Top 10 Best Classic Hollywood Movies of All Time
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
WRITTEN BY: Sammie Purcell
Thse Hollywood movies define "classic." For this list, we'll be looking at the greatest films from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Our countdown includes "West Side Story," "Gone with the Wind," "Citizen Kane," and more!
Top 10 Best Classic Hollywood Movies of All Time
Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Best Classic Hollywood Movies of All Time.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the greatest films from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
If we missed any of your favorite classics, let us know in the comments below.
#10: “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)
This adaptation of L. Frank Baum's fantasy novel is one of the first movies that many of us saw as a child. Because of that, it’s burned into our brains. But even without that nostalgia factor, “The Wizard of Oz” is still one of the best films ever made. Judy Garland’s voice immediately endears you to Dorothy as she longs to get out of Kansas. The film is also set apart by its unforgettable switch from black and white to technicolor. The black and white palette holds a certain comfort that makes you think of home. And with the switch to color, the first time you see Oz, you’re just as amazed as Dorothy.
#9: “West Side Story” (1961)
From the very first moments of 1961’s “West Side Story,” it’s apparent that a masterpiece is coming your way. Based on the Broadway musical of the same time, the movie combines the emotional heights of Shakespeare with a modern dance sensibility that changed the game forever. The film follows Tony and Maria, two lovers who stand on opposite sides of a gang conflict between the white Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks. Through movement that has to be seen to be believed, choreographer Jerome Robbins leads us on a whirlwind love story that has never left our minds.
#8: “Roman Holiday” (1953)
A Vespa ride around Rome with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn? Yes please! In “Roman Holiday,” Hepburn stars as Princess Ann, a royal who longs for freedom away from regal duties. While sneaking away to experience the city, she meets Peck’s Joe Bradley, a journalist who doesn’t realize at first who she is. While Bradley is supposed to be chasing an exclusive interview, he starts to fall in love with her instead. “Roman Holiday” is overflowing with romance. The chemistry between Peck and Hepburn leaps off the screen, and the end leaves you with a sense of bittersweet yearning.
#7: “Rebecca” (1940)
During his lifetime, Alfred Hitchcock solidified his place in Hollywood as one of the best directors. But one of his best films came rather early on in his career. “Rebecca” is a psychological slow burn about the marriage between Maxim de Winter and his second wife, played by Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine respectively. The ghost of Maxim’s first wife, Rebecca, haunts the couple’s huge mansion, and the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers floats around just as eerily. Hitchcock masterfully delivers a spine-tingling story, and the performances send the film over the edge as one of the best.
#6: “Double Indemnity” (1944)
When it comes to noir, this one has double the fun. Although “Double Indemnity” doesn’t feature sex of any kind, the way Walter and Phyllis speak to each other could be classified as downright naughty. The noir genre ruled the 1940s, but this film’s slick dialogue pushes it above the rest. Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck star as Walter and Phyllis, two lovers who conspire to kill the latter’s husband for his money. However, it soon becomes apparent Phyllis is not what she seems. Billy Wilder’s film is one of the books, with masterful direction and a legacy that can’t be ignored.
#5: “Gone with the Wind” (1939)
Frankly my dear, there’s no way we couldn’t put this one on the list. “Gone with the Wind” was released to wide acclaim in 1939. The film starred Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh as two stubborn romantic leads living in the south during the Civil War. While there are certainly criticisms to be had of the film, for the most its cultural estimation only grew in the years after its release. When adjusted for inflation, the film is still the most financially successful film ever made in box office terms. Released in 1939 and still with that kind of impact? Now that’s something to be impressed about.
#4: “It Happened One Night” (1934)
You know all those romantic comedies you love? “Sleepless In Seattle,” “When Harry Met Sally …,” and the like? Well, you have “It Happened One Night” to thank. The 1934 pre-code masterpiece is widely regarded as one of the best films ever and has pretty much every rom-com trope you know and love. Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert are endlessly charming as two hapless people who meet on the road and strike up a relationship. Hijinks, room sharing, negging, and so, so much flirting ensue. Gable and Colbert definitely contribute to the film’s whimsical, slapsticky charm, but it’s also got a great script to match.
#3: “Singin’ in the Rain” (1952)
When it comes to movie musicals, you can’t do much better than “Singin’ in the Rain.” Gene Kelly almost single-handedly changed the game for movie musicals, expanding the imagination of what they could do. His innovative ideas hit a fever pitch in 1952’s “Singin’ in the Rain.” The movie isn’t just a happy-go-lucky musical. It’s also a hysterical examination of the change from silent films to talkies and a delightfully satirical take on moviemaking. But of course, because it’s Gene Kelly, it also has musical sequences that will make your jaw drop.
#2: “Citizen Kane” (1941)
Sometimes when everyone says something is great, it’s because it really is great. But the thing that’s truly incredible about Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane” is that Welles’s first film was his masterpiece. That’s right. “Citizen Kane” was Orson’s feature directorial debut. Ironically, Welles’s naivety on set is part of what makes the film so amazing. Welles would ask his cinematographer, Gregg Toland, to do things that a more experienced director might have deemed impossible from the get-go. But, Toland tried out some of Welles’s ideas, and wouldn’t you know it? They worked, and we got one of the most innovative films in history.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
“It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946)
A Christmas Classic For the Ages
“Sunset Boulevard” (1950)
The Pictures Never Looked This Good
“The Philadelphia Story” (1940)
Jimmy Stewart & Cary Grant? Sign Us Up!
“The Maltese Falcon” (1941)
One of the Most Iconoclastic Noirs
“Some Like It Hot” (1959)
We Sure Like It Hot
#1: “Casablanca” (1942)
We all go to the cinemas looking for magic. Every once in a while, a movie comes along that gives you that magical feeling and then some. “Casablanca” hit theaters in 1942, and funnily enough, wasn’t a massive runaway hit upon its release. The movie did well initially and was respected enough to win Best Picture at the Oscars that year. But as the years have gone by, critical and popular esteem has grown in spades for this World War II romance. Maybe it’s the iconic lines of dialogue. Maybe it’s the remarkable romantic chemistry between Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Whatever it is, it’s definitely magic.