What makes a “classic”?

Last night on Twitter, fellow Carina Press author Marie Force asked for recommendations of movies that might become classics in the future. A short discussion ensued, and I mentioned Shakespeare in Love while Carina editor Deb Nemeth suggested Lord of the Rings.

But it got me thinking …when does a book or a movie receive that ‘classic’ status? I think certain movies from the 50s have already passed the bench mark – Some Like It Hot anyone?

And what is the benchmark? For books is it that the book defines something in our society such as Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird? Is it numbers sold or that it got made into a movie or became part of our vernacular? Lord of the Rings definitely qualifies on all fronts and I definitely think it should rate ‘classic’ status. (Considering it was voted the Best Book of the Century in 1999, it probably does.)

For movies, is it based on box office receipts or Oscars — because I have to object to Titanic ever being considered a classic, despite its records box office receipts or the number of Oscars it received. (I must admit to laughing through the last half of it, begging the writer–Canadian James Cameron–to please please please give Rose something to say other than “Jack”! OMG That could have turned into a case of alcohol poisoning if I’d used that as a drinking game.) Or is it that there’s a message embedded? Will Thelma and Louise become a ‘classic’? Or The Terminator?

So tell me, what movies or books released since…oh, let’s arbitrarily say since 1970, do you think should qualify as being future classics?