lot of drama and hot mess.
mary poppins (1964)
It doesn’t get more classic than Mary Poppins! Need I explain the plot? A magical nanny (Julie Andrews) appears in the lives of siblings Michael and Jane to take them on a series of magical and musical adventures. I’d say this is another good entry point to classic films because it’s just so entertaining.