Over at In The Balcony, an interesting discussion sprang up re creating a classic film syllabus for younger film students / fans, something to give them a good sample of the wide variety of genres and styles that flourished in the previous century. Here's my list, along with rationalizations. My criteria were films of a reasonable length & accessible to contemporary audiences; this is by no means an exhaustive or complete & in depth list (and in some cases not even the best of a particular genre, just the best introduction). Short subjects & cartoons were omitted since many young people are already familiar with the classics of those genres. And, yes, there is a Hollywood bias; I'm assembling this list primarily for American audiences.
This and The Wizard Of Oz are probably the two that they are already familiar with, but I'm including them anyway. Pinocchio was Disney's second full length animated feature and a morally / thematically more challenging story than most of his films.
9: Mon Oncle
This is kind of a twofer, a foreign film and a virtually silent one as well. While the design look is now certainly retro-futuristic, the comedic tension between balancing our humanity with an increasingly technological culture is still fresh and funny.
8: National Velvet
You can't have a best for teens and tweens list without an animal picture.
At first I almost opted for West Side Story but decided that Singin' In The Rain not only was a perfect example of the classic Hollywood musical, but also an interesting snapshot of 1920s / 30s Hollywood itself.
Bride Of Frankenstein almost got the #6 slot but Young Frankenstein not only stands on its own, it also encapsulates all the key themes of the originals as well.
The kind of rousing entertainment that Hollywood could do so well, epic in scale but never ponderous, and with possibly the best cast ever assembled before a camera.
A lot of Western purists decry this as the movie that killed the genre, laying waste to all the cowboy tropes that had supported B-Westerns for several decades. True enough, but for that very reason modern audiences are more likely to identify with this than a more traditional horse opera.
3: The Wizard Of Oz
The other movie our young viewers are most likely to have seen (though probably as very young children and even then not necessarily). This film, even more than the books that inspired it, is a genuine American cultural touchstone and one that needs to be savored, not just viewed.
02: A Hard Day's Night
Young viewers are most likely to have been exposed to The Beatles through their parents or grandparents; they're probably aware that the Liverpudlians had an enormous influence on not just pop music and pop culture but the larger tides of history as well. There are a lot of good rock 'n' roll movies out there, but none as good and as innovative and as culturally significant as A Hard Day's Night.
In the end it boiled down to Casablanca and Citizen Kane but be honest, if you were a teenager would you rather spend 90+ minutes watching Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman or two hours watching Orson Welles? I thot not... Casablanca is the quintessential Hollywood movie, a perfect amalgam of craft and talent and art and culture, released at the absolutely perfect time in the historical gestalt to make maximum impact. In short, it's da bomb, folks. Not only has there never been a better Hollywood movie than Casablanca, there's never been a better movie, period.
End. Of. Dis. Cussion.