Though the definition of what merits a classic film is a subject of some debate, in general a classic film is a film that has lasting worth, timeless quality and holds up to repeated viewings.
According to the National Film Registry, a film needs to be at least twenty five years old in order to qualify as a classic film. With that in mind, it is interesting to think about what recent films audiences may still be enjoying, watching and discussing in twenty five years’ time.
Often what is considered as today’s landmark film will end up being tomorrow’s relic, so deciding what films will become classics will never be an exact science. In the last five years there have been thousands of films released – but will audiences still be watching any of these in 2043?
1. Stranger by the Lake (2013)
This French thriller from director Alain Guiradie is an incredibly well-crafted and thought-provoking film. It is very minimalist and simplistic in narrative and dialogue and yet it is also incredibly complex and multi-layered. It explores human nature, the way we express our desires, and the consequences of those desires.
The film all unfolds in one location – a lake which is a popular local cruising spot and follows what happens after a death occurs at the lake. Stranger by the Lake is a slow and meandering film, but there are also moments of real tension and suspense.
Stranger by the Lake is often explicit and erotic in nature, but in spite of that the audience is somewhat removed from the events. The film feels almost voyeuristic; the audience is observing the events that unfold and sometimes it even feels as though we are spying on the characters. But there is always a slight barrier between us and the characters.
Stranger by the Lake has a Hitchcockian feel about it. It’s full of long takes, hidden subtext, and is a film that will definitely inspire conversation. With its simple yet stunning cinematography and great performances – Stranger by the Lake could certainly be called a classic in years to come.
2. La La Land (2016)
Director Damien Chazelle’s romantic musical film about an aspiring actress and a jazz pianist who fall in love was one of the most talked about films of 2017. Before its release, La La Land was already being touted by critics as an Oscar frontrunner and a must see film. There seems to be a tendency to be slightly suspicious of a film which is a critics’ darling, and this was never more true than with La La Land which has suffered its fair share of praise and criticism.
However, in this case, the critics had got it spot on. La La Land is a wonderful film about having a dream and following it. It is nostalgic, heart-warming, and romantic. And it is an absolute joy to watch. If you watch La La Land with an open heart and an open mind, you will be rewarded.
Chazelle has done a wonderful job in the direction of this film and every aspect is spot on – the lighting, colour and cinematography are perfect. The performances are great – Emma Stone won Best Actress for her role as Mia. And the score and soundtrack are perfect.
La La Land felt like a classic upon its release. It has elements that play like a throwback to films of earlier decades and elements that feel timeless. Along with its impact on audiences, La La Land will be a film that people talk about for many years.
3. 12 Years a Slave (2013)
Director Steve McQueen’s period drama film 12 Years a Slave, which was adapted from Solomon Northup’s memoir, won the Academy Award for Best Picture as well as two other Academy Awards. It was a commercial and critical success and has consistently been named as one of the best films of 2013 and of the last decade.
12 Years a Slave is not an easy watch and it is not really an enjoyable film. But therein lies its power – 12 Years a Slave is a necessary film and an important one. Described by one newspaper as a film “not to be enjoyed but endured,” 12 Years a Slave shows a part of history that although is painful to watch, it should not be ignored or brushed under the carpet.
12 Years a Slave has a raw power to it. At times it is so brutal that it is hard to watch and yet it is compelling in a way that makes you want to watch on. The film is elevated by a wonderful score and a terrific central performance from Chiwetel Ejiofor who is nothing short of extraordinary. 12 Years a Slave is a film that not only deserves to go on to become a classic – but needs to become a classic.
4. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Regardless of your thoughts on Blade Runner 2049 and whether you enjoyed it or not, it will undoubtedly be a film that is looked back upon as a classic. For a start, the original film has oft been called a sci-fi classic and the sequel is likely to be referred to in the same vein. But also because Blade Runner 2049 is technically amazing and will be a film that is watched as an example of this decade’s technology. The sound design, the production design and the visual effects are all top notch. The cinematography is also absolutely fantastic, Roger Deakins did an incredible job and his Academy Award win was well deserved.
Amongst the stunning visuals and technical genius, you can definitely see nods and homages to the original film. It certainly felt to me like there were enough familiarities to merit calling Blade Runner 2049, a faithful sequel.
Blade Runner 2049 also boasts great performances. Ryan Gosling is a good choice as main character Officer K, he’s quietly straight-faced but his character is intriguing and goes through a journey that the audience becomes invested in as well. It is great to see Harrison Ford revive his role as Rick Deckard. And Ana de Armas as Joi and Robin Wright as Lt. Joshi play standout roles.
With all the above qualities, Blade Runner 2049 will be watched avidly by audiences for many years to come. And not only will it be referred to as a sci-fi classic, but Blade Runner 2049 will also be thought of as a classic film in any genre.
5. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
Featuring Oscar Isaac in his breakthrough role, this 1960’s set film follows one week in the life of musician Llewyn Davis. Directed and written by the Coen brothers, Inside Llewyn Davis received critical acclaim upon its release. The film has won a number of awards and has often been cited as one of the best films of recent years. It was voted eleventh best film of the twenty first century so far by The New York Times and by the BBC Culture poll.
Though the narrative and story may be somewhat downhearted and dispiriting, Inside Llewyn Davis is a film that still feels you with joy when you watch it. This is due in large part to the overall look of the film and the unique folk soundtrack. The moody grey cinematography enhances the film as a period piece and intensifies the melancholy feeling. It also makes the film very watchable and gives it a timeless quality – every frame feels like the cover of an album.
Inside Llewyn Davis is not a film that is fast paced and filled with action packed scenes. This is a film that makes you stick with as it unfolds slowly. However with its ruminations on life, artistry and trying to make it – it is a film that has every chance of going on to become a classic.