Top classic films on Netflix UK
Ivan Radford | On 27, Oct 2018Reading time: 5 mins
Netflix is somewhat infamous for its relative lack of classic films – and, with the closure of FilmStruck, those slim pickings are more important than ever to address. But with Netflix funding the restoration and completion of Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind (and adding some Orson Welles movies to go with it), there’s there’s still scope to expand your film horizons with some old movies from Hollywood’s golden years, if you know where to lick.
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.
The Other Side of the Wind
Orson Welles’ final film, now restored and completed, is a scathing Hollywood satire that sits alongside F for Fake as a dizzying testament to the filmmaker’s unending ambition to forge something new. Read our full review
Touch of Evil
Orson Welles’ 1958 classic isn’t just a technical masterpiece, but a dark slice of thrilling noir to boot, featuring an explosive opening scene (shot in one take) that is worth watching for alone.
Orson Welles directs Edward G. Robinson in this 1946 drama, which sees an investigator head to Connecticut in an attempt to expose a Nazi fugitive, who is hiding out as a married man with a wife who knows nothing of his past. The film marks the director’s most formally conventional work of his career, but that mainstream surface conceals complex themes and nuanced performances from Welles, Robinson and Loretta Young.
Some Like It Hot
The Pink Panther
Slapstick doesn’t come much funnier than Inspector Clouseau. Originally intended as vehicle for David Niven, playing a suave jewel thief, Peter Sellers’ bumbling detective steals the show entirely in Blake Edwards’ 1963 comedy. The animated opening credits, accompanied by Henry Mancini’s timeless music, are a bonus.
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. Words: Benedict Seal
James Hill directs this Oscar-winning drama based on the true story of Elisa, the lion Joy Adamson raised rom a cub and rehabilitated back into the world. Come from the moving adaptation of Adamson’s book, stay for John Barry’s soundtrack.
A Fistful of Dollars
Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name swaggered into the saloon of cinema back in 1964 and became an instant icon of the Western, with Sergio Leone cementing himself as a master of the genre.
No Man of Her Own
Never miss a chance to watch Barbara Stanwyck on screen. The 1950 noir melodrama sees the screen icon play an unwed mother who takes on a dead bride’s identity and moves in with her rich in-laws – all while trying to fend off the threats of her devious ex.
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. Words: Benedict Seal
The Woman in the Window
Fritz Lang, one of the godfathers of film noir, is on fine form with this classic thriller that stars Edward G. Robinson. He plays a college professor who becomes involved with a beautiful model, only to find himself ensnared in a web of blackmail and murder.
The Greatest Story Ever Told
“Say it with awe!” director George Stevens is famously claimed to have told John Wayne on the set of The Greatest Story Ever Told. “Aw, truly he was the son of God,” Wayne went on to declare. The urban legend may not be true, but this Biblical epic is still an all-star epitome of the genre, with Max von Sydow, Charlton Heston, Martin Landau and Angela Lansbury among the impressive names appearing in this chronicle of the life of Jesus Christ.
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. Words: Benedict Seal
Birdman of Alcatraz
Burt Lancaster stars in John Frankenheimer’s prison drama about the fascinating story of prison inmate Robert Stroud.
John Wayne and Howard Hawks team up for this 1962 adventure romance, which sees John Wayne play a photographer who gets caught up with an animal-trapping crew in Africa. Written by Leigh Brackett (The Big Sleep, Rio Bravo, The Empire Strikes Back), the impressive names behind the camera continue with Henry Mancini’s score, and DoP Russell Harlan, whose cinematography was nominated for an Oscar.
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney and Sid Caesar all star in this madcap comedy from 1963, which follows five strangers all racing to try and retrieve the $350,000 buried in a park by a thief who has just passed away. Stanley Kramer’s caper has gone on to be listed by the AFI in its Top 100 Laughs.