How many times has this happened: You sit down to watch a movie you loved years ago, only to be surprised it now seems dated, boring … and not very good. What did you ever see in that film? Our tastes change, of course. But some movies simply don’t stand the test of the time as well as others. Dated cultural references, bad special effects, and clichéd plot devices — think any 1970s police movie filled with car chases — can make an old classic just look old. Here are a few popular movies from yesteryear that haven’t aged well.
10. The Big Chill (1983)
The Big Chill earned a nomination for best picture, and members of this large ensemble cast would go on to star in numerous films. Yet it’s tough to watch all the emotional angst and self-absorption of these boomers. If the movie were made today, it might be titled “First-World Problems.” You just wish that Jeff Goldblum, Kevin Kline and the others would go out and volunteer at a soup kitchen or something to add some meaning to their life. The film’s soundtrack still sounds great, though.
9. The Sixth Sense (1999)
For anyone who has not seen this film, and somehow hasn’t heard about the incredible twist at the end, this is OK to watch. But if you watched The Sixth Sense back in the day, it’s tough to watch now because there’s a natural tendency to view every scene in the context of the ending. And that surprise ending makes a rather unremarkable film seem much better the first time you see it.
8. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
This movie still rings true in terms of its look at racial issues in mid-20th century America. But it’s tough to picture one of the most popular actors of our generation, Morgan Freeman, acting as servant to an elderly white woman. Also, Jessica Tandy, who won an Oscar as Best Actress, is virtually unknown to today’s audiences.
7. The Towering Inferno (1974)
Seems like a new disaster film came out every week in the 1970s, featuring everything from earthquakes and airplanes to killer bees. The Towering Inferno became the most critically acclaimed movie in the genre, thanks in large part to an all-star cast led by Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. It earned three Oscars on eight nominations. Unfortunately, at heart it’s still a clichéd 1970s disaster flick, filled with all the melodrama that defined those films.
6. The Terminator (1984)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day looks as fresh now as when it came out in 1991. But the original film in the Terminator series from 1984 hasn’t held up nearly as well. Primitive special effects in several scenes really drag the movie down. With hindsight, the scene of the burned-up Terminator limping after Linda Hamilton’s character looks very much like something Ray Harryhausen could have done better back in the 1960s. Make no mistake — this is still a great film, it just feels dated.
5. The Hunt For Red October (1990)
Tom Clancy’s 1984 novel that inspired this movie is brilliant in its detail and action sequences, and the movie adaptation nailed it. But the Cold War ended a long time ago, and all the references to the Soviet vs. U.S. arms race seem tedious and trivial today. And star Alec Baldwin has become so identified with other roles (30 Rock, political activism) that he’s not very believable as a naïve young intelligence operative.
4. Planet of the Apes (1968)
It’s impossible to even think about this movie today and not cringe at the blatant allegorical look at the history of slavery and the Civil Rights movement. In the world astronaut Charlton Heston landed on, apes had gained the upper hand and subjugated whites. The twist in the final scene remains one of the most unexpected endings in movie history. Still, this entire series is very awkward to watch today.
3. War Games (1983)
This movie was far ahead of its time — really, how many people had a home computer back then? But like other films from yesteryear that focused so much on technology, it looks hopelessly dated now (dial-up modems?).
2. The French Connection (1971)
Gene Hackman won an Oscar for Best Actor for his role, and his performance as NYPD detective Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle is truly great. But like too many other action-adventure movies of the 1970s, The French Connection is filled with clichéd car chases and shootouts that are unwatchable today.
1. Forrest Gump (1994)
Many film critics are still baffled by how Forrest Gump won the Academy Award for Best Film that year over Pulp Fiction (and in hindsight, even The Shawshank Redemption was more deserving of the Oscar that year). We liked Gump at the time, but it now just seems to jump from one preposterous, cheesy scene to the next, with occasional tears thrown in to manipulate the audience’s emotions. And where we once sympathized with Tom Hanks’ character, now it feels almost like we’re making fun of the disabled.