What are the best classic movies on Netflix?
Maybe the question should be, “what is a classic movie?” For some people, a classic movie is from the ’60s or ’70s and earlier, but for some younger audience members, it could be something from as late as the ’90s, since 20-year-olds weren’t even born during the last century.
With that said, Netflix has something for everyone, but in this case, we will stick with movies that are from no later than the early ’90s, and in the case of 2020, we will cut it off in 1991.
Here is a look at 15 great classic movies you can stream right now on Netflix.
Every month, Netflix deletes movies from its streaming service when contracts expire. The good news is that Netflix also had plenty of great movies to replace them.
Bookmark this page, as we will update this article every month to remove the films that drop off and add great new sci-fi movies you can enjoy every month.
Updated in July 2021: Every month, Netflix makes major changes to its streaming service. Several movies and TV shows leave the service, replaced by a new batch of shows and movies that replaces them. This means some of our picks are no longer available.
The good news is that we check in every month to ensure that the movies on the list are current. We remove any movies that are no longer on Netflix and replace them with movies of equal or better quality to keep this as the best Netflix picks on the Internet.
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
Clint Eastwood directed and starred in The Outlaw Josey Wales in 1976, a movie in the midst of his long run as one of western cinema’s top stars.
Eastwood is Josey Wales, a farmer whose wife and young son died at the hands of pro-Union Kayhawker militants. He then sets out for vengeance after burying them.
When the way ends, the Union offers Josey amnesty if he turns over his guns, which he refuses to do. When the surrendering Confederates are gunned down in a massacre by Union soldiers, Josey escapes.
This causes a bounty to be placed on Wales’s head and he finds himself running from bounty hunters and the Texas Rangers.
Roman Polanski’s Chinatown often comes up in discussions about the greatest movie screenplay of all time. Written by Robert Towne, it won an Oscar and remains a template for how to write a plot to this day.
Jack Nicholson stars as a private detective named J. J. “Jake” Gittes. Jake takes a case to follow a woman’s husband, but when he gives photographs he shot to the local newspaper, a different woman shows up, threatening a lawsuit and Jake realizes he was set up.
What results after that is a labyrinth of greed and dishonesty where Jake realizes the simple case of following a husband puts him in the middle of a giant case surrounding corruption in the city government.
The Karate Kid (1984)
The Karate Kid hit in 1984 and was a cultural phenomenon, an inspirational sports story that merged with a coming-of-age-tale that resonates to this day.
Thanks to Cobra Kai on Netflix, Karate Kid is gaining a new generation of fans.
Ralph Macchio stars as Daniel LaRusso, a teenager who finds himself bullied when he moves into a new town. He begins training with Mr. Miyagi, learning karate and self-defense, and ends up signing up for a tournament, which includes his bullies, part of the violent Cobra Kai dojo.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
One of the best action movies of the ’90s and one of the best sequels ever made, Terminator 2: Judgment Day is now on Netflix.
In the movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger is back as the Terminator, but this time he is in the present day to help save John Connor from a new, more dangerous Terminator (Robert Patrick).
Linda Hamilton is also back as John’s mother, Sarah Connor, and the three of them end up in a battle with a seemingly indestructible killing machine.
The movie picked up four Oscar nominations and was the highest-grossing movie of Arnold’s career.
Midnight Run (1988)
Midnight Run is a 1988 comedy action thriller with Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin electrifying the screen.
The plot has a bounty hunter (De Niro) trying to bring in a mob accountant (Grodin) after he embezzled $15 million from the mob.
However, as he tries to pull off this task, they two find themselves on the run from gangsters, corrupt federal officers, and rival bounty hunters.
The deadpan humor makes this a movie that is just as fun to watch today as it was over 30 years ago.
My Fair Lady (1964)
My Fair Lady was a 1964 musical drama adapted from the stage musical of the same name by George Bernard Shaw.
In the movie, Audrey Hepburn played a poor flower seller named Eliza Doolittle who has an arrogant professor named Henry Higgins make a bet that he can teach her to speak proper English to make her more “proper” in high society London.
My Fair Lady won eight Academy Awards and was named one of the best movies of all time by the American Film Institute.
The Pianist (2002)
Roman Polanski directed the Holocaust movie The Pianist in 2002 and watched as the film won him an Oscar while actor Adrien Brody picked up one as well.
Brody stars as a Jewish pianist living in Poland during World War II. Just when it looks like Britain and France might save Poland when they join the war, Germany overruns the country.
Through the movie, the pianist loses everything, including his family, to the Nazi extermination camps, and has to go into hiding thanks to protection from a sympathetic member of the Jewish Ghetto Police.
Rain Man (1988)
Released in 1988 by Barry Levinson, Rain Man is a movie starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman.
Cruise is Charlie, a wealthy and successful businessman who returns home to settle his estranged father’s estate after his death. However, he then learns he has an older brother.
This brother is Raymond, an autistic savant who lives in a mental institution. He then tries to use his brother’s skills to make money in Las Vegas, but realizes that there is more to his brother than he expected.
Dances with Wolves (1990)
Kevin Costner directed and starred in Dances with Wolves in 1990, based on the novel by Michael Blake.
In the movie, Costner is a Union Army lieutenant named John J. Dunbar who travels to the American frontier, searching for a military post. Along the way, he deals with the Native American tribe, the Lakota.
Dances with Wolves received 12 Oscar nominations and won seven of them, including Best Picture and Best Director.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Stanley Kubrick directed the adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s novel A Clockwork Orange in 1971.
The film is a dystopian film that takes place in a Britain that has fallen to debauchery, delinquency, and violence.
Malcolm McDowell stars as Alex, the leader of a small gang he calls the Droogs, as they rape, steal, and kill people without recourse. However, when Alex is arrested, the story changes.
He goes through what is basically conversion therapy to “cure” him from being evil. When he leaves, he cannot defend himself when people he hurt in the past come to collect receipts.
She’s Gotta Have It (1986)
Spike Lee has become one of the top voices in African American cinema for over three decades.
Netflix subscribers can watch his newest movie, Da 5 Bloods, and now they can also watch his very first feature-length movie on the streaming giant as well.
She’s Gotta Have It was shot in black and white in 1986 and tells the story of a young woman who is dating three different men. When she is forced to make a decision, things get complicated.
There is also a Netflix original series released in 2017 based on Spike Lee’s debut film.
Mad Max (1979)
In 1979, Mel Gibson enjoyed his breakout role as Max Rockantansky, a police pursuit officer for the Australian highway patrol.
The film takes place in a dystopian future where an oil crisis has led to biker gangs taking control of the nation’s roadways and running rampant, with little controlling them.
After Max decides to retire when his friend and fellow officer dies at the hands of one of the gangs, he leaves with his family only to have the gang track them down and kill his family.
Driven to rage, Max steals his old Pursuit Special car and heads out, seeking bloody and violent revenge.
Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)
The second Monty Python movie on Netflix is the Christian satire Life of Brian.
The movie tells the story of a man named Brian, a child born in the stable next to Jesus Christ. This causes the Three Wisemen to find him and initially confuse him with the King of the Jews.
Brian then falls in love with a young rebel and joins the People’s Front of Judea, a freedom movement that spends as much time in-fighting as getting anything done.
The movie found protestors from every religious sect, but it might be the funniest movie from Monty Python.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
The Monty Python comedy troupe was already a legend before they started making movies with a popular and hilarious British comedy sketch series.
In 1975, they made Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which was a re-telling of the King Arthur legend, but in a hilarious manner.
With everything from the Knights Who Say Ni to the Black Knight, there are so many legendary moments that this is one comedy classic that stands up well 45 years later.
This might be Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin’s finest moment.