There are classic cars, classic movies and classic novels. But what makes these things classic?

Although you’ll find many opinions out there, there’s no precise set of criteria for determining what makes something a classic. For example, whether a particular movie or book is a classic largely depends on the opinion of the person watching or reading it.

If you think something is classic, that means you believe it is one of the best examples of a particular thing. For example, classic holiday movies are those movies that you believe are the best holiday movies ever made.

The word “classic” has its roots in two Latin words: classis and classicus. Classis referred to the five levels that Roman society was divided into. Classicus was the highest of these five classes. Thus, a classic is something at the top or in first place.

Some people might say calling something a classic is just a matter of opinion. They might be right. Opinion certainly does play a big role.

In fact, there are certain things that most people would consider classics precisely because of opinion. When enough people hold the same opinion — that something is a classic — then most people will consider it a classic, even if they don’t personally find it to be worthy of the title.

For example, It’s a Wonderful Life is a movie that nearly everyone would agree is a holiday classic. Not everyone would consider the movie a favorite, but so many people consider it to be a holiday classic that very few would argue its classic status.

If you look at things considered classics, you’ll notice that most of them have a few things in common. Age is often a common factor. Classics tend to be older. They’ve been around a while and stood the test of time.

Not all classics have to be old, though. Sometimes a movie comes along that people consider an “instant classic.” Even though it’s newer, people love it so much that they immediately know that it will be one of those timeless movies that people will love for years to come.

A sense of timelessness — or the fact that many people have enjoyed a work over time and continue to enjoy it many years later — contributes greatly to something being considered a classic.

Classics also tend to become part of the cultural landscape. If many people can easily quote or at least recognize famous lines from a book or movie, it’s probably a classic.

Classics also often deal with universal issues about human nature that everybody can relate to. For example, books and movies that teach important life lessons in a way that touches the heart often achieve classic status because of their lasting significance over time.

Although whether something is a classic is open to individual interpretation, you can probably easily figure out which movies and shows you consider to be classics. If you have seen the show before, already know what is going to happen but still want to watch it, you’re probably viewing a classic!


10 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (17 votes, avg. 4.06 out of 5)
    • Thanks so much for visiting today’s Wonder and for letting us know you liked the video, T.J.! We hope you are having a WONDERful day! :-)

    • We think that’s GREAT, Elisa! We’re sure LOTS of our younger Wonder Friends would agree with Joaquín! Thank you BOTH for visiting Wonderopolis and for leaving us an awesome comment! :-)

  1. To me “It’s a Wonderful Life” tops every other holiday classic.
    Thanks, now started watching the movie for the “nth” time. :)


    • That is a holiday classic that MANY Wonder Friends enjoy, too, Elango! We know we never grow tired of watching it, either…great choice! :-)

    • We’re glad you liked the video for this Wonder about holiday classics, Lila! Thank you for stopping by Wonderopolis today and leaving us this great comment! :-)

    • Hi, Shaw! Peter Pan is a WONDERful movie. There are also Christmas versions of Peter Pan that have been made over the years. Thanks for sharing your favorite Christmas Classic! :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


  • Wonderopolis on Facebook
  • Wonderopolis on Pinterest
  • Print

Have you ever wondered…

  • What makes something a holiday classic?
  • Does a classic have to be old?
  • What’s your favorite holiday classic?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Are you filled with holiday spirit? If cold weather and busy days have kept you from getting fully into the swing of the holidays, now’s the time to change all that.

Grab a friend or several family members. Make hot cocoa, snuggle up under a blanket on the couch and enjoy some holiday classics together.

Talk with others about what holiday classics they enjoy most. What are your favorites? Why do you enjoy those shows so much? Are there classics that you haven’t seen yet?

Check your local television listings to see which holiday classics are currently playing. You might also want to plan ahead to make sure you don’t miss upcoming showings of your favorites.

If you really want to see one particular classic, rent a copy from a local video store, watch it online or borrow it from your local library.

Here are some holiday classics — both old and new — you may want to check out:

  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Miracle on 34th Street
  • A Christmas Carol
  • A Christmas Story
  • Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas
  • Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  • Frosty the Snowman
  • The Polar Express
  • The Santa Clause
  • Home Alone

Do you have a favorite holiday classic not listed above? If so, share it with us. Email us, post a comment on Facebook or Tweet us a suggestion. We want to know what YOU consider a holiday classic!


Still Wondering

With ReadWriteThink’s Get the Reel Scoop: Comparing Books to Movies lesson, children learn to compare a book to its film adaptation and then perform a scene from the book that they feel was not well-represented in the movie.


Wonder Categories/Tags

Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day has been around for a long time, but we still think it’ll grow on you.

Upload a Photo or Paste the URL of a YouTube or SchoolTube Video.