20 Classic Movies to Watch on Netflix Canada
From The Graduate to The Breakfast Club, these classic titles will take you back!
The Mummy (1999)
In a particularly inspired bit of casting, The Mummy transforms Brendan Fraser, best-known at the time for his silly comedic work, into an action hero on par with Indiana Jones, complete with choice one-liners (“I only gamble with my life, never my money.”) Fans of Universal’s classic horror flicks will find much to love in this 1999 remake, as adventurer Rick O’Connell (Fraser) leads librarian Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) and her brother (John Hannah) to Egypt’s City of the Dead. Hilarious, exciting and eminently rewatchable.
Photo: Sony Pictures Releasing
Total Recall (1990)
The absurd tale of a brainwashed construction worker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who discovers his secret-spy past and ventures to Mars to save its mutant population, Total Recall has more to say about our relationship with violence than most movies of its era. (Director Paul Verhoeven’s own Robocop comes close.) Perfectly balancing audience-pleasing action with the philosophical interests of its source material (Total Recall is, after all, based on a short story by Philip K. Dick), what makes watching this classic so fun is knowing that a major studio will never again green-light a film that’s as proudly bonkers as this.
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Photo: Universal Pictures
In the Name of the Father (1993)
A harrowing exploration of bureaucratic corruption and judicial failure in the time of The Troubles, Jim Sheridan’s In the Name of the Father is a bona fide Nineties masterpiece. Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Gerry Conlon, a ne’er-do-well who is falsely accused of carrying out an IRA bombing in Surrey, England, that kills five people and injures 65 others. After being tortured by the police, Conlon is coerced into a confession—soon, he and his “co-conspirators” are sent to prison, along with some members of his family. Vividly acted and fiercely political, In the Name of the Father is one of the best classic movies on Netflix Canada.
Photo: Columbia Pictures
Widely credited as the film that kickstarted Kevin Costner’s career, Silverado is one of the few truly great Westerns made during a decade that almost saw the genre ride off into the sunset. Writer-director Lawrence Kasdan’s epic tale follows four misfit cowboys (played by Scott Glenn, Kevin Kline, Danny Glover and Costner) who meet under less-than-ideal circumstances and travel to the titular frontier town, where they eventually wage battle against the corrupt sheriff (Brian Dennehy). They don’t make ’em like this anymore.
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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.
First Blood (1982)
This survival-adventure about a Vietnam War veteran, John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone), who takes on small-town law enforcement could have easily strained credibility; instead, First Blood is one of the few action movies where the wounds—both physical and psychological—feel too real. Stallone and Richard Crenna (who plays Rambo’s hardened but sympathetic former superior) are superb, and Brian Dennehy—the petty sheriff that drives our hero over the edge—provides another thrilling showcase. First Blood is not only the first entry in a seemingly never-ending franchise, it’s the best.
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Photo: Columbia Pictures
Taxi Driver (1976)
A lonely Vietnam War veteran (Robert De Niro) becomes a cabbie to help him deal with his insomnia and depression. After experiencing New York City’s seediest characters firsthand, however, his mental condition deteriorates even further—leading him to purchase an arsenal of handguns, target a Presidential hopeful and befriend a child prostitute (Jodie Foster). Martin Scorsese’s best films (Goodfellas, Raging Bull) are ones in which the menace and violence threaten to leap off the screen, and Taxi Driver is no different. This nightmarish vision remains unparalleled.
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Photo: Columbia Pictures
The Karate Kid (1984)
Seventeen-year-old Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) is the ultimate underdog of the Eighties. After moving to Los Angeles from Newark, he draws the ire of local bully Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), only to be saved and mentored by an eccentric neighbour, the karate master Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita). Almost four decades after its release, The Karate Kid’s classic dialogue, choice music cues and rousing depiction of friendship and tenacity still makes for rewarding viewing. Wax on, wax off, indeed.
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Photo: Warner Bros.
To say that Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven turned the genre of the Western upside down would be an understatement. There are no impassioned, moralizing speeches or slow rides into the sun here, no forces of good keeping evil men at bay. When a pair of cowboys disfigure a prostitute in the town of Big Whiskey, Wyoming, in 1880, she and her colleagues offer a $1,000 bounty for their deaths. The ladies’ would-be hero? William Munny (Eastwood), a past-his-prime gunslinger with an unsavory past. The finest Eastwood film to date, Unforgiven is a masterclass in acting, directing and screenwriting.
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Photo: Studio Ghibli
Spirited Away (2001)
Thanks to some truly gorgeous animation and an intricate plot that requires patience to unravel, Spirited Away is one of the few films that genuinely gets better with each successive viewing. After wandering into an abandoned amusement park on the way to her new country home, 10-year-old Chihiro learns that she’s accidentally stumbled into a spirit world occupied by dragons, demon slayers and evil witches. An all-ages extravaganza with surprisingly adult themes, it’s no stretch to claim Spirited Away as one of the greatest films of this century.
Photo: Universal Pictures
The Breakfast Club (1985)
On a Saturday morning in the spring of 1984, a popular girl (Molly Ringwald), a jock (Emilio Estevez), a geek (Anthony Michael Hall), a criminal (Judd Nelson) and an outcast (Ally Sheedy) walked into Shermer High School for all-day detention—and changed the landscape of teen movies forever. The connections between these five archetypes are brilliantly constructed by writer-director John Hughes, whose highly-quotable script toggles between slapstick, dark comedy and emotional gut punches. Almost 40 years later, The Breakfast Club’s slew of iconic moments—an impromptu dance, the disarming group confession, that triumphant “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” needle drop—have lost none of their power.
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Apocalypse Now Redux (1979)
Francis Ford Coppola’s final masterpiece of the 1970s, based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, is one of the best classic movies on Netflix Canada. The picaresque, hallucinatory Vietnam War epic follows Captain Willard (Martin Sheen), a burnt-out operative tasked with locating—and terminating, “with extreme prejudice”—Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), a decorated officer who has now gone rogue. Coppola and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro bring the madness of war to life by melding their Baroque sensibilities with the novella’s philosophical preoccupations, and the result is Coppola’s most ambitious and dazzling tale. Apocalypse Now Redux, which was released in 2001 and adds more than 40 minutes of new material to the original film, is a revelation. (Just don’t call it an anti-war movie.)
Photo: American Film Institute
She’s Gotta Have It (1986)
This feature directorial debut launched Spike Lee’s career and—more significantly—helped kickstart the North American indie film industry. Shot over the course of two weeks with only a $175,000 budget, She’s Gotta Have It showcases the era’s big ideas, changing norms, and shifting power dynamics while giving voice to a character, Nola Darling (Tracy Camilla Johns), who is nothing short of revolutionary. Also: it’s very funny—especially John Canada Terrell’s character, whose vanity knows no limits.
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Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)
This classic comedy follows Brian (Graham Chapman), a half-hearted rebel living in Judea under Roman rule during the time of Jesus. Wanting to impress a girl (while evading crucifixion at the hands of Pontius Pilate’s guards) Brian makes the fatal error of cribbing some of the text from one of Jesus’ sermons. Suddenly, he’s adopted as the Messiah—a role he is definitely not cut out for. Fun fact: funding fell through days before filming, and the project was saved by none other than Python fan George Harrison.
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Photo: Sony Pictures
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
It’s not often that a sequel lives up to an original, but Terminator 2: Judgement Day is a rare exception. Reuniting Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton with writer-director James Cameron, T2 again follows Sarah Connor, who’s now tasked with saving herself and her son (Edward Furlong) from a next-gen T-1000 Terminator model (Robert Patrick) with the ability to shape-shift into anything it fancies. With nothing less at stake than the future of the entire human race, it’s Terminator vs. Terminator in this thrilling, immensely re-watchable classic.
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The Graduate (1967)
Who would have thought a modest comedy-drama about a college grad’s affair with an older woman—and his subsequent infatuation with her daughter—would change movies forever? After all, The Graduate grossed almost $105 million in the U.S. ($859 million in today’s terms), launched Dustin Hoffman’s career and finally convinced American studio heads to tell more offbeat, youth-oriented stories on-screen. More than 50 years after its release, its wry observations on twenty-something malaise and the generation gap still ring true. (And we still picture the dazzling Anne Bancroft when listening to Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” too.)
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Photo: Warner Bros.
L.A. Confidential (1997)
This Academy Award-winning neo-noir features an A-list ensemble cast and an intricate storyline set in the policing world of 1950s Los Angeles where the cops are as likely to be corrupt as the criminals. Guy Pierce, Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito and Kim Basinger star in a character-driven story with so many plot twists and double-crosses that it deserves to be watched at least twice—preferably with a highball in hand.
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Photo: Sony Pictures
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, as does star-director Danny DeVito, but the film’s real star is child actor Mara Wilson.
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Photo: Trafalgar Releasing
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
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.
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Pulp Fiction (1994)
Pulp Fiction may still be the best version of Quentin Tarantino Land: a colourful locale 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.
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