What Makes A Classic?


Cookiemaker and I just finished having this conversation literally minutes ago. See, the AMC (American Movie Classics) network has long been showing movies that just don’t come even close to my definition of the word “classic.” Some are blatantly obvious. I mean, my god, even being as big a fan of Steven Seagal as I am, I know that no movie of his should ever, EVER, be considered a classic, yet some of his flicks are shown by AMC.


But just what does make a classic? Clearly the quality of the film has a lot to do with it, but for some reason I think age factors into the equation. For example, as great as Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List were, I don’t think they’re ready to be called “classics” yet. On the other hand, I might be willing to hand Platoon that title. So maybe at least 20 – 25 years need to elapse? What do you folks think?

On a slightly different note, what makes for a great leading man or lady? Again, I think acting talent is a huge requirement, but I also think box office draw plays a role, too. For example, actors like Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, and Laurence Olivier were not only gifted thespians, but also made people come to see their movies simply because they were in them. Do we have an actor like that today? Is there any current actor that you would equate with the ones I just listed? George Clooney? Matt Damon? Brad Pitt? Ian McCellan? Sean Connery? Harrison Ford? Morgan Freeman? Mel Gibson? Tom Cruise? Tom Hanks? Viggo Mortensen? Johnny Depp? Somebody I haven’t mentioned?

And what about actresses? I think the cupboard is even barer there. Who do we have that equals Audrey Hepburn, Katherine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, Deborah Kerr, or Grace Kelly?  Cate Blanchett? Julia Roberts? Glenn Close? I’ve only named three and I’m alread struggling to come up with others. Anne Archer? Sela Ward?

What do you all think? What makes a classic movie? A great actor? A great actress? Do we have and classic movies today? Great actors? Great actresses?


2 Responses to “What Makes A Classic?”

  1. Mrs. Chili Says:

    I don’t know if I can come up with an objective answer to what makes a classic movie, but I know what my SUBjective answer is; I have to be willing to come back to it again and again, it has to transmit some sort of universal theme in a way that is entirely satisfying (or entirely frustrating), and it has to have a certain timelessness about it; I need to feel transported into the story and NOT be aware of special effects or bad background music (so the first Terminator movie is automatically disqualified). Some of MY classics are The Last Samurai, Dances with Wolves, Glory, ALL of the LotR movies, and The Sixth Sense, just to name a few. I would argue that movies like Private Ryan and Schindler’s List ARE classics, but I don’t consider time a factor in my assessment.

    I think that the actors are even MORE subjective, really, and I also think that, given the availability of information about actors’ private lives, the allure of the screen stars is necessarily lessened; there’s no mystery anymore.

    Personally, I go to see films based on the intrigue I have for their stated story line; I’m rarely drawn to a film simply because so-and-so is in it.

  2. Becca Says:

    About a month ago, I wouldn’t have been able to answer your leading actress question, but since, I’ve been realizing that there are movies I continually love with the same few actresses in them.

    Meryl Streep and Francis McDormant being on the top of the list, despite my abominable misspelling of their names.

    I think that acting ability goes is very important for choosing leads goes for acting in general, but I feel that it is the actor’s choice (and luck) by picking the right movies in which to get involved. Are they movies that say something or are they fluff? Does that really matter for a film to be classic? I’m not sure it does, but I think the genres an actor delves into play a major role in how they are considered, rated, and judged (by us, the ever critical population 🙂 ).

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