I love old movies. My wife… does not. This is a sticking point for us when it comes to deciding what we want to watch together; on the rare occasions she says we can watch whatever you want she never forgets to add but nothing old and in black and white.
Movies were just different back then. They were written differently. They were edited differently—making it up as they went, filmmakers literally had to teach audiences the language of narrative film. And they were certainly acted differently, which is my spouse’s chief complaint. Yeah, people in old movies sound weird (at least until you learn to love the mid-Atlantic accent.)
But different isn’t bad, and old movies aren’t inherently inferior just because the art of making them has advanced over the decades. You could make the comparison to reading Elizabethan or Victorian literature—which feels like homework to many—but I’d argue that it’s more akin to training your palate and learning to appreciate food and drinks that don’t go down easy the first time (think wine or black coffee).
In this slideshow, I’ve rounded up 10 classics that will make it easy to teach yourself to appreciate the cinema of the last century, from the Golden Age of Hollywood through the early 1960s, when the studio system collapsed and movies began to more closely resemble those of today. Yes, if you’re a movie buff, these choices will probably seem a bit basic. But if you’ve seen these, your brain doesn’t need retraining—and chances are, you have a close-minded friend (or lover) who might benefit.