What Makes A Movie Classic?


Lillith Meyer, Rookie Reporter

Classic movies are usually movies that were made decades before many of us were born but what makes them classic and what does that even mean for a movie to be a classic? According to Flimsite.org classic movies are films that are often universal favorites that can hold up after repeated re-screenings. Haystack wondered if this is truly accurate to the people who these movies hold a special connection with or if different elements play a part in determining what is classic and what isn’t. Haystack took to the hallways of Wheat Ridge High School to ask both teachers and students just what makes a movie classic.

The first question that should be asked when determining what makes a movie classic is to try and define it first. Haystack asked both students and teachers to explain what they define as classic when it comes to movies. Senior  Sam Pullen explained, “I think that for a movie to be a classic is that it either has to be able to set a precedent and formula that other filmmakers will strive to recreate or further that will further the genre it is categorized under.”

Haystack asked sophomore Bailey Quinnell if she thought that when a classic movie is remade or given a sequel years or even decades later if it can harm not just the remake but also the original essentially ruining it. Quinnell responded, “I don’t think that any original movie that is remade can ever be ruined because if we as viewers end up hating the remake, we could just take the retconned remake or sequel and just pretend that they don’t exist.” Quinnell went on to explain “by making a hated sequel you’re just making the original more popular and more beloved rather than those feelings being put onto the remake.”

Sophomore Luther Kozhevnikov was asked the same question and responded with, “I think that if a remake is done badly then all it does is shine a better light on the original; it makes it easier for us to appreciate and have a better opinion towards the original. But if it’s done well, I think that it just makes the original more accessible to younger people who may have never seen it before.” Kozhevnikov went on to say, “when it comes to sequels or even prequels it just ruins both them and the original 100% because you can now associate something you thought was amazing to something that was about the story that’s a terrible version or add-on.”

Though when Haystack asked Pullen, they explained that this could also be applied to the age of the viewer saying, “I think age plays a huge part as well because, I think there are plenty of people who would agree if we were to remake something like Breakfast at Tiffany’s today, just without the whole racial undertones over everything if we were to remake it today I’m sure that plenty of people young and old who would be like ‘this is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen, there’s no plot, why does this matter’ but I think this could also apply to the age of the person watching the movie.”

Haystack wondered if it is possible for tributes to other classic movies as well as classic literature that are adapted into film versions to become classics themselves?

Kozhevnikov responded, “Yeah, but I think they’ll always be tied in with the source whether it’s a movie or a book, especially if it shares the same name or [is] heavily based on something like it. I think it’s almost impossible to separate or differentiate the two from each other, to make them two  separate entities.”

Haystack also asked the same question to Pullen. Pullen responded, “I do think that if you’re doing a tribute, I think that’s very different, and I think you can make it work because a tribute, you’re paying homage to something, while also still having enough wiggle room to where you can make it different and creative as well as do it properly. With a tribute, you can still make something that is just separate enough from the original to be its own thing while also being able to have similarities.”

Haystack followed up with Pullen’s response by what they thought the difference between a tribute and a remake was. Pullen told Haystack, “So I would say the difference between a remake and homage is in Oman should not be the entire movie it should not be taking off of something and not something that encompasses the entire film. I’d say something like an Amash. Plenty of people. I’m sure you can make the argument that what the 80s had with the 50s was what we are currently having with the 80s in the film. So it follows that it is one of my favorite horror movies. I think the movie itself could have been better acted or better done. But obviously, I’m sure everyone knows that’s all like super psychedelic synthesizers. That’s an homage to 80s cult horror movies. Like anything. That’s an homage. But obviously, it is a very unique movie on its own. And I think especially with that soundtrack through the entire film. It’s a common theme, but you shouldn’t have direct callbacks unless you’re doing a parody, because it can be both a sequel and an homage. Look at Evil Dead, that first Evil Dead movie wasn’t meant to be taken seriously in the first go, they just get worse and crazier and that’s kind of the point of those. Later on, we know that they hired different people. As they went on besides obvious ash.”

Haystack then asked Baxter, Baxter responded “Yeah, they’re taking a classic story like Frankenstein and retelling it in a new creative way. It can be the same story told in a very different way and by doing that it becomes something new entirely.”

Is it impossible for a movie made today to become a classic later? Pullen told Haystack “I think it’s a lot harder, with internet culture it has diversified people so much, I’m sure that the three of us sitting here, we all probably have completely different Spotify wraps for the year or your Youtube recommendations probably look different or Instagram feeds everything. Everything has been so individualized now.”

They went on to explain, “People get bored now so much easier. I mean, it was kind of proven before they kind of cut it off. That vine was shortening attention spans. Ted Talks are longer, but I’m sure they may be fed into some of it. ADHD is super, super high. I think also, people now have the option of ‘hey if you don’t want to see the same, block it, unfollow it.’ We can now pick and choose what media we see and we can consume as much of it as we want. So I think if we were to make something that’s a classic, it would have mass appeal. But mass appeal also makes you lose people because some people would be like it’s too derivative or just based on there’s a bunch of well-known people. It is just that I think there’s no way for us to make a modern classic…there is no way you can appeal to enough people back in the day. You have to understand the time because there are so many of these movies that were made in a time where you want to go back to that, like the social standard is completely different… Where people expect different things.” they continue to explain how they think that there are fewer and fewer people willing to take a chance on making something new. Pullen explained this when they said “I think that it was easier to be groundbreaking in the past. I just think that you need to take big risks to get anywhere.”

Is it easier for a movie to become classic because of the actors that take part in that movie? Kozhevkov told Haystack, “I think not having a ‘Big Shot Famous People’ in anything is beneficial. Especially if a movie is released with lesser-known actors, it can bring attention to people who maybe deserve that kind of recognition. I don’t think someone’s fame is going to affect the quality of something. I think it just affects who watches it.”

But what about genres? Do some genres have an easier time becoming classics than others? Kozhevnikov responded, “I’m not too sure, I think maybe fantasy. With fantasy, it gives you a lot more chances to expand your imagination and immerse yourself into that story as the viewer, it also gives a lot more wiggle room for the writers and filmmakers without having to limit themselves by having to work around the bounds of reality so, I think fantasy and fiction as genres, in general, have easier times becoming classics.”

Though when Pullen was asked, they told Haystack how they think that the horror genre has a very difficult time when it comes to becoming classics. Pullen explained, “Any movie I would say? Horror movies probably have the worst time or anything that is more like a suspense thriller. I think if it’s a more of a social drama; I think you have to mass appeal the material that you’re working with, for it to be classic because it has to be well regarded”

They went on to explain that because horror as a genre has a harder time getting recognized with films outside of Stephen King’s book adaptations. They even told the Haystack how they have recognized this by seeing how award shows such as the Oscars hardly ever have any horror nominations because horror doesn’t hold a mass appeal. Pullen told Haystack how when it comes to the horror genre for viewers it seems to be a 50/50 shot on whether the audience will enjoy it or not. So because of this, it is harder to expand the audience and have that genre recognized as something that can bring out the classic films. They also explained how they have seen that most of the more revolutionary and new ideas are coming out in the horror genre but they get overlooked because they are hardly ever nominated for awards thus limiting the continued expansion of traction and growth around these movies. This is because it is harder to gauge the audience and academies’ opinions and thoughts on these movies. After all, it is so split for everyone, so, instead of critically thinking about it and making a tougher decision it is easier to just deem horror films bad in comparison to any other film genre.

Haystack determined that based on these opinionated people here at Wheat Ridge and their responses to Haystack, it seems that the takeaway is that the more you try to make something classic and timeless the more uninterested and dated you make for your audience who have to either watch or read it. We will always go back to the true classics because they will always be there as they originally were because they weren’t trying to be classics they were just trying to tell stories we’re passionate about, we will go back to them because they will always make us feel the same emotions we did when we first watched them. Classics aren’t classics because they appeal to the time but rather because they can be true and appreciated for generations to come.