Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 31 May 2020

From 'Casablanca' to 'Spartacus': 21 classic films to watch in lockdown

Now's the time to catch up on all the movies you've probably lied about watching

"Here's looking at you, kid." "I'm Spartacus." "There's no place like home."

These are quotes most of us are as familiar with as our own homes (especially now we're spending so much time in them), but, if you're truly honest, how many of you have actually seen the films that spawned these lines?

Movies such as Casablanca, The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind have featured in myriad lists of the industry's best creations over the years, yet were not released in our lifetime.

We might have all made it down to Vox to check out the latest Avengers flick, but not everyone was around when Lawrence of Arabia first made it to cinemas.

But, with most of us spending our days at home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, there's never been a better time to continue your movie education.

So, put the new season of Ozark on pause, and get ready to plug some gaps in your cinematic knowledge with these 21 favourites.

1. 'Gone with the Wind'

Year: 1939

Director: Victor Fleming

Cast: Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland

This is the perfect one to start with now you're – rightfully – spending entire weekends at home. Why? Because it's nearly four hours long. That's right, you're going to need to stock up on snacks and take regular tea breaks to power through this epic romance, which is set in the South during the American Civil War. Vivien Leigh plays the determined, optimistic Scarlett O'Hara, who becomes entangled in a series of romances over the years, all sparked by a desire to instil jealousy in her childhood crush. Admittedly, it has not dated well, featuring insensitively handled issues around racism and slavery, but still includes valuable messages of hope and perseverance.

2. 'Spartacus'

Year: 1960

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Cast: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons

Kirk Douglas died at the age of 103 last month, so now seems like a poignant time to honour him by watching his, arguably, greatest piece of work. In this 184-minute historical classic, the actor portrays the namesake gladiator who was a key figure in the slave rebellion against the Roman republic in the Third Servile War. Stanley Kubrick's film won four Academy Awards, and its battle scenes, as well as the tear-jerking end, have more than stood the test of time.

3. 'Lawrence of Arabia'

Year: 1962

Director: David Lean

Cast: Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn

This desert epic tells the story of T E Lawrence, the British army officer who joined the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire. The film is based on Lawrence's writings about his experience in the Middle East during the First World War, and deals with issues of identity, morality and comradery. It took home seven Oscars in 1963, including Best Picture, and is still cited by many modern filmmakers as an inspiration in terms of cinematography, plot and pacing.

4. 'It's a Wonderful Life'

Year: 1946

Director: Frank Capra

Cast: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore

This film might not have impressed Phoebe Buffay all that much when she watched it for the first time in Friends, but most first-timers are usually won over by this Christmassy tale of love and loss. The story follows George Bailey, a man on the brink, who is visited by a guardian angel show shows him how he has affected the lives of those around him. It's poignant, heartening, and a good option if you're in the market for a big, ugly cry.

5. 'The Wizard of Oz'

Year: 1939

Director: Victor Fleming

Cast: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger

Put any prejudices about musicals aside, because this fantastical tale will win over even the most cynical of viewers. In her break-out role, Judy Garland plays Dorothy, a Kansas teen whisked away to the magical land of Oz in a tornado. She comes up against witches and flying monkeys – and bands together with a rag-tag group of friends – in her quest to find the land's wizard and return home. It's full of pop culture references and some of the genre's most enduring tunes.

6. 'Rebel Without a Cause'

Year: 1955

Director: Nicholas Ray

Cast: James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo

James Dean's seminal film, which was released just a month after his untimely death, is a searing portrait of suburban, middle-class teens battling against ideas of conformity and inter-generational conflict (so still very much relevant today). It also spawned the famous line "you're tearing me apart", delivered by a tortured Dean to his parents, which was echoed in Tommy Wiseau's infamous The Room.

7. 'Double Indemnity'

Year: 1944

Director: Billy Wilder

Cast: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G Robinson

This film noir is an exemplary demonstration of its genre, in which an an insurance salesman plots to murder one of his clients. Co-written by crime author Raymond Chandler, the script is full of suspense and heart-wrenching dialogue, setting the standard for all film noirs ever since.

8. 'The Great Escape'

Year: 1963

Director: John Sturges

Cast: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough

Even if you're unfamiliar with the plot, you'll likely be able to hum the celebrated theme tune by composer Elmer Bernstein. The song accompanies the real-life tale of a band of Allied prisoners-of-war, who mount a daring plan to escape their German camp during the Second World War. You'll spend more time on the edge of your seat with this one than you will with you back flat against it.

9. 'Casablanca'

Year: 1942

Director: Michael Curtiz

Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid

This romantic drama is also set against the backdrop of the Second World War, following the story of an American living in the Vichy-controlled Moroccan city. When his former love begs him for help to escape to the US with her fugitive Resistance leader husband, Humphrey Bogart's Rick Blaine must decide which will win: his heart or his head. There's a reason this is still touted as Hollywood's greatest romance.

10. '12 Angry Men'

Year: 1957

Director: Reginald Rose

Cast: Henry Fonda, Lee J Cobb, Martin Balsam

Is this still the courtroom drama to beat all other courtroom dramas? Quite possibly. It's a gripping portrait of the American justice system, following a jury as they deliberate whether to convict a teen of allegedly murdering his father. The tense, behind-closed-doors action offers up questions of morality, value and influence, as it all plays out over a single afternoon.

11. 'Psycho'

Year: 1960

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Cast: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles

If you've never seen a single Alfred Hitchcock film, it's worth delving deeper into the director's back catalogue. However, if you've only got time for one, make it this (though it's a tough call to choose between Psycho and Rear Window). This one wins, however, because it essentially created a new genre: the slasher flick. The psychological thriller follows a secretary on the run after she embezzles a fortune from her real-estate employer and checks into the Bates Motel. We probably all know the gripping bathroom scene, but now's your chance to see how the action arrives at the moment.

12. 'The Sound of Music'

Year: 1965

Director: Robert Wise

Cast: Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer

If the cheery tunes in this Rodgers and Hammerstein favourite can't brighten a day spent indoors, then what can? Based on the memoir of Maria von Trapp, this musical drama follows a Postulant governess who is sent to the home of a Austrian naval officer widow and his seven children. Julie Andrews's Maria slowly wins over the affections of the children – and their reticent father – at a time when their homeland falls to German rule. (The music is truly more upbeat than that description would have you believe).

13. 'Citizen Kane'

Year: 1941

Director: Orson Welles

Cast: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore

Orson Welles's first feature film, which scored a raft of Oscar nods although only walked away with Best Writing, is centred around the death of publishing magnate. Reporters scramble to figure out the meaning of the tycoon's last words, delving into his personal and professional life on their mission.

14. 'Some Like It Hot'

Year: 1959

Director: Billy Wilder

Cast: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon

Marilyn Monroe's life and loves are familiar to many, but not all have sat through her body of work, which includes hits such as The Seven Year Itch and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Some Like It Hot, though, is probably the funniest of her comedy work, following two musicians who witness a crime and try to flee the mob by ingratiating themselves among a female band – where they meet Monroe's Sugar.

15. 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly'

Year: 1966

Director: Sergio Leone

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef

The uninitiated might expect your typical spaghetti Western to be all gun-slinging, non-stop action. Instead, they're usually a nuanced affair full of drawn-out staring and tense stand-offs, as evidenced in this Clint Eastwood classic. Three men form an uneasy, and tempestuous alliance, in a bid to find a buried hoard of gold in this film, which was marketed at the final instalment in Sergio Leone's Dollars trilogy but easily works as a standalone watch.

16. '2001: A Space Odyssey'

Year: 1968

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Cast: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester

This mind-bending, sci-fi number is an odyssey in name, odyssey in nature, needing your full attention in all its 142 minutes. The tale charts a journey to Jupiter to discover the origins of a mysterious artefact, and has been credited as admirably accurate in terms of science and space travel. It's slow, graceful and slim on dialogue, and still held up as one of the most influential films, most certainly of its genres, ever made.

17. 'My Fair Lady'

Year: 1964

Director: George Cukor

Cast: Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Stanley Holloway

The last of our musical suggestions is this reimagining of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, with Audrey Hepburn as Cockney-flower-seller-turned-demure-lady Eliza Doolittle. The plot follows that all-too-familiar premise, a tale set in motion by a bet, in which professor Henry Higgins, a phonetician, endeavours to make Doolittle passable as a duchess. After you're done with this, also make time for Hepburn's Breakfast at Tiffany's.

18. 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest'

Year: 1975

Director: Milos Forman

Cast: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Will Sampson

If you're after an easy, breezy, lighthearted watch, this isn't it. In an adaption of Ken Kesey's novel, Jack Nicholson plays Randle, a new patient at a psychiatric ward, who clashes with a domineering nurse. The actor gives a performance – that ends with a particularly moving scene – that rightfully netted him a Best Actor Oscar.

19. 'Apocalypse Now'

Year: 1979

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Cast: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall

This star-studded war drama follows a US Army officer, stationed in Vietnam, tasked with assassinating a rebel Special Forces colonel based in Cambodia. It's a stirring, gripping watch that offers a dark – and darkly comic, at moments – look at some of the absurdities of war.

20. 'The Godfather'

Year: 1972

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Cast: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan

Francis Ford Coppola's other pioneering work is an exploration of what it means to be family, as much as it is a thrilling portrait of the mafia. Marlon Brando's Vito Corleone, the head of a crime dynasty, is priming his reluctant son to take over the family business, in a study of morality, loyalty and honour. It's a riveting saga that will entrance even those who prefer rom-coms or sci-fi.

21. 'Jaws'

Year: 1975

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss

Duh-duh ... duh-duh ... duh-duh duh-duh duh-dud. The theme song is as synonymous with the concept of being scared as it is this marine horror flick, in which a white shark terrorises a small American island. A cop, marine biologist and professional shark hunter team up to try and take down the beast, in this suspenseful tale that left a lot of '70s kids unable to sleep for weeks.

Updated: April 1, 2020 04:21 AM

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