Movies that truly stood the test of time

The art of filmmaking is now over a century old, and it has made amazing leaps in that time. Therefore, most movies that were loved and revered in their time look pretty dated and amateurish today, and not only in the effects department. I can watch old classics and appreciate them for what they did for filmmaking, but if I try to simply watch them like I would any movie, I’m usually disappointed.

With some exceptions. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari is still scary and evocative today, after 85 years. Casablanca is still almost a perfect movie, despite having given birth to so many clichés that a modern-day watcher should tire of it in fifteen minutes, feeling that he’d seen it all before. The Wizard of Oz still works just fine. These movies I don’t have to give leeway because of their age.

What are your examples?

A lot more recent than your examples, but I’d nominate Star Wars. I think its grandeur stands especially proud in light of the prequels, which don’t come anywhere near its quality. Is it deep? Hell no. Is it a lot of fun? Hell yes.

A little less nerdliness, but I’d also nominate Citizen Kane. I don’t bestow it with deity-levels of worship, but it certainly stands unique for its technical achievements, as well as Welles’ blending of movies and theatre.

Slightly less well-known, I’d give the nod to Compulsions, another Orson Welles movie (well, sort of… he doesn’t star, but he definitely plays the most interesting character). It doesn’t have the typically stupid-happy ending of the day, it doesn’t take easy ways out, and it deals with some pretty dark and sick themes that would still be dealt with trepidation today. And good goddamn, the closing argument that Welles’ lawyer character makes at the end is a true cinematic experience to enjoy.

The original Nosferatu- made in 1922, it is a silent film, but the hideous vampire and all the flickering shadows scare the bejesus out of me 83 years after it was made.

I second Nosferatu in the very old movie category.

Movies I consider timeless even though they’re considerably younger:

The Manchurian Candidate
Dr. Strangelove (actually most of Kubrik’s seem peculiarly modern in tone. As if they could have been made yesterday).
From Here to Eternity

And here’s a prediction: Silence of the Lambs I think will stand the test of time.

I made a list of what I thought were the 50 most important Hollywood films, and I believe they all will stand the test of time. I would post the list here, but it is quite long and would overwhelm the thread. I had posted it before, but the hamsters have lost it.

2001: A Space Odyssey. Everything but the title is eternal.

Empire Strikes Back. It’s so much smoother than the original and just feels like it’ll last.

Citizen Kane

Pitch Black. Yes, I said it. I had a thread on here at one point stating that this movie is the next great cult hit. I am an absolute supporter of this movie and hope it stands the test of time well(yes, I loved the sequel as well).

I’ll have to second The Manchurian Candidate (the original one). That movie is practically perfect.

D.W. Griffith’s **Broken Blossoms **(1919, silent). Obviously no one would confuse this film for something modern – which is definitely in its favor. Lillian Gish is utterly radiant, and more innocently beautiful than in any other film of hers. This film is worth seeing if only to see Gish play this role. Yes, there’s some really awful racial stereotyping (the main character is supposed to be Chinese, and sensibilities were very different back then).

The Third Man. I used to think that older movies couldn’t effectively portray human nature but TTM does a great job, as well as being an effective mystery. Then there’s the all-zither soundtrack that’s timeless simply because it DOES NOT STOP throughout the whole movie. :slight_smile:


Raiders of the Lost Ark is as much fun to watch today as it was 25 years ago. The action scenes hold up well, despite having been copied by dozens of other movies. Harrison Ford and Karen Allen are terrific in their roles. The score is inspiring. This is one film I would bet the bank on being a classic 50 years from now.

I’m with you on Pitch Black, but I couldn’t stand the sequel.

The amazing, avant-garde Man With a Movie Camera (1929). This is always my number one choice when I want to surprise people with how advanced silent-era moviemaking could be in the right hands.

Those old Melies shorts, with these crude silly special effects - there’s one where he uses black velvet bags and editing tricks and such to “take his head off” and put it on a musical staff , as I recall, and a lot of stuff like that. It’s still so fresh and playful and creative! (Beats the hell out of those Lumiere trains coming into stations, man). Everything he did just speaks of the great potential of a new medium.

Lawrence of Arabia is still as moving and effective now as it was when it was released, and there’s still nothing like that great desert with that tiny little man coming out of it.

Blade Runner really dosen’t seem dated at all, although you know that sort of future has fallen a bit out of fashion. I think it will survive after Star Wars is mostly forgotten.

I did a ctrl-f search for the word ‘escape’ so it looks like no-one has mentioned ‘The Great Escape’ which I can’t believe. If someone has mentioned it I aplopogise.

I am someone who is prejudiced against old movies (pre-1980) and I LOVED the great escape.

Same goes for a Clockwork Orange.

It’s only 25 years old, but I think Airplane! will always be funny.

I totally agree that this is a superior movie. That scene where Gish’s character is hiding in the closet, as her father breaks down the door in order to get at her to beat her, is horrendous even now. She’s a young girl, totally trapped, circling around and around in this tiny space like an animal without hope. And the printed epilogue, about how “You may not beat your child, but how often do you hurt them with unkind words?” will never be dated.

Someone already mentioned my favorite movie, The Third Man.

Add to the list Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory.

To Kill a Mockingbird

A lot of the storytelling techniques are dated, but if you don’t still get choked up and simultaneously uplifted by it, you have no heart.


Most Chaplin and Keaton films still hold up, most notably City Lights and The General.

Duck Soup
Horse Feathers
Bringing Up Baby
Footlight Parade
42nd Street
The Wind
The 39 Steps
Singin’ in the Rain
North by Northwest
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
M. Hulot’s Holiday

I’ve watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” every Christmas for 25 years and it never feels dated to me. Might be that holiday movies are in general pretty timeless, but even when I introduce the film to friends who have never seen it, they immediately appreciate it.