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The 15 best classic movies on Netflix (January 2021)

classic movies on Netflix
A Clockwork Orange and Platoon. Pic credit: Warner Bros/Orion

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 on January 7: 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 the best Netflix picks on the Internet.

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Bonnie and Clyde
Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde. Pic credit: Warner Bros

Bonnie and Clyde is one of the movies that helped change how Hollywood made movies.

Released in 1967, the movie an independently made movie, and along with films like Easy Rider, it helped convince Hollywood that auteurs should be given leeway to go off the beaten path.

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway starred as the legendary outlaws Bonnie and Clyde, as they rode through towns, robbing banks, and becoming folk heroes to the poor people who saw them as heroes.

Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Cool Hand Luke
Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke. Pic credit: Warner Bros.

Paul Newman was one of the biggest movie stars of the ’60s and one look at Cool Hand Luke will show why.

In the film, Newman starred as Luke, a prisoner in a Florida prison camp who refuses to submit to the system.

Much like Bonnie and Clyde, Cool Hand Luke was a movie that was firmly anti-establishment and was a great example of the new style of filmmaking that took the world by storm.

The movie earned four Oscar nominations, winning one, and was added to the United States Library of Congress in its National Film Registry in 2005.

Enter the Dragon (1973)

The best action movies on Netflix
Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon. Pic credit: Warner Bros

No action film fan can talk about great movies without bringing up the greatest martial artist in Hollywood history — Bruce Lee.

Enter the Dragon was a 1973 Bruce Lee movie, the final one before he passed away and one of his most famous.

Lee is a martial artist who sets out to bring down the drug dealer whose gang caused his sister’s death. He enters a kung-fu competition to get inside the headquarters of the gang.

In 2004, Enter the Dragon was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

The Evil Dead (1981)

Evil Dead
A Deaditte in The Evil Dead. Pic credit: New Line Cinema

Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell made the horror movie The Evil Dead in 1981, and it has become one of the most beloved cult classics in cinema history.

Campbell stars as Ash Williams, who goes to a cabin in the woods for a vacation with his friends. While there, they discover a book called the Necronomicon.

When the friends read from the book, it raises a demonic army known as Deadittes, and the friends start to die one by one, with Ash left as the sole survivor.

The Evil Dead was a low budget horror film with practical effects created by Raimi, but it is a masterclass in indie filmmaking.

Dark Waters (1956)

Dark Waters (1956)
The classic movie Dark Waters is on Netflix. Pic credit: Netflix

Dark Waters was released in 1956 and starred Omar Sharif (Lawrence of Arabia).

The plotline has a fisherman, Ragab (Sharif), returning home after three years only to find that the woman he loves is drifting away, the sailors feuding, and his community falling apart.

This is a romantic drama, with Ragab returning to the woman he plans to marry, only to find she has fallen in love with a wealthy man named Mandouh (Ahmed Ramzy). He then fights to try to win her affections back.

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

A Clockwork Orange
Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange. Pic credit: Warner Bros

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.

Platoon (1986)

Willem Defoe in Platoon. Pic credit: Orion Pictures

In 1986, Oliver Stone directed the Oscar-winning war movie Platoon.

Based on his own experiences in the war, Charlie Sheen took the lead role as a U.S. Army volunteer caught between the differing ideals of his Squad Leaders (Tom Berenger and Willem Defoe).

The cast outside of those three men was exemplary, with Johnny Depp, Kohn C. McGinley, Kevin Dillon, Keith David, and Forest Whitaker rounding out the cast.

The movie won both the Best Picture and Best Director Oscar awards for Stone.

A Bridge Too Far (1977)

A Bridge Too Far
The cast of A Bridge Too Far. Pic credit: United Artists

Actor Richard Attenborough directed one of the best war movies of the ’70s with A Bridge Too Far.

Attenborough, who most people know as John Hammond in the original Jurassic Park movie, had an all-star cast for this World War II movie.

James Caan, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, Laurence Olivier, Ryan O’Neal, and Robert Redford were among the Oscar winners who starred in this film.

The movie tells the story of the failed Operation Market Garden in World War II. It picked up eight BAFTA nominations, winning for four of them.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Nurse Ratched
Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Pic credit: United Artists

Just in time for Netflix to add the new series Ratched to its streaming service, it has One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest available to watch as well.

The movie stars Jack Nicholson as Randle Patrick McMurphy, a man assigned to a mental institution when he claimed mentally ill to avoid hard labor in a prison.

While there he meets an assorted cast of characters, but they are all living under the iron fist of Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher).

When her demands and threats lead one patient to suicide, McMurphy is blamed and faces the ultimate punishment. The movie is based on the acclaimed novel by Ken Kesey.

She’s Gotta Have It (1986)

She's Gotta Have It
Tracy Camilla Johns in She’s Gotta Have It. Pic credit: Island Pictures

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)

Mad Max
Mel Gibson in Mad Max. Pic credit: Warner Bros.

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.

Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

Fiddler on the Roof
Fiddler on the Roof. Pic credit: United Artists

Released in 1971 by acclaimed director Norman Jewison, Fiddler on the Roof is a musical film based on the 1964 Broadway musical of the same name.

The movie features Tevye, the father of five daughters who tries to maintain his Jewish traditions. However, this was a rough time for Jewish people in the early 1900s.

Three of his daughters start to move further away from his beliefs, and the government of his home turns on all Jewish residents.

Taxi Driver (1976)

Taxi Driver
Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver. Pic credit: Columbia

Martin Scorsese is one of the most respected voices of ’70s cinema and directed some of the best crime drama movies you will see on Netflix.

One of these movies was the brilliant Taxi Driver in 1978, a film that picked up four Oscar nominations but was passed up for all four, including Best Director (Scorsese), Best Actor (Robert De Niro), and Best Supporting Actress (Jodie Foster).

The movie has De Niro starring as a Vietnam vet who takes an interest in a political intern (Sharon Stone) and a teenage prostitute (Foster) and is determined to protect them both at all costs.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Pic credit: EMI Films

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.

Mean Streets (1973)

Scene from Mean Streets
Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro starred in Mean Streets

Martin Scorsese has made some of the best classics in movie history, and the first masterpiece of his career came in 1973 with Mean Streets.

The film is a crime story that focuses on two friends, Charlie (Harvey Keitel) and Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro) in Little Italy, New York City.

While Charlie is trying to make it while working for a local mafia boss, but he is continuously thrown off by Johnny Boy, who is a gambler who is getting in too deep with local bookies and puts everyone around him in danger.

Shawn S. Lealos

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