Toy Story landed in the mid-1990s and immediately put Pixar on the map. Animation houses across the world were put on notice that this is how you make an animated movie. Between its story, characters and message... it was the perfect movie, animation or otherwise.
There's a reason why every film that came after Die Hard would be described as Die Hard on a plane, Die Hard on a boat, etc. It's because Die Hard broke the action movie mold and became an iconic flick almost immediately.
Brokeback Mountain revolutionized the romance and it was a sweeping romance at that. And that has nothing to do with the fact that the hearts involved were both men's. It should have won Best Picture, it was just ahead of its time... another sign of a classic.
What makes Memento such a classic is when you watch it, you feel like you have been truly taken to another world, another time, heck... another plane. Christopher Nolan announced himself as a filmmaker for the ages and crafted a classic that will continue to blow minds as the decades pass.
When you think about it, Boogie Nights is kind of a small story. Yet, it feels so epic. Mark Wahlberg exploded as a movie star and Paul Thomas Anderson let the world know that a classic can be made about any subject matter, if it is told right.
Crafting a World War II classic is something Hollywood has done for years. But, rarely did it happen as quickly as it did when Saving Private Ryan landed on screens from Steven Spielberg. It is as pure of a classic as there comes.
Sure, Alfonso Cuaron crafted an astonishing piece of filmmaking with Gravity. But, if you look at his Children of Men, now there you have an instant classic starring Clive Owen in the story over the battle of the future of humankind.