What is a Classic Film? In your opinion, what is the definition of a classic film? What are some elements that make a film a classic?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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What determines a classic film is the same thing that determines a classic piece of literature:  the test of time.  Period.  No film or literature of substandard quality would ever survive that test.  The key to passing this test of time is a work's universality.  Since you are specifically referring to films here, let me give expand upon this idea in the realm of cinema.

My suggestion of films that have stood the test of time:  The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music, Gone with the Wind, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Casablanca, The Godfather, and It's a Wonderful Life.  In regards to more modern films:  Star Wars, Superman, E.T., and The Exorcist.

My suggestion of films that people think will become classics, but absolutely will NOT:  Titanic and Twilight.  (Love the first and hate the second, but I have to admit, they have more hype than hope.)

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clairewait eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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It's rather like literature isn't it? Classic films will endure, and they will inspire, and they will keep people coming back to watch them. Interestinig thing to consider--how many "classic" films are based on "classic" literature? For example: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

I agree.  I think, also, that in order to be considered a classic (like literature) the film has to accuately capture some human sentiment for its setting.  All of the great books and movies that we turn to time and again seem to portray a time period from a perspective that allows those of us who didn't live through it, to understand it from a specific perspective.

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kiwi eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I totally agree that a classic film has to endure and entertain, but I also feel that a film needs to extend the boundaries of the medium and take it to a new dimension. I can see that Disney's Up will become a classic due to its active audience shift to bring in the grandparents. Looking at movies with a more established reputation, I am a huge fan of Hitchcock's films due to the level of thought and effort to engage and shock an audience whilst remaining in the realm of the real.

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MaudlinStreet eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I think in order for a film to become a "classic", it has to deal with archetypal characters/stories in some form. This connects to what others have said about the necessity of connecting across various generations, since archetypes are the link to our common human experience. I think it also needs to address some fundamental human emotion or conflict so the audience is reacting beyond a surface level.

Having said that, I doubt any 2 lists of classic films would look the same. I'm only 10 years out of high school, but I've already encountered the generation gap when it comes to films. I was trying to discuss One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and was disappointed to find that many of my students had never heard of it. One of them replied "Well, I was born in 1992". Of course, I had plenty to say to that, but I also resigned myself to the fact that not everyone would agree with me. Like the poster who finds Citizen Kane boring, I myself cannot sit through Gone With the Wind. However, give me Casablanca or any Frank Capra movie, and I will be enthralled for hours.

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marbar57 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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By no means an oldie, I think the film "Gandhi" is destined to be a classic.  The array of emotions I experienced while watching that movie can't be adequately described!  It was moving, awe-inspiring, touching, loving, comical--it had everything and was pure entertainment at its height!  I'm told David Attenborough produced it.  He did a spectacular job!

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sboeman eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I think, as others have mentioned, that it has to have a timeless quality to it-not just the film, but also the message and/or theme.  In addition, though, it should be...

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lengvet | Student

Cinemas are better than TV

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