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 or family member 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
To Kill A Mockingbird
This movie is the only one on the list made before 1970 (in 1962) and retains its status as an American classic. Atticus Finch has been called the greatest movie hero of the 20th century by the American Film Institute, and Gregory Peck has said that this is the role for which he is most often remembered. The timeless tale of racism and the southern lawyer defending an underdog resonates even today. This classic movie is so impressive that no one has ever even tried to remake it. It is a good choice if you enjoy tense courtroom dramas.
This movie is found on countless lists of the greatest movies of all time. From the lush settings to the exciting montages from Director Francis Ford Coppola, this familial drama stretches over decades yet remains accessible to all viewers. The tension of the thriller is clear as Michael (Pacino) makes his transition from college student to mafioso. The montage toward the end of the movie is so stunning that several film professors have used it to demonstrate the possibilities inherent in the craft of filmmaking.
The Godfather II
The follow up to the first film is a treat when you view them together, but you can also enjoy them individually. The breakdown of the family progresses in this movie as the dark side of capitalism, greed, and crime is laid bare. Michael’s arc as a character from hero to villain is completed in this movie after the choices he makes for his family. The whole movie is a double narrative, pairing Michael’s ascendance as a Don with that of his father, Vito Corleone. This film is often cited as the only sequel in the history of Hollywood considered to be as good as the original.
A Star Is Born
The first version of this movie starred the legendary Judy Garland. The remake with Barbra Streisand was so popular it earned the third most money of any movie in 1976. This remake changed the setting of the original and the Garland remake from Hollywood studios to the music business. Although not the first choice for the role, Kris Kristofferson is amazing as a performer watching the downslide of his career after its peak. There is yet another remake of this movie being released this October.
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.
Dead Poets Society
“Carpe Diem” was made famous by this classic movie that won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. This film cemented Robin Williams as a serious actor and a force to be reckoned with. The actors playing classmates at the prep school where William’s character is a teacher have all had a successful film and television careers. The message of finding your bliss and following your heart resonated with many viewers and Dead Poets Society became the highest grossing drama of 1989.
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.
The CGI in this movie was cutting-edge when it came out and made us believe creating dinosaurs in a lab was something we might soon do. The tension in many of the scenes is exceptionally scary and even feels that way upon repeated viewings. The original is worth watching to remind the viewer how unique and eye-opening these special effects were in 1993. This movie has since spawned many sequels, but none has matched the quality of the original.
The Sixth Sense
This promising first movie from the mysterious M. Night Shyamalan was a movie unlike anything else when it came out, which is why it was the highest grossing horror film of all time before it was surpassed last year by Stephen King’s It. This movie also catapulted Haley Joel Osment to fame after his starring role as Cole Sear, the young boy who ‘sees dead people.’
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.