37 of the Best Classic Films Ever Made, in Honor of the 80th Anniversary of Gone With the Wind

Celebrate one of the greatest films of all time by watching a slew of them.

Courtesy Loews Cineplex Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, and Warner Bros.

On December 15, 1939, David O. Selznick's Gone With the Wind premiered starring Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara and Clark Gable as Rhett Butler. Based on a best-selling book, the film went on to become and one of the best classic movies revered by millions. It's an epic love story that transcends generations and shaped our collective understanding, for better or worse, of the antebellum south.

In honor of the movie's 80th anniversary in 2019, we've rounded up some other timeless flicks for you to sink your teeth into. Whether you fancy an early romcom (How to Steal a Million), a gripping drama about an organized crime syndicate (The Godfather), or a psychological thriller that set new standards for horror (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane), there's no better time to check out some of cinema's best. Each one of these films delivers a heady dose of nostalgia, and will help you pick up on the quotes or references that have infiltrated the American consciousness.

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GONE WITH THE WIND, Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, 1939.
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Gone With The Wind (1939)

The original "sweeping epic," this film stars Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara, the plucky Southern belle who romances Clark Gable's Rhett Butler against the backdrop of the Civil War. It’s one of the most indelible films ever made, and though it has been criticized for its racial politics, supporting actress Hattie McDaniel was the first African-American actor to win an Academy Award. (It also won best picture in what might arguably be the most crowded field in the history of the Oscars, beating The Wizard of Oz, Wuthering Heights, Stagecoach, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, among others.)

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Casablanca (1942)

Casablanca is up there with the Godfather for most quoted screenplay of all time. This WWII classic, directed by Michael Curtiz, pairs Scandinavian beauty Ingrid Bergman with tough guy Humphrey Bogart for a story of lovers ripped apart by war and reunited in a far flung Moroccan piano bar — of all the gin joints in the world.

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Breakfast At Tiffany's (1961)

A favorite of dorm-room posters and Halloween costumes, Blake Edwards’s comedy about girl-about-town Holly Golightly helped turn Audrey Hepburn into a fashion icon, thanks to her long black gown, elegant up-do, and signature black sunglasses. (She nails a trench coat too.) Adapted from a Truman Capote novel, it’s one of the most stylish films of the 20th century.

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LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, 1962,
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Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

David Lean’s 70mm desert epic stars Peter O’Toole in the sweeping film about T.E. Lawrence, the British archaeologist, military officer, and World War I liaison to the Ottoman Empire. It was shot in Morocco, Spain, Jordan, and England — try to catch those stunning locations and O’Toole’s baby blues on the big screen if you can.

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WEST SIDE STORY, Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, 1961
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West Side Story (1961)

This musical about New York City gangs was directed by choreographer Jerome Robbins and Sound of Music director Robert Wise. The Sharks and the Jets dance their battles on the streets in this modernized take on Romeo and Juliet. The songs by Leonard Bernstein, with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, are some of the best of the era.

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CITIZEN KANE, from left: Dorothy Comingore, Orson Welles, 1941
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Citizen Kane (1941)

It's not easy living up to the title of "best film ever made," but Orson Welles’s depiction of a mad publishing billionaire really did remake an industry. Welles pioneered filmmaking techniques of deep focus and chiaroscuro lighting. He was inspired by the life story of publishing scion William Randolph Hearst, but you’ll have to watch it to see what exactly “Rosebud” means.

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PSYCHO, Janet Leigh, 1960
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Pyscho (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock’s experiment with exploitation cinema proved the Master of Suspense to be the Master of Marketing, and became his most notorious film in a career of classics. It also changed showers forever. Anthony Perkins’s Norman Bates is still one of the most memorable screen weirdos of all-time, and Bernard Herrmann’s screeching strings left a lasting influence on movie scores.

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THE WIZARD OF OZ, from left: Bert Lahr, Ray Bolger, Judy Garland, Jack Haley, 1939
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Wizard of Oz (1939)

There’s no place like home, and no classic movie as beloved as Dorothy’s adventures in Oz. The film left its imprint on the kinds of narratives and character types — wicked and good witches, scarecrows, tinmen, and cowardly lions, oh my — we see on film. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” sung beautifully by Judy Garlard, is the cherry on top.

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THE WOMEN, from left: Phyllis Povah, Paulette Goffard, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Mary Boland
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The Women (1939)

For 1939, George Cukor’s The Women — about divorce, fashion and complicated female intimacies — was awfully forward thinking. Plus, no men have speaking roles in it! Starring Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, and Rosalind Russell, The Women should be your next girls’ night movie selection (but feel free to skip the 2008 remake).

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LAURA, Dana Andrews, Gene Tierney, 1944. TM and Copyright © 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights r
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Laura (1944)

Otto Preminger’s Laura is a blend of film noir and family melodrama that stars the stunning Gene Tierney as the titular Laura, a murder victim with whom the detective falls in love while investigating her death. This twisty tale features an array of wonderful character actors in supporting roles, including Clifton Webb and future horror impresario Vincent Price.

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THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, from left: Virginia Mayo, Dana Andrews, 1946
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

William Wyler’s World War II film has become the gold standard for films about soldiers who return home from the front and find reintegrating into life isn’t all that easy. The film even co-stars real war vet Harold Russell, who lost his hands, and won an Honorary Oscar for his performance.

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Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

Hollywood icon James Dean only starred in three films during his short life. Rebel Without A Cause, directed by Nicholas Ray, is the most memorable, and one of the earliest cinematic depictions of teen angst. Dean’s co-stars in the film, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo, also met tragic early ends, which gives the film a mythical status.

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THE GODFATHER, Salvatore Corsitto, James Caan, Marlon Brando, 1972.
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The Godfather (1972)

The first film of Francis Ford Coppola’s epic Mafia trilogy, adapted from Mario Puzo’s book, launched Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro to superstardom, and brought us a whole new Marlon Brando as Don Corleone. The film that inspired a thousand marble-mouthed Brando impressions, it’s the mob movie you can’t refuse…

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SOME LIKE IT HOT, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, 1959
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Some Like It Hot (1959)

Marilyn Monroe had many memorable roles, but Billy Wilder’s cross-dressing comedy demonstrated her sharp comedic chops the best. Co-starring Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, who don drag in order to hide from mob assassins, Some Like It Hot is one of the funniest movies of the 20th century.

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IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, 1934
It Happened One Night (1934)

This fast-talking rom-com directed by Frank Capra invented the genre known as the “screwball comedy” way back when movies with sound were still called “talkies.” In one of the first road movies ever, Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert embodied a sexy, mature, smart relationship that was surprisingly forward-thinking for its time.

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NORTH BY NORTHWEST, Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, 1959
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North By Northwest (1959)

Tom Cruise couldn’t do what he does if Cary Grant and his memorable gray suit didn’t outrun planes, trains, and automobiles in this mistaken-identity mystery. Hitchcock’s suspense thriller serves as the blueprint for the action-hero films we see today — and has more style, wit, and strangeness than most modern blockbusters.

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STAGECOACH, from left, Claire Trevor, John Wayne, 1939
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Stagecoach (1939)

John Ford’s definitive Western follows a group of strangers traveling by coach through dangerous Apache territory and is one of the most influential films ever made. Starring John Wayne as the Ringo Kid in a breakthrough performance that made him a star, this was the first film Ford shot in Monument Valley.

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Rights ManagedEverett
Singin' In The Rain (1952)

This MGM musical starring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds was emblematic of the grand productions of the 1950s, while also poking fun at the transition from silent to sound film. Thank goodness for that glorious sound, though, without which we wouldn’t have such incredible song and dance numbers as “Singin’ in the Rain,” and “Good Mornin.’”

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Double Indemnity (1944)

Barbara Stanwyck sizzles as femme fatale Phyllis in this film, written and directed by Billy Wilder and based on a Raymond Chandler novel. Fred MacMurray co-stars as the square insurance man drawn into her plot — the poor simp never stood a chance against her charms. Stylish and sexy, Double Indemnity is the perfect entry point for classic film noir.

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La Dolce Vita (1960)

Federico Fellini’s epic stars Marcello Mastroianni at his sexiest as Marcello Rubini, a journalist who gets into all kinds of misadventures with beautiful movie stars and other assorted glitterati of Rome over the course of a week. Who could forget the sight of Scandinavian goddess Anita Ekberg swanning in the Trevi Fountain in haute couture?

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An American In Paris (1951)

Vincente Minelli’s musical starring Gene Kelly as an American painter living abroad was the film debut of French ballerina Leslie Caron (who later became Gigi). With music by George and Ira Gershwin, Minelli paints a delightfully colorful and surreal scene, including a memorable “dream ballet” climax that caps off this story of a love triangle in the City of Light.

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MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, Judy Garland, 1944
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Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)

The nostalgic musical Meet Me in St. Louis might contain Judy Garland’s best screen performance. She stars as Esther Smith, one of four sisters reluctant to uproot their Midwestern lives and move to New York. Her performance of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” made the song a holiday standard, and she met her future husband, director Vincente Minelli, on the set.

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The Lady Vanishes (1938)

Produced in his native England before he came to the U.S., The Lady Vanishes demonstrates Alfred Hitchcock’s grasp of taut mystery storytelling, and his good humor too. Margaret Lockwood stars as the spunky Iris, an Englishwoman who explores the disappearance of a fellow passenger aboard a sleeper train in wintry Eastern Europe.

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ROMAN HOLIDAY, Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, 1953
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Roman Holiday (1953)

Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn exploring Rome? Swoon. In William Wyler’s film, Peck plays a journalist who happens upon Hepburn, an incognito princess hoping for a bit of freedom. Hepburn won a Best Actress Oscar for her performance in one of the most beloved romances of all time.

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ON THE WATERFRONT, Marlon Brando, 1954
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On The Waterfront (1954)

Marlon Brando’s Terry Malloy “coulda been a contender” in the bo ring, but Brando’s performance in Elia Kazan’s film sent him straight to the top. Brando won a Best Actor Oscar for his Stanislaski-taught realist performance as the longshoreman who fights union corruption, and the film scored seven other statues too.

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REBECCA, Joan Fontaine, Laurence Olivier, 1940
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Rebecca (1940)

In Hitchcock’s first American film, Joan Fontaine stars as a new bride shut up in an isolated mansion, tormented by the memory of her husband’s dead first wife. Based on the Daphne du Maurier novel, this is a classic psychological mystery thriller, made all the more spooky by Hitch’s indelible style.

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ALL ABOUT EVE, Bette Davis, Celeste Holm, Hugh Marlowe, Gregory Ratoff, 1950 TM and Copyright 20th C
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All About Eve (1950)

Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night when two warring actresses go head to head in Joseph Mankiewicz’s drama of dueling divas. Bette Davis stars as theater star Margot Channing, who squares off with Anne Baxter’s Eve Harrington, a young upstart looking to take her place. George Sanders and Marilyn Monroe give memorable supporting performances.

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THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, Robert Mitchum, Billy Chapin, 1955
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The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Robert Mitchum has never been creepier as the remorseless Harry Powell, a minister turned killer, who marries a widow in order to find her husband’s stash of cash. The screenplay, written by film critic James Agee, is thematically nuanced and rich with symbolism, like the “love” and “hate” knuckle tattoos Harry sports.

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12 ANGRY MEN, (aka TWELVE ANGRY MEN), from left: Jack Warden, Edward Binns, E.G. Marshall, John Fied
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12 Angry Men (1957)

Sidney Lumet’s one room drama is required viewing for everyone who might ever serve on a jury, as this tense film follows the process of one man, played by Henry Fonda, who convinces every other juror to come over to his dissenting side. A fascinating character study and lesson in dramatic writing.

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SUNSET BOULEVARD, from left, William Holden, Gloria Swanson, 1950
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Sunset Boulevard (1950)

This classic Hollywood murder mystery, directed by Billy Wilder, was born ready for its close up, Mr. DeMille. The story works its way backwards from the discovery of a body in the pool of an aging silent-era actress Norma Desmond, played inimitably by Gloria Swanson.

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