Top 5: Classic Movies For Summer Vacation

June 3, 2022

This summer In All Things is light-heartedly including recommendations, tips, and joys that we would love to share with you, readers, in the format of Top 5 Fridays, switching up our themes each week. Share a comment if there is a “Top 5 Friday” topic you’d like us to explore.

I once had an old philosopher tell me that if they stopped making movies today, we’d have enough great movies to watch for a lifetime.

Even though I hope they will keep making movies forever, he’s right. You could’ve said that in 1960, for the past contains an unfathomable treasure-trove.

All of the movies in this list were released before that year, and they are all rewatchable, entertaining, and inspiring.

  • Notorious (1946)

Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece is about two people who may or may not be in love, along with global spy networks and contemporary, post-WW2 fears of lingering Nazism. Cary Grant plays an American government agent who tries to get a woman, played by Ingrid Bergman, to spy on her father. She’s morally compromised in every way, yet maybe she’s falling for Grant’s character? Few directors besides Hitchcock could pull off a suspenseful movie with no action scene, including one of the most famous shots in film history, as well as one of the most notorious endings.

  • On the Waterfront (1954)

Everybody probably knows the classic movie line, “I coulda been a contender!”, which comes from this film. It is a social drama by the great director Elia Kazan, and features Marlon Brando in one of his early powerhouse roles. The film weaves together labor-union concerns, Catholic social-justice themes, and Christian iconography. Brando plays a not-so-bright longshoreman who must decide to keep a secret about a murder, or risk himself by telling the truth about what he saw. In this case, the movie with a classic line is itself a classic still worth watching.

  • To Be or Not To Be (1942)

This mid-war screwball comedy is about an acting company staging “Hamlet” while being embroiled in an espionage saga. Directed by Hollywood great Ernst Lubistch, the second half of the film is both insane and potent, as one of the actors repeatedly pretends to be Hitler in front of Nazi officers. (In general, the great screwball comedies are among the great films. For more in this vein, check out directors Howard Hawks and Preston Struges as well.)

  • I Know Where I’m Going! (1945)

Another WW2-era film, this one’s by the great British team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. A young Englishwoman travels north to an island in the Hebrides to marry a chemical-plant tycoon. She meets, however, a handsome native to the island, a WW2 officer on leave. This movie is thoroughly Scottish, pro-UK, very smartly written, and romantic through and through. An ideal date-night movie, if you and yours both tolerate older movies well.

  • Ikiru (1952)

The premise of this movie seems mundane: a small-time government bureaucrat in Japan has to decide whether he’ll give over the funds to open a children’s park in a city. Yet this film is known as being among the most engaging works of philosophical introspection, on the nature of life and death, in the 20th century. That’s because the bureaucrat is diagnosed with a terminal illness, about which he decides to tell no one. The movie has two unique halves, and it’s among the strongest movies on the question of why we should live and how we should live.

Dig Deeper:

If you’d like to check out more movie reviews, follow Josh Matthew’s work here or on his youtube channel.

About the Author
  • Josh Matthews has taught a variety of courses at Dordt, including early American literature, science fiction, and introduction to film as art. He specializes in early and nineteenth-century American literature, and he has published on the reception of Dante and the Divine Comedy in nineteenth-century America. His American Literature I class features research into the magazines and newspapers of nineteenth-century print culture, using the American Antiquarian Society's periodical database; this unique resource allows students to conduct original research on the intersections between American history, literature, and culture. His interests include Dante, Walt Whitman, and science-fiction writers Gene Wolfe and Philip K. Dick. Matthews has supervised Kuyper Scholars contracts on Mark Twain and David Fincher. He edits the book reviews for Pro Rege, Dordt University's journal of reformed studies, and he has also helped edit the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review and the Walt Whitman Archive.

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