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Raiding the VHS Rack: A Personal List of Must-Watch Movies

What better way to spend the summer than posted up in a dark room with a classic movie? Seems counteractive to the ultimate summer goal of getting tan. On the contrary, building up one’s movie knowledge is both fun and useful! You may not be as tan as your other friends, but next time someone mentions Citizen Kane at a cocktail party, you’ll know your stuff––and trust me: that movie is a cocktail party conversation staple.

I, for one, am a huge movie enthusiast, so I made a list of them. In an effort to mix it up a bit, most of these movies are not considered the quintessential movie of their corresponding categories. For instance, Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is the pick for the greatest Sci-Fi film instead of the more popular Star Wars. On the other hand, Animal House is less likely to raise a brow as the greatest college movie. And now, for the feature presentation: a list of classic movies that you need to see before your summer is through.


The Graduate (1967): Romance film

Featuring a main cast of two beautiful ladies and a young, tanned Dustin Hoffman, The Graduate has something for everybody. Hoffman’s character, Benjamin Braddock, a distraught, newly graduated college student, gets tricked into a sexual relationship with his neighbor, Mrs. Robinson. Mrs. Robinson is not your average house wife: she’s sexy, devious and slightly insane. Caught up in a simultaneous relationship with Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, Benjamin finds himself between a rock and a hard place as he fights for the love and trust of the daughter while dodging Mrs. Robinson and her fuming husband. If you want to see why this belongs in the romance film genre, wait until you see the look in the eyes of Benjamin in the last scene. That’s the realistic portrayal of relationships at its best. Additionally, there’s a killer Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack, some wonderful 1960’s costuming and artful cinematography. This film is perfect for a relaxing Sunday afternoon.


2001: A Space Odyssey (1968): Sci-Fi film

This film is not perfect for a relaxing sunday afternoon. Block yourself out a solid three hours to just sit down and take in Stanley Kubrick’s Sci-Fi masterpiece. You need to be in a certain frame of mind for this movie: one wherein watching monkeys walk around, eat some stuff and play with bones for twenty minutes without any talking will be sufficient enough stimulation to not make you fall asleep or fast forward. It’s all worth it in the end, and that's a promise. 2001: A Space Odyssey blew every movie-goers mind when it first came out, and it’s still doing so today. I would give you a synopsis of the plot, but even though I’ve written a report on it before, I’m still not quite sure what happens. See for yourself: it’s not just another humans vs. machines movie.

And yes, this movie is where that music comes from.


Caddyshack (1980): Comedy film

Oh boy, how to properly praise this cult classic... If slap-stick comedies could win Oscars, Caddyshack would take home the prize. The late Harold Ramis, also the writer of Ghostbusters, directed Caddyshack and filled the roles with the biggest comedy names of the day: Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray and Ted Knight. The movie is set at a country club and based around a group of rambunctious caddies and the stuffy country club members. The movie’s climax involves a promising caddy duking it out on the green with Ted Knight’s character, the club’s co-founder, Judge Smails. Here’s one of my favorite scenes, featuring Bill Murray doing one of his notorious improvisations:

And here’s Chevy Chase’s famous putting scene for good measure:


The Big Chill (1983): Nostalgia film

The Big Chill holds a particularly special place in my heart. Unknown to most of our generation, this movie was a huge success with our parents. Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum and several other well-known actors star as college buddies reunited after the suicide of a member of their disconnected friend group. They spend a weekend together after the funeral to try to make sense of what has happened, all the while reminiscing on their days at the University of Michigan; telling stories and laughing together more than a decade after the fact. Most importantly, the group realizes that just because they’re starting families and careers doesn’t mean they can’t still get high. Like The Graduate, this movie has a groovy soundtrack that aids its nostalgic look back toward carefree times.


Animal House (1978): College film

If you haven’t seen Animal House, do you even go to college? John Belushi nails the role of Bluto, the crazy fraternity brother, in this wild take on Greek life. It’s not too pertinent to our college experiences at BC, but I’ve seen mods that are grungier than Delta Tau Chi.


Dazed and Confused (1993): High School film

“Alright, alright, alright.” Matthew McConaughey’s character, David Wooderson, isn’t the only one with quotable lines in this film about the 1970’s high school experience. The last night of the ’76 school year turns out to be much crazier than any of the characters had hoped for. Dazed and Confused, like the title suggests, has a great soundtrack and a lot of drugs involved. Pop this movie in whenever, and you’re headed for a wild ride.


Amadeus (1984): Period film

Amadeus is set in Vienna, Austria during the latter half of the 18th century and depicts the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart through the recollection of an elderly Antonio Salieri, a fellow composer and principal antagonist of Mozart. The film focuses on Mozart’s immense talent, hit operas and tumultuous decline. Starring the same actor who played Pinto in Animal House, Amadeus is a period film unlike any other. First off, it’s an 80’s film about 18th century Vienna. If you are going into this movie thinking it’s a biopic of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s life, you are largely mistaken. While the film covers his real-life feud with Salieri and many of his operas, fact and fiction blend together in a whirl-wind of color, music and flamboyant costumes. Amadeus was just strange enough to win the Oscar for Best Picture.


The Searchers (1956): Western film

John Wayne is the most American thing to ever happen. In one of his greatest films, The Searchers, he seeks revenge as the rogue Civil War veteran, Ethan Edwards, for the kidnapping of his niece by Native Americans. In 1956, when it appeared in theaters, this was a wildly patriotic movie coming out during the Cold War that reinforced the fighting spirit of Americans against their enemies. The film does raise some concerns of racism as Native Americans were not only depicted as rivals, but were furthermore played by white men in face paint. Nonetheless, this is what many consider to be a great American classic film, and it is an impressive one.


Citizen Kane (1941): Black and White film

Going into this list, I was pretty gung-ho about leaving out the most cliché of the bunch. Citizen Kane slipped by because it really is a terrific film. Orson Welles, both director and starring actor, was just starting his career when he made this movie. The premise of the plot is that the mysterious newspaper tycoon, Charles Foster Kane, has just died and his last words were said to be “rosebud.” The film follows reporters interviewing Kane’s friends and business partners about his life as they try to figure out the meaning of this word. Citizen Kane is cinematography at its finest; the film broke ground in the movie industry and has gotten stellar reviews from critics ever since.


Yellow Submarine (1968): Animated film

Yellow Submarine is described by Wikipedia as a “1968 British animatedmusicalfantasy, comedy film based on the music of The Beatles.” In other words, it’s an hour and a half long acid trip targeted towards children. I saw this movie when I was a little kid and it scared me to death. I’m a huge Beatles fan and that seems completely incongruent with my first Beatles experience. Nevertheless, this is a brilliant movie with the best soundtrack of any Beatles film. Watch Yellow Submarine as an adult and you’ll gain some real wisdom. The whole thing is a “magical mystery tour” indeed.

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Managing editor. Lover of history and all things 1960s. Lives by the lessons of The Rocky Horror Picture Show: "Don't dream it, be it."