5 Classic American Movies to Start With

All About Eve: "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!"

My sister-in-law just asked me a great question:  name five movies that will introduce a high school student to classic American films.  (Even more interesting, the student is here on an exchange program from Europe.)   So I came up with a list in just a few minutes: a drama, a comedy, a Western, a suspense thriller and a film noir:

All About Eve

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Strangers on a Train

Double Indemnity

Sullivan’s Travels

If you see these five movies, you will be introduced to directors John Ford, Billy Wilder, Alfred Hitchcock, Joseph L. Mankiewicz and Preston Sturges, plus movie stars John Wayne, James Stewart, Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, Edward G. Robinson, Lee Marvin, George Sanders, Joel McRae and Veronica Lake – not a bad intro.

To see descriptions along with trailers or clips, go to A Classic American Movie Primer – 5 to Start With.

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5 Responses to 5 Classic American Movies to Start With

  1. Paula says:

    Casablanca would have to be on my list…and Chaplin. Of course the question is what is Classic American. What time frame are you looking at? Silent films would have to be covered but also what about films like Strangelove? Interesting question. I’d make Cathy give a clearer definition of what she wants and watch her squirm.

  2. 7thheavens says:

    Those are Interesting picks, very dramatic and emotional films.

    Personally I would start with:

    Arsenic and Old Lace, Holiday Inn, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Mr Smith Goes To Washington and Farmers Daughter.

  3. I like that you chose films to span the genres. I agree All About Eve is supremely important and you could insert just about any Hitchcock film (the American ones) and be on the right track. Double Indemnity is kind of the standard as far as Film Noir goes, so again, I’m supportive. I haven’t seen the other two–I’m not a big consumer of westerns, for one. I think slapstick would be a good genre for the comedy category, so I like 7thheaven’s suggestion of Arsenic and Old Lace. I would suggest something like Breakfast at Tiffany’s because I’m a big Audrey fan, but you could probably also throw a musical in there, such as West Side Story, although I’m not a fan.

    • 7thheavens says:

      Yes spanning all genres is good and emotional films are great but the first five will be the first impression a person gets of those genres in that time period. If you start out to emotional you lose the audience. Its something they are looking at with a skeptical eye and it starts to become an emotional drag. whether you like a movie or not is decided by the emotions. Comedy brings out a good emotion. so for all your genres, can you pick something emotional? Yes! if it has enough comedy in it.
      I saw a movie not to long ago called Fearmakers Starring Dana Andrews.(Laura, State Fair) This movie was about polls, political and commercial, and how easy it is to manipulate polls and defraud people of their opinions.
      its been nice chatting


  4. 7thheavens says:

    try these 5. The Mating Season 1951, Mr. Lucky, The Violent Men, Lets Live a Little and The Moon is Blue 1953 as for a extra We Are Not Dressing starring Bing Crosby

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