Top classic films on Netflix UK
Benedict Seal | On 15, Apr 2017
Netflix is somewhat infamous for its relative lack of classic films. Although the pickings are slim, if you know where to look, there’s still plenty of scope to expand your film horizons with some old movies from Hollywood’s golden years. To help you on your way, we’ve put together a rundown of the best films from before 1970 currently available on Netflix UK.
This list will be updated regularly to reflect new releases and removals.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
George Roy Hill’s film brilliantly pairs Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and their explosive chemistry, with the support of a whip-smart screenplay, is a delight in this iconic latter period Western. A huge box office hit in the US, the film ended 1969 as the year’s highest grossing film.
This X certificate countercultural classic from British director Lindsay Anderson won the Palme d’Or at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival. It also introduced the world to Malcolm McDowell (Stanley Kubrick included: see A Clockwork Orange), playing an older schoolboy who leads a brutal insurrection against his masters at a boys private boarding school.
Barbara Streisand reprised the role she played on Broadway as actress and comedian Fanny Brice – and won the Best Actress Oscar with her screen debut in this 1968 musical epic. Director William Wyler is one of the five filmmakers highlighted in Netflix’s recent documentary series, Five Came Back.
In the Heat of the Night
Norman Jewison’s film stands tall as one third of a triumphant trio of 1967 hits for co-star Sidney Poitier, which helped make him the highest grossing star of that year. Like so much of Poitier’s work, In the Heat of the Night is a landmark of African-American representation on the big screen, encapsulated by an incendiary scene in which Poitier’s Detective Tibbs reciprocates after a white man slaps him.
A Man for all Seasons
Robert Bolt (Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago) adapted his own stage play and won a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for this 1966 historical drama. The handsomely mounted film chronicles the final years of Sir Thomas Moore, the Lord Chancellor who refused to comply with Henry VIII’s wish to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.
The Flight of the Phoenix
This thrilling 1965 adventure film sees a cargo plane forced into an emergency landing in the middle of the Sahara desert. James Stewart’s pilot and the pitch-perfect ensemble cast must put their heads together to find a way out of the barren wasteland. The 2004 Dennis Quaid remake pales in comparison.
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Stanley Kubrick’s prescient political satire seems as relevant now as the day it was released in 1964. Featuring Peter Sellers on terrific form in three separate roles and some all-time great scenes, Dr. Strangelove was among the first set of films to be selected for the United States Library of Congress’ National Film Registry – and rightly so.
To Kill a Mockingbird
Released just two years after Harper Lee’s 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Gregory Peck’s much-loved performance as lawyer Atticus Finch, who defends a black man accused of raping a white woman, brought To Kill a Mockingbird to the screen in stunning fashion. His portrayal helped the character top the American Film Institute’s list of the greatest movie Heroes & Villains of the 20th century.
The Pit and the Pendulum
Indie maverick Roger Corman made his mark in Hollywood in the early 60s directing a series of well-regarded Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, starring Vincent Price. His second (after House of Usher the year before), The Pit and the Pendulum brings one of Poe’s most well known tales to life with a heart-racing finale and all the gothic trappings one could wish for.
A favourite of French New Wave icon François Truffaut, Nicholas Ray’s visually striking female-headed western confounded audiences on its cinema release in 1954. It has since been re-evaluated as a layered, complex genre offering that refuses to adhere to the gung-ho tropes of its most American genre.
On the Waterfront
“I coulda been a contender…” Marlon Brando’s performance, and Elia Kazan’s film, are so much more than that iconic scene. Winning eight Oscars from 12 nominations in 1954, On the Waterfront stands defiantly as a gritty classic of American cinema.
Twelve O’Clock High
This Gregory Peck-starring World War II picture puts the emphasis on the human side of the war. The 1949 film chronicles the harrowing story of the first B-17 bombers sent out over Europe without the support of long-range fighter planes. The film was long used by the United States Air Force in leadership training courses.
Director Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler’s brilliant script is the star of the show in this 1944 film noir classic, which sees Barbara Stanwyck’s fiendish femme fatale puppeteer Fred MacMurray’s quick-talking insurance salesman into helping her off her less-than-satisfactory husband.
It Happened One Night
The first film to win the “Big Five” at the Academy Awards (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Screenplay) – a feat matched only by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Silence of the Lambs – this influential pre-Production Code romantic comedy was a word-of-mouth hit in 1934 as audiences took to its delightful charms.
The Ten Commandments
This silent epic was released in 1923, making it the second oldest film currently available on Netflix UK. Director Cecil B. DeMille would go on to retell this story in his final film, of the same name, released in 1956. That version is arguably better known, but this, with its Technicolor process 2 colour sequences, is where it all began.