25 Classic Movies to Watch on Netflix Canada
Whether you’re working from home and have a good amount of free time on your hands, or are simply in the mood for something nostalgic, we’ve got you covered.
Gone with the Wind (1939)
Over the course of nearly four hours, the devious Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) and roguish Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) embark on a stormy romance during the American Civil War and Reconstruction. There’s much to love in this bygone epic: the ravishing Technicolor photography, Max Steiner’s score, career-defining performances, and of course, that damn ending. Simply put, they don’t make ’em like Gone with the Wind anymore.
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Citizen Kane (1941)
Long considered one of the greatest movies ever, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane can be enjoyed on many levels: as an ode to lost childhood, a satire on the excesses of capitalism, or a cautionary tale on the dark side of the American Dream. Much has been written about its stylistic innovations, but in 2020, it’s worth reminding that Citizen Kane—thanks in large part to Welles as an infamous publishing tycoon—is also a whole lot of fun.
High Noon (1952)
On the day of his wedding, Marshal Wil Kane (Gary Cooper) learns a vicious outlaw he once sent to prison is returning to town to exact revenge. When the townspeople refuse to help him, Kane comes to terms with facing the gang alone. Written as an allegory against the Communist witch hunt that spread across America in the 1950s, High Noon is a powerful tale about standing by your principles. (Look out for Grace Kelly in a star-making role!)
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
The reclusive Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) announces that five lucky children will be given a tour of his famous chocolate factory, learn the secrets of his candy, and be given a lifetime supply of Wonka treats. Enter young Charlie: a kind-hearted boy who wins the prize—along with four other brattish kids. Truth be told, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory earns its classic status the moment Wilder makes his grand entrance via somersault.
The Godfather (1972)
A horse’s head, a life-or-death offer, a double-murder in a quiet Bronx restaurant, a doomed marriage in Sicily, that ominous baptism—every moment in The Godfather feels grand and pitch-perfect. And though writer-director Francis Ford Coppola and his cast—Brando, Pacino, Duvall, Keaton and Caan, to name a few—have certainly made other great movies, The Godfather feels like a summation of everything cinema has to offer.
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American Graffiti (1973)
Few movies evoke a time and place like American Graffiti, George Lucas’ tribute to his upbringing in 1960s Modesto, California. From its rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack—Del Shannon, Chuck Berry, the Platters and everything in between—to its vivid depiction of teenagers and their love of cars, American Graffiti captures an entire generation on the precipice of major societal change.
The Godfather Part II (1974)
What is left to say about The Godfather Part II that hasn’t already been said? The much-loved “Greatest Sequel Ever” is, like its predecessor, a tragedy worthy of Shakespeare. In this 1974 classic, mob boss Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) seeks to expand his criminal enterprise to Cuba, while his father, Vito (Robert De Niro, shown in flashbacks), flees to New York City from Sicily and very quickly learns that—contrary to the old adage—crime does pay.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974)
Monty Python has made better films (Life of Brian) and even more philosophical ones (The Meaning of Life), but neither match Monty Python and the Holy Grail in sheer irreverence, sight gags and laughs per minute. From its wonky opening credits—complete with fake Swedish subtitles—to its out-of-nowhere finale, The Holy Grail sees history’s most famous comedy group firing on all cylinders. You’ll never look at rabbits the same way again.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Richard Dreyfuss stars as Roy Neary, an electrical lineman who witnesses a UFO and alienates his wife and children, who don’t believe him. His obsession with extra-terrestrials brings him to Jillian (Melinda Dillon), a single mother whose own son disappeared during her UFO experience. Close Encounters‘ justifiably famous ending is the stuff dreams are made of.
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
In writer-director Robert Benton’s Kramer vs. Kramer, Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep play a married couple who go through a painful divorce and custody battle. Widely credited with helping change public opinion on gender roles in the ’80s, Kramer vs. Kramer still packs an emotional punch.
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Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)
The story of Loretta Lynn, one of country music’s first female superstars, is one for the ages: one of eight children born to a poor coal mining family in Kentucky, Lynn was married at 15, and a mother of four by the time she was 20. Her first single, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl,” released in 1960, got her an invitation to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville—and the rest is history. Sissy Spacek stars as Lynn in an Oscar-winning performance, while Tommy Lee Jones stars as Doolittle, Lynn’s husband and manager.
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Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
In Raiders of the Lost Ark, the world’s most famous archaeologist (Harrison Ford) is on a mission to secure the Ark of the Covenant—a gold-covered chest containing two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments—before the Nazis get their hands on it. Smart, funny and filled with one action-packed sequence after another, Raiders is the kind of movie that proves art and entertainment can be the same thing.
If there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, who you gonna call? Canadian Ivan Reitman’s beloved classic offers up a vision of New York City populated by monstrous ghosts and shapeshifting demigods. From its pitch-perfect performances (Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd have never been better) to throwaway one-liners (“Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!”), Ghostbusters is a wild ride from start to marshmallow finish.
The 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters, meanwhile, has earned a spot on our countdown of the worst movie remakes of all time.
Crocodile Dundee (1986)
A ragtag crocodile hunter from the Australian outback (Paul Hogan, who also co-wrote the film) visits New York City, is bewildered by local customs, and falls for the gorgeous journalist (Linda Kozlowski) writing a profile on him. Simple to a fault, Crocodile Dundee still manages to hit all the right notes, continuing to expand on its premise in fun and inventive ways. Its ending—a declaration of love in the most New York of places, a subway platform—is a real crowd-pleaser.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
John Hughes’s greatest movie (sorry, The Breakfast Club) continues to find new generations of fans, and rightly so. It isn’t just Bueller’s appealing slacker worldview or effortless cool that make it so, either: the scene in which his best friend, Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck), decides to finally stand up to his father is as moving today as it must have been back in 1986.
Dirty Dancing (1987)
Few romantic dramas are as unabashedly campy as Dirty Dancing, a 1960s-set forbidden romance you no longer need to feel bad about calling a guilty pleasure. Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze are perfectly cast for writer Eleanor Bergstein’s semi-autobiographical script, which tells the story of a rich young woman who falls for a dance instructor while vacationing with her family in New York’s Catskill Mountains.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Pulp Fiction may still be the best version of Quentin Tarantino Land: a colourful place filled with pop-culture references, hyper-literate characters and exploding heads. Take your pick of storylines: John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson’s chatty hitmen, Uma Thurman’s dance-loving moll, or Bruce Willis’ love-drunk ex-boxer. Twenty-five years later, Pulp Fiction is still exhilarating—like an adrenaline shot to the heart, so to speak.
“Searching for a boy in high school is as useless as searching for meaning in a Pauly Shore movie.” Writer-director Amy Heckerling’s classic comedy about wealthy, spoiled and fashion-conscious high schooler Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) and a colourful cast of friends, parents, teachers and “Baldwins” is a strong contender for the most quotable movie of the ’90s. Jane Austen’s Emma has been adapted for film, television and stage no less than 16 times, but can any version ever top Clueless? As if!
The creepy opening credits, those deranged crime scenes, the budding camaraderie between Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman’s detectives, “I tried to taste the life of a simple man; it didn’t work out, so I took a souvenir”—it’s been 25 years since David Fincher’s serial-killer thriller was released, but none of its bleak images and moments have faded from our collective memory. Just don’t try and picture what’s inside the box.
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In this quirky adaptation of the Roald Dahl book of the same name, a brilliant little girl discovers she has telekinetic powers, and uses her newfound gift to turn the tables on her abusive parents and tyrannical principal. Embeth Davidtz shines as Matilda’s saintly teacher, Miss Jennifer Honey, but the film’s real star is child actor Mara Wilson.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
A swinging tribute to The Beatles, Dudley Moore, Carnaby Street fashion and, of course, James Bond, this hit parody follows a cryogenically frozen, sex-crazed 1960s spy (Mike Myers) who is revived in the 1990s to stop super villain Dr. Evil (also Myers). Elizabeth Hurley co-stars as Powers’ partner, Vanessa Kensington. Yeah, baby, yeah!
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Good Will Hunting (1997)
When 20-year-old janitor Will Hunting (Matt Damon) isn’t wreaking havoc with his aimless buddies, he’s solving math problems that have stumped MIT professors for years. Leave it to Robin Williams—in his greatest role—to set the young punk on the right track. Damon and co-star Ben Affleck’s Oscar-winning screenplay is a sharp meditation on love, trauma and boy geniuses—and a bona fide ’90s touchstone. How do you like them apples?
There had been several movies made about the RMS Titanic before James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster, but none had the inspired idea to set Romeo and Juliet on the ill-fated passenger liner. Beautifully constructed, perfectly cast, and with more than a few scenes that have become enshrined in pop culture consciousness, Titanic is one of Hollywood’s last old-fashioned epics. We’re inclined to forgive the Celine Dion theme, too.
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The Matrix (1999)
Tw0-hundred years in the future, intelligent machines have taken over the world. The machines harvest humans for their bioelectric power and keep them plugged into a shared simulated reality, while the surviving free humans plan their retaliatory attack from an underworld city called Zion. Humanity’s last hope: a computer programmer named Neo (Keanu Reeves). A benchmark movie of the ’90s, The Matrix’s state-of-the-art special effects and innovative action sequences have stood the test of time.
Notting Hill (1999)
No filmmaker has been able to harness Hugh Grant’s ironic energy quite like screenwriter Richard Curtis, whose second collaboration with the actor resulted in his definitive performance. Sweet, funny and surprisingly believable, this tale of a West London bookstore owner who falls for a famous Hollywood actress is one of the all-time best entries in the rom-com genre. It doubles as a virtual London bucket list guide, too!
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