10 Flicks - An Introduction to Classic Film

Published: March 17, 2015

Want to get your feet wet watching classic film, but not sure where to start? Want to learn more about the Golden Age of Cinema? Just looking for something good to watch on a random Tuesday night? Look no further! This guide will set you up for approximately 24 hours of classic film that will thrill you, chill you, make you laugh, and maybe make you cry.

  1. Casablanca - 1942

    "Here's looking at you, kid."

    This romantic classic features Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman and depicts their reuniting in a Moroccan nightclub, one year after their tragic parting as Hitler's Nazi regime invaded Paris.

    Bergman's Ilsa, believing her husband dead in a concentration camp, fell in love with American expatriate Rick (Bogart), just as Hitler's Nazis sweep into Paris. The two lovers are separated when Ilsa discovers her husband is not, after all, dead.

    One year later, Ilsa and her husband are attempting to escape war-torn Europe via Casablanca, when Ilsa meets Rick once more. Will Ilsa and Rick reunite? Or is this just the beginning of a beautiful friendship?

  2. Bringing Up Baby - 1938

    "I can't give you anything but love, Baby!"

    David Huxley, a studious paleontologist on the verge of marrying his dull research assistant, meets lively, scatterbrained, vivacious heiress Susan Vance on a golf course, and from there, his life takes a turn for the exciting.

    Huxley (Cary Grant), a paleontologist, is all set to marry his dull research assistant when he receives an opportunity to gain a million-dollar bequest for his museum and for his brontosaurus specimen, which is only missing one vital bone.

    While on the golf course. Huxley meets Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn), a flighty heiress with a pet leopard, a rich aunt, and a dog with a taste for brontosaurus bones.

    Two excaped leopards, one missing bone, one jail stay, and two sets of torn evening wear later, David's engagement to Alice is on the rocks, but things with Susan are coming up roses - or is that leopard spots?

  3. The Philadelphia Story - 1940

    "Aaah, that's the old redhead. No bitterness, no recriminations, just a good swift left to the jaw."

     

     

    Tracy Lord, a Main Line Philadelphia society girl, embarks on a second marriage to a new money up-and-comer. There's just two problems - her first husband and a gorgeous tabloid writer are also after her attentions.

    Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn) divorced her former husband, C. K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant), because his alcoholism and other failings didn't meet her exacting standards.

    Two years later, Tracy is set to marry George Kittredge, a self-made man who doesn't quite fit into her social class. Tracy and her mother are preparing for the wedding, when they are forced by some genteel blackmail to accept a photographer and writer from Spy magazine to cover the wedding in exchange for the magazine not revealing Tracy's father's affair with a dancer.

    Tracy juggles fiance, former husband, and gorgeous writer, but who will she choose? Will the wedding go on as planned?

     

  4. It Happened One Night - 1934

    "I want to see what love looks like when it's triumphant. I haven't had a good laugh in a week."

    A society heiress elopes with an adventurer to the chagrin of her father. She jumps ship in Florida and catches a bus to New York, when she meets a newspaperman that gives her second thoughts.

    Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert) meets Peter Warne (Clark Gable), an out of work newspaper reporter, on the bus to New York City, where she is running to reunite with her new husband King Westley. Warne recognizes her, and threatens to return her to her father unless she gives him an exclusive on her story, so that he can get his job back.

    Through a series of mishaps, Ellie loses her money and becomes dependent on Peter. The two must get to New York, evading Ellie's father's men, and of course romantic sparks fly along the way.

  5. Sunset Boulevard - 1950

    "The stars are ageless, aren't they?"

    A down and out screenwriter meets an aging Old Hollywood star who dreams of a triumphant return to the screen, and who drags him down into her own special brand of madness.

    Screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) meets aging silent film star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) while hiding out from repo men at her decaying mansion. Joe recognises the actress, and flatters her into accepting his help as a doctor for a script she's written to make a comeback to the screen.

    Joe grows to resent his 'kept man' status and meets another screenwriter and tentatively pursues a relationship with her, but a despondent Norma slits her wrists in a suicide attempt, and Joe goes back to her, and to an inevitable and tragic destiny.

     

  6. Meet Me In St. Louis - 1944

    "You'll all be safe with me, I've got twelve guns in my room!"

    A well-off middle-class family in St. Louis at the turn of the century struggles with the decision to move to New York just before the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair.

    Middle child Esther (Judy Garland) meets nice John Truitt when he moves in next door to their family in the summer of 1903. Her older brother and sister are managing romances of their own, but Esther has trouble getting hers off the ground until Halloween, when she slaps John after a misunderstanding regarding her youngest sister Tootie (Margaret O'Brien). 

    Father Lon receives a promotion to move to New York as partner in his company, and the family is terribly upset by the prospect of moving, but supports him in the end, until Christmas, when Tootie breaks down crying in the snow.

    Father refuses the promotion, happiness reigns and the film closes at the World's Fair.

  7. Rear Window - 1954

    "Nobody ever invented a polite word for a killin' yet."

    A wheelchair-bound photographer witnesses what he believes to be a murder through his window, and attempts to corner the killer in a battle of wits.

    Photographer L.B "Jeff" Jeffries (Jimmy Stewart) is wheelchair bound after an accident caused him to break his leg. Left in his apartment with nothing to do, he takes to watching the nighbors through his studio window. Late one night, he witnesses what he believes to be a murder. With the help of his nurse (Thelma Ritter), his girlfriend (Grace Kelly), and his policeman friend (Wendell Corey), he tries to stop the murderer before he becomes the next victim.

  8. Dark Victory - 1939

    "I think I'll have a large order of prognosis negative!"

    A Long Island heiress with a penchant for fast horses, fast cars, and drinking too much discovers she has a brain tumor, and a short time to live.

    Judith Traherne (Bette Davis), after severe headaches and a spill down a flight of stairs, finally consults a doctor (George Brent) at the request of her friend Ann, and discovers she has a brain tumor. He operates, but discovers the tumor cannot fully be removed, and he realizes she has only a short time to live. Death will be painless, and briefly preceded by a short period of blindness before the end. The doctor opts to keep this a secret to allow her a period of happiness before the end, but eventually Judith discovers the truth.

  9. All About Eve - 1950

    "Fasten your seat belts - It's going to be a bumpy night!"

    An aging Bradway star allows a young fan into her life - only to find the younger woman supplanting her at every turn.

    Margo Channing (Bette Davis), a talented but aging Broadway star, meets Eve (Anne Baxter), a young fan who waits at the stage door each night. Flattered by Eve's attentions, she brings her into her circle. Eve gradually supplants Margo in roles, attempts to sabotage her relationship with her fiance Bill, and attempts to seduce Margo's best friend's husband for a plum role, until she is found out by an acerbic Broadway critic and gets a dose of come-uppance.

  10. Gone With The Wind - 1939

    "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn!"

    A privileged Southern belle loses it all, gains it all, and loses it all again in 221 minutes of glorious Technicolor.

    Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh), a spoiled belle who has never been denied anything in her life, receives a disappointment from the man she believes she loves, sparking a decade-long obsession that will haunt her and ultimately cause the end of three marriages. I'm not going to say any more. Just watch it. You won't regret it.

All these films are excellent, and I've seen them multiple times and "best" is purely subjective, but I personally have to give the edge to Gone With The Wind. It's pure amazing, incredible filmmaking, the height of technical achievement for its time, and the story is good enough to make us care for and even love a woman who is almost competely undeserving.