What do we mean when we ask whether a movie has aged well? Are we talking about the inclusion of problematic jokes? Whether the movie’s narrative and themes were prescient in some way? Or do we just mean that the special effects hold up decades later? It all depends on who you’re talking to and what kind of conversation you’re having.
For my part, when I think about movies that have aged well, I think of movies that I’ll return to over and over again throughout my life. So while several answers focus on some of the more specific questions above, when a film fan asks online about movies that have aged well, I’m most interested in movies that are just as great to watch today as they were the day they came out, and will be just as great fifty years from now.
1. The Matrix (1999)
The Matrix isn’t just a movie that revolutionized action filmmaking and is still one of the most exciting action movies you can watch today; it’s also a thoughtful philosophical movie about our relationship to reality. The Wachowski sisters created a movie that worked just as much as a popcorn blockbuster as a mind-bending science fiction film and delivered a classic that has aged magnificently and will continue to do so.
2. Jurassic Park (1993)
Many of Steven Spielberg’s films have aged well. But numerous cinephiles in the online discussion agree that Jurassic Park is the most remarkable because of the film’s significant use of computer-generated images. Entire dinosaurs were created using the emerging technology in 1993 and still look as awesome today as they did three decades ago.
3. Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
Cary Grant was an all-around movie star for decades, and Arsenic and Old Lace may be his most over-the-top comic performance highlighting his talent for big movements and even bigger expressions. Arsenic and Old Lace is a dark comedy that follows Grant and his new wife after he discovers that his beloved aunts are murderers who store bodies in their cellar. The film’s murderous premise belies the joyous silliness the movie offers.
4. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day is another film many movie watchers agree has held up incredibly well when considering its special effects. The film was initially released in 1991, but the special effects still look state-of-the-art. And there are many of them, from the liquid metal of a robotic assassin to the metal endoskeleton of the now-heroic Arnold Schwarzenegger character.
5. Casablanca (1942)
Perhaps the greatest sign of a film aging well is its regular programming at repertory theaters. Casablanca, which arrived in theaters more than 80 years ago, is still played yearly around Valentine’s Day by theaters nationwide because it’s just so good.
The film centers on two ex-lovers who find each other again and the decision one faces to either try to win his ex back or help her and her husband escape the occupied city. It’s a movie that will likely still be playing in theaters 80 years from now for its deep sense of romance and the fantastic performances from Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.
6. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
The Wizard of Oz may still hold the title of “most amazing switch to color” almost 100 years after its release. Other movies have tried to play the same magic trick, but none deliver the same technicolor magic. But it’s not just that moment that makes the film a timeless classic; it’s also the simple story populated by lovable characters brought to life in ways that make them iconic.
7. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
2001: A Space Odyssey is another movie, like Casablanca, that continues to bring out huge crowds whenever it’s played in a theater. The movie, which follows a space mission to Jupiter to investigate a mysterious monolith, offers some of the most breathtaking space imagery ever set to film that’s just as beautiful and horrifying today as it was when the film was released.
8. Alien (1979)
Alien is a stone-cold sci-fi horror classic. The film, directed by Ridley Scott, tells the story of a spaceship crew responding to what they believe may be a distress signal only to discover a deadly alien.
The titular alien’s design is iconic, and Scott makes the most of it by showing it sparingly throughout the film. But it’s not just the alien; it’s also the vastness of space and the claustrophobic spaces of the ship that make Alien a classic that will be scaring people for decades to come.
9. Blade Runner (1982)
Ridley Scott followed up Alien with another sci-fi masterpiece that’s stood the test of time. Blade Runner, based on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? follows Harrison Ford’s Deckard as he is hired to hunt down synthetic humanoid “replicants” who may have revolutionary aims.
It’s an astoundingly realized movie with incredible miniature and production design work that brings futuristic Los Angeles to life while its narrative asks questions about personhood that are still relevant today.
10. The Thing (1982)
Released the same year as Blade Runner, John Carpenter’s The Thing is a remake of the 1951 film The Thing From Another World. But Carpenter’s version adds a brilliant new angle. Instead of functioning as a creature feature like the original, the titular thing in the 1982 version can mimic any biological organism, including humans.
That premise allows for some taut scenes as none of the characters in the film know who they can trust and who may be the thing, and delivers some of the most iconic body-horror sequences ever set to film when the thing transforms.
This thread inspired this post.
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