Ten classic films that everyone who loves cinema should see

PUBLISHED: 16:35 01 April 2020 | UPDATED: 17:43 01 April 2020

Celia Johnson and Kay Walsh in This Happy Breed - Noel Coward got us through the last war

Celia Johnson and Kay Walsh in This Happy Breed - Noel Coward got us through the last war


Vintage movie suggestions to help get you through the lockdown

Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon in Some Like it Hot, probably the wittiest film ever madeTony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon in Some Like it Hot, probably the wittiest film ever made

Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon shine in this witty. screenplay and direction by Billy Wilder.

Two musicians, so down on their luck they pawn their coats, witness the St Valentine’s Day Massacre. To escape the mob, they disguise themselves as women and join a ladies band, playing at a smart resort on the coast.

One of them comes out of drag every night to woo fellow orchestra member Monroe - who doesn’t recognise him as her sisterly friend in the band. The other is chased by a millionaire who doesn’t realise he is a man. The best last line in cinema history. Black and white, 1959.

Kind Hearts and Coronets (U)

Alec Guinness plays eight members of the artistocratic D’Ascoyne family. Each one of Guinness’ very different characters is ingeniously murdered by Dennis Price playing his impoverished cousin.

Louis Mazzini (Price) wants vengeance for his mother who was cast out when she ran away with an opera singer.

When her dying wish to be buried in the family crypt is refused, Louis starts hatching plots. Directed by Robert Hamer at Ealing Studios in black and white in 1949. .

This Happy Breed (U)

Directed by David Lean and written by Noel Coward, Celia Johnson is at her absolute best as a working class housewife and mother between the wars.

The most successful film of 1944 and a tribute to Britain at its most tested. Set in London, Frank Gibbons (Robert Newton) returns home after the First World War and moves into a terrace house with his family: wife, mother-in-law, sister-in-law and three grown-up children. We see family life, eccentricities and arguments, the General Strike and runaway love.

Celia Johnson has a moment of supressed emotion unsuppassed in cinema as her character holds herself together after bad news. Great performances too from John Mills and Stanley Holloway. An enduring masterpiece. Techicolour.

Brief Encounter (PG)

Another David Lean and Noel Coward combination which began as Coward’s play, Still Life.

Intense and unforgettable, this tale of forbidden love starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard has lines so memorable some fans walk round the kitchen 75 years later reciting them. Plenty of sub-plot humour thanks to Joyce Carey as the railway tea lady and the station master, Stanley Holloway who woos her. Music by Rachmaninov, Black and white. 1945.

In Which We Serve (U)

Starring Noel Coward, Celia Johnson, John Mills and Bernard Miles. Set during the Second World War.

Directed by David Lean, it was made in 1942 and is a hymn to the Royal Navy, sailors and their wives. Coward’s screenplay was inspired by the experiences of Captain Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was in command of the destroyer HMS Kelly when it was sunk during the Battle of Crete. Coward composed the film’s music as well as starring as the ship’s captain. This was a young Richard Attenborough’s first screen role.

Rebecca (U)

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Alfred Hitchcock’s first American project, based on the 1938 novel by Daphne du Maurier.

The film stars Laurence Olivier as the brooding widower Maxim de Winter.

A fine example of 1940s manhood, his proposal to his second wife is: “I’m asking you to marry me, you little fool”. The little fool is played by Joan Fontaine.

This film has surely the best supporting role ever - the grim housekeeper, Mrs Danvers, played by Judith Anderson. She is obsessed with Maxim’s first wife, and the second Mrs de Winter is terrified of her. A gothic tale in black-and-white, it won the Oscar for Best Picture and Best Cinematography of 1940. It got 11 nominations.

The Kid (U)

Charlie Chaplin’s first full-length film, the second highest grossing film of 1921.

Black and white and silent, it was written by, produced by, directed by, and stars Chaplin, it features Jackie Coogan as his foundling baby, adopted son and sidekick. One of the greatest films of the silent era.

Modern Times (U)

With Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard and Henry Bergman, one of Chaplin’s most popular films.

As The Tramp, he struggles to live in modern (1936) industrialised society. Clever filming where he gets stuck in an ever faster assembly line with a manically malfunctioning machine.

The film is a comment on the desperate employment and financial conditions many people faced during the Great Depression. Chaplin wrote the music himself and the romance track Smile (Smile when your heart is breaking...) became a standard sung by Nat King Cole.

Woman in a Dressing Gown (PG)

A sweet and memoriable, British film about a marriage. Anthony Quayle is the husband who is psyching himself up to tell his wife he is leaving her for his glamorous secretary, played by Sylvia Syms.

Yvonne Mitchell’s performance as the wife whose home is in permanent disarray, won Best Actress award at the seventh Berlin Film Festival.

The film won four awards there including Best Foreign Film. It also won Golden Globe in 1958 .

The screenplay was by Ted Willis. Directed by J Lee Thompson. Black and white, 1957.

Gone With the Wind (PG)

Filmed in technicolor and set in the American Civil War when Scarlett O’Hara, played by Vivien Leigh, fights to keep her home Tara, against, war, poverty, hunger and destruction.

Clark Gable plays Rhett Butler who loves her through most of the movie until driven to the point where he says: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Also starring Olivia de Havilland, Lesley Howard and Hattie McDaniel.

With a haunting musial theme by Max Steiner, the film won Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Editing, and received two honorary awards for its use of equipment and colour. Directed by David Lean in 1962.

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