I almost can’t remember a time when I didn’t love watching old movies. I really got into them during high school. There was a regional youth activity where we were all taught different dances and one of the dances that I was doing was a hat and cane dance. The teacher of that dance ended becoming a mentor and a great friend to me. At the time I remember her mentioning that the dance was inspired by a dance done by Fred Astaire. I had no idea who that was but as soon as I got home I looked him up and there started my lifelong love of his dancing and his movies. She also had a collection of old movies that she would let me borrow and I decided that I wanted to one day have a collection of my own that I could share with others, to inspire in them the same love for old movies that she had inspired in me.
I have slowly began buying old movies and I currently have more than 60 movies, but I found that most people aren’t too interested because they think that they don’t like old movies. (Which is of course absurd!) And I’ve realized that the problem lies mostly with those of us who love old movies. We nag and nettle and finally convince our friends to watch an old movie with us, and with the fear that this will be the only old movie they will ever watch we are determined to make them watch a “classic”. So you start with Gone with the Wind (which is 4 hours long!!!). And while there are reasons it is a classic, it is daunting at times even for those of us who like it. Or you pick All about Eve (which is 2.5 hours long!) which is also a long drama. Or you pick some other depressing or dramatic movie that is meant to inspire and has clearly earned its place as a classic, but is not very fun.
Stop doing that people! No wonder people think they don’t like old movies! It’s because they’re missing out on the joy and the fun of them. The dramas have their place for sure, but let’s build up to it. I came to love old movies based on the fun, the dancing, the humor!
So, if your new to old movies, or if you think you don’t like them, or if you love them but can’t seem to convince your friends to watch them, here is a list of some of the best starter movies for you:
1. The Wizard of Oz
I almost didn’t include this movie, simply because I thought, surely everyone has already seen this movie. But I’ve been surprised by how many people actually haven’t seen it! If you haven’t seen this movie this a great place to start because chances are you are already somewhat familiar with it. Unless you’ve been living under rock you probably know the general premise and some of the songs. And beyond that, this movie was so well done! It is Judy Garland at her best.
And I have heard some people get confused at the beginning. To clarify, the movie starts out in black and white and later changes to color (no, there is nothing wrong with your tv)
2. Singin’ in the Rain
This is one of my all-time favorite movies ever! This is one that I can watch over and over again. And in fact, it is the only musical that my husband will ever watch with me, and while he is reluctant to admit it, he really enjoyed it. And in large part it is because this movie is hilarious! Even if you set aside the singing and dancing (which are great), and the great actors, this movie would be good just based on its wit and humor. All of it is subtle but it’s so well written and very original. And the of course the singing and dancing is fun as well.
There is a part of the movie where Gene Kelly is reviewing plans for a musical number they are doing and it turns into a very long and involved dance number. Those who have watched it with me and often expressed boredom during that small section because it is such a long dance number. I’ll set aside my justifications about how great the dancing number is, and for those of you who maybe don’t appreciate it as much, let me just say, ‘Suck it up’, because the rest of the movie more than makes up for it.
3. Some Like it Hot
Nowadays Marilyn Monroe has become a household name, but what most people don’t know is that she wasn’t as critically acclaimed until long after her death. She was one of the most underpaid actresses of her time and was often type cast in a dumb blonde role. And while today we consider many of her movies to be classics, they weren’t all equally praised at the time of their release. Now, a lot of people automatically refer you to Seven Year Itch as her most famed role (this movie is the source of the iconic shot of Marilyn standing over a grate with her dress blowing around her). I don’t recommend that movie for a number of reasons, but the biggest being the fact that she is just a nameless neighbor who becomes the source of daydreams for a married man.
But this movie is not only hilarious, it also the movie that earned Monroe a Golden Globe for best actress. It was voted as the best comedy by the American Film Institute and is considered to have one of the best film endings of any movie ever made. So, if you have yet to see a Marilyn Monroe flick, this is where you should start!
4. Roman Holiday
Audrey Hepburn is one of my favorite actresses. There are a number of movies that she made that are wonderful and definitely worth watching, but this movie is a great place to start. Now, most people will start you off with Breakfast at Tiffany’s. While that is definitely a classic and worth watching, it is also nothing like what you are expecting. The romance is quirky and unconventional and some people don’t enjoy it the first time around and so they stop there (there’s also the issue of Mickey Rooney’s Japanese character). So, let’s build up to that movie by starting here.
In this movie Hepburn plays a princess on holiday in Rome. She has her usual grace and pose but this movie is also very fun. There’s plenty of adventure and romance and it is the perfect introduction. This was also her first Hollywood film and her role won her an Academy Award for best actress.
5. Swing Time
My love of old movies started with Fred Astaire, and so we will end with him. Fred Astaire and Ginger Roberts did a number of movies together and they were famous for their amazing dance numbers. No one else does it quite as well as those two did. This is one of their most popular movies and one of my favorites. The dancing is amazing, but even if you can’t appreciate that, the movie itself is very funny.
Astaire plays a lucky gambler who has promised to return to marry his fiancée once he makes $25,000. But then he meets Penny (Rogers) and becomes her dance partner, and find himself wanting to be more. And so now he must lose his money so that he doesn’t have to go back and marry the fiancée who’s waiting for him! There’s plenty of fun and comedy, and this is actually where the song “The way you look tonight” was debuted. This is classic Hollywood at it’s best and definitely worth watching!