Oldies But Goodies: Why Young People Should Watch Old Movies

As a 23-year-old self-proclaimed movie fanboy, I often talk with my peers about their favorite movies.  After a while, I realized I was basically able to predict what someone’s favorite movie was based on their age. My age group for example would include movies like Boondock Saints (way overrated in my opinion), Billy Madison (include in this all the Billy Madison-esq movies like Happy Gilmore, etc) , The Matrix (sorry Galo), and Shawshank Redemption.  While I realize that a person’s age and the year they were born will always play a significant role in their film selections, I find myself frustrated when trying to discuss older movies with people my age. The fact that someone hasn’t seen an older movie doesn’t bother me. What pisses me off is the general disregard for older movies by people my age.  Most people in their 20’s completely refuse to watch older movies because they are in black and white (“Gross!”) and made before they were born. It hurts me to say this, but I used to be one of those people. I could not stand watching any film that was in black and white or “old” at all for that matter. I viewed these movies as outdated and uninteresting. Times have changed, however, and as a converted fan of the classics, I want to explain to you why you should convert too.

I remember sitting there, arguing with my mom about watching It’s A Wonderful Life with her. I had absolutely no desire to see it, “This shit is old and in black and white. Why the hell would I ever waste my time?” is what I told myself. Luckily, my mom won the argument (like they usually do) and I was forced to watch the movie. The first time I watched It’s A Wonderful Life, it touched me like a film never had before. It is a hard feeling to explain, but one I cannot forget. It is a weird thing to say, but I seriously think that the experience inspired me somehow to become a better person. I went into the movie pissed off that I had to sit through it, but by the end I was on the verge of tears (Side note: Immediately after realizing how close I was to crying, I ran into the woods and head-butted a bear to death just to reaffirm my manliness). I was confused about feeling so strongly after watching a movie, but even more surprising was the fact that it was a black and white movie made in 1946, over 40 years before I was born. How was this possible? I began watching more and more older movies and began to realize how incredible they really are. Below I outlined the reasons why I believe everyone of all ages must make the effort to watch movies from yesteryear.

Reason 1: The Acting

Yeah, yeah, I know that films today have great actors like Jeff Bridges, Leonardo DiCaprio, Natalie Portman, Colin Firth, and Paul Giamatti. I love those guys, they rule. The truth is, however, acting back in the day was much better in my opinion. Why you ask? Well, for me the answer is simple: lack of technology. In the golden age of film, there was no CGI, there were no crazy special effects, and there wasn’t any 3D. All these things in today’s films can easily distract the viewer from poor acting.  Look at actor Sam Worthington and the string of movies he’s been in for example.  The fantastic CGI effects in Avatar and Clash of the Titans easily distracted the viewers from Sam Worthington’s sub-par acting. Film before these technological advances was very simple, you had a great story (I will get to this later) and you had great actors. If the actors sucked, your movie was destined for failure. For this reason, movies back then really only had good acting in them. Movies such as 12 Angry Men and Rear Window are testaments to the talented actors of the time. The two movies each virtually took place in a single location and were not  mainly driven by the plot, but by the highly skilled actors that were delivering their lines.

Reason 2: The Historical Aspect

I must say that I really enjoy learning about history, more specifically American History. One thing that I found so interesting about older movies is how they perfectly capture the time period they were filmed in. Prior to the introduction of film and photography, it was basically impossible for us to have a detailed idea of what living in a specific time period was like. Well, if I want to get an idea of what living in the 1940’s was like, all I have to do is watch It’s A Wonderful Life which was made by someone who lived in the 1940’s about people who lived inthe 1940’s.  These older movies are time capsules. They take me on a trip to an earlier time period which I otherwise never would have understood as clearly.

Reason 3: The Storylines

In case you didn’t know 2011 is the year of the sequel.  According to “Box Office Mojo”, a new record of 27 films released this year will be sequels. This does not include the fact that basically every vampire/alien/werewolf/superhero book or comic is currently being adapted into a movie or the fact that production companies plan on remaking a shitload of movies (why do we need a remake of The BodyGuard?). Clearly we are running out of original material.

Like I said earlier, the success of a film was based on two things: good acting and a good story. The story, in my opinion, was much more important than the acting because great acting can only get you so far. Imagine Colin Firth and Meryl Streep in Gigli, still fucking terrible. No, these movies had story lines with substance. They captured the hearts and minds of their audiences because they had to if they wanted to be successful. As a result, the stories delved into the nature of the human spirit, usually involving timeless themes such as true love and happiness.  These themes are so powerfully interwoven in films such as Casablanca and It’s A Wonderful Life that their messages transcend time. The experience of watching films like these is a unique one that I think will leave a profound mark on you unlike many other movies you will see.

So, having said my bit about old movies, I hope you will consider taking a look at them. I understand it may not be an easy transition for many of you not to see huge explosions, or even color for that matter but it is definitely an experience that you will not regret. To get you started, I have compiled a small list of older movies that I think are awesome and easier to watch if you haven’t seen one. I think they will help you out on your path to enlightenment. Good luck!

Rear Window (in Color!)

The Graduate (in Color!)

Raging Bull

It’s A Wonderful Life

12 Angry Men

On The Waterfront

A Streetcar Named Desire

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Psycho (the origninal, not the terrible Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche remake)

Citizen Kane (rated by AFI as the BEST MOVIE EVER MADE)

The Maltese Falcon



  1. Captain Al says:

    “What pisses me off is the general disregard for older movies by people my age. ”

    Would a general disregard for newer movies by people my age (over 50) equally piss you off?

    Just wondering…

  2. Chris Bracco says:

    Short blogging advice from your (not so) friendly web designer … break up the paragraphs a bit better so it’s easier to read/scan, you foolish men you.

  3. Justin Dubin says:

    Good point. I would have to say yes. If you think about it, people my age must make an effort to search for the older movies that they would like to watch because they are not always readily available. People around your age are always exposed to the newer films, whether on tv or at the movies and therefore they must make a conscious effort to NOT see them. For anyone to limit their views on anything, in this case movies, is not ideal in my opinion.

  4. Captain Al says:

    I have 3 words for you IFC (Independent Film channel). Peruse it, make your picks, set your DVR and enjoy…

  5. Michael says:

    The best reason to watch old movies is because they have lasted. It’s so hard to find a great movie that has come out in the last year or so, because they haven’t had time to get noticed. It’s harder to find a great movie from 2010 than a great movie from 1970.

    • Justin Dubin says:

      Michael, I agree that those movies lasted for as long as they have because they are great, but I have to disagree with you about the difficulty of finding great movies today. In fact, I think now, more than ever before, it is easier to find great movies. Social media including twitter, facebook and all of the film sites has allowed even the most independent of films to gain global recognition based on the film’s merit. If you look at all the recently acclaimed foreign films, smaller films and docs (for example The Raid, exit through the gift shop, Paranormal Acitivity, Monsters, and Catfish) I do not think they would have gained such fame if not for the internet. Add in that everyone today now can gain access to a camera and an editing program, and I have to say we are in a pretty unique era of film and how we gain exposure to it.

  6. Dan says:

    This a great site to find old movies to watch.

  7. Khuz says:

    I am not here to show off my age or anything, but I can see you frustration over a lack of attention given towards older films. But I am a 14 year old and I honestly don’t care when a film was made. Whether it Leonardo DiCaprio or Charlie Chaplin I’ll watch it. Nobody else in my school would dare watch a Humphrey Bogart film but I have watched Casablanca atleast 3 times. My favourite film of all time is Pulp Fiction but some of my other favourite films include Rear Window, Metropolis (yes the silent film) and Seven Samurai. But of course I have nobody to converge with about my love of these films. One or two of my friends would turn around and say,”I love that movie” if I mention The Good The Bad and The Ugly and I would often suggest they watch some more classics such as The Wild Bunch or Treasures of the Sierra Madre which they would not have heard of but that’s as far as my luck goes.

  8. asshole says:

    older movies are shit. they just sit there and talk alot