There are many films that are heralded as classics time and again, without any real critical analysis. We tend to accept that certain movies are great, and we don’t really think to question it. There are plenty of truly great films that get heaps of recognition, but there are also a few that are lauded for simply having been lauded previously.
These films, the overrated classics, aren’t necessarily bad movies; they’re just, well, overrated. Whether they haven’t aged well, or just weren’t that amazing to begin with, these are the movies that make me wonder what I’m not seeing in them.
10. Citizen Kane
Is Citizen Kane a good movie? Of course. It’s a great movie, in fact. What it definitely isn’t, though, is the greatest movie of all time. Citizen Kane is overrated not because it’s a poor film, but because it is not the perfect film it is often made out to be by critics, nor does it represent the epitome of American film-making. Critics tend to praise Citizen Kane, while ignoring the foreign films that it borrows heavily from, the occasionally odd acting choices from the supporting cast, and the bogged-down second act. Citizen Kane is a classic for a reason, and demands respect, but it is definitely overrated.
Okay, so here’s where I will be accused of not having a soul, but E.T. isn’t all that great and certainly isn’t a classic. The main problems I have with E.T. are the same problems I have with almost all early Steven Spielberg movies: it’s overly long, in need of serious editing, and weirdly paced. To me, E.T. is first and foremost a movie of childhood, and that’s fine. Most of the people who truly love the film love it for those childhood feelings associated with it. I’m not saying that E.T. is bad, just that, without the added nostalgia factor, it’s pretty forgettable.
Ben-Hur makes its way onto many a venerated “greatest films of all time” list, but I can’t think of a single person I know who’s actually seen it, or at least more of it than the chariot race. The film is not only overrated, with its meandering, melodramatic plot and over-the-top acting, but it’s also fairly forgettable. I think this must be a case of a movie that’s been on the “lists” so many times that it has simply been grandfathered in.
7. Easy Rider
Easy Rider is one of the most iconic movies of its generation, and contains a couple of the most iconic movie scenes of all time. So why is it overrated? Well, try to conjure up an image from the film other than Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda on their bikes with “Born to be Wild” playing on the soundtrack. I’d bet good money that most people can’t. The movie itself is pretty mediocre. Again, this is one of those movies that people tend to look back on fondly for reasons other than the film itself.
6. The Wizard of Oz
I’ll admit it; I just don’t really get the film version of the Wizard of Oz. There’s nothing really wrong with it exactly, I just can’t figure out why it’s a classic, other than its use of color.
5. The Graduate
Maybe it’s just my vague dislike of Simon and Garfunkel, or maybe it’s because I just don’t care that much for movies about well-off people and their ennui, but The Graduate has always rubbed me the wrong way. And though The Graduate isn’t a bad movie by any means, it is vastly overrated. Or maybe I’m just irritated that the film seemingly inspired every indie movie about bored, aimless, pouty twenty-somethings that came after it.
4. The Birds
I’m never quite sure why The Birds gets mentioned in the same breath as other Hitchcock classics. Not only is it not an essential part of Hitchcock’s oeuvre, it’s not even a good movie. Though the premise is interesting enough, and there are a handful of effective visuals, overall it’s schlocky and kind of cheap, on par with any B-movie of the time. It’s not even bad enough to provide the kind of so-bad-it’s-good fun of a B-movie; The Birds is just not a good movie.
3. 2001: A Space Odyssey
I don’t have a short attention span, I really don’t. In fact, most of my favorite films are those that other people find intolerably boring. When it comes to 2001: A Space Odyssey, though, I really lose my patience. A few iconic scenes does not a great film make, especially when those scenes are couched between eternally long space vistas and purposefully dense philosophizing.
2. Gone with the Wind
I have issues with Gone with the Wind, as I’m sure many others do as well. Aside from being far, far too long and meandering (and there’s, of course, the problematic glorification of the antebellum South), Gone with the Wind is guilty of sometimes ridiculous melodrama and is full of characters I’d like to punch in the face. Why this film ends up on the top of critics’ “best-of” lists time and time again is beyond me, but I think it must be a mix of nostalgia and tradition. In any case, it doesn’t belong there.
1. Breakfast at Tiffany’s
At times, Breakfast at Tiffany’s isn’t just bad, it’s painfully bad. Holly Golightly is perhaps Audrey Hepburn’s most iconic role, and she does well enough (and looks pretty) in it, but it’s not her best role by far. The film itself is light and inconsequential, much different from the original story by Truman Capote, and doesn’t have much to say about anything. Then there’s the cringe-worthy Mr. Yunioshi, about whom much has already been said.