With movie theaters closed across the country due to the coronavirus pandemic, movie fans will have plenty of time to catch up on what they have missed. That includes hundreds of classic movies available to stream on platforms like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Hulu. You are stuck at home, so you might as well rewatch old favorites and check out those movies you have always planned on watching, but never got to.
Thanks to dozens of streaming services, classic movies are available to an even wider audience than ever before. Those disappointed with the disturbing lack of classics on Netflix can go digging deep into Amazon's catalog, or check out the handful on Hulu. The best selection of classics is at the Criterion Channel though, where you can watch masterpieces from all around the world.
To limit the scope of this list, we are going to recommend 10 classics available at Netflix and Amazon Prime, the two most popular streaming services. However, it is important to note that there are many more venues out there to find classics. The Internet Archive is home to thousands of movies that fell into the public domain, and some are also available on YouTube. If you are interested in signing up to another streaming service, the Criterion Channel costs $10.99 per month or $99.99 a year.
It's A Wonderful Life
There is never a wrong time to watch Frank Capra's 1946 classic It's A Wonderful Life. Amazon has the original black and white version available (ignore the digitally colorized version at all costs) available to stream with a Prime subscription. If you have only seen it through the NBC broadcast with commercials, this is the perfect opportunity to fix it.
Once Upon A Time In The West
Looking for a perfect movie that takes almost a whole afternoon to watch? Sergio Leone's epic Once Upon A Time In The West, available on Netflix, fits that bill perfectly. This gorgeously-shot Spaghetti Western includes monumental performances from Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Jason Robards and Claudia Cardinale. It's a 165-minute practice in building tension, with tributes to the best Westerns ever made spread throughout.
The African Queen
John Huston's 1952 Technicolor adventure The African Queen was beautifully shot by the great cinematorgrapher Jack Cardiff and features one of the all-time great Oscar-winning performances courtesy of Humphrey Bogart. The chemistry between Katharine Hepburn and Bogart is unmissable, and the on-location photography in Africa adds to its authenticity. It is now available on Amazon Prime.
Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard, available to stream on Amazon Prime, is the greatest movie about movies ever made, and one of the best movies about anything ever made. The film is told from the perspective of a dead screenwriter played by William Holden (technically, that's not really a spoiler since the movie opens with him already dead), who finds himself working for a deluded silent movie star played by Gloria Swanson. Wilder's Stalag 17, also starring Holden, and his 1972 black comedy Avanti! with Jack Lemmon are also available on Amazon and are excellent.
Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers
Women have been directing films just as long as men. In 2018, Kino Lorber released a six-disc Blu-ray box set featuring films by Alice Guy-Blache, Lois Weber and others to highlight the work of women silent filmmakers. Seventeen films included in the set are available to stream on Netflix.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Just about every Monty Python project ever made is now available on Netflix. There are documentaries, the entire Monty Python's Flying Circus and live performances. There are also their theatrical movies, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Monty Python's Life of Brian and Monty Python and the Meaning of Life. Watch The Holy Grail if you need to lighten the mood. The absurdity never ages.
There's no baseball on TV, but you can revisit the Robert Redford classic The Natural on Netflix. The nostalgia-drenched movie, directed by Barry Levinson, finds Redford as Roy Hobbs, a baseball player with "natural" talent. It's filled with wonderful performances, but its best aspect is Randy Newman's soaring score.
Love Affair is one of the many public domain movies you have to dig deep to find on Amazon Prime. This one is for all the romantics out there. The 1939 Love Affair is the original version of An Affair To Remember, which later inspired Sleepless in Seattle and a direct remake in 1994. The original is just as wonderful, featuring performances from Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne in the lead roles.
Goodfellas is a modern classic, marking its 30th anniversary this year. Thankfully, you can watch it on Netflix. There are other Martin Scorsese classics on Netflix, too. You can find Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Hugo there as well. Netflix is also home to his latest masterpiece, The Irishman, which will take three hours and 29 minutes to watch and is worth every second. Over on Amazon Prime, you can check out Scorsese's underrated 1999 drama Bringing Out The Dead with Nicolas Cage, as well as his documentary The Last Waltz.
The Big Country
It's a big, big, big country, especially in William Wyler's 1958 Western epic The Big Country. It features monumental performances from Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Charles Bickford and Charlton Heston, as well as an Oscar-winning turn from Burl Ives. Wyler is one of the greatest directors Hollywood ever had. You can also check out his 1953 classic Roman Holiday with Peck and Audrey Hepburn.