Why you should watch old classic movies

Have you ever watched a movie that was made before you were born? A black-and-white one? How about a non-English black and white movie with subtitles?

The most likely answer to all of the above is “no”. Many people write off classic cinema without even giving them a chance. They are missing out a lot.

It’s not that “once upon a time, they knew how to make movies…” etc. A good movie is a good movie, be it new or old. Still, there are several reasons to watch old classics in particular. They can capture perfectly the spirit of the time they were filmed in; provide a better understanding of the cinema of today; offer a refreshing contrast to the modern production; and most importantly, they have withstood the test of time.

Some viewers may need to overcome a few barriers that arise from previous viewing habits. However, all it takes is one right old classic film to change their mindset and their viewing habits.

But what is the right film? Searching the internet for best classic films is bound to give some good results. Watch one or two and you will probably want to expand by seeking out more works by the same director, from the same period or region, with the same actor or actress…

For what it’s worth, below is the list of my current favourite black and white classic films. The list is in a chronological order and the language is indicated in the case of non-English films.

The Gold Rush (1925), Charles Chaplin, silent. This has to be one of the funniest films of all times. The dance of the forks is unsurpassable!

M (1931), Fritz Lang, German. Children are being murdered and some unlikely groups of people join in the pursuit of the murderer. A thrilling drama!

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Citizen Kane (1941), Orson Welles. You have to see something that everybody includes in their list of the top ten or so films of all times, right? Right. So just go ahead and do it!

Bicycle Thieves (1948), Vittorio De Sica, Italian. It was regarded as a masterpiece when it was released; it is regarded as a masterpiece today. Enough said.

Rashomon (1950), Akira Kurosawa, Japanese. The carefully crafted presentation, the meticulous structure, the powerful emotions… those are, in a nutshell, the reasons to see it. Plus the fact that the film gave birth to the term Rashomon effect.

Tokyo Story (1953), Yasujiro Ozu, Japanese. This simple and moving family drama has been described as a work that achieves great emotional effect without falling into the shallow waters of a melodrama.

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Seven Samurai (1954), Akira Kurosawa, Japanese. Watch it to see how character depiction and emotional depth can go perfectly with an action film. And how elements (fire, wind, rain) can be meaningfully incorporated into a film.

12 Angry Men (1957), Sidney Lumet. Even if you don’t know anything (and don’t particularly care) about movie-making, you cannot help noticing how the unusual camera angles and the careful choreography of actors’ movements add to the overall engrossing effect of a story that mostly unfolds in one room, among twelve jurors.

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The Seventh Seal (1957), Ingmar Bergman, Swedish. A medieval knight plays a game of chess with Death and seeks answers to some of life’s big questions.

Some Like It Hot (1959), Billy Wilder. Hilarious from the beginning to the “nobody’s perfect” closing line, this is one of the greatest comedy films of all time. The rhythm is brilliant and Marilyn Monroe is mesmerising.

Breathless (1960), Jean-Luc Godard, French. The freshness of this film is as irresistible today as it was all those years ago.

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Ivan’s Childhood (1962), Andrei Tarkovsky, Russian. Note Ivan’s demeanour before the war and the startling change brought about by the war. Note the ramblings of the old man around his demolished house. Note the ambivalent scene of the kiss over a trench. Note… so much more!

Look for the above titles (and more) in the bidorbuy movies section. It only remains to talk your friends into watching old classics too, so you have someone to discuss them with!