Nothing is like spending an evening with a classic movie. You might know the plot, scenes, and dialog by heart and you may watch it with a friend who does too, since classic movies are a shared bonding experience. So grab some popcorn and a drink, set aside some time for yourself, and snuggle into the couch to enjoy any of these oldies but goodies with which you are familiar.
This list reflects modern classics, meaning movies made since the 1970s, with one exception. These are movies that reflect the cultural sensibility of the decades in which they were produced and the issues affecting people. The 1970s were a time when the classic movies were socially conscious and confrontational about societal structures. Most likely the civil rights battles of the 1960s inspired the films of this era.
The 1980s were a dichotomy of cynicism and optimism spurred on by the excesses of the Reagan years. They were also a time when people of color and others on the fringes gained access, becoming auteurs and creating innovative films. The classics of the 1990s reflect the audience demand for original ideas and narrative structures, and many new filmmakers did not disappoint. Non-linear narratives, the evolution of CGI, and shockingly unexpected twists dominated popular films of this era.
What Is a Classic Movie?
There are many factors that come together to create a classic movie. The first two components are the director and writer, although the producer may also be involved in creating the ideal circumstances. The writing has to be perceptive enough to provide you with further insight into the characters. As mentioned earlier, the timing of the classic movie’s release has to be right, and the movie should reflect the cultural zeitgeist.
Often, these classic movies produce taglines that are used and understood many years after the release of the movie. There are examples of this from The Godfather, Dead Poets Society, and The Sixth Sense.
What Makes a Movie Classic?
Whether a movie is a classic is ultimately determined by its popularity with viewers. Classic movies are typically unlike most other films and stand out from the crowd. The movie might even catch the interest of many people at the time of its release and become a cultural touchpoint for moviegoers of that generation.
There are also the rare gems that may have been flops at the box office, but developed a cult following well after they were released. You can often tell the decade in which a classic movie was released by some of the lines that people quote from it, but classic movies never feel dated. Below are some of the more recent classic movies that can be enjoyed on Netflix.
10 Best Classic Movies To Watch On Netflix
If you've ever used or heard the phrase "Are you talkin' to me?" then you know a little snippet about Taxi Driver. A young Robert De Niro plays a mentally unstable Vietnam vet who drives a taxi in NYC. The more he learns about his fares and the world around him, the more unstable he becomes.
Directed by Martin Scorsese and featuring not only De Niro, but Jodie Foster and Cybill Shepherd, Taxi Driver is one of those classics you can't stop watching -- it's that compelling. Watch De Niro become unraveled as he plots and prepares for murder.
"Adrian!" There's probably not a person on the planet who hasn't heard of Rocky. How can you even see Sylvester Stallone without thinking of Rocky and the American Dream? You can't. Rocky might start off as a street fighter, but he ends up the world heavyweight champ.
But that's not the whole story. If it were, it wouldn't be worth watching. Just like anything in life, it's not the destination, it's the journey to get there! Watch Rocky struggle on the road to fame and gather inspiration from his heart and grit. And if you've already seen it, see it again! That's why Rocky's a classic -- it never gets old.
In 1978, John Travolta and Olivia Newton John stole our hearts as Danny and Sandy in Grease. The soundtrack alone makes this classic impossible to forget. This love story about two young lovers from different sides of the tracks shows that despite our differences, love wins out in the end.
We dare you to watch Grease and NOT sing along. It simply can't be done. So, step back into DAs and poodle skirts, get your dancing shoes on for some hand jive, and warm up those wind pipes for some Grease lightening. This classic is worth watching again and again.
Maybe you've just heard whispers of Rosemary's baby or maybe you've just heard the jist, but this classic will take you for a trippy ride and will make you ask so many questions. Mia Farrow plays Rosemary, a 60s housewife, who moves with her husband into a new apartment complex.
When the neighbors get a little too friendly and her husband's career suddenly takes off, Rosemary begins to wonder if all is what it seems. Little by little, a pregnant Rosemary is isolated from the outside world. And when her friends finally get a good look at her, they know something is wrong with her -- and maybe her baby.
But what's wrong with the baby and who can she trust? You'll have to watch to find out.
She’s Gotta Have It
This classic movie was made during a renaissance of black filmmakers that gave us the work of not only Spike Lee but also Julie Dash. In this revolutionary film from 1986, Nola Darling is a single woman who is dating three very different men. Even today, this strong female role is one that is almost never seen in a movie. One suitor is played by Spike Lee, who has often appeared in significant roles in his own films. Last year, Netflix began airing a series version of the concept which is receiving positive critical acclaim.
There are so many things that make the movie Heathers a classic, including the writing and especially the dialogue. The direction, by Michael Lehman, is visually stunning and the design of the whole production reflects the confectionary style of fashion popular in the 1980s among the well-heeled. The cast, shockingly enough, comes in a distant third as far as reasons this movie is a classic. This is impressive considering that the movie contained career-making roles for both Winona Ryder and Christian Slater.
High school kids can be relentless, especially if you're different. With an abusive religious zealot for a mother who skewed Carrie's view of the world and how she interacted with it, she never stood a chance. Lucky for her, she didn't have to put up with bullies -- for long. And once she figured out her special abilities, she didn't have to put up with her mother either.
Watch Carrie as she gets revenge on an entire town in once gruesome night. After all, you can only push a person so far. This novel by Stephen King turned classic movie is a must watch. They have a remake too, but why go for a copy when you can have the original?
Daughters Of The Dust
This classic movie is a nonlinear narrative that really resonates with the place they set it in, the Gullah region of South Carolina and Georgia. It traces the history of the African Americans who remained largely isolated due to being on the islands in this region and even developed their own language.
Eula is one of these Gullah women. Set in 1902, the classic movie takes place in the period of the great migration of African Americans from the South to the North and West. Narrated by Eula’s unborn child, the movie explores many aspects of slavery and the legends that grew from the stories of confinement and escape. The director of this classic movie, Julie Dash, continues to helm projects that focus mainly on the female experience in the African American community.
Did you ever thing there was more to this world? If the world you live in were nothing more than a smokescreen, would you want to know the truth? That's what Keanu Reeves has to decide. Truth or blindness? Red or blue pill? Follow Neo down the rabbit hole as he learns with truth about the world we all live in.
He might be the chosen one to save our ignorant selves from the enemy we don't even know exists. Is he that hero? Morpheus and Trinity think so. Do you?
This classic might not be your cup of tea, but that doesn't make it less classic. Quentin Tarantino brings us into multiple storylines and violence that all converge in unexpected ways. The story telling alone keeps you invested in the story, and with the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, and Bruce Willis, there's really no way this stay out of instant classic territory.
And not only can you not miss Jackson's burger speech, but Thurman and Travolta kick it over the top with their dance at the burger joint. Noticing a pattern? You will with this classic.
Netflix boasts many classic movies to choose from, and one view may not be enough; you may want to watch the same ones time and time again. Perhaps it is because of the characters, or maybe the writing really draws you in. Maybe the tension created by your favorite thriller still gets to you every single time. Whatever your reasons are for loving classic films, Netflix classic movies will not disappoint. Choose one of these favorites and see if it becomes your classic.