Lights, camera, action! If you’re looking for a guide to the best classic films ever made, this list is for you.
Grab the popcorn and a bottle of wine, it’s time to settle in and watch some of the best classic movies of all time!
From romance movies to mystery thrillers, drama, action and even sci-fi; films lovers are spoilt with choice thanks to Hollywood’s golden age. It’s an era filmed with now old classic movies that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime. So, sit back, relax and watch your way through our list of the best classic movies of all time!
Casablanca is considered as one of the greatest golden age romance movies of all time. From the acting, the writing, the filming and the music, it’s all memorable. In this classic 1941 masterpiece, two old lovers, Humphrey Bogart (Rick) and Ingrid Bergman (Ilsa), meet up in Casablanca in World War II. Rick, who owns a bar, quickly rekindles with Ilsa and their feelings for one another heighten as they reminisce on the past. Casablanca features one of the most romantic songs of all time, As Time Goes By (Herman Hupfeld), and today, the film claims the title as one of the most quotable classic films – a definite must watch for the romance film lovers.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock and considered as one of his best films, Rear Window tops this list as one of the best mystery thriller classic movies of all time. Rear Window follows the story of a professional photographer with a broken leg. As he looks out from his rear window into his neighbours apartments and lives, soon he becomes obsessed with one couple in particular. Supported by his nurse Stella and socialite girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly), the photographer continues watching from his window soon realising that one of his suspects stops appearing. Filled with Hitchcock’s signature suspenseful directing style, Rear Window is the perfect example of heightened drama.
Considered by many as one of the greatest films of all time, there’s no doubt that Citizen Kane had to be on this list of the best Hollywood golden age classic movies. Directed, produced, co-written and starred by Orson Welles, Citizen Kane (1941) has gone on to be an award-winning film. The plot follows the life of media mogul, Charles Foster Kane, after his last mysterious word ‘Rosebud’. Winding its way between the past of young Kane and the present, Kane’s life unfolds. From his impoverished beginnings to his political ambitions, meeting his wives and all of the important figures in his life along the way. The acting, script and overall directing has been praised since its preview, going on to feature in countless lists of one of the top old movies to watch.
12 Angry Men
Perhaps one of the most famous courtroom drama’s ever written, 12 Angry Men is an iconic piece of film. Unique in the sense that all but three minutes of the film takes place in the same room, where the jury is sent to deliberate the fate of the 18-year-old defendant who, if found guilty, will be hanged. As the 12 men, called by their juror numbers, discuss and deliberate, the viewer learns about each of their personalities and backgrounds. As the guilty and reasonable doubt arguments twist and turn with people changing their votes, the tension heightens, making a gripping film. We pledge that this is by far one of the best movies of all time and is a must-watch for film lovers!
North by Northwest
Unsurprisingly, another Alfred Hitchcock film has made this list of the best classic films ever made. Released in 1959, North by Northwest features classic film stars Cary Grant alongside Eva Marie Saint. North by Northwest revolves around a mistaken identity as foreign forces mistakes Grant as a US agent. Followed across the country becoming an accidental, North by Northwest blends comedy with suspenseful thriller. This is one classic movie that everyone should see – even if it’s just for Grant’s iconic scene running through a cornfield as a crop duster swoops overhead.
The Big Sleep
Based on Raymond Chandlers’ novel of the same name, The Big Sleep stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, two of the biggest old classic movie stars of their time and still today. Sticking to Chandler’s perfectly paced plot, Bogart plays the role of a private detective, Phillip Marlowe, who is drawn into the world of General Sternwood, who hires him, and his daughter Vivian (Bacall). With murder, gambling debts, blackmail, and deceit all to follow; this film noir focuses on the process of a criminal investigation in a hilarious, cunning, beautifully filmed and expertly acted way.
Bringing Up Baby
Bringing up Baby is a classic screwball comedy starring Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant in an opposites attract romance. This silly, fun comedy has it all – we’re talking a tame leopard, dinosaur bones, absurd situations, misunderstandings and confusion. Grant’s character is a mild-mannered paleontologist, and Hepburn is a clumsy and scatterbrained heiress. The film follows them as they try to transport the leopard, Baby, to Connecticut with various mishaps along the way. Now critically acclaimed and remembered as one of the best comedies of the 20th century, Bringing up Baby is the perfect distraction.
Released in 1974, Chinatown is neo-noir mystery film set in 1937. Directed by the now-disgraced Roman Polanski, and starring Jack Nicholson, Chinatown can only be described as a gripping story. Set in Los Angeles, here the audience will see Nicholson as a private investigator, Jake Gittes, who inadvertently gets involved with the corrupt Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and their plan to create a drought for profit. He is also taken in by a mysterious woman, Evelyn Mulwray, who is linked to the plot. With superb acting and crackling dialogue, this is one of the best classic movies that everyone should see at least once.
Almost as famous as the road it is named after, Sunset Boulevard is an iconic piece of noir cinema following a down-on-his-luck screenwriter who has a chance encounter with a long forgotten and emotionally fragile silent film star. Starring Gloria Swanson who brilliantly portrays the manipulative and twisted once-sparkling Norma Desmond, Sunset Boulevard also features William Holden as the penniless and idealistic screenwriter. A seamless production and cast, our favourite part of Sunset Boulevard is Erich von Stroheim who plays Gloria’s once husband, director and devoted butler.
2001: Space Odyssey
Heralded as one of the best and most influential films of all time, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: Space Odyssey is a classic movie that everyone should see at least once. Blending classical music, beautiful cinematography, a compelling plot and dialogue which is used sparingly to great effect. The themes of existentialism, human evolution and artificial intelligence are prescient. The film follows a space voyage to Jupiter to explore extraterrestrial life, with a shape largely run by a human-like AI, HAL 9000. Some see this as dark and foreboding, while others see the film as hopeful for humanity. Watch it and decide for yourself.
Mean Streets is an iconic crime drama directed and co-written by the formidable Martin Scorsese starring a young Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel. With a seamless soundtrack, the opening to the film is iconic enough with The Ronettes Be My Baby playing. This classic crime film stands out for its cinematography and less glamorously-depicted life of crime thanks to De Niro’s industry-breaking performance. While it is visceral and violent, there are moments of comedy to keep it from being too heavy.
His Girl Friday
His Girl Friday has it all! This classic screwball-comedy-romance-drama is the golden age of Hollywood at its best. Starring a young Cary Grant as Walter and Rosalind Russell as Hildy, the two shine as a divorced couple who work together as an editor and star reporter respectively. The screwball antics mainly arise as Walter tries to stop Hildy’s upcoming wedding by offering a story too good to turn down. But, in reality, he’s just trying to get the groom out of the picture. Notorious for its fast-paced overlapping dialogue, surprises and comedy, after you watch His Girl Friday you’ll realise how many references there are to it in modern pop culture!
Rebel Without a Cause
Rebel Without a Cause is iconic for so many reasons. Starting with the cast, Rebel Without a Cause features one of the biggest movie stars of all time, including the now late James Dean alongside Natalie Woods who was nominated for an Oscar three times before the age of 25 – all before drowning under suspicious circumstances. The name of the film is instantly recognisable and the plot of disaffected youth is universal. From the wonderful acting, engaging plot and James Dean’s infamous red jacket, Rebel Without a Cause lives up to its well-deserved hype as one of the best classic films ever made.
Gone With The Wind
Adapted from the novel of the same name, Gone With The Wind is an epic historical romance set in the south of the United States during the Civil War. This film was a huge box office success, and when adjusted for inflation, it is still the highest grossing film of all time. The two leads were cast perfectly with Vivian Leigh portraying Scarlett O’Hara and Clark Gable as Rhett. The long and dramatic plot is anchored by Scarlett, a headstrong and passionate woman, expertly played by the incredible Leigh, one of the main reasons to watch.
All About Eve
Widely regarded as one of the greatest films about Hollywood and showbiz of all time, All About Eve is a triumph of cinematic drama. Starring the iconic Bette Davis as Magro Channing, an aging Broadway legend, as she fends off attempts by a young fan Eve Harrington threatening her career and personal relationships. Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, All About Eve was nominated for 14 Academy Awards, making it one of the most nominated movies of all time. Smart, sophisticated, and devastatingly funny film, every scene in All About Eve is a sheer delight of snappy dialogue and clever wit. So watch this Hollywood classic film as soon as you can!
After you’ve screened your way through this old movies list, catch something new on the big screen at one of these 14 Retro and Unique Classic Cinemas in Australia. Or, reboot your watchlist with this Guide to the 10 Best Movie Remakes of All Time.