We asked what you consider a ‘classic movie.’ These are your picks

Aug 11, 2019, 12:58 PM | Updated: Feb 16, 2022, 10:52 am
Red Striped Popcorn Bag And Movie Ticket On White Background For Cinema Concept.Two blue theatre ti...
Red Striped Popcorn Bag And Movie Ticket On White Background For Cinema Concept.Two blue theatre tickets are placed on top of popcorn bag.The photo was shot in studio with a full frame DSLR camera and a macro lens.no people in frame. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

(CNN) — It’s a question that’s been debated practically since the dawn of the motion picture: What, exactly, makes a movie a classic?

We first turned to TCM’s movie guru Ben Mankiewicz for some insight, but even he conceded there’s no easy answer.

“It really depends,” he told us. “What I do know is that this question is supposed to be argued over, and it’s supposed to be argued over passionately.”

So we decided to give our readers the opportunity to weigh in.

We asked, “What movie do you think is a classic and why?”

Hundreds of people responded, and the suggestions ranged from the expected — movies like “The Godfather,” “Casablanca” and “The Shawshank Redemption” all made the list — to the truly surprising.

We’ve collected a sample of your more off-the-beaten-path answers below, and we thank everyone who took the time to consider the question. We hope we didn’t start too many arguments :).

Editor’s note: The responses below have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

‘Babe’ (1995)


Alvarado, Texas

Shortly after going through a divorce that cut me deeply and reduced my time with the children I raised to alternating weekends, I was given a free pass to a movie that I could take my 13-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son to.

My sophisticated 13-year old balked at having to see a “kid’s movie,” and the 6-year-old was just happy to be with dad. The movie was “Babe,” which, to me, is not only the best movie about animals ever made, it’s also the best movie about love and family ever made.

My kids and I cried together and laughed together and today, almost 30 years later, we all still talk about it. How else would you define a classic?

‘The Silence of the Lambs’ (1991)


Los Angeles

I avoid horror films at all costs. Why would anyone want to voluntarily be terrified for two hours?! I don’t even remember why I decided watching this film was a good idea, but nonetheless, I did.

By the end, I was thoroughly terrified. But I also remember feeling oddly liberated. It was like I was part of the masterpiece itself. And I think that’s why I consider it a classic film. Whether you’re terrified of the genre or are completely indifferent to the story, actors, direction, score, etc., if you can feel so alive and immersed after watching it, that’s a classic.

‘All About Eve’ (1950)


I first saw this movie when I was about 5 years old, sitting in the living room with my parents, and I was mesmerized.

It was long before I ever knew about things like directing styles, sharp writing, or what good acting was; I only knew that I loved it. I saw it again in my teens and then searched for it in later years at various revival houses in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

And although I own the DVD, I still enjoy seeing it with a movie audience, especially those experiencing it for the first time, and hearing the same laughter and gasps that I made at 5.

“All About Eve” made me fall in love with movies, and that, to me, is the mark of a classic in the truest sense of the word.

‘Groundhog Day’ (1993)


People look at me funny when I say “Groundhog Day” is one of the five best movies ever made. But there’s incredible depth to it — a rich exploration of what it means to be a flawed human being who is forced to confront himself and find a way out of his own weaknesses.

It’s the story of every person’s journey through life, really. We should all be so lucky as Phil, but many never are. I think of it as one of the great redemption stories.

All of this wrapped in a package of seeming silliness, which is perhaps its greatest achievement as filmmaking craft. [Bill] Murray should have won an Oscar for this, by the way.

‘Jaws’ (1975)



It was 1975, and I was a senior in high school when I took my girlfriend Robin to see “Jaws.” I can still remember the feeling of her nails digging into my arm throughout the movie, and the horrified look on Roy Scheider’s face when he is dumping chum in the water and sees the beast for the first time.

Before “Jaws,” I spent countless hours playing and swimming in the ocean off of Jones Beach without ever thinking about the beast lurking beneath. That all changed in 1975. I don’t know how much more classic a movie can get.

‘Daughters of the Dust’ (1991)



As a black woman living in the South at the time (1990s), this movie was breathtaking.

The first of many great African-American achievements, I felt inspired, renewed and all-powerful afterward. The cast and direction are superb, and the story of women I know and love were cast in this piece. I felt seen and valuable.

Some movies make me smile, others make me cry; this one was religious and spiritual and phenomenal. I can only watch every so often because it touches me so deeply.

‘The Sandlot’ (1993)


Red Oak, Texas

It’s a romanticized ideal of childhood summers that still resonates today.

Great friends. Sports. Funny nicknames. New freedoms. A grade-school crush. Mischief. Americana. Urban legends. And s’mores!

The cherry on top? Its soundtrack scores a bullseye. It’s timed perfectly, and captures the exact mood and energy level of each scene.

As “The Babe” said, “Heroes get remembered, but legends (and legendary movies) never die.”

‘The Princess Bride’ (1987)


“The Princess Bride” is often overlooked on these lists because it is so light, but it’s a movie that sticks with you.

When you quote it, other people get the reference. It’s a movie that brings people together. And it’s a litmus test in our family — if the boy/girlfriend doesn’t love “The Princess Bride,” well, I don’t bother to remember his or her name.

‘The Joy Luck Club’ (1993)


Missoula, Montana

I’ve seen the movie a dozen times and it still makes me cry.

It is a classic because it looks unflinchingly at the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters. Every woman I know who has seen the movie has identified with one of the characters. It was an emotional upheaval for me to see my difficult childhood portrayed so accurately.

Any movie that can speak to half of the population in such a beautiful, strong way deserves to be called a classic.

‘The Grapes of Wrath’ (1940)


Buffalo, New York

Not only did Jane Darwell and Henry Fonda play their respective roles perfectly, but it also is a great history lesson about the bond of family and the role of migrant labor in our country. It seems we still have not learned much in the 79 years since its release.

I can literally watch this movie over and over again.

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (1962)


Dripping Springs, Texas

The best scene is when Atticus is talking with Scout before bed, and he tells her he has nothing much of value to pass on to her other than her mother’s pearls. But the honesty and courage that he passes on to her has more value than all the pearls and gold he could consider.

The movie being shot in black and white when color was standard makes a bold statement about the cultures in conflict, and the fact that choosing the right path is as simple as black and white.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” will stand the test of time on every level as a classic.

‘Platoon’ (1986) and ‘Full Metal Jacket’ (1987)


San Jose, California

What makes a movie a classic? I believe it’s telling a story that challenges our beliefs in politics, religion and society … a movie that drives you to action.

Being exposed to movies like “Platoon” and “Full Metal Jacket” led to me study the Vietnam War in college, and I see similarities between how we handled the war in Vietnam and how we are seeing history repeat itself in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

‘Spartacus’ (1960)



Why? A rare collection of great acting talent — Douglas, Laughton, Olivier, Ustinov, Simmons, Curtis — each of which is given meaty lines and a distinct role in propelling the story to its conclusion.

The directorial mastery of Kubrick in his prime. An example of what the Hollywood studio system at its zenith could produce — a spectacle on a grand scale, with acting, production, and supporting talent at every level. It’s arguably the finest film Universal Studios ever made.

It has its faults of course — as any gargantuan effort is bound to have — but the overall end product satisfies and stays with you in so many ways. I challenge anyone to honestly say that they found “Spartacus” “pedestrian” or “forgettable,” especially if you saw it on the big screen as it was intended, and not merely on TV.

Who can pick just one?


Savannah, Georgia

As a 19-year-old film buff, I’ve seen a lot of ‘good movies.’ But there is a very small group of movies that I would consider to be future classics.

A few examples include “Whiplash” (2014), “Hereditary” (2018), “Eighth Grade” (2018), “Sicario” (2015), “Captain Fantastic” (2016) and “Under the Skin” (2013).

When I first saw each of those films, I felt like I got lost in something totally new and that connected with me in one way or another. All of these films made me look at a certain genre in a totally new light. For that reason, they’re all soon to be cinematic touchstones, at least in my mind.

™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Today’s Top Stories


LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 17: Sacheen Littlefeather on stage at AMPAS Presents An Evening...
Toyin Owoseje, CNN

Sacheen Littlefeather, Native American activist and actress, dead at 75

In August, the Academy formally apologized to Littlefeather for the mistreatment she experienced during her speech and in the years that followed.
9 hours ago
Actor Conor Leslie with her newly adopted dog, Delores at the FanX convention that was held Sept. 2...
Amie Schaeffer

DC Universe star finds fur-ever friend at SLC FanX convention

Ruff Patch Rescue is a nonprofit that helps adopt out animals that need a little extra TLC. The organization recently set up at FanX.
5 days ago
Netflix gaming...
Catherine Thorbecke, CNN Business

Netflix to open its own video game studio as part of gaming pivot

The streaming giant is building its first in-house video game studio in Helsinki, Finland, as it expands its empire over mobile games.
5 days ago
hurricane ian florida...
Forrest Brown, CNN

Status of Florida theme parks, cruise ships and more as Ian approaches

Floridians are keeping an anxious eye on Hurricane Ian, including the operators of Florida's popular theme parks.
6 days ago
(Photo courtesy of Salt_Verse on Twitter)...
Rachel Metz, CNN Business

This guy is using AI to make movies — and you can help decide what happens next

"Salt" resembles many science-fiction films from the '70s and early '80s. The way it was created points to what could be a new frontier for making movies.
8 days ago
BYU Student on Survivor...
Kate Davis

BYU student and youngest-ever Survivor contestant says he’s confident he will win

BYU Student and youngest-ever Survivor contestant, Sami Layadi, says he is confident he will win this season of the series
10 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
large group of friends tohether in a park having fun...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

What differentiates BYU’s MBA program from other MBA programs

Commitment to service is at the heart of BYU’s MBA program, which makes it stand out among other MBA programs across the country.
a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
We asked what you consider a ‘classic movie.’ These are your picks