We’re in an exciting time for film. CGI has taken special effects to magical new places and there are more ways than ever to see films. (Thank you, Netflix.) As fantastic as new releases are, they sometimes don’t stop us from getting nostalgic for the golden days of Old Hollywood.
Back in the Old Hollywood heyday, special effects really didn’t exist. And no one would have any idea what you were talking about if you started yapping about 3D films. Heck, a lot of the films produced back then were considered cutting edge if they were made in full color. They might be lacking by today’s technical standards of filmmaking, but they certainly didn’t lack in good acting or entertainment. That’s why it’s so enjoyable to pop in an old DVD (or even a VHS) to reminisce about Old Hollywood. And, of course, there are all the drool-worthy costumes and sets to admire, too.
Even people who aren’t into romantic movies will want to watch Casablanca. It’s beautifully shot in black and white and it won an Academy Award for Best Picture. Unlike a lot of cliché rom-coms, it has a captivating story that combines the war, former flames, and all the feels. If you need another reason to watch it, this year marks the 75th anniversary it was released. That’s right, it was way back in 1942 we were first treated with the line, “We’ll always have Paris.”
2. Singin’ In The Rain
Are you someone who still doesn’t “get” musicals? We’ll admit that before La La Land, there was a dry patch of movies with good singing and dancing. If we go back to the fabulous days of Old Hollywood, it was a musical extravaganza. One of the most memorable musicals of all time has to be 1952’s Singin’ In The Rain. It starred Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor. We can thank them for changing the way that we hold umbrellas. The movie even made us enjoy rain a lot more.
3. A Streetcar Named Desire
You might have read the play version of A Streetcar Named Desire. You might have even seen it acted live. That’s great, but you still need to do yourself a favor and watch the 1951 film with Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh. We won’t spoil the story for you, but we will say that Brando as Stanley Kowalski will give you a lot of conflicting feelings. It will also make you appreciate his beauty in black and white and how hot a T-shirt can be. Once you get passed Brando, you can enjoy the story and great acting.
4. My Fair Lady
If you like anything remotely related to fashion, you need to go put on 1964’s My Fair Lady. You could even watch it with the sound off and you’d still enjoy it very much. However, you’ll want to turn on the sound because it’s a musical and it has some great lines courtesy of pompous phonetics professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) and Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn). It’s another classic film that will make you love musicals.
5. Rear Window
If you haven’t watched any Alfred Hitchcock films, you might as well start things off on a high with 1954’s Rear Window. It centers around a newspaper photographer, L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies, (James Stewart) who has a broken leg and passes his time looking at his neighbors through his window. If that sounds a bit creepy, don’t let it put you off because the action gets started when Jeff believes he witnesses a murder so he goes about trying to solve the crime. Want more convincing? It stars Grace Kelly and it has some serious fashion.
6. Breakfast At Tiffany’s
Sorry, but you cannot really call yourself an Audrey Hepburn fan if you’ve never seen Breakfast At Tiffany’s. No, dressing up as the title character Holly Golightly isn’t a suitable alternative to watching the film. The clothes and jewelry are predictably on point, but it has a great story and a fantastic song called “Moon River.” We also encourage you to read Truman Capote‘s book that the 1961 film was adapted from, just so you can see the similarities and differences.
You know those films that are randomly classified as “epics”? Ben-Hur is one of those films, and it’s worthy of that title. No, we’re not talking about the 2016 version with Morgan Freeman. We’re talking about the original from 1959 with Charlton Heston as Judah Ben-Hur. One of the epic things about it is the fact the movie snagged 11 Oscars. Another epic thing is that it’s 212 minutes long. However, the thing that makes it truly epic is the historical drama’s story about how Prince Judah loses everything after his adopted brother Messala (Toby Kebbell) returns to Jerusalem and accuses him of treason. We won’t say more than that.
8. Cat On A Hot Tin Roof
You might have studied the Tennessee Williams‘s Cat On A Hot Tin Roof play. Whether or not you enjoyed it, you need to watch the 1958 film version. First of all, it stars Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman. Second, it touches on a number of topics including family, death and desire. Third, it will make you really appreciate old school color films. Fourth, it has major cinematic appeal despite the fact it mostly takes place in a (very nice) house in the south.
9. Some Like It Hot
We were lucky enough to get a double dose of retro in Some Like It Hot. The film was shot in 1959, but it took place in 1929. And it starred one of the most iconic vintage actresses, Marilyn Monroe. Oh, and Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon were in there too, but disguised as women. If you’re not familiar with the story, it involves the two male actors witnessing a Mafia murder then disguising themselves as women in an all-female jazz band as part of their escape. Can you say classic?
10. Wuthering Heights
Wuthering Heights was originally a 1847 novel written by Emily Brontë that you might have been introduced to during school. It’s time to think beyond boring English lectures because it has been adapted numerous times. One of the best versions was the 1939 film. The year produced some iconic movies (see below) and this one was no exception. After all, it starred Laurence Olivier, Merle Oberon, David Niven and Geraldine Fitzgerald.
11. Rebel Without A Cause
We enjoy a lot of old movies for the glamour, the cinematography and the non-cliché romantic story lines, but there are also some that we watch for the drama. Rebel Without A Cause is one of those movies. The 1955 film also made us never look at red leather jackets that same thanks to Jim Stark (James Dean). Some of the impact might get lost when we watch it, but it changed people’s ideas about teenagers in the 1950s because it highlighted what emotionally confused suburban teens were going through. You just might find yourself relating to it.
12. Wizard Of Oz
Wizard Of Oz is one of those movies that is beloved by all ages, and critics and non-critics alike. When you stop and think that the film was produced in 1939, you realize how incredible it was considering the complicated effects, the plot and the cinematography. The movie produced some of the most beloved characters ever including Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion and Toto. Even the Wicked Witch of the West was iconic in her own evil way. And we cannot forget about the Good Witch of The North who outshone any princess.
13. Witness For The Prosecution
You might not be as familiar with Witness For The Prosecution as you are some of the others on the list, but you’ll want to change that. It was a courtroom film noir, and film noirs are things that are sorely lacking in modern cinema. The black-and-white film starred Tyrone Power as Leonard Vole who is being tried for the murder of a wealthy woman. Despite having a great lawyer, his alibi depends on his wife Christine (Marlene Dietrich), who may or not be into it. Even if you find other court dramas a snooze, watch this. You will not regret it.
14. Roman Holiday
Are you a big Audrey Hepburn fan? Do you dream about zooming around Rome on a moped, possibly with a dashing gentlemen? You can live out your fantasies vicariously through 1953’s Roman Holiday. Sure, you might not be a princess like the title character, Anne, is but you will still love it. And seeing the Italian city in black and white gives it a romantic feel that you’ll love whether you’ve been there or not.
15. All About Eve
You’re going to be All About Eve after watching the 1950 movie. It has a lot of iconic Old Hollywood film stars including Marilyn Monroe and Bette Davis. Need we say more? Okay, the film centers around an aspiring actress who manages to insert herself into the powerful circle of a stage actress and her theater friends. It was nominated for a whopping 14 Oscars and won six.
16. Funny Face
The Devils Wears Prada, The September Issue and Clueless are some of the most popular fashion films, but Funny Face needs to be on that list. The 1957 film focused on photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire), who is on assignment when he sees Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn), a bookstore employee. One accidental photo later, he realizes she has potential to become a successful model. We’re then lead on a highly entertaining adventure.
17. Gone With The Wind
When people use the word “cinematic,” it’s films like Gone With The Wind that come to mind. It’s no exaggeration to say that the 1939 film was a masterpiece. It’s hard to believe how much time and how many other films have been produced since then, but it still stands up. The historical romance transforms Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel of the same name into a feast for the eyes and ears. It’s a bit of a complicated love triangle/square with Scarlett O’ Hara (Vivien Leigh), Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) and Melanie Hamilton (Olivia de Havilland), but it’s not cliché.
Here’s another Audrey Hepburn movie that you will want to have on your must-watch list. Hepburn stars as the title character, Sabrina Fairchild, alongside Humphrey Bogart as Linus Larrabee. Even if you haven’t seen the movie, you will probably be familiar with its fashion because Edith Head won the Academy Award for for Best Costumes for the 1954 film. Sabrina also presented the unstoppable combination of Hepburn and Givenchy, although it remains to be seen how much Hubert de Givenchy was involved with the designs. Costume drama aside, the romantic comedy is worth watching for the way it touches on some heavy subjects without going into black comedy territory.