Classic But Boring Movies

In the comments section of a recent post about Andrew Sullivan’s movie reviews, I noted that

“2001 [A Space Odyssey]— is one of several movies—“Shane,” “Gone With the Wind,” and “High Noon” come immediately to mind—that are widely considered classics and yet I either disliked or found rather underwhelming even though I typically like films in those genres.

Having recently enjoyed “Casino Royale” in the theater, my wife and I watched the original James Bond flick, “Dr. No,” on DVD last night and were bored to tears. She’d never seen it and it had been perhaps twenty-five years since I had. Sean Connery was superb, of course, but the plot was so devoid of action that I could barely stay awake. And I was one of perhaps seven people who found the Timothy Dalton era films enjoyable.

Similarly, I’m a huge fan of the post-Singing Sandy John Wayne movies and yet don’t see what the fuss was about “Stagecoach,” widely considered one of the classic movies of all time. It’s not that it’s a bad movie; it just lacked the drama and character development of the ones he would make even four or five years later.

It’s not purely a function of era, either, as there are plenty of movies from the 1940s and especially 1950s that I find very enjoyable. Still, there is an amateurism and dullness to many so-called “classic” movies the critics assure us have stood the test of time.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    James – most Hollywood films of the last 20 years or so have substituted gratuitous action, violence, and computer generated special effects for real plot and character development. That’s why I don’t really watch too many American made movies anymore. More of the same recycled crap. I will still watch the new Coen Bros. releases or anything by Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Oh, no doubt there’s plenty of crap out there now. It’s almost certainly mostly crap. But I’m talking about movies that are critically acclaimed.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    I will rise in defense of Stagecoach. It was creative and innovative in so many ways: the cinematography, location shooting, and stunts would be imitated again and again. It was the first Western to use the plot device (later to become standard in disaster movies) of The Bridge of San Luis Rey in which a group of people are thrown together, their histories explored. Who will survive?

    The performances are classic, particularly those of Thomas Mitchell (he won an Academy Award for it IIRC) and that most underestimated of all Hollywood leading ladies, Claire Trevor. It pushed the envelope of acceptability under the Code in portraying her character.

    And wasn’t it John Wayne’s first ‘A’ Western? That alone is enough to grant it classic status.

  4. Roger says:

    Here are some of my own to add to the list (right or wrong):

    Citizen Kane – Sure, it’s a good movie but meh.

    Chinatown – Sure, it has Jack Nicholson and the “nosy” scene but again, meh.

    I miss the grand epic story movies like John Wayne’s “The Wings of Eagles,” “How Green Was My Valley,” “Bridge on the River Kwai” or Lean’s other masterpiece, “Lawrence of Arabia.”

    James, I agree, Timothy Dalton wasn’t so bad as Bond. A little dark but not bad. I also liked George Lazenby as Bond. Still need to see Casino Royale.

    I also agree that most movies today are utter junk.

  5. DC Loser says:

    My all time favorite Bond was “You Only Live Twice.” Good action and great plot. I too liked Lazenby, and it was too bad he didn’t get a second film. What about the first Casino Royale? American filmakers don’t make epics anymore. I think the last historical epic I can recall was “Gandhi.” The Chinese still make them. I just saw “The Emperor and the Assassin” on IFC a few weeks ago. The fighting and the siege re-enactments were quite realistic, as rumors were they were made at the PLA film studio.

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    Recent historical epics:

    King Arthur
    The Alamo
    Kingdom of Heaven

    Mel Gibson’s new release Apocalyto is one, too.

  7. DC Loser says:

    See what I mean? I couldn’t remember any of them 🙂

  8. EARNHARDT says:


  9. Dave Schuler says:

    Uh, Earnhardt, John Wayne wasn’t in the 1936 version of Trail of the Lonesome Pine (there were a couple of silent versions of the story) and had been in movies for 13 years when he made Stagecoach. He was in a zillion ‘B’ westerns before he made Stagecoach, his first ‘A’ western, and continued making his popular “Three Mesquiteer” series of ‘B’s for a while after (loved that series!).

    And there’s no need to SHOUT!

    The sound version of The Trail of the Lonesome Pine was itself a groundbreaker: it was the first 3-strip Technicolor picture shot on location.