It’s that time of year again, ladies! Pencils, papers, aaaaand procrastination. In honor of the school year starting and my impending senioritis, I wanted to put together a list of my favorite Old Hollywood movies to watch during cozy afternoons with the roomies (when I likely should either be in the library or in class). Feel free to accessorize with a nice cat eye and fake lashes or some hot chocolate, but either way, these are some of the most swoon-worthy, thrilling, and terrifying movies that I watch when I get tired of Modern Family reruns or The Veronica Mars Movie.
When I get tired of watching “___ at 17” on Lifetime Movie Network (and yes, I inherited that addiction from my mother), I know I can turn to this gem of a thriller. An insurance claims investigator is seduced by an oppressed housewife into murdering her husband on a train and getting, you guessed it, double indemnity insurance money. And who better to help her than someone who knows how insurance investigations go?
Double Indemnity (1994)
It’s sharp, it’s a little sexy (well, 1940s sexy), but it’s just as exciting as any 2014 thriller you’ll see. Not to mention, this film is widely acknowledged as a hallmark of the Film Noir genre, so after watching it, you’ll know enough tropes and snappy dialogues to add a casual, “Nice one, Neff” to your repertoire of intellectual witticisms, and impress that cutie in your Arts and Letters-fulfilling film class.
Roman Holiday (1953)
A runaway princess ends up in the care of an ambitious but actually kind and romantic reporter in Rome? Sign me up! This seemingly simple storyline gives way to a nuanced performance as the whimsical, escapist Princess Anya (winning Audrey Hepburn an Oscar) and Gregory Peck’s humble and romantic portrayal as Joe, the reporter that changes his ways once he falls in love, and a whole lot of shenanigans: riding on a moped through Rome, a spontaneous haircut, a night dancing under the stars, and, finally, a bittersweet ending that somehow grounds this crazy plot in reality, giving you just enough laugh-tears to merit re-applying your makeup before the party tonight. In the best way.
Pride and Prejudice (1940)
Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson are by far my favorite Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. Maybe not because they’re the most accurate depictions, but because they naturally lend a subtle humor to Aldous Huxley’s (yes, that Aldous Huxley) light-hearted, satirical screenplay. Gone is the drama of Keira Knightley being enveloped in a tornado on a cliff. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but sometimes you want some good old-fashioned, black-and-white sass, and that’s exactly what you’ll get here. Greer Garson’s adorable laugh as she completely disarms the suave affectations of Olivier’s Darcy will never cease to divert you (how Jane Austen of me, I know!). Not to mention his first proposal! Swoon!
Rear Window (1954)
You’ve probably seen Psycho (creepy motel, mommy issues- sound familiar?) by now, but Rear Window is an equally genius piece in the Hitchcock canon. The premise is enough to leave you feeling completely helpless: Jimmy Stewart’s L.B. Jeffries is stuck in a full-leg cast, left with nothing to do but stare out his window at all of his neighbors. The cast goes from nuisance to life-threatening when he thinks he’s witnessed a murder in a nearby apartment. Throw in Grace Kelly and some major Hitchcock signatures: the directly vertical camera angles, a dog with a broken neck, and the eerie image of a completely dark room with just the end of a cigarette butt to light it, and you have a nail-biting afternoon feature that leaves you a little unsettled and a lot entertained.
How to Steal a Million (1966)
Peter O’Toole. That’s all. No, scratch that. Peter O’Toole in a tux. Blue-eyed, tall, slim, quite good-looking (apt description, Audrey!) Peter O’Toole in a tux. This movie is literally the best cure for anything: end-of-summer blues, boredom, anxiety, loneliness, or just something to watch when you’re really, really happy. Basically, if I could play this movie on a loop forever, I would.
First of all, this movie is aesthetically perfect: Ms. Hepburn’s gorgeous Givenchy wardrobe, and dreamy Peter O’Toole with his soft voice, dripping in charm, falling in love with her (it doesn’t hurt that his wardrobe is quite well-cut, too). But there’s even more substance than that: it’s a rare combination of romance and comedy that is equal parts adorable and slap-stick, which remains insanely clever! It’s the perfect heist*– a little dangerous, a little funny, and overall a cotton-candy ball of fun! (*Description your guy friends/boyfriend: it’s a gritty ‘60s crime-caper-heist movie with a gorgeous female lead.)
Have you seen any of these? Planning to? Love ‘em? Hate ‘em? Let me know in the comments!