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Movies That Only Get Better With Age

Filmmaking changes with the times. It's an unavoidable fact, and it means that no matter how much you love movies, some films are just going to feel dated to you. It might be the costumes, or the dialogue, or the cinematography style, but sometimes you can't shake the certainty that you're watching something from a very particular time and place. 

On the other hand, there are also films that somehow transcend the passage of time, and maybe even get better as they age. Their themes resonate more deeply, their visuals retain their power, their performances loom larger in our imaginations, and their messages take on a deeper, richer meaning. The list of these films is, thankfully, rather long, but this time we'll just settle for a handful. We've rounded up ten films that have aged particularly well since their release — and although some of them date back more than 60 years, they're all more entertaining than ever.

Halloween (1978)

Though the costumes, cars, and technology might seem a little dated to modern audiences, Halloween feels in many ways like it hasn't aged a day since its release 40 years ago. Writer-director John Carpenter's original horror masterpiece remains one of the greatest slasher movies ever made, and it's still capable of scaring modern audiences even as horror films have upped their intensity and gore in the ensuing decades. 

How does it continue to hold up after so long? One of the secrets is its simplicity. It's structured almost like a fairy tale. Once there was a boy named Michael who did a bad thing — now he's coming home to do worse. That alone is enough to send shivers up your spine on a chilly Halloween night. Then there's Carpenter's beautiful, atmospheric staging. Halloween is a film that relies less on jump scares and clever cinematic trickery and more on building a sense of impending dread. A simple shot of Michael Myers standing in silhouette is enough to make you almost jump out of your seat. And finally, the film never really offers a way out in terms of explaining away what Michael is or does, other than the declaration that he's "purely and simply evil." There's no reasoning with him, no looking up his weaknesses on the internet, and no setting a clever trap to stop him. Forty years later, the monster known in the film's credits as "The Shape" will still simply stalk you until you're gone.

Alien (1979)

Speaking of horror movies that have barely aged since their release, here's Ridley Scott's creature classic. Though it deals with the title monster — a rapidly growing otherworldly hunter with two sets of teeth and acid for blood — the film famously works less like a predator versus prey film and more like a haunted house movie in space for much of its runtime, as each member of the Nostromo crew goes off to explore some dark, mist-filled corner of the ship only to meet an untimely and mysterious end. Again, there's a simple structure at work here that creates a sense of timelessness, and while certain little details like the ship's computer screens may look a little dated to modern eyes, the Nostromo itself still looks like a behemoth from the future, and the creature effects never once waver. The design of the legendary xenomorph remains iconic, and the passage of time has proven that by giving us a constant stream of sequels that have only once lived up to the promise of the original classic. Alien still works, and we've got years of people trying and failing to replicate its brilliance to show us just how much.

The Breakfast Club (1985)

You would have to include a scene in which the principal confiscates everyone's phones, and you'd probably want to make the cast a little more diverse, but otherwise, you could make The Breakfast Club right now — with almost the exact same script — and it would still work. 

The teen comedies of writer-director John Hughes have long been praised for their universal themes that get to the core of the high school experience for many viewers, but to some modern eyes they can feel visually dated and in a few cases thematically offensive. The Breakfast Club solves some of these roadblocks with pure simplicity. The film takes place in a single building, most of it in a single room, and has just seven major characters. You could put a few tables, chairs and bookshelves in a small high school theater and do almost the whole thing as a stage play. With this film, Hughes latched on to a very primal concept: Put five teenagers with very different outlooks in a room, lock them in, and watch them come to grips with each other over the course of a day. Anyone who's ever made an unexpected friend in a high school cafeteria can relate to that. In the decades since Hughes made his teen comedy classics, the genre has been on a constant quest to replicate his magic. The Breakfast Club is still better than almost every entry in the genre that's followed it, which only makes its prestige grow year after year.

The Princess Bride (1987)

One of the unavoidable pitfalls of live-action family movies is that sometimes, younger viewers will complain that they don't want to watch because the film just "looks old." It's no one's fault, but it happens. As time passes, film technology advances, fashion trends change, and even the way dialogue is written and delivered evolves. For certain pairs of eyes, some films just start to lose their appeal. 

The Princess Bride is not one of those films. With the possible exception of the framing sequence in which the grandfather (Peter Falk) reads to his sick grandson (Fred Savage), the film really barely looks like it's aged at all. In his quest to take classic fairy tale tropes and twist them to fit his needs, writer William Goldman created a story that continues to work in part because we all recognize the idea of the princess, the evil prince, and the brave peasant warrior who becomes a legendary hero. The idea that the story is being told to a child (Savage) who initially doesn't really want to hear it somehow only enhances the appeal. It almost dares even the most skeptical viewer to keep watching and have their minds change. It was clever then, and it might be even more clever now.

Do The Right Thing (1989)

Update the costumes, some of the slang, and maybe a few other small details, and Spike Lee could make Do the Right Thing today with just as much — if not more — relevance and simmering energy as he did nearly 30 years ago. In fact, he wouldn't have to update anything. You could set this story in 1989 all over again and it would still carry the same weight in a 2018 world. This story of a Brooklyn neighborhood boiling over with racial tension on the hottest day of summer still feels like a national conversation played out in microcosm, and the characters all still feel like people you could run into today. It's a masterclass in establishing a sense of place, building tension to a breaking point while still peppering in moments of comedy and warmth. In a country still facing racial tension, still raw from various recent protests, deaths and struggles, Do the Right Thing has only strengthened its position as a ferocious piece of cinema art. Show this film to any audience right now and it'll start the same debates and ignite the same controversy it did upon its release.

Goodfellas (1990)

A well-made period drama gets a leg up on other films in terms of retaining its timelessness, because if you can accurately replicate the sense of characters living in the 1950s, or the 1850s, or even the 1550s, you never have to worry about anything onscreen looking dated. Goodfellas succeeds in that regard, charting decades in the life of American gangster Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) and his compatriots through great costumes, cool cars, and an incredible soundtrack featuring everyone from Donovan to The Rolling Stones. 

Beyond the film's design, though, is a sense of daring that makes it stand out even among the other brilliant entries in director Martin Scorsese's canon. Scorsese has always been known as a bold director for his energy, his innovative shots, his use of color and his work with actors, but Goodfellas is a film on another level. It's Scorsese taking everything he's learned in three decades of filmmaking and throwing all of that and more at the screen. For a perfect example, watch the "last day as a wiseguy" sequence near the end of the film. It documents Henry's final day of freedom with a mix of astonishing cinematography, fearless editing, and classic music cues, and it still stands up against any film you saw competing at the Oscars in this or any year.

Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

The late, great Nora Ephron made two romantic films touching on the idea of falling in love over a distance, and while You've Got Mail certainly retains much of its charm, Sleepless in Seattle is arguably the story time has been kinder to. In this story about a grieving widower (Tom Hanks) and the woman (Meg Ryan) who's drawn to him across a continent, radio call-in shows and letters are used to connect two people. Now we use social media, instant messaging, video chatting and dating websites, but the principles remain the same. In a world where it's often easy to feel lonely even as you're surrounded by people, we long for intimate connection. Sometimes that connection is lost with the people standing right next to us, so we seek it elsewhere, and if we're lucky it can magically happen across states, countries, and even oceans. Sleepless captured that magic 25 years ago, and it's a magic that's been enhanced by a world in which long distance connections are easier and more meaningful than ever.

Schindler's List (1993)

Steven Spielberg has never been shy about using the latest filmmaking technology to achieve his needs, whether that means building a digital giant for The BFG or creating entire environments for Ready Player One. It's noteworthy, then, that the film which might go down in history as Spielberg's most powerful and most important is the one in which he let go of all the toys and just shot from the heart. 

For Schindler's List, a deeply personal story reaching down to his Jewish roots, Spielberg took a stripped-down docudrama approach, using mostly handheld and stationary cameras and taking his cast and crew to actual Holocaust death camps in Poland to make the film. He pared things down so far that, with one unforgettable exception, he even let go of color for the film, shooting instead in the same black and white that we see in archival footage from World War II. It's a film unmistakably set in the 1940s, but it doesn't feel like a film shot in 1993, or 1973, or 2003. It always feels like it's something unfolding before you now, like a time capsule that explodes in your face with white-hot intensity. It's a film that will never lose its power; if anything, recent reminders that anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial still exists have only added to its impact.

Toy Story (1995)

Just as Walt Disney's attempts to make a feature-length animated film in 1930s were met with skepticism and mockery, so too were Pixar Animation's first efforts at a feature-length film using computer animation. After years of making commercials and short films, Pixar finally rolled the dice on long-form storytelling, and the result is a landmark film. 

Toy Story's timeless magic exists thanks, in part, to its reliance on traditionally inanimate objects as characters. The lives of human characters evolve with technology, but toys are still toys, and while a modern remake of the film might involve a few more tablets and video games for a boy like Andy, action figures still haven't gone out of style. The other key is in the sophistication of the animation itself. If you look at a film featuring CGI creations from the early '90s and compare it with a film featuring CGI creations from the early '00s, you can generally see a difference in the level of detail. Pixar's animation style has certainly also progressed with technology, but Toy Story doesn't look like a crude rendering of computer-generated characters to modern audiences. It just looks like Pixar. Somehow, on their first try, the studio managed to deliver an unprecedented film that's never lost its appeal, and the fact that it never seems to age only makes it more appealing now, especially if you grew up watching it.

Rear Window (1954)

Remaking a film already delivered to us with almost perfect execution by the great Alfred Hitchcock feels like a fool's errand that should rarely, if ever, be attempted. If you had to pick one film in his legendary career to adapt for modern audiences, though, Rear Window feels like one of the safest bets. (Just make sure you call it a remake instead of trying to pass it off as an original story, as the makers of Disturbia discovered in 2008).

The story of a photographer (Jimmy Stewart) cooped up with a leg injury who begins observing his neighbors from his apartment and comes to suspect one of his them has murdered his own wife, it's a classic study in curiosity, voyeurism, and how much we really ever know the people living around us. It can even be viewed as a kind of metaphor for the moviegoing experience, particularly the scene when Stewart's character is pleading aloud that a woman he's watching (in this case his girlfriend, Grace Kelly) will escape danger, though she can't hear him. In a world where cameras are in everyone's pocket and we're constantly observing each other through Facebook, Twitter, and other digital mediums, Rear Window and its story of sleuthing from the comfort of your own home seems more relevant than ever.