They Just Don’t Make Em Like They Used To

Some older movies make you go “Man, they just don’t make movies like they used to.”

For example, tonight I watched Baz Luhrman’s 1996 Romeo and Juliet and one thing that stood out to me was the visuals of the movie. Overdone colors and costumes, opulent Catholic imagery juxtaposed with a dirty, crime-ridden city on the beach. It’s by no means a great movie but there’s always some intentional little detail for the eye to look at to add density to the setting. I notice a lot of 80s and 90s films seem to have a visual texture that’s missing from many movies made more recently. What are some films that you think have that certain je ne sais quoi which modern movies often lack?


There was a certain look many films had in the 1970s that I really like. No doubt some of it is down to the film stock and equipment of the time. But also there is a school of cinematography at work that had a strong style you don’t see anymore. Good examples of this are The Conversation (1974) and The Sentinel (1977).

And it’s not just the visuals - there is an element of cinema verite that predominated at this time, with performances and dialog being very naturalistic. I much prefer this over the current trend of “I am saying this now only to set up your zinger reply”. I feel the natural component is a big part of why horror movies in particular from this time remain potent, because they feel so organic and real.


The cinematography and art direction of a lot of black and white films is great. The art directors did their best to really make the contrast pop since they didn’t have color to help them. A movie like Top Hat is a visual treat.


I mean, nearly every classic movie has me thinking that, tbh.

Like, the German Expressionist silent films which were so otherworldly:


Tim Burton, in his glory days, used to have some of that feel.

From the '30s, Astaire and Rogers made dumb and formulaic movies that were sublime:


Just the sheer skill and discipline needed to do these numbers—often without cuts.

From the '40s, I miss Technicolor, glamor and movies where very flawed people could still be loved, and treated with the lightest of touches despite their significant flaws.


From the '50s, I miss wonder:


From the '50s & '60s, I miss musicals that could tackle social issues:

Or just be silly:

From the '70s, I miss—and this is something I never thought I’d say—but I miss the oddly egalitarian and often humorous treatment of racial issues:

From the '80s, I miss the practical effects and—something else I never thought I’d say—car chases:

And from the '80s and '90s, I miss the not-quite-micro-budget era of filmmaking which produced some of the oddest and most interesting films at the least expected times:



Oh, that reminds me: I miss the incredible blocking and cinematography of James Wong Howe:


I miss really good westerns. There have been a few over the past 10-11 years - True Grit, Slow West, and the miniseries Godless, and if go back further there’s Dead Man and my favorite western of all time, Unforgiven.

But I’ve seen all the greats from the classic era, and all that is left are the lesser (but sometimes watchable) releases. Maybe they said all they had to say, from Ford’s traditional westerns to Mann’s psychological pieces to Leone’s anti-heroes and Eastwoods final say on western mythology. But -despite some troubling aspects- I miss them, miss the directors, cinematographers and actors who brought them to life.

Come back Shane! But he can’t… (at least Logan put a lump in my throat recalling that film)


Watching all the Anthony Mann westerns was one of my favorite projects during quarantine: gorgeous widescreen scenery and surprising stories. Naked Spur and Bend of the River were probably my favorites. I loved the ambiguity he builds into the “hero”. Great movies!


I miss the days before CGI made everything possible. When I watched RT Live: Star Raiders, I actually enjoyed the low-budget way they created the different aliens. It was mostly rubber masks but they were good rubber masks. No CGI to graft a completely different body on an actor.

But also, I miss the golden age of the TV movie/mini series. The '80s seems to have been the time when you had GOOD mini series being made. I have one that I bought on DVD called Noble House based on a novel by James Clavell and starring Pierce Brosnan. It was set in China and, predominantly actually filmed on location. It’s clear that a lot of money was spent on making this movie look good. Obviously, they couldn’t do the whole complex plot of the novel, but they did a great job of making a good movie that was just on TV. Noble House (miniseries) - Wikipedia


I don’t know about Noble House but you can’t even get the full version of Shogun.

If you mean the one with Richard Chamberlain, Amazon does have a DVD set (5 discs). I don’t know if that’s the whole thing or not. I’ve never seen it.

Unforgiven is great, a real deconstruction of the Western and its tropes. Among the classics I particularly love High Plains Drifter and For A Few Dollars More. Also good and a bit outside the tradition are Rio Bravo and Warlock, the latter based on the book by Oakley Hall which is the finest Western novel I’ve ever read.

I watched a number of Western TV shows as a kid, my favorite was probably The Rifleman. Though I don’t expect to ever see a show in the genre that will top Deadwood now.

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The Brits had a head start on great Minis and made for TV movies, The Quatermass trilogy (what survives of it), The Forsyte Saga, The Caesars, Talking to a Stranger, The Great War - also Wednesdays Play with the Dennis Potter scripted dramas (Son of Man, wow). The Italians have some goodies with Oddisea and House in the Woods. Fassbinder in Germany (I love World on a Wire, which I didn’t discover until Criterion released it)

Finally, we in the States got wise, I remember my first one, Rich Man, Poor Man in 1976, that had me hooked, then we got Jesus of Nazareth, Roots, Shogun… (all the while the UK was still doing amazing stuff - The Singing Detective, Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow, Brideshead Revisited, thank you PBS for allow us to see these in the USA)

Takes me back, really takes me back.

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I’m stunned to see someone else reference The Dark Backward, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered another soul who knew of this movie. I’m still carrying the torch that this will one day see a Blu-ray release.

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I just now put a hold on it at the library (it’s a big ol collection that also includes the Searchers, Ox Bow Incident, and Shane) - looking forward to seeing how these differ from the movie adaptations.

right now I’m reading the sci-fi novel Roadside Picnic, which so far has been very different from the Tarkovsky film, Stalker


Fantastic book, hope you enjoy it. All of the Strugatsky Brothers works are archly smart sci-fi. I can definitely recommend the novella Tale Of The Troika and the book The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn.

And yes, the movie is very different from the novel. The videogame S.T.A.L.K.E.R. actually straddles the two works, with elements of both. This guy did some amazing work on a graphic novel proposal of the book, shame it never materialised in finished form.


Yeah I’m really enjoying Picnic… it looks like the only other one the library has from the Strugatsky’s is The Doomed City, but I’ll keep a look out for the others.

As an aside, when I first joined the forum and saw DeepHurting’s profile picture, I thought, “Hey, I just read that book! With that very cover!” :grinning: (Chocky, which Cole Stratton recommended)


That’s not a bad one either, I started it a while ago and need to restart it, as I got distracted by newer acquisitions. Monday Starts On Saturday is a good one too, it centers on the “National Institute for the Technology of Witchcraft and Thaumaturgy”. :woman_mage:

I’m a big John Wyndham fan as well, Chocky is a good book. Was made into a multi-part series in the UK a while back (along with Wyndham’s The Day Of The Triffids, which has been remade multiple times). Would love to see his novel The Kraken Wakes get a film adaptation.

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It is! Thank you!

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Oh, yeah, just read/saw that. Very good.

Anyone who disagrees chucks rocks by choice.

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I’m glad somebody got the reference!

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