It should come as no surprise that I watch a lot of classic films throughout the year, and in most cases they are films I’ve seen before (sometimes numerous times). But every year there are new great old films that I get to see for the first time. So I decided to take a look at the ten best classic films I finally saw this past year. Yes, you’ll look at the list and be disgusted that I didn’t see some of these until now. In all cases, it was a grave error on my part. But hey, at least it’s been rectified now.
Instead of actually ranking them from best to worst, I’ve copped out and decided to just list them in order of release date. If the film is available legally online, I’ve included a link to watch it. Check pit the ones here you haven’t seen, and don’t chastise me too horribly for the films I only just saw this year.
-Artheme Swallows His Clarinet (1912)
If the title wasn’t self explanatory enough, the image thoroughly captures it as well. This comedy short is very silly and in that respect is kind of a minor film. It’s still pretty funny and the effects are interesting to see. It’s good lighthearted fun. Well, it’s fun for us, but it wasn’t very fun for Artheme.
Yes, I should have seen this a lot sooner as someone who loves silent films. In my defense, sometimes it’s hard to set aside three hours for a film. Now that I finally have, it was definitely worth it. It’s just amazing to see that some a massive undertaking was pulled off, four different stories told so excellently. The sets themselves made it worth seeing. Overall, it is just show a visually beautiful film.
-The Playhouse (1921)
Buster Keaton pulled off a lot of technically amazing routines, and what he pulls off here is certainly one of his most ingenious. The first portion of the short takes place within a dream in which Keaton literally plays every role in a playhouse. From all musicians to all audience members (male and female) he does it all. As one audience member (Keaton as well) remarks “this Keaton seems to be the whole show.” The rest is typical amusing Keaton, but this opening portion is something worth seeing.
What Price Hollywood? (1932)
The basic story of this pre-code film as been seen before, as told later on in A Star Is Born. This overall is a dark and gripping look and the seedy underbelly of the film industry–tumultuous relationships, alcohol and downward spirals. It’s the kind of film that probably wouldn’t have been made with the code in place.
The Awful Truth (1937)
Screwball comedies are amazingly fun, so this is one that I should have seen sooner. From start to finish, it’s complete insanity, just as these movies should be. Cary Grant and Irene Dunne were a hilarious comedy pair in this movie and others, and it’s really on display here. Although I had to sit through a terrible Matthew Broderick introduction to see this movie on TCM, it was worth it.
-Ball of Fire (1941)
This is another screwball comedy I should have seen so far, especially since I love Barbara Stanwyck. She is at her best here, acting as temptress to a naive ensemble of great character actors. This is now maybe one of my favorite roles Stanwyck ever played, and is a hilarious movie.
Outside of his early work in the 20s, I’ve seen most of Alfred Hitchcock’s films. This is one that somehow I missed over the years, and it’s too bad that I did. Like a few other of his films, it is contained within a very small setting that is put to great use. There’s also deeper characters and more political overtones than you would see from a typical Hitchcock film.
The Lady from Shanghai (1947)
Yes, this is another film I should have seen a long time ago. With great acting all around and beautiful cinematography, this is now a top noir film for me. Unique settings like an aquarium and the conclusion in a fun house are particularly impressive and add to the film’s charm.
-The Fallen Idol (1948)
The basis for the film is basic and harmless enough, a white lie told to a young boy. From there, it spirals further out of control into death and suspicion. And what makes it most interesting is that all of this is from the perspective of that same young boy. It gives the story a unique and pretty gripping angle.