Like food, everyone has a different taste in cinema; however, there are some movies that are considered “must-see films” by most Americans. What makes a movie a “classic?” We have a theory. A “classic” movie:

  • Has been seen by nearly everyone.
  • Everyone has a memory attached to the movie.
  • Even if people hate the movie, they understand the jokes and references to it.

The following is a list of Five classic American movies that all English language students must see. Why? The movies meet all of the above criteria; more importantly, they are loved by the CISL staff!

5 Classic American movies that all English language students must watch

1. The Wizard of Oz


The songs, the characters, the now-famous play “Wicked” that is a spin-off of the movie . . . this classic is a must. Most students do not know that this movie was also one of the first to be filmed in color, so seeing the film must have been very exciting when it was first released!

Do you recognize these famous sayings from the Wizard of Oz? You will after watching it!

  • “I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore, Toto.”
  • “I’ll get you, my little pretty . . . and your little dog, too!”
  • “If I only had a brain . . . “
  • “Follow the yellow brick road.”
  • “There’s no place like home.”


2. The Graduate













This famous (and very sexy) movie must have been very racy when it was first released. Even today, it is definitely not a movie for children! What makes The Graduate such a great movie? Some people really can’t say. Film lovers note that the movie has great camera angles and cinematography; others enjoy the not-so-happy-ending. After watching The Graduate, you will be singing “Here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson” for days!


3. Gone With the Wind


Yes, it is a “chick flick.” Girls love Gone With the Wind! But this movie is also a great look into a very important part of U.S. history: the Civil War. The American South was known for its beautiful plantations (farms) and gorgeous houses, and its people were known for extravagant lifestyles and dress. Gone With the Wind portrays all of this beautifully.


4. Some Like It Hot


There are so many reasons to love this film: Marilyn Monroe is truly a beautiful, charming actress, the male characters Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis are hilarious, and the movie was filmed in Coronado, one of the most gorgeous places in San Diego. The movie is funny and light-hearted, and a great representation of “Old Hollywood.”


5. Psycho


Do you love scary movies? Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is considered the first “psychoanalytical thriller” AND the first of the “slasher” genre. Scary movie lovers MUST see this movie to have a true understanding of the origins of the scary movie industry!