Those films, whether or not they do well financially, that have had great critical acclaim and remain worth watching some time later are classics. Sitting in front of a movie screen, in home theater seating, or on your living room furniture, some movies are always a treat to view.
A classic movie is arguably one that, in general, has qualities that eclipse the era in which it was cobbled together and/or has a message which pertains to mankind throughout all time. The aspects of timelessness and/or universality can be witnessed in just about any classic one might recall. Many dramas, needless to say, fit such a characterization. Schindler’s List, Forrest Gump, High Plains Drifter, Gone With the Wind, and countless others deal in different ways with the underpinnings of man’s dealings with man. Even in other subgenres we have films with these kinds of qualities. With Modern Times, we all see the silliness unfolding, and in 2001: A Space Odyssey, all of us can easily see the horrors of technology which seems harmless upon first look. Readily relating to at least a sampling of the characters from a film tells one that the film they are experiencing can truly be seen as classic.
Films that are classics might be fairly good at offering a view of a given time period, thereby taking on a historical characteristic. Saturday Night Fever, The Breakfast Club, Boogie Nights and Saving Private Ryan all serve as examples of films that, even though timeless, are faithful representations of the mood and culture of the time periods they deal with.
Classic films additionally tend to have good pacing qualities. Slower and faster story development are evenly distributed throughout the course of most of history’s best films and hold the viewer’s attention.
Just as a person living long ago probably enjoyed The Grapes of Wrath in theaters, so too will a modern person be entertained by it while sitting in their home theater seats. A classic is a classic for a variety of reasons, and we can consistently recognize them as being just that.