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The 15 best classic movies on Netflix (October 2020)

Classic movies on Netflix
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Raiders of the Lost Ark on Netflix. Pic credit: United Artists/Paramount

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 October 3: 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 is no longer on Netflix and replace them with movies of equal or better quality to keep this the best Netflix picks on the Internet.

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 he faces the ultimate punishment. The movie is based on the acclaimed novel by Ken Kesey.

Back to the Future (1985)

Back to the Future
Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future. Pic credit: Universal

Released in 1985, Robert Zemeckis created one of the best family movies of all-time with the sci-fi time travel adventure Back to the Future.

In the film, Michael J. Fox stars as Marty McFly, a teenager whose dad is a bullied meek man. He ends up sent back in time by a local inventor named Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd).

When he ends up in the past, he meets his parents before they started dating and has to work not to change the future, thereby deleting himself from existence.

There were two sequels.

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.

The NeverEnding Story (1984)

The NeverEnding Story
Atreyu and Falkor in The NeverEnding Story. Pic credit: Warner Bros

One of the best family-friendly movies in history hit Netflix with The NeverEnding Story.

The movie features a bullied young child named Bastian, who is running from his pursuers and hides out. While in hiding, he discovers a book called The NeverEnding Story.

Despite warnings, he reads the book about a young warrior named Atreyu who is on a quest to save the Childlike Empress and it is only a matter of time before Bastian realizes he is being literally swept into this story as it affects his real life as well.

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.

West Side Story (1961)

West Side Story
Classic musical movie West Side Story. Pic credit: United Artists

Another classical musical on Netflix is the 1961 movie West Side Story.

The movie is inspired by Romeo and Juliet, but the star-crossed lovers are members of rival street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks. The film was based on the 1957 Broadway musical of the same name.

This movie picked up 11 Academy Awards nominations, including Best Picture, and set the record for the most wins for a movie musical. It was also added to the Library of Congress in 1997 as a culturally significant film.

Steven Spielberg is remaking the movie for a release that is currently scheduled for 2020.

Airplane! (1980)

Airplane
Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty in Airplane!. Pic credit: Paramount Pictures

In 1980, the Zucker Brothers created one of the most iconic and brilliant movie parodies of all-time with Airplane!.

This comedy movie on Netflix is a direct parody remake of the 1957 disaster movie Zero Hour! However, on top of spoofing that disaster movie, the film makes fun of anything and everything from popular culture in 1980.

While movies in future years would make parodies one of the most hated genres in cinema, this one did it all right and stands on its own as a true comedy classic.

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.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

The best action movies on Netflix (July 2020)
Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Pic credit: Paramount Pictures

If you are looking for an action movie on Netflix, there is a brilliant classic adventure movie that might be one of the best of its kind.

In 1981, Steven Spielberg directed the first Indiana Jones movie with Raiders of the Lost Ark.

In this first movie, Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones, a professor and treasure hunter who is searching for the Biblical Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis have a chance to get to it first.

There were three sequels, but the first is not only the one that started it all but the best action-adventure movie you can see on Netflix.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Scariest movies on Netflix (July 2020)
Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs. Pic credit: Orion

The Silence of the Lambs is one of the top critically acclaimed horror movies on Netflix.

The film, based on the Thomas Harris novel of the same name, stars Jodie Foster as an FBI agent sent to interview convicted serial killer Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) as she tries to stop a new killer on the loose.

This horror movie picked up Oscar wins in every significant category and is the only real horror movie ever to win the Best Picture award at the Oscars. Also winning awards were Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, and director Jonathan Demme.

Poltergeist (1982)

Poltergeist
The classic horror movie Poltergeist. Pic credit: MGM

Poltergeist is a movie officially directed by Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) by the side of Steven Spielberg, who served as the producer and screenwriter as well.

This is a haunted house ghost story and is one of the scariest movies on Netflix.

A family moves into a house and finds that it is haunted when the spirits target their daughter. The family calls in exorcists to try to save their family, and it was nominated for three Academy Awards.

Shawn S. Lealos has been a freelance writer for 25 years, starting with magazines and newspapers before moving to the internet. He has been published... read more
Shawn S. Lealos

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