20 Classic Movies to Watch on Netflix Canada
From Taxi Driver to Dirty Dancing, these classic titles will take you back!
Coming to America (1988)
In this rom-com-meets-buddy movie, Eddie Murphy plays a prince from the fictional Zamunda on a mission in Manhattan to find himself a bride. Obviously, things go sideways—even with his trusty aide (played pitch-perfectly by Arsenio Hall) assisting him. Murphy and Hall take on multiple characters throughout Coming to America, ramping up the hilarity with each subsequent role. Keep an eye out for Sexual Chocolate, the grooviest band of 1988. (And skip 2021’s underwhelming sequel.)
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It only took James Cameron six words to successfully pitch what would become the most popular film of its day to producers: “Romeo and Juliet… on that ship.” More than 25 years later, this 195-minute epic still has something for everyone: the captivating chemistry between Winslet and DiCaprio, the class satire, the cheesy one-liners and, of course, the exhilarating action sequences. The passage of time has even been kind to Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Do On,” which is as potent an earworm as it was back in ’97.
L.A. Confidential (1997)
This star-studded, Academy Award-winning neo-noir is set in the policing world of 1950s Los Angeles, where the cops are as likely to be as corrupt as the criminals. Guy Pierce, Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey and Kim Basinger lead the formidable cast, while screenwriters Curtis Hanson and Brian Helgeland pepper their sordid tale with so many twists and double-crosses that it deserves to be watched at least twice—preferably with a highball in hand.
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A River Runs Through It (1992)
“In our family, there was no clear line between fly-fishing and religion,” says director Robert Redford at the beginning of A River Runs Through It. For the three Maclean men of Missoula, Montana—Presbyterian minister John (Tom Skerritt) and his two sons, soft-spoken Ivy Leaguer Norman (Craig Sheffer) and rowdy reporter Paul (Brad Pitt)—fly-fishing is as essential as a Sunday service. And, as the household comes to learn in the face of love, estrangement and tragedy in the 1930s, it also holds the answers to life’s greatest questions.
The Guns of Navarone (1961)
Navarone Island in the Aegean Sea does not exist, but it’s a testament to this Second World War epic that most filmgoers think otherwise. Gregory Peck leads a mix of Greek and British soldiers (including Anthony Quinn and David Niven) onto the fictional rock, where they’re tasked with destroying an Axis military base before it wreaks havoc on the Royal Navy. More than 60 years later, The Guns of Navarone remains absolutely thrilling, thanks to Oswald Morris’s gritty cinematography and some clever character-building.
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In the Line of Fire (1993)
On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Thirty years later, Frank Horrigan (Clint Eastwood), the last remaining Secret Service agent who was guarding Kennedy that afternoon, is still haunted by his failure. Enter Mitch Leary (John Malkovich): a disenchanted former CIA operative who plans to assassinate the current president—and who taunts Horrigan along the way. In the Line of Fire features top-notch direction and a taut screenplay, but it’s Malkovich who threatens to steal the show in an Academy Award-nominated turn that surely inspired one or two future Joker performances.
Jurassic Park (1993)
As far as action movies go, it’s hard to top the Jurassic Park franchise (Netflix is also streaming The Lost World, Jurassic Park III and 2015’s Jurassic World). Steven Spielberg’s 1993 original appeals to kids and adults alike by effortlessly keeping audiences laughing and on edge—often at the same time. Case in point: the scene in which a lawyer (Martin Ferrero) gets eaten by a T-Rex while sitting on a toilet.
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. Nearly 30 years later, Pulp Fiction is still exhilarating—like an adrenaline shot to the heart, so to speak.
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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 battle the corrupt sheriff (Brian Dennehy).
Léon: The Professional (1994)
The “action-thriller” label does not do justice to how menacing, twisted and campy Léon: The Professional truly is. All the pieces are in play for a bona fide classic: Jean Reno’s stoic introduction to American audiences; Natalie Portman’s star-making turn; a lean, mean script; and Gary Oldman as corrupt detective Norman Stansfield, chewing the scenery like no actor has before (or since). By the time Stansfield orders the big guns against our titular assassin, one cannot help but think that they don’t make ’em like this anymore.
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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 stump even the professors at MIT. 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 true ’90s touchstone. How do you like them apples?
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Gangs of New York (2002)
This battered and bloody historical epic—released to polarized reviews in 2002—is looking more and more like a misunderstood classic with every passing year. In 1862, Amsterdam (Leonardo DiCaprio) moves back to the chaotic Five Points neighbourhood of Lower Manhattan to avenge his father’s death. His target? The psychotic Bill the Butcher (Daniel Day-Lewis), a local gang leader who loves killing almost as much as he hates immigrants. If director Martin Scorsese adapted Dickens, the result might not look that different from Gangs of New York.
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Donnie Brasco (1997)
In this underrated mob drama, FBI agent Joseph D. Pistone (a wonderfully understated Johnny Depp) goes undercover to infiltrate New York City’s Bonnano crime family in the late 1970s. Adopting the persona of jewel thief “Donnie Brasco,” Pistone strikes up a friendship with Lefty Ruggiero (Al Pacino), an aging low-level gangster who sees in “Donnie” the son he never had.
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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.
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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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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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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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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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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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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.
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