What Are The "Classic" Movies That Modern Kids Will Love?
April 20, 2008 1:10 AM   Subscribe

Give me some suggestions for classic movies that my kids (ages 19 and 15) will enjoy. I have tried so hard [insert martyrdom here] to get them to appreciate the classics, but they mostly seem to react with "meh"...

My son (the 15-year-old) enjoyed "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "A Patch of Blue." He also loved "The Birds" and "Psycho," which we saw in an actual movie theater (during a "classic horror" week). His taste is very eclectic, so I never know what's going to strike his fancy...

My daughter (the 19-year-old) pretty much reacts with "meh" to almost everything classic-movie-related even though she's a major fan of movies in general...

Each of them LOVE the classic rock that I've introduced them to, but I feel like I'm striking out on the movie side of things. Any suggestions/tips/strategies would be greatly appreciated.
posted by amyms to Media & Arts (58 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Citizen Kane; they'll sudden get hundreds of The Simpsons jokes.

Dr Strangelove; everyone loves it!
posted by oxford blue at 1:15 AM on April 20, 2008

I second Oxford Blue's tip regarding Simpsons reference.

Recommendations: 12 Angry Men; The Twilight Zone (old episodes); does Westworld count as a classic already?
posted by lord_yo at 1:22 AM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Audrey Hepburn is my favorite actress, so anything with her has been on my list since I was about nine years old.

I don't know what started my love of older films. I know that watching with my grandmother must have helped early on. There was also just a general curiosity and love of cinema to blame as well.

You've honed in a bit on the fact that genre matters. As with modern movies, people are going to likely be much more into one or two genres than others. This is probably the most basic of your strategies.

Your son seems to enjoy older dramas and thrillers/mysteries, so try things like The Third Man.

Maybe try introducing both of them to older comedies, maybe even screwball comedies.

Or a slight genre bender like Charade - romance, mystery, and comedy all rolled into one.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:30 AM on April 20, 2008

I'd go East. Kurosawa films, like The Seven Samurai, Rashomon and Yojimbo are pretty good for starters.

I think developing a taste for classic films is best acquired by progressively moving backwards. Every step you take allows you to develop into the era. I started with 70s films (recent enough), and then worked my way back to the 60s and 50s and classic era. It's easier to transition if you go decade by decade.
posted by nobleporpoise at 1:31 AM on April 20, 2008

What everyone else said, plus: The Godfather, Blade Runner, American Graffitti, The Maltese Falcon.
posted by equalpants at 1:37 AM on April 20, 2008

Danny Kaye (The court Jester). Marx Bros (Aday at the Races, Animal Crackers). The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. Lord Love a Duck. Clockwork Orange, Serpico, Zardoz (for the LULZ), Death Race 2000, Dark Star, Bringing Up Baby, Some Like It Hot, Seven Year Itch, Sleeper, Annie Hall, The Sting, Charlotte's Web, A boy and his Dog, The Secret of NIHM, Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Silent Running, Logan's Run.
posted by sourwookie at 1:39 AM on April 20, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the great suggestions so far. To follow up on some of the answers: They have both seen "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" because their father is a huge Clint Eastwood fan, but neither of them really enjoyed it. They've each seen "Charlotte's Web" and enjoyed it. My daughter has seen "A Clockwork Orange" (which I, myself, can't sit through) and thinks it's "cool." My son has seen "The Godfather" and enjoyed it, but thinks it's better as a video game (sheesh)...

"12 Angry Men" is a good idea, lord_yo, as is "Citizen Kane" (oxford blue). I have "12 Angry Men" on VHS, so that's one I can try soon...

Keep the suggestions coming! :)
posted by amyms at 1:47 AM on April 20, 2008

Response by poster: And Audrey Hepburn is a good muse, cmgonzalez, I'll bet my daughter would like "Breakfast At Tiffany's."
posted by amyms at 1:53 AM on April 20, 2008

Casablanca. It's a great movie and has contributed a large number of memorable quotes.
posted by Gary at 2:01 AM on April 20, 2008

Rear Window
posted by spatula at 2:04 AM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

2nding Casablanca... Also "The French Connection", "Shop Around The Corner" with Jimmy Stewart.

I got into classic cinema through watching war pictures... That might work w/ your son if he likes modern war movies. Ones I think would be particularly good for this project include "Stalag 17", "Wake Island", and "Tora, Tora, Tora". These sort of branch out towards comedy, drama/action, and epic respectively.

If they like say... The Godfather, they might like Italian films... Err... There's one I saw recently about an assasin sent to France to kill someone during the Fascist period, but I'm blanking on the name.

In short... If you tell us what current/contemporary movies they like we may be able to make better suggestions.
posted by Jahaza at 2:32 AM on April 20, 2008

The Sting
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:46 AM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I popped in to say The Sting and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

And oh, Jesus - teenagers, you say? They cannot possibly live out the rest of their lives without seeing Harold and Maude. Seriously.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:58 AM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

It Happened One Night, Pygmalion, followed by My Fair Lady, Gigi (throw in the novel by Colette, along with some history about her colorful life), Gone With the Wind (which also stars Leslie Howard from Pygmalion and Clark Gable, natch), The Searchers, followed by The Missing, The Blob, The Great Escape, which could incidentally be followed by Chicken Run (has scenes imitating The Great Escape), Metropolis, any James Bond movie, along with the books, Rebel Without a Cause (and some history about James Dean), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (with the play by Tennessee Williams as reading material - you might also point out that this is the same Paul Newman they see on food products), some Mel Brooks movies (how about the original Beau Geste followed by The Last Remake of Beau Geste?), and of course, Flash Gordon. Planet of the Apes might appeal to the boy and try Godzilla as well. Once you find something they like, go through IMDB and pick out other movies with the same actors. Try to give them a sense of history with the movie industry, how it started and grew to what it is today.

And oh yeah, West Side Story with Romeo and Juliet.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:06 AM on April 20, 2008

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid might stimulate an interest in the noir genre.
posted by tomcooke at 3:06 AM on April 20, 2008

What's already been mentioned, plus maybe:

Sam Fuller: Shock Corridor, Pickup on South Street, The Naked Kiss
Nicholas Ray: Rebel Without a Cause, Johnny Guitar

Gun Crazy, Bonnie & Clyde, The Graduate, Some Like It Hot, Chinatown, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Touch Of Evil, Rules Of The Game (1939)
posted by Rykey at 3:08 AM on April 20, 2008

Just last night I saw Arsenic and Old Lace. I couldn't imagine anyone not being entertained by that.
posted by creasy boy at 3:29 AM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

2nd-ing Danny Kaye's The Court Jester!

Katherine Hepburn movies too (except Summertime) a la Philadelphia Story.

Harold and Maude
posted by mooza at 4:08 AM on April 20, 2008

Cool Hand Luke.
posted by Acarpous at 4:20 AM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

What kind of current day movies does your daughter really love? You might try finding past movies from similar genres.

Also, it might be a good idea to start with more recent times, especially the '70s (a great, underrated decade for movies imho) rather than diving back into the black and white era, where people did speak, dress, and appy makeup in a very different way from what we're used to now. If '70s fashion and hairstyles prove to be a barrier, it was also a great decade for period dramas like The Sting, Barry Lyndon, Bonnie and Clyde, etc. so that might be a place to start too. The first two Godfathers also have a timeless, period feel though I is set mostly in its time and only parts of II are set in the past.
posted by thread_makimaki at 4:22 AM on April 20, 2008

They'll watch Blazing Saddles and Kelly's Heroes and they'll LIKE 'em, dammit!

Plus, any teenager who's seen Easy Rider is, obviously, cooler than any teenager who has not. This could be a useful parental marketing angle, if sex, drugs and motorcycles don't sell the film by themselves.
posted by dansdata at 4:24 AM on April 20, 2008

nthing most of this, and adding His Girl Friday, since everyone talks like that now.
posted by softlord at 4:43 AM on April 20, 2008

Sigh... Don't any of you remember what it was like being a teenager? If you put broccoli on their plate, they're just going to grow up disliking it. If anything, you might have greater chance of (someday) having them appreciate the classics by saturating their current need for slasher flicks and teen angst movies, gorging them with the film equivalent of junk food. Or, better yet, have them repeatedly finding you enthusiastically watching the latest filmic drivel while disparaging all that old crap they used to make and how all the fossilized critics that tout 'classics' are obviously just senile coots stuck in the past. That'll get them seeking something else to watch. But even hinting that YOU want them to watch something is a guaranteed kiss-of-death.
posted by gregor-e at 4:44 AM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

You might be interested in this book I've seen reviewed about a guy educating his son in the classic films after he dropped out of school.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:21 AM on April 20, 2008

Sigh... Don't any of you remember what it was like being a teenager? If you put broccoli on their plate, they're just going to grow up disliking it.

Hmm. I had a very different experience. A love of old movies was one of the few things I could share with my father in my teens... otherwise we didn't get along that well at all. I know for sure my love of movies started w/my father taking me to the movies when I was a just out of toddler age. I guess it depends on each parent-child dynamic.
posted by thread_makimaki at 5:35 AM on April 20, 2008

Nobody's mentioned the Pink Panther movies yet, so I am. Peter Sellers! Herbert Lom! Start with "Shot in the Dark."
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:37 AM on April 20, 2008

when i was a 19 yr old daughter i was IN LOVE with everything by woody allen.

particularly: "manhattan", "husbands and wives", "the purple rose of cairo" (an under-rated piece of genius).

i also totally second "the graduate" and "harold and maude."

also hitchcock's "rebecca" -great mystery thriller

"charade" with audrey hepburn and cary grant. -very charming rom-com spy movie

oh and PLEASE, "rosemary's baby" !!!!!
posted by beccyjoe at 5:45 AM on April 20, 2008

Bridge over the river Kwai

Chariots of Fire

seconding Pink Panther, those movies are incredible

thirding Harold and Maude!

(19 year old girl here, and I loved all these movies when my mum "forced" me to watch them)
posted by Planet F at 6:08 AM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Wizard of Oz?

I would recommend you peruse the AFI top 100 lists for ideas of flicks that might appeal to your kids, and even if they don't like them all of these movies are worth watching again for you.
posted by caddis at 6:22 AM on April 20, 2008

Seconding His Girl Friday.
Lubitsch's To Be or Not To be is funny from the get go and it's a great story.
Double Indemnity is also really cool. I also remember really liking Little Big Man when i was a kid.
posted by SageLeVoid at 6:32 AM on April 20, 2008

Hey, I'm a 19-year-old girl! The Godfather and Dr Strangelove got me hooked on watching the classics. Maybe a little Singin' in the Rain? I hate musicals and I still freaking adored Singin' in the Rain.

How about some Mae West or Marilyn Monroe? In fact, just by going through the AFI list of film stars (or any other category you want), I'm sure you'll find a bunch of great movies. (I'd skip Lillian Gish, unless you never want your children to trust your judgments again. Silent films, especially ones with the epic scale and length of D. W. Griffith, do not do well with dubious youth.)
posted by flibbertigibbet at 6:35 AM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

"Sigh... Don't any of you remember what it was like being a teenager?"

Don't paint everyone with the same brush; it's inaccurate, at best, and insulting at worst.

How about My Fair Lady?

Perhaps, after you've moved through all these films you start another battle; classic books. Or should we learn how to walk before we run?
posted by oxford blue at 6:40 AM on April 20, 2008

I hope you're making an equivalent effort to appreciate movies that they like. It's great to spend time with your kids, and it's good to help somebody appreciate classic movies, but it's a two-way street, you know?

You might also want to consider that seeing many movies, particularly the classic epics, is a far different experience in a theater than in your living room. (Well, in MY living room, at least.) In my town there is a grand old theater that does a classic film series every summer. It's a great experience going downtown, maybe having a good dinner out first, and walking into this palace of a theater with artwork all over the ceiling, balconies, and so on. They do it up right by playing the appropriate music before the movie and during intermission. Seeing a film like Ben Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, or It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World in an environment like that is an EXPERIENCE not quite equalled by popping a NetFlix disk into the player. If you've got something like this nearby, and the kids are interested, I'd recommended it.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 7:05 AM on April 20, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks again for all the responses. You've given me a lot of great ideas! :)
posted by amyms at 7:32 AM on April 20, 2008

Some Like it Hot.
posted by flatluigi at 7:42 AM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think I was 19 when I first saw Sunset Boulevard. Something about the B&W cinematography and the over the top performance of Gloria Swanson (and the clever jab at Hollywood itself) had me hooked.
posted by ikahime at 7:50 AM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

One, Two, Three
posted by Ironmouth at 8:15 AM on April 20, 2008

I find that just about anything shot in black and white between 1964 and 1974 (Paper Moon, Young Frankenstein, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Last Picture Show, Dr. Strangelove, et al.) is usually extremely good, and might well open the doors to older stuff.

Oh, and nthing Some Like It Hot, The Graduate, Harold and Maude, American Graffiti, Annie Hall, and others.

Has anyone mentioned The Jerk? Taxi Driver?

(And yes, read that.)
posted by Sys Rq at 8:27 AM on April 20, 2008

Oh, and Badlands and Bonnie & Clyde.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:29 AM on April 20, 2008

Oh! Oh! And It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is entertaining in itself, plus it would also serve as an introduction to a whole bunch of classic actors.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:32 AM on April 20, 2008

Two fun Katharine Hepburn films:
Bringing Up Baby
Adam's Rib
posted by HotPatatta at 8:39 AM on April 20, 2008










(Spoilers ahoy! in many of the above wikipedia entries.)

These are among my all time favorite American movies, and they continue to be quoted again and again in modern cinema. I believe that they are all absolutely required viewing in establishing cinematic literacy. More importantly, these movies move - they slap you in the face with their story and provide young viewers no authentic chance to say "This is boring." They are all really twisted, mainstream American films. (e.g. John Wayne plays a character hellbent on killing his abducted niece because he cannot live with the idea of her growing up to breed with Comanches in John Ford's THE SEARCHERS.)

I absolutely despise all of those lists compiled by committees/institutions such as the various AFI 100s and the Academy's Best Picture winners. I find it much more rewarding to to look at the films that are fawned over by the filmmakers (Scorsese, Anderson, et al) and critics (Rosenbaum, Kehr, et al ) whose work I enjoy and respect.

Get subscriptions to FILM COMMENT and VIDEO WATCHDOG for the kids so they can ford their own way.

posted by cinemafiend at 8:54 AM on April 20, 2008

Fritz Lang's The Testament of Dr. Mabuse is the best movie I have seen in years. In terms of cinematic style, technique and sheer brilliance I have seen few better movies. I'd have lapped it up when I was 15.
posted by 0bvious at 9:01 AM on April 20, 2008

Liles of the Field
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:16 AM on April 20, 2008

posted by paperzach at 10:54 AM on April 20, 2008

oh... and...


though i would be creeped out if my parents showed me this.
posted by paperzach at 10:55 AM on April 20, 2008

I don't think I've ever seen a movie I thought was funnier than The Philadelphia Story.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:59 AM on April 20, 2008

What are their favorite movies? CHances are they are remakes. That could also help us suggest appropriate titles.

There are so many great movies. How about originals versus remakes: Sabrina and Father of the Bride, though not bad films, pale in comparison to the originals.

I think starting with the seventies is probably best. But please, no John Waters, at least not yet.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 11:28 AM on April 20, 2008

"Freaks" still packs a punch. A must-see for all teens. Along the same lines perhaps "The Elephant Man."
posted by mrhappy at 12:15 PM on April 20, 2008

I'd really have to 2nd what gregor-e said: pushing anything on teenagers (who, I'll be the first to admit it, are often close-minded folks) is not going to make them appreciate it any more. You asked, "What classic movies do young people like?" and everyone just replied with their favorite classic movie(s). Everyone says they love/hate lists like the AFI 100, and then they just give you their own!

As a young person who loves old movies through and through, I've tried to impress my friends with classic films more than once. The bottom line is really that taste in movies (or art, or books, or music, or video games) is a personal preference and an act of expression. Some people like bad movies--exclusively. What can you do?

Instead of focusing on a time period (as in, movies before 1980 are "classics" or something), see what genres your kids find most interesting. It's easy to extrapolate to an older film from someone's favorite current movie--it's probably right next to it in the movie store.

Finally, and I know this wasn't what you were expecting, but there's always something like MovieLens, which analyzes ratings of the movies that you like to suggest some that you probably would enjoy. Basically a digital version of what I mentioned above.
posted by BenzeneChile at 12:47 PM on April 20, 2008

The first classic movie that grabbed me as a teen was The African Queen. You've got the best of the best with Bogart and Hepburn, wrapped up in action-adventure , early special effects (tsetse flies), and then the general gross out of leeches. Man. I love that movie.
posted by kimdog at 1:51 PM on April 20, 2008

Rocky Horror Picture Show! Go to a showing! Everyone loves it!
posted by thebrokenmuse at 2:16 PM on April 20, 2008

Bringing Up Baby?

The Great McGinty?
posted by coffeefilter at 4:41 PM on April 20, 2008


Ebert's list of 278 great movies is here to jog your memory.
posted by lukemeister at 6:59 PM on April 20, 2008

Are either of them remotely interested in science fiction? I saw The Day The Earth Stood still in January (at age 19) and loved it.
posted by mismatched at 9:42 PM on April 20, 2008

Lady Killers. Blacker than black humour and absolutely fantastic.
posted by slimepuppy at 9:54 AM on April 21, 2008

Response by poster: Following up: I've made a list of all the best-sounding prospects. Most of them are ones that I can check out for free at the library, so that's a plus.

In reading through the various suggestions, I pleasantly realized that they have seen and enjoyed more of the classics than I thought they had. For some reason their "meh" reactions were more prominent in my mind.

Thanks again, everyone!
posted by amyms at 11:13 AM on April 21, 2008

I feel remiss in not earlier suggesting 'The Breakfast Club'; I think, being at the age they are, they might gain a lot from it and enjoy it.
posted by oxford blue at 5:34 PM on April 21, 2008

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