Thursday, August 21, 2008

What Makes a Classic a Classic?

These days, we’re bombarded with a surplus of movies all vying for our attention. And while we all love movies, some of the newer flicks just aren’t worth the film their shot on. Some new movies, while oozing with well-known celebrities and incredible plots, just don’t have what it takes to become classics.

So what really makes a classic film a classic? What was it about Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” that made us shiver and tremble? And why didn’t we shiver and tremble during the 1998 remake? What was it about “Pulp Fiction” that made us fall in love with John Travolta all over again? And why didn’t we bat an eye when he starred in movies like "Michael" or "Phenomenon", or even "Face/Off" with Nicolas Cage?

“Psycho” and “Pulp Fiction”, while poles apart, had something very crucial in common that made them instant classics. They were able to stand out among a sea of films to withstand the test of time and capture new audiences and new generations of die-hard lovers. They held one common factor that most new movies just don’t: They were original.

“Psycho” took the bond a man has with his mother and distorted it so that it became a perverse, dirty need for love and attention. And “Pulp Fiction” blew us away with its out-of-sync and over-the-top plot. But one thing we can say about both of these incredible movies is this: We had never before seen anything like them and we will probably never see anything quite like them again.

While we sometimes see a remake or a copycat movie that’s worth a second look, most of these movies can’t even begin to compare to the original. Take “Night of the Living Dead” for example. While the 1990 remake was a decent movie, it just didn’t have the same “feel” to it as the popular, scream-fest of 1968. George Romeo directed both films but the second one just didn’t cut it with “Dead” fans. It wasn’t original and they had seen it all before. And the same is true for the remake of “Psycho”. It was decent but it just didn’t cut it because we had seen it all before. It wasn’t new anymore. But give us a DVD of the old 1960’s “Psycho” or the original “Night of the Living Dead” and we’ll watch it until our eyes bleed.


Because the classics carry with them that special ambience and nostalgia that we had when we watched them for the very first time. They’re not just movies—they’re like old friends whom we haven’t seen in a while but who will always be welcome in our homes.

This is what makes a classic a classic: The originality and the nostalgia. Nothing more and nothing less.