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  • Sarah Dupuis

5 Pre-1990s Movies to Watch Right Now

There's a reason some things are considered classics. We asked self-proclaimed cinephile Sarah Dupuis to round up her favourite movies prior to the '90s.


Word to the wise—when you’re asked to write a quirky article listing your favourite anything, make sure you ask for specific parameters. When I was assigned this piece, I was told to choose my favourite movies “pre-1990s.” As an accomplished cinephile, my executive dysfunction took the reins, my eye started twitching and there was a faint buzzing I couldn’t identify. Pre-1990s what? Comedies? Dramas? Coming of age? What do you want from me?! As Drew Barrymore says in Ever After, “I could no sooner pick a favourite star in heaven.” (I can. It’s Upsilon Andromedae. Movies are harder.)


Luckily for me, prior to the 1990s, talking pictures had only been around for 60-ish years, so it works out nicely to one a decade. And listen, I promise black-and-white movies won’t bite you. Just like vegetables, give it a shot—one bite to be polite!


1930s: Duck Soup

The Marx Brothers are better than the Three Stooges. There, I said it. They had it all: singing, sarcasm, wit, slapstick, accents, weird-ass nicknames for every family member.

For those who don’t know, each of the three brothers that make up the main part of the act—Groucho, Chico and Harpo—have very distinct characteristics that are maintained from movie to movie. Groucho is sarcastic, Harpo doesn’t talk and Chico pretends to be Italian. They’re all varying degrees of asshole and all of them are my heroes. They are what Jerry Bruckheimer wishes he was.


Duck Soup is set in the fake country of Freedonia where Groucho is appointed as dictator. Naturally when a potential invasion is uncovered, the country looks to the Brothers. I mean, sure. Given the state of the world these days, I’d probably place my trust in a dude who only speaks with the help of a horn and crude hand-signalling, too.


1940s: Gaslight

Taking a sharp veer from the hilarious into the chilling, this movie is where the term “gaslighting” comes from. If any of you have issues with identifying red flags, you should probably watch this movie with a notebook. Ingrid Bergman (of Casablanca fame) won the Oscar for Best Actress in 1945 for this role.


A woman moves back into her familial house in London with her new husband who has hatched a plan to make his wife believe she’s going insane for his own nefarious reasons. That’s it. That’s the whole premise. And trust me, it’s enough. Bonus points if you can spot a very young Mrs. Potts.


1950s: High Society

Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Jimmy Stewart, Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong come together in this remake of The Philadelphia Story. If you don’t know any of those names, you should probably do a quick Google search because this what the movie industry refers to as an “ensemble” cast. Also, if you think you haven’t heard of any of them—yes, you have. You just might not know it until you check out their filmographies and discographies.


Bing Crosby plays Grace Kelly’s first husband (and we ignore the weird age gap because casting) who returns to his country house on the eve of her wedding to her second husband. Meanwhile, a photographer and reporter from a tabloid not-so-subtly called Spy magazine have been assigned to cover the society wedding and literally no one in this movie knows their head from a hole in the ground. They’re rich, they’re a mess and it’s pretty funny.


1960s – Walk Don’t Run

I’m a huge fan of Cary Grant and while I know most of you (okay, fine all of you) are going to turn to IMDB to look up who that is, I’m telling you, if you like snark, you’ll like Cary Grant. Me, I’m all about the snark. It should have been my middle name. Sarah Snark Dupuis has a nice ring to it.


During the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, a young British woman rents out a room in her apartment to Cary Grant’s character. He, in turn, rents out half of his room to an athlete who competes in... SPEED WALKING. Is it a sport? Yes. Do I respect any sport that’s competitive on a global scale? Yes. Is it still a very funny event for the writers to have chosen? Also, yes. The three of them share a two-bedroom apartment in Tokyo with one bathroom. It’s a romantic comedy, so you draw your own conclusions. See if you can find George Takei.


1970s – The Goodbye Girl

Going with the theme of strangers moving in together (something that millennials with crippling debt will appreciate), The Goodbye Girl starts with a hilarious misunderstanding leading to a woman and her daughter sharing their apartment with a random man played by Richard Dreyfuss. Okay, it sounds sketchy when I say it like that, but I promise it’s not.


Marsha Mason is an out-of-work and out-of-shape Broadway dancer whose live-in boyfriend skips town one day, leaving her without an income. Surprise! He also sublets the apartment out from underneath her to Richard Dreyfuss. Each refusing to leave, they come to the natural conclusion that they should just live together. I mean, obviously, right? I can’t think of any reasons that might be a terrible idea. Dreyfuss has moved to town to start rehearsals for an off-off-off Broadway version of Richard III which is doomed before it begins due mostly to the fact that it was the ’70s and not the most enlightened of decades. It was the winter of his discontent, indeed.


1980s – Legend

Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise before Scientology. Tom Cruise before dental intervention. Seriously, you’re going to look at his face and his endearing snaggle tooth and wonder if it’s the same person at all. Playing opposite Mia Sara (yes, Sloan from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) and Tim Curry (yes, Dr. Frank-N-Furter from The Rocky Horror Picture Show), you’ll think you’ve dropped acid for a solid 20 minutes before you realize this is a real movie and you should probably start paying attention to more than the ubiquitous glitter in this fantasy land.


Mia Sara is the princess of some unnamed place and time where the forests are still largely untarnished by humans and she’s in love with Tom Cruise, a forest child. Meanwhile, Tim Curry is plotting in the darkness to kill the last of the unicorns and plunge the world into chaos and evil. Very classic good versus evil. Not a whole lot of nuance happening in this fairy tale, but it’s directed by Ridley Scott, so just trust me.


Post image: Noom Peerapong/Unsplash