It’s a challenge to choose a highlight from any TCM Classic Film Festival (April 26-29), but this year it’s truly impossible. Legendary auteur Martin Scorsese, perhaps the country’s most eminent filmmaker, will be honored with the inaugural Robert Osborne award for his decades-long commitment to the legacy and preservation of classic films. Leonardo DiCaprio, who has headlined several films by the director, will present during the gala opening night on April 26.
But besides this and live, on-stage interviews with many other screen legends, it’s the thrill of seeing so many beloved classic movies on the big screen where they belong that keep fans from around the globe descending on Hollywood each spring. Below are just a few films that you shouldn’t miss.
Heaven Can Wait (1978)
Warren Beatty’s adaptation of Here Comes Mr. Jordan was a huge blockbuster hit in 1978 and scored multiple Academy Award nominations (including four for Beatty, who not only stars but directs, produces, and cowrote the screenplay). It’s a delightful rom-com that showcases the established chemistry between the star and his former real-life love Julie Christie. James Mason, Dyan Cannon, and Charles Grodin offer memorable turns, as well.
Brilliant actors Cicely Tyson and Paul Winfield are unforgettably moving as Louisiana sharecroppers in 1933 whose family facing unbearable hardships. Martin Ritt directed this story beautifully which resulted in both leads and the film scoring Oscar nods.
Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979)
Truly a film that spoke to its time, this Robert Benton-helmed divorce drama moved audiences and swept the awards (stars Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep, in truly devastating performances, deservedly won countless honors) and remains a milestone of ’70s cinema.
Woman of the Year (1942)
Was the fabled Katharine Hepburn-Spencer Tracy chemistry ever strong than in this relentlessly entertaining film, which, in many ways, established a blueprint for modern rom-coms? The two leads are impeccable and wonderfully guided by George Stevens in a knowing script by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.
Leave Her To Heaven (1945)
Few people knew that legendary beauty Gene Tierney was capable of such a performance as the one she offered as obsessive Ellen in the this unsettling drama, often described as a “color noir.” This is required big-screen viewing.
Famed for presenting the most spectacular chase sequence on screen (at least until The French Connection a few years later), Bullitt provides indisputable evidence that Steve McQueen was the king of cool. This remains a gripping crime drama that is guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seats.
The Exorcist (1973)
If any film every freaked out audiences, it was this William Friedkin-helmed horror show. Based on William Peter Blatty’s bestseller, Ellen Burstyn earned raves as the actress-mother of a teen (Linda Blair) possessed by a demon. The movie still guarantees to induce audiences into shocked chills and nervous laughter and the “Tubular Bells” theme retains its ability to leave you on edge.
Romeo and Juliet (1968)
Franco Zefferelli’s hit version of Shakespeare’s immortal tale of star-crossed lovers was a huge draw for young people in 1968. Noted for casting young actors Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey as the leads, the film is one of the most gorgeous period epics ever and it’s theme song remains synonymous with romantic yearning.
Stage Door (1937)
One of the great catfests from the ’30s and preceding The Women by two years, Stage Door features one of Katharine Hepburn’s most indelible (and quotable) showcases as an aspiring actress living at a theatrical home for young women. The comedy-drama offers lively roles for young Ginger Rogers, Lucille Ball, Eve Arden, and Oscar-nominated Andrea Leeds.