When you read the term modern classic, it comes off as an oxymoron: a combination of words that contrast in meanings. But it’s only once you delve further into the details of what each means, you understand that it’s a marker of the evolution of cinema.
Modern classic in literature
This term was originally derived from the realm of literature, where the contradiction of modern and classic reveled in the grandeur of the genre.
To put colloquially, modern classic works refer to examples of literary pieces that are seemingly young but have stood the test of time, in all respects. What makes a work truly classic is a) the longevity of its existence, and b) the standard of expression used in it.
A merely archaic piece of writing can’t be referred to as a classic unless it meets the standard of excellence.
A work that was written in the last decade can’t be called a classic in present times because it needs to age and mature with time, and still emerge as powerful, to earn the title. By being a classic, a book or a poem is universally appreciated and revered, not because the writer was famous, but because the themes supersede cultural and geographical limitations.
Modern classic in film
When we talk about movies like The Seventh Seal and Apocalypse Now, it would be a disregard to their standard to call them modern, even though they have a timeless quality. They’re hardcore classics and to call them anything else would not be justified. This brings us to the question: then what is in films that can be called ‘modern classic’.
In cinema, the term modern classic refers to a broad range of categories: remakes of the popular classics like Disney’s latest releases, or a contemporary movie that reflects on values of the golden era. Most prominent examples of this are The Lion King (2019), Aladdin (2019) and the likes.
This category also includes sequels that were released in the past, but with time, have graduated into the 2000s. Since the plotlines are still somewhat based on the original story, they can be called modern classics. One good example would be lord of the rings (2001).
There’s no telling whether these modern classics will live up to become classics 50 years down the lane; only time can be a test of that.
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