Watching classic movies are one of the great ways to ease your wanderlust during the coronavirus pandemic. Not only will you be able to enjoy some of the finest films of the Golden Age, you’ll also be able to take your mind off all the bad news that seem to appear every other moment. What’s more, classic movies can take you to places you’ve never visited before while capturing the essence of a time when life was so much simpler. And who knows, perhaps you might have a better appreciation for life and what’s in store when the pandemic is over. Here are just 10 of the best classic movies that will transport you all over the world, even though you’re still sheltering in place.
African Queen (1951)
Based upon a 1935 novel by C.S. Forester, The African Queen is a British-American adventure film that takes place in Africa at the beginning of World War I. The movie classic starred Humphrey Bogart as Charlie Allnut and Katherine Hepburn as Rose Sayer in lead roles and directed by John Huston. Rose and her brother are British missionaries in what was then known as German East Africa. After her brother is killed, Rose escapes from German soldiers on a river steamboat named African Queen operated by Charlie. As the pair travel along the Ulana River, they eventually become involved in a relationship. Earning a 98 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, The African Queen earned Humphrey Bogart his first and only Academy Award, winning the Oscar for Best Actor.
Around The World In 80 Days (1956)
Based upon the 1872 novel by Jules Verne, Around the World in 80 Days was an epic comedy-adventure film that featured several of the finest actors of its day. David Niven in the lead role as Phileas Fogg, a dapper 19th century British citizen and member of London’s Reform Club places a wager that he can circumnavigate the world in just 80 days. Fogg and his hired valet Passepartout, portrayed by Cantinflas then embark upon a epic journey to far distant places by rail, steamship and balloon. The film also starred Shirley MacLaine as Princess Aouda and Robert Newton as Inspector Fix. However, 182-minute movie also featured more than 40 famous people in cameo roles. Among the entertaining cameo appearances were Charles Boyer, José Greco, Marlene Dietrich, Peter Lorre, Frank Sinatra, Hermione Gingold, George Raft and Buster Keaton. Around the World in 80 Days was nominated for eight Oscars and won five, including Best Picture while beating out other blockbuster films like The Ten Commandments and The King and I.
Considered one of the greatest movies ever made, Casablanca is a romantic drama starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Set during World War II, Bogart stars as Rick Blaine an American expatriate who owns a nightclub in Casablanca, Morocco. His former lover Ilsa Lund (Bergman) enters his club with her husband Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), a Czech Resistance. Torn between his love for Ilsa and helping her and her husband escape to America, Blaine has to make a critical decision. The iconic film is well known for featuring some of the most famous lines in movie history. This includes “Here’s looking at you, kid”, “Play it Sam. Play “As Time Goes By” and “We’ll Always Have Paris”. Casablanca was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won three, including Outstanding Motion Picture and Best Director for Michael Curtiz.
Flower Drum Song (1961)
Based on a 1957 novel and by Chin Yang Lee and a 1958 Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical, Flower Drum Song was controversial in more ways than one. Considered the first major Hollywood movie to have a majority Asian cast about Asians, it also featured two Japanese-American actors in lead roles as Chinese-Americans. The contemporary story is about life and romance, while embracing the American culture in San Francisco’s Chinatown. The lively and colorful musical was a success earning five Academy Award nominations and helped popularized several cast members, including Nancy Kwan, James Shigeta, Miyoshi Umeki, Jack Soo and Benson Fong. Among the most enduring songs of the film were I Enjoy Being A Girl, Chop Suey and A Hundred Million Miracles.
Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)
Lawrence of Arabia is a British war drama based upon the memoirs of Colonel T.E. Lawrence. Set during World War I, British officer Lawrence leads members of the Arab Revolt to battle against the invading Ottoman Empire. Although the epic drama is exceptionally long at either the three or four hour version, it’s considered one of the best American films as well as one of the British films of all time. Lawrence of Arabia also made Peter O’Toole an international star in his most iconic role ever. The film also featured a marquee ensemble of actors that included Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, José Ferrer, Omar Sharif and Claude Rains. Lawrence of Arabia was nominated for 10 Oscars and won seven including Best Picture and Best Director for legendary British director David Lean.
Roman Holiday (1953)
With sweeping views of the city, Roman Holiday is a romantic comedy movie that can be enjoyed multiple times. The film starred Audrey Hepburn in her breakout role as Ann, a European princess, and Gregory Peck as an American reporter and soon-to-be love interest. On an official state visit from her unspecified country, Princess Ann is bored with her regular routine and slips out to visit Rome on her own, but not realizing she was given a prescription to relax. Joe finds asleep on a park bench, thinking she had been drinking alcohol. Not realizing who she is, Joe takes her to his apartment so she could “sleep it off”. Joe and Princess Ann meet up again and developed a romance while taking in the iconic sites of Rome, like the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Mouth of Truth and the Colosseum. Directed by William Wyler, the Roman Holiday was a monumental success at the box office and received seven Academy Award nominations. It went on to win three Oscars, including Best Actress for Audrey Hepburn and Best Writing for Dalton Trumbo.
The King and I (1956)
A longtime family favorite, The King and I is one of the most beloved musicals of all time. Based upon a true story and subsequent Broadway musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein, this enduring movie chronicles the story of an English schoolteacher and the King of Siam. The story takes place in Bangkok in present day Thailand and stars Yul Brynner as the King Mongkut and Deborah Kerr as Anna, the schoolteacher tasked to tutor the King’s 15 children. The musical was both a critical and financial success with a 96 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and nominated for nine Academy Awards, including nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor and Actress and Best Director for Walter Lang. Yul Brynner won the Oscar for Best Actor and helped make him an international movie star. Among the most memorable tunes from The King and I are I Whistle a Happy Tune, Getting to Know You, Shall We Dance and the very memorable Overture.
The Sound of Music (1965)
With breathtaking views of Austria’s Lake District of Salzburg, The Sound of Music tells the story of the Von Trapp Family and their daring escape from the Nazis. Inspired by a 1938 novel and 1959 stage musical, The Sound of Music starred Julie Andrews in the lead role as Maria Rainer and Christopher Plummer as Captain von Trapp. With music written by Rodgers and Hammerstein, the family friendly movie featured several well-known songs, such as My Favorite Things, Do-Re-Mi, Climb Ev’ry Mountain, Edelweiss and The Sound of Music. Running nearly three hours long, The Sound of Music was a box office success and nominated for 10 Academy Awards. It went on to win five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director for Robert Wise.
To Catch A Thief (1955)
With white sandy beaches and warm waters, any who’s ever been to the French Riviera knows how magical this place can be. To get a 1950s glimpse of this enchanting region in southeastern France, To Catch a Thief is one of the best. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, the romantic thriller starred Cary Grant as John Robie as a former cat burglar and Grace Kelly who portrays, Frances daughter of a wealthy socialite. The local authorities believe Robie is behind a series of jewelry thefts so he is forced to go after the real burglar himself. During this time he and Frances develop a romance. Successful at the box office, To Catch a Thief won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography and inspired the 1968 TV series It Takes a Thief, starring Robert Wagner.
West Side Story
Based upon a 1957 book and subsequent Broadway musical by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, West Side Story is love story inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The acclaimed film takes place in New York’s West Side and centers around the Jets, a white American gang and the Sharks, a Puerto Rican gang. One young man and woman from the families opposite gang members fall in love, creating more tension between the Jets and Sharks. The film starred Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer as the young couple Maria and Tony. The film also starred Russ Tamblyn as Riff, the leader of the Jets, George Chakiris as Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks and Maria’s older brother and Rita Moreno as Anita, Bernardo’s girlfriend and Mari’s close friend. Arguably the finest musical film ever made, West Side Story was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won 10, the most ever for a musical. Among the Oscars won were Best Picture, Best Director for Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, Best Supporting Actor. The film contained several memorable songs, including “Maria“, “Tonight“, “Somewhere” and “America“.
About The Author:
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who served as the National Travel Writer for CBS Local from 2012-2019. More than 900 of his stories still appear in syndication across 23 CBS Local websites, including CBS New York, CBS Los Angeles, CBS Chicago,CBS Houston, CBS San Francisco and CBS Washington D.C. During his peak years with CBS, he reportedly had a digital audience reach of 489 million and more than five million monthly visitors. His stories have also appeared in the Daily Meal, Examiner.com, CBS Radio, Engadget and Radio.com, among others. He is a Media Fellow of Stanford University, U.S. Army veteran and lifelong resident of Santa Cruz County, California.