These classics never go out of style.
Given its assembly line of new and original TV shows and films, it’s easy to forget that you can also watch some of the best classic movies of all time on Netflix. The current lineup available to stream includes notable titles from directors Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, and Robert Altman. Whether you prefer heist films, World War II dramas, sci-fi, or adaptations of dystopian literature, there’s something here for everyone.
The best classic movies on Netflix
1) To Catch a Thief
Hitchcock’s compelling tale of high-profile robberies among wealthy Americans in the French Riviera is the director at its best. To Catch a Thief star screen legends Cary Grant and Grace Kelly playing opposite each other—another reason this absorbing heist movie shouldn’t be missed. Grant plays a reformed jewel thief who must prove his innocence after a series of cat burglaries occur on the French Riviera. Kelly plays half of a high-rolling mother-daughter duo vacationing in the Riviera. Once the two decide to join forces, it’s nearly impossible to tear your eyes off the screen. —Amrita Khalid
2) Cleopatra (1963)
This flashy period piece is riddled with inaccuracies andranks as one of the most expensive movies of all time. Cleopatra cost 20th Century Fox an estimated $40 million to make in 1963, which adjusts to roughly $330 million in 2016—a lofty sum even by today’s blockbuster standards. Even though the film was a critical disaster, it’s worth seeing for the breathtaking visuals and star-studded cast alone. Elizabeth Taylor shines as the young Egyptian queen Cleopatra, and Richard Burton plays Roman general Marc Anthony. Taylor and Burton’s on-screen chemistry isn’t staged; the two stars were in an affair during the course of filming. —A.K.
3) Blazing Saddles (1974)
It’s often said that Mel Brooks’ searing 1974 satire couldn’t get made today. But would you really want it to be? Part of the charm of Blazing Saddles is that it feels at once dated and timeless. It’s both a product of 1974 and an enduring send-up of the way race is portrayed in cinema. With the help of talent including stars Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little, writer Richard Pryor, and many, many more, Mel Brooks crafted his masterpiece with this bawdy, ludicrous, razor-sharp critique of the American western. —Chris Ostendorf
4) Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Sunset Boulevard is both a swan song to the age of silent films and a love story. Silent film star Norma (Gloria Swanson) is wasting away in the era of talkies. She spends her days screening her old movies and being waited on by her former husband Max Von Mayerling (Erich von Stronheim), who was once the greatest silent film director of his time and is now just Norma’s butler. When Joe, a failed screenwriter (William Holden) half her age stumbles into Norma’s life, she begins to fall in love and offers him a job. The sordid sequence of events that follow turn Sunset Boulevard into a fascinating and bleak tale of lost stardom and the perils of unconditional love. —A.K.
5) The Day the Earth Stood Still
Screengrab via idoru345/YouTube (Fair Use)
It’s tough to avoid the parallels this cold war era sci-fi pic has to the world today,. Originally released in 1951 The Day the Earth Stood Still tells the story of an alien sent to our world to investigate humans and hopefully prompt us into laying down our arms in service of the common good—or else. The premise is unsubtle, simple even. But the message, that total destruction of our enemies also means total destruction of ourselves, never stops being relevant. Like all great science fiction, The Day the Earth Stood Still holds up a mirror, and it finds us wanting. —C.O.
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6) 3 Women (1977)
Female friendship takes a bizarre turn in this classic from the ’70s courtesy of legendary director Robert Altman. Set in a small California town, 3 Women focuses mostly on just two women. Pinky Rose (Sissy Spacek) is a shy new employee at a health spa who becomes fast friends with the energetic Millie Lammoreaux, played by Shelley Duvall. Pinky is enamored with Millie, and not in a benign way. When the two opposites become roommates, things quickly take a turn for the worse. —A.K.
7) The Graduate
Screengrab via MovieStation/YouTube (Fair Use)
Aside from its propulsion of the MILF concept into the modern zeitgeist, The Graduate sports one of cinema’s greatest tragic romances. In its third act, The Graduate really throws you for a loop: The last leg of the film is a testament to the Grand Gesture, as Dustin Hoffman drives his red sports coupe across the country to stop the wedding of his former lover’s daughter, and to proclaim his love to her. But it’s not that simple, either. —Jam Kotenko
8) Morituri (1965)
This captivating tale of World War II era spies features screen legends Yul Brenner and Marlon Brando. Robert Crain (played by Brando) is a German engineer who gets blackmailed by the Allies into disabling scuttling charges in a cargo ship bound for Germany. At the helm of said ship is Captain Mueller (Brenner), a patriotic German who has other things in mind. —A.K.
9) Metropolis (1927)
Metropolis, a silent German film, is essential viewing for science-fiction fans. The futuristic utopia that Freder, the son of the city’s master, lives in is heavenly until he learns about the workers who operate the machines vital to the city’s existence and strives to help them. —Michelle Jaworski
10) Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
Sometimes, if you want an artistic, cinematic interpretation of how the West was won, you need to watch a movie that was shot in Spain by an Italian director. That director, of course, is the famous Sergio Leone. He did his research, extensively, on the railroad game during the era of the Wild West for Once Upon a Time (and also on the Civil War for the film proceeding it, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly), which means that, aside from the dramatic gun duels (and the dramatic, well… everything), the film doubles as both a beautiful slice of Americana art and a history lesson. Yes, the film is an Italian production, but it nails the soul and legend of the Western frontier better than any American production ever has. —Jam Kotenko
11) The Third Man (1949)
Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles frequently worked together throughout their careers, but none of their collaborations is quite like this post-war noir from 1949. Cotten plays a novelist investigating the death of a friend (played by Welles) in Vienna. But the details surrounding that friend’s death only become more mysterious the deeper he looks. Directed by Carol Reed and written by Graham Greene, The Third Man is especially enjoyable for Welles, whose probably better here than in any other movie he didn’t helm himself. —C.O.
12) To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Although there are elements of To Kill a Mockingbird that feel dated today, the book and the film’s core principles continue to ring true. Perhaps it’s hard not to look at Atticus Finch differently in light of the 2015’s controversial Go Set a Watchman. Perhaps the text has lost some of its relevance as more black artists have gotten the chance to shape their own narratives over the years. Nevertheless, the film adaptation of Harper Lee’s classic tale of Boo Radley, Scout, and Atticus Finch still tugs at heartstrings all these years later. Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus, in particular, remains an archetype for cinematic “good guy.” —C.O.
13) The Shining (1980)
Stephen King’s award-winning novel differs quite a bit from Stanley Kubrick’s vision of it in film, but both are horror tales that will stick with you long after they’re over. Kubrick’s take is considered a visionary masterpiece to this day, loaded with incredible performances. A young Jack Nicholson is a standout as Jack Torrance, an alcoholic writer fighting for sanity in a deserted hotel with his family in the dead of winter. —Colette Bennett
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
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