There is a deplorable state of affairs in our society: grandiose film classics that almost everyone knows, but most people have never seen. A plea for the good old film.
Time is short. It’s understandable, therefore, that watching movies is taking a back seat in our chronically scheduled society. That’s why there are far too many film classics “that you just know” and where you can join in the discussion – without having seen them. But it’s a scoundrel who thinks that the actual visioning of these classics is not worthwhile. I’ll explain why with the following examples!
1. Casablanca (1942)
The obvious beforehand: black and white. Romance. Stop! Cinematically absolutely outstanding and worlds better and more interesting than an estimated 95 percent of all love-movie-like flicks of our time. Jump over your shadow and learn what inspired your grandparents back then in terms of romance. And what woman from today wouldn’t melt at Humphrey Bogart’s “Here’s looking at you, kid”? Guys: take a leaf out of your book!
2. Fight Club (1999)
A very young classic, admittedly. Nevertheless, this film is a social critique, a generation sketch and a homage to our alter ego all in one. Cinematically enormous and infused with cult. Brad Pitt and Edward Norton in another league. But just:
“The first rule of the Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club.”
3. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Short and sweet: It’s your own fault if you don’t watch it.
4. Apocalypse Now (1979)
It’s best to simply google the story of how this film came about, that alone is already great cinema. The film itself then – dear friends of good taste – a blast. The sheer portrait of madness, the capture of loneliness and the sheer brutality of psychological violence in an interplay that makes everything seem so coherent that you could think you were there in Vietnam. Insider tip: Definitely watch the Redux version!
5. The Shining (1980)
What we understand by “creepy” today, we owe to a large extent to Stanley Kubrick and Jack Nicholson. “The Shining” is the origin of the horror genre as we know it today and I would think that it is – and will remain – the undisputed showpiece, the unholy grail of this genre.
6. 12 Angry Men (1957)
Don’t let this pearl be forgotten! Especially in today’s time of American judicial arbitrariness a highly explosive piece of film history: 12 white jurors judge in a trial against an African-American. Uiuiui, you get the idea. An impressive plea for the imposing power of acting and proof of the tremendous entertainment value of the supposedly simple drama.
7. Scarface (1983)
This film version of megalomania is absolutely beyond. Ecstasy and rage, power and machination, love and blows. You love Tony Montana as much as you hate him. That alone can be classified as an achievement by the creators. Please take the time to indulge in the excess.
8. Citizen Kane (1941)
Pretty sure it’s the most mentioned “best movie of all time” and already therefore absolutely worth seeing. And I tell you, don’t let the black and white or the year of release scare you off (a hideous epidemic of our time anyway) – this film can really do something. Without wanting to drift into film studies jargon, it should be noted that this film was groundbreaking in many ways, for example in terms of cinematic narration. Revolutionary pleasure material, if you will.
9. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
“Play Me the Song of Death” – a film title like honey in the ears. Not without reason, because hardly any other western has such a colossal structure and captivates with such a dense atmosphere that you immediately want to grab the Colt yourself. It’s best to watch on as large a screen as possible – Cinemascope (16:9 format) at its finest.
10. Léon – Der Profi (1994)
Probably not perceived by some as the supreme mega classic. It’s not a Hollywood production, after all. Proof that the masses are not necessarily right. What makes it a critics’ favorite? The ingenious editing, the pointed choice of music, the clever story structure and the careful camera work; a hybrid of drama, romance, thriller, comedy, coming-of-age, road and buddy movie. I mean, but hello!
11. Singing in the Rain (1952)
Who hasn’t heard this catchy song that is so delightful to warble as soon as the first drops fall from the sky? But this film is much more than that. Above all, it’s much funnier than you’d expect, because yes – oh surprise – even older movies can still be funny today. And how. Moreover, a qualitatively superior feel-good movie that still gives actual meaning to the song. Know the facts.
12. Taxi Driver (1976)
“Taxi Driver” is one of many examples of Martin Scorsese’s undeniable sophistication. But perhaps it’s also simply the example par excellence. No one will succeed in such a nuanced portrayal of almost comprehensible misanthropy anytime soon. It’s also an impressively intense character study that will make you regret every blink the longer the film runs.
13. Heat (1995)
Probably not a film you’d expect to see in a list like this, but you can learn something. “Heat” essentially consists of Al Pacino (in top form) and Robert De Niro (ditto) dueling it out in a densely filmed high-tension thriller. For many connoisseurs, something of the best that has ever been seen on a screen. In our latitudes, however, it has not been exploited to the full by the media and is therefore mistakenly not perceived as an überfilm. Your good fortune to learn about it here.
14. Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
The epitome of a cult classic and one that many dismiss as belonging precisely to the genre of “Yeah, I’ve heard of it too! Difficult to outline in a nutshell, because… yes… What is it all about? I won’t even try and leave the judgment entirely to you – good music, bizarre characters and entertainment are guaranteed. But I can recommend it with every fiber of my body. And I’m bobbing along a bit right now when I think of this film experience!
15. Der Pate – Trilogie (1972, 1974, 1990)
Feels wrong to have to justify myself for this film at this point, because this masterpiece doesn’t deserve that. A film epic that is hard to beat in terms of complexity, atmosphere, character development and greatness. Watch it! And I – III! ON THE SAME DAY! Now! Go… Please.
16. Der Herr der Ringe – Trilogie (2001, 2002, 2003)
The visually greatest film I know of. Orcs, elves and hobbits may not be to everyone’s taste, but that doesn’t matter because the three films are nothing less than a cinematic opus. Sit back and take in what you would otherwise miss for a lifetime.
17. Star Wars I–VI (1977 – 2005)
It’s just not enough to quote “Luke, I am your father” at the barrel, really now! That’s not worthy of George Lucas and his legacy, because it’s simply so much more: its own artistic galaxy, a wonderful parallel world to ours (with equally parallel problems), which must be experienced and understood in its diversity. Only then will you have the goosebumps when the universally known film music sounds for the right reasons. Important instruction: Part IV – VI, then only I – III!
18. The Graduate (1967)
Okay, dear readers, pay attention now! The following is an announcement from the bottom of my heart.
When I first saw this movie, my jaw dropped. Completely. To me, this film is what life could be understood to be, especially in the time of growing up. The whole gamut. From temptation to despair. From hoping to striving and back. Plus the soundtrack. Unfortunately, I can’t force you to watch it. Just do it.
19. Psycho (1960)
Right, from this film comes THE horror film music par excellence. And the corresponding scene, where she is so in the shower and showers and the other comes there with the knife and then so the blood in the tub is – very well! Cinematically, this sequence is certainly nothing less than groundbreaking, but also important that this film is certainly more than just this one sequence! For example, those of you who like “Criminal Intent” – this is the beginning.
And those of you who have also been captivated by the film: In the series “Bates Motel” the psychology of the psycho is derived in eerily good quality. Definitely watch it!
20. The Great Dictator (1940)
Mustn’t miss out, of course. Wonderful satire about evil personified. It’s incredibly good to really laugh heartily at the dictator. Oh, if only Charlie Chaplin were still with us today…
21. The Big Lebowski (1998)
His dudeness can not be missed. Although also a youngster among the classics an absolute must. Life just as ironic, funny, tragic and honest as it is sometimes. Only, the Dude shows you how you could properly deal with it!
22. Jaws (1975)
Many of us are not entirely comfortable when we go into the sea. This may be due to the fact that we, as Swiss, are unpracticed when it comes to dealing with the sea. A large portion of this uneasiness certainly has its origin in the fear of sharks. Great white sharks. At this point, many thanks to Steven Spielberg, who put this flea in our ears in an impressive manner.
23. Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
James Dean – you eternal legend, you immortal heartbreaker, you rebellious pioneer, you charismatic go-getter. That red jacket, that frown, that presence. As you can tell, you’re a bit of my “man crush.” Thanks, though, for this film that completely revs up every single rebellious cell in my body.
Dear readers. The time has come for you to find out who this beau on the snazzy H&M shirts really is. And it’s with this masterpiece.
24. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Undoubtedly a classic known to all. And very worthwhile to watch! From a historical point of view, the coloring technique is quite interesting, because of the look so retro that it is mega hip again in our time. First and foremost, of course, the perky Judy Garland! Check it out, it’s an experience
25. À bout de souffle (Breathless – 1960)
In the quiet knowledge that French cinema is completely underrepresented in this list, here’s a huge pearl to finish with. Jean-Luc Godard, grand seigneur of the Nouvelle Vague, stages the wonderful concept of the “amour fou” so uninhibitedly and freely that it really “chribbelets” at times. And since the predicate has not yet been awarded, this film deserves it in all seriousness and earnestness. Predicate: TIMELESS!
In conclusion, it never feels good to compile a list and realize while compiling it that you could easily fill five more. So I’m dying to hear your comments: What do you consider the classics that should definitely be on the list?
We’re curious about that: Does good equal successful? Find the classics!