With the global pandemic crisis, people across the world are staying in and turning to movies to keep them company. I know that I have spent a lot of time discovering movies new and old that I have never seen before as well as rediscovering some comfortable favourites. This is a bit of a selfish list, these are movies that I love but I also think everyone should see. So without further ado, here are the top 10 movies I think you should spend time watching in self-isolation.
Gone with the Wind (1939) – What better way to kill 3 hours than to escape to Tara and Gone with the Wind? The 1939 epic drama follows the life of southern belle Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) and her tangled love affairs between Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) and Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) amidst the American Civil war. Gone with the Wind was a phenomenon before it was even released and it still holds today. It is truly a classic in every sense of the word.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) – Perhaps Audrey Hepburn’s most famous film and her most iconic character, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is loosely based on the book of the same name by Truman Capote. It is the story of a young woman working as an escort and living in New York City when she meets a young male writer who moves into her apartment building. The screenplay was written with Marilyn Monroe in mind to play the lead role, but her acting coach Lee Strasberg advised Monroe that playing ‘a lady of the evening’ would be bad for her image. When Hepburn was finally cast, Capote, who had his hopes pinned on Monroe, remarked: “Paramount double-crossed me in every way and cast Audrey.” I wonder if he still felt the same way when he saw the film? I think Audrey delivered an incredible performance and one very worthy of this list!
Bus Stop (1956) – This is my favourite Marilyn Monroe movie and I believe her best performance. Bus Stop is about a young cowboy (Don Murray) who falls in love with a cafe singer (Monroe). Bus Stop was the movie that according to The Saturday Review of Literature… “effectively dispels once and for all the notion that Marilyn Monroe is merely a glamour personality.” If you want proof that Monroe was a great actress and you have yet to see this movie, Bus Stop is the one to watch.
Casablanca (1942) – The iconic wartime love story that follows Rick (Humphrey Bogart) who owns a nightclub in Casablanca and his old love Isla (Ingrid Bergman) who is in town with her husband. Casablanca is one of those rare films that has become more popular with time and has now reached legendary status. On the 50th anniversary of the film’s release, Bob Strauss wrote in the Los Angeles Times that Casablanca achieved a “near-perfect entertainment balance of comedy, romance and suspense.” Don’t call yourself a movie buff if you haven’t seen this one!
It Happened One Night (1934) – Gosh, I love this movie. I rewatched it recently and remembered just how funny it is. Starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in the film they both won Academy Awards for. It Happened One Night was one of the last “pre-Code” Hollywood movies, coming out just 4 months before the Motion Picture Association of America started rigidly enforcing its code rules. If you haven’t seen this and you love romcoms, it is a MUST to put on your list.
The Philadelphia Story (1940) – As you can probably begin to tell, I love a good love story and The Philadelphia Story delivers just that. Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart and Cary Grant are at their funniest and in my humble opinion, best in this. The Philadelphia Story was one of the biggest films of 1940 and won James Stewart his only Academy Award. It follows the High Society lives and love affairs of C.K. Dexter Haven, Tracy Samantha Lord and Mike Conner. Every actor in this movie is cast to perfection and if you are looking for something lighthearted and funny, this is the one to watch.
All About Eve (1950) – I was only 14 when I first saw this movie and it was one of the first Old Hollywood films that I watched. I can’t think of a more perfect introduction. All About Eve stars Bette Davis at her very best as Broadway star Margo Channing who takes an ambitious young actress Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) under her wing. It was nominated for 14 Academy Awards, won 5 of them and has been named on countless best film lists. A proper classic Hollywood movie and one you will regret not seeing.
Psycho (1960) – I also saw Psycho for the first time at 14 years old (2009 was a monumental movie year for me!) Psycho is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous films and you can see why. It stars Anthony Perkins as one of the most famous characters of all time, Norman Bates and Janet Leigh as Marion Crane, his motel guest. If you haven’t seen this movie and don’t know the story, I urge you to watch it without spoilers, it will show you why Hitchcock was known as the master of suspense.
Moulin Rouge! (2001) An Aussie classic and the movie that changed my life. Directed by the indomitable Baz Luhrmann and starring Nicole Kidman as Satine, the star courtesan of the Moulin Rouge and Ewan McGregor as Christian, a young penniless writer who falls in love with her. It has nods to both Old Hollywood and Bollywood and was nominated for 8 Academy Awards, winning 2 of them. This movie is pure bliss to me and I really think it is one you should see at least once. It is an experience like no other.
Wuthering Heights (1939) No list of mine is ever complete without Wuthering Heights. This adaptation of the classic 1847 book by Emily Bronte was directed by William Wyler and stars Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff and Merle Oberon as Cathy. While this movie is quite different from the book and pretty much every other adaptation of this story, I adore it. It is my escape movie and brings me so much comfort. It is the movie that I insist everyone in my life should watch and I think you should too!
OK, I’ll admit, the final two films are completely selfish on my part, they are my two favourite films of all time. But I think you would enjoy them if you love Old Hollywood as much as I do. I hope you get some inspiration from this list. These are movies that I can watch time and time again and find something new to discover each time. Stay safe and well. Happy watching!