What Makes A Movie a Classic?

Posted on 11 Apr 00:00


Some people believe that the term 'classic' movie means old movie, but it means much more. There are a lot of old movies out there that are not considered a classic movies. Age alone is not what qualifies a movie as a classic. 

A movie has to stand out (be memorable) to be called a classic. As a result, most movies that are referred to as classics are movies that have stayed relevant since their time of production through today and beyond.  Below are some of the components that make a movie a classic.

Six Important Characteristics of a Classic Movie

  1. Ability To Withstand The Test Of Time

Most of the hard to find DVDs that were produced during the silent age of Hollywood and the golden age of Hollywood that are still sought after in this our modern-day society, can be referred to as classic because they have battled against time and have triumphed. A blockbuster movie that was produced two years ago is not likely to be called a classic. But it would be referred to as a classic if after 10 years it’s still sought after and broadly discussed. For example, Gone With The Wind (1933,) has stayed relevant for almost a century.

  1. Audience Appeal

This is arguably the most essential characteristics that a classic movie needs to possess before it can be referred to as such. Although in rare cases, some circumstances lackluster movies are referenced as classics, even though they failed to entertain the audience at the time of their production. Normally, movies that are referred to as classics are movies that gained the viewer’s appeal at the time of their production and are still remembered for the feeling they inspired, years after their production. For instance, West Side Story (1961), a movie that gained viewers appeal with its dance sequences, romance, and musical score, is referred to as a classic today because how its continued audience appeal.

  1. Enthralling Storytelling

Many things go into the production of great movies, and every one of those things has the potential to make or break the chances of that movie from becoming a classic. One of those things is 'enthralling or compelling storytelling'. If the blueprint or script/screenplay of a movie cannot get the audience hooked to that movie, then, reasonably, it may never get referenced as a classic movie. Casablanca (1942), It Happened One Night (1934), Citizen Kane (1941), etc., the one thing they have in common, is their enthralling storyline. If a movie lacks compelling storytelling, odds are it is not a classic movie.

  1. Great Direction

Movie directors play a significant role in getting a movie into the spotlight or leaving it out dry in the corner. If not for brilliant movie directors, most of the classic movies that we have in today’s society would have been failures, and would not have withstood the test to time. Movie directors guide the casts through interpreting the story line as depicted in the script to the viewers. They also guide the cameramen into shooting the best angles while at the same time assist with planning sequences for the editing of the movies. These things are very important to contributing to the success of a movie. The end results of their skillful direction is what makes the movie memorable. All said, picking the right director for a movie is a very high priority when planning the production of a film. An example of the importance of the right director's direction style for a film is ex simplified by directors like Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980), Orson Welles (1915-1985), John Ford (1895-1973), and Howard Hawks (1896-1977), have used their unique, and impeccable direction skills to create movies that are forever be referred to as classics.

  1. Memorable Performance

A cast’s performance has a lot to do with the relevance and rareness of a movie. Actors whose performances are memorable in old movies are called classic movie actors/actresses. They make the role they are playing their own. Audiences cannot image anyone else in their role. Actors and actresses whose performances are still referenced in today’s society include Gary Cooper (Marshall Will Kane) - High Noon (1952), James Stewart (George Bailey) - It A Wonderful Life (1946),  Charles Chaplin (A Tramp) - City Lights (1931) and Clark Gable (Rhett Butler) - Gone with the Wind (1939). These actors 'owned' many of their roles in the aforementioned movies to the extent that audiences cannot image anyone else playing their roles in these films.

  1. Notable Dialogue Or Musical score

Two things that are not so easily forgotten in movies is a great musical score and memorable dialogue. Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong); speaking to the Police Captain (George MacQuarrie), said; "Oh, no. It wasn't the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast." (King Kong, 1933). At the time, he probably didn’t know that his movie line would be referenced over 6 decades after the movie was released. Years after the production of a classic muscial, people are still singing or humming their musical scores for example, "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" (Mary Poppins, 1964).

A movie can be referred to as a classic if it possesses at the very least one of the characteristics listed above. Below is a short list of memorable classic movies:

1)  Citizen Kane (1941)

2)  Gone With The Wind (1939)

3)  Casablanca (1942)

4)  Grand Hotel (1932)

5)  Psycho (1960),

6)  Bonnie and Clyde (1967) 

And many, many more…

Movie Buffs Forever stocks classic DVD’s from the 1950s to the early 2000s. Browse our full collection of DVDs and classic movies.