What makes a movie a classic? Although the question is undoubtedly open to interpretation and personal preference plays a major role, Jocelyn Chipanyak Gillis, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, says there are two ways of thinking about it.
“The usual way of thinking about it is to say, ‘A classic movie is a bit like the top of the look,” she said. “It picks up everything that’s done a little so far, and it’s kind of a climax.”
By that definition, you might come out with classic Hollywood movies from the late 1920s to the late 1950s, says Shepanyak Gillis.
“But the classic movie doesn’t have to be just some kind of outward script for the character, but it can also be movies that are time-tested and we still really like,” she said.
Szczepaniak-Gillece has shared five classic movies you have to watch.
‘Singing in the rain’
The 1952 musical romantic comedy, which Shepanyak-Gillis has seen more than once in her life, is about the transformation of Hollywood into voice and features some of the era’s greatest stars, Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds.
Szczepaniak-Gillece said “Singing in the Rain” is a classic movie for a number of reasons. It emerged at the end of the golden age of Hollywood and captured the craftsmanship that Hollywood could achieve at the time – reaching a scale far beyond the time it created it.
“It’s a visual, audio, and nostalgic description of what Hollywood was like in the late 1920s,” she said. “So it’s kind of Hollywood playing. That makes it so much fun and encourages us to think about how the movie has changed over time.”
Not all classic films are American, said Shepanyak Gillis. This Czech film, made in 1967, is set in the Middle Ages and revolves around a clash between pagans and Christians.
But she said it does not take the traditional historical film approach. It’s exciting and action-packed, but it has something to do with what that moment in time can feel.
“It arose during the Czech new wave, when all these new possibilities opened up to Czech artists, partly because … the Prague Spring at the end of the 1960s, when Soviet forces retreated a bit. Ex-Czechoslovakia,” said Shepanyak Giles.
“This movie is just a great example of all the cinematic possibilities that were thriving at the time,” she said.
Shepanyak Gillis said that a 1989 Hungarian movie called “The Twentieth Century” follows two twin sisters who reached adulthood at the turn of the 20th century and separated and lived completely different lives.
“It is a film that truly represents a message of love for cinema, as the film ultimately reflects all of our experience in the twentieth century … and reflects what that means for culture and what it means for our shared dreams and shared ideas,” he said.
Until recently, Shepanyak Gillis said, the film was not available in the United States.
“It’s a very beautiful and magical movie,” she said. “It’s really a great example of an old movie that brings a new life.”
Senegalese director Osman Sembene’s last film in 2004, Chebanyak Gillis, said that this “extremely touching” film is set in a village in Burkina Faso and deals with the consequences of patriarchy when tensions erupt when “magical” tensions erupt to protect the village’s distortion.
“Despite its difficult theme, this film is neither sober nor sad,” she said. “It is a careful examination of the forces that shape us all, and finally a celebration of how film functions as a political tool.”
After her boyfriend’s suicide, a young Scottish woman concocts a series of lies about his absence and embarks on a romantic journey with her best friend after selling her novel on her behalf. Shepanyak Gillis, produced in 2002, said it represented a “post-millennium tension in the feminist form of film.”
“(Director Lynn Ramsay) is now known for her incoherent thrillers and quieter dramas that question the local impact of punishing global capital inflows on a disaffected young woman with a bleak future,” she said.