Why classic family films shouldn't fill you with nostalgia

Does the thought of classic family films fill you with a warm feeling? Well maybe it's time to reevaluate that...

Elizabeth Meade
17th November 2021
Image Credit: IMDB
ET. Home Alone. Back to the Future. The films that everyone saw as kids. The kind that they 'just don't make anymore'. The kind that your childhood would be incomplete without.

Or would it?

Growing up, I did not like films. I watched a few Disney films on repeat, but despite wanting to be a Disney princess like many other young girls, I only watched Snow White and Cinderella once or twice. Inevitably, this led to confusion. People couldn't believe I hadn't seen Shrek or The Princess Bride by the time I was fifteen. From sixteen to twenty, I decided to catch up.

Raiders of the Lost Ark! Star Wars: A New Hope! The first three films I mentioned in this article! Up! Footloose, plus the 2011 remake! Ghostbusters! Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl! I watched them all.

More adult orientated, Sigourney Weaver in Alien... Image Credit: IMDB

I also caught up on more adult-oriented films: Groundhog Day, Fargo, Alien, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Sixth Sense, Taxi Driver, Lost in Translation.

So what did I gain from all the films that were missing from my life, before the 2016-2020 time period? As it turned out, not much.

I'm not going to criticize these films in-depth. Some of them were good, some weren't. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter if they were good, or if I liked them or not because that's not really relevant here.

While tropes are an unavoidable part of media, building all storytelling around a basic model is regressive and unoriginal.

I think it's limiting to hold up a small selection of cinematography as the yardstick by which we measure all-new cinema. By doing this, we ignore much of what made these films memorable: they were something new.

Modern nostalgic media attempting to evoke the feel of beloved childhood films often fails. However, this isn't because older films were better - it's because nostalgic films copy already-iconic themes and styles instead of innovating.

The original E.T. was a new experience for families in cinemas that evoked wonder with an original story and impressive effects. Super 8, however, simply give us more of the same formula. In evoking now-classic concepts, they completely miss what made the original great.

Chris Pratt as Emmet Image Credit: IMDB

Modern-styled films face the same problem. A desire to be 'classic' results in an endless recycling of the same themes. While tropes are an unavoidable part of media, building all storytelling around a basic model is regressive and unoriginal. Innovation too often centres around impressive visuals with little substance. Case in point: films such as The LEGO Movie and Epic where the animation is bright and visually interesting but the central theme still revolves around a hero saving the city.

If filmmakers really want to make the next classic film, they should find a compelling theme and create something that unmistakably evokes a new approach to its ideas and values.

Video Credit: Movieclips Classic Trailers
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AUTHOR: Elizabeth Meade
(she/her) Head of Current Affairs (News, Campus Comment, Comment, Science). Chemistry major. Avid reader. Chaos theorist. Amateur batrachologist and historian. Rock fan. Likes cybersecurity and cooking. Wrote the first article for Puzzles. Probably the first Courier writer to have work featured in one of Justin Whang's videos.

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