The art of film is over 100 years old, and it’s nearly impossible to see every film that’s considered a classic. Here are a few unusual classics you may not have seen!
The Passion of Joan of Arc, 1928. This silent French film is often considered one of the greatest silent movies ever made. The script is taken almost entirely from the court records of the trial of Joan of Arc, and is very historically accurate. The film was thought lost for decades, until a nearly complete set of reels were discovered in a closet of a mental institution. Renee Falconetti’s performance as Joan is unforgettably intense.
Memento, 2000. This noir-style mystery centers around a man who has lost the ability to form long-term memories, and who must write down all the clues to his wife’s murder so that he can remind himself of the facts every time he forgets. The film is told backward, with scenes that move constantly earlier in time than the last, replicating the effect of amnesia for the viewer. This movie was written and directed by Christopher Nolan, who went on to create Inception and the newest Batman movies.
Rope, 1948. One of Alfred Hitchcock’s lesser known films, Rope is a thriller set in a high-rise apartment building, where two young men have ust murdered a classmate, and host a party in the same room where his body is hidden. Star Jimmy Stewart realizes that something is wrong, and determines to bring the two to justice. This film was shot with no cuts, as a single camera shot, in answer to Hitchcock’s critics, who claimed his movies were only successful because they were edited well.
Gattaca, 1997. Gattaca is set in a world where “designer” babies are the norm, and every parent goes to their local geneticist to assure that their child will have no illness, no ugliness, and the best possible chance at a successful life. Vincent, born without genetic interference and doomed to a life of menial work, dreams of space, and takes on the identity of a genetic superior to land his dream job. But the police are closing in quickly; will Vincent make it to the starts before his secret is discovered?
Strictly Ballroom, 1992. The first major studio film of Baz Luhrmann (known for Moulin Rouge), Strictly Ballroom is a light-hearted, fast-paced story set in the world of Australian competitive ballroom dancing. Scott, a talented young man from a dancing family, is bored with traditional dance and wants something new. Fran, a girl from a poor immigrant family, dreams of dancing her steps on stage with Scott as partner. But both of them find the way forward a little more difficult than they had planned…
Empire of the Sun, 1987. Spielberg’s film about a young boy caught up in the frenzy of World War II in Shanghai is a different look at one of the world’s most retold conflicts. Based on a semi-autobiographical book, the story follows Jim Graham as he is separated from his wealthy British family and kept as a prisoner of war in a Japanese internment camp.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, 1988. This classic comedy, starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine, is the tale of two con men who are determined to discover which of them is the truly great con artist. They set a wager: whichever one can get $50,000 from the American heiress in their hotel will win the bet; the other must leave the country. But their mark may not be the wealthy woman that she seems to be: who will win the bet, and who will win the girl?
Little Shop of Horrors, 1986. Classic horror can be funny! This tongue-in-cheek musical from the mind of Frank Oz takes the story of a b-grade horror movie and turns it into a hilarious parody of both musicals and cheesy horror films. A blood-drinking plant threatens to take over the world with the unwilling help of meek florist Seymour. He struggles to free himself from the plant’s influence and save Audrey, whom he loves in secret. Packed full of 50’s style music and energetic dance numbers, this is a great choice for a family movie night.
Meet John Doe, 1941. One of Frank Capra’s (It’s A Wonderful Life) less idealistic films, Meet John Doe often feels very relevant in today’s politcal environment. John Doe, a simple hobo, is picked by a corrupt business man to be the front of a campaign intended to capture the hearts (and votes!) of the working man. John eventually comes to loath the ruse, and determines to become an honest man, though it may cost him everything.
Grave of the Fireflies, 1988. This animated film has been called the saddest movie ever made, and Roger Ebert considered it one of the most powerful anti-war movies ever made. It’s the story of two young children struggling to survive in the aftermath of the atom bombs dropped on Japan; in the absence of family members who can or will care for them, the brother and sister learn to care for each other as the war comes to a close. Be warned: this movie will make you cry. While it is animated, it is not suitable for young children.
Dreams, 1990. One of the last films of acclaimed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, Dreams is a semi-abstract journey through dreams. 8 short vignettes reflect the incoherent dreams of childhood, the regretful dreams of a war veteran, the nightmares of world of nuclear power gone wrong, and more. Walk with a daydreamer through the paintings of Van Gogh, experience the beauty of a Japanese peach orchard in bloom, and dream of a peaceful future in a quiet village.
I hope you’re having a great day – let me know if you need anything.