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20 Classic Movies to Watch on Netflix Canada

From Taxi Driver to Dirty Dancing, these classic titles will take you back!

1 / 20

Classic Movies On Netflix Canada - Gangs Of New YorkPhoto: Miramax

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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2 / 20

Classic Movies On Netflix Canada - Donnie BrascoPhoto: Sony Pictures Releasing

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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3 / 20

Classic Movies On Netflix Canada - Boyz N The HoodPhoto: Columbia Pictures

Boyz n the Hood (1991)

With this coming-of-age drama about gang violence in South Central Los Angeles, the late John Singleton became the first Black person—and the youngest ever—to be nominated for the Best Director Oscar. A fiery Cuba Gooding Jr. stars as Tre, a promising teenager caught between his best friend (Ice Cube), a member of the Crips, and his straight-arrow father (Laurence Fishburne). Singleton further explored race, masculinity and media in his later films, but none would be as gripping and influential as Boyz n the Hood.

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4 / 20

Classic Movies On Netflix Canada - Top Gun 1986Photo: Paramount Pictures

Top Gun (1986)

Sure, Top Gun’s spectacular, 30-years-in-the-making sequel boasts some of the greatest action sequences ever committed to film, but there’s no beating the original’s prowess in the “good time” department. Take your pick of choice cuts: a barroom rendition of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”; that Kenny Loggins-backed volleyball game; the unintended sexual tension; the one-liners! Plus, Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards have the kind of chemistry you just can’t repeat.

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5 / 20

Classic Movies On Netflix Canada - The FirmPhoto: Netflix

The Firm (1993)

This hit John Grisham adaptation wisely shows its cards early—it takes just 12 minutes for the film to reveal that there’s something off about the Memphis law firm of Bendini, Lambert & Locke. That way, audiences have more time to watch Tom Cruise’s Mitch McDeere—a tenacious Harvard Law grad and the firm’s latest recruit—outsmart his nefarious employers, his new mentor (a marvellously sleazy Gene Hackman) and the FBI agents trying to get him to turn state’s evidence. Look out for Holly Hunter as the scene-stealing Tammy Hemphill, a chain-smoking secretary who knows all too well what the firm is capable of.

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6 / 20

Classic Movies On Netflix Canada - Back To The Future - Michael J FoxPhoto: Universal Pictures

Back to the Future (1985)

Thirty-odd years on, and Robert Zemeckis’s Back to the Future still works like gangbusters: its immensely cool but goodhearted protagonist (Michael J. Fox), a vision of 1950s America that is at once nostalgic and unsentimental, and then-state-of-the-art visual effects that have aged remarkably well. Plus, it even managed to make something as decidedly un-hip as the DMC DeLorean a true cinematic icon. Arguably the greatest time travel movie ever made. (Your kids are still gonna love it.)

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7 / 20

Classic Movies On Netflix Canada - The MummyPhoto: Netflix

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.

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8 / 20

Classic Movies On Netflix Canada - Total RecallPhoto: 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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9 / 20

Best Classic Movies On Netflix Canada- In The Name Of The FatherPhoto: 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.

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10 / 20

Best Classic Movies On Netflix Canada - Dirty DancingPhoto: Lionsgate

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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11 / 20

Best Classic Movies On Netflix Canada First BloodPhoto: MGM

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 woundsboth physical and psychologicalfeel too real. Stallone and Richard Crenna (who plays Rambo’s hardened but sympathetic former superior) are superb, and Brian Dennehythe petty sheriff that drives our hero over the edgeprovides 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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12 / 20

Best Classic Movies On Netflix Canada - Taxi DriverPhoto: 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 furtherleading 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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13 / 20

Best Classic Movies On Netflix Canada - The Karate Kid 1984Photo: 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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14 / 20

She's Gotta Have It (1986)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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15 / 20

Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979)Photo: Netflix

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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16 / 20

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)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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17 / 20

Best Classic Movies On Netflix Canada - The GraduatePhoto: Criterion

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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18 / 20

Matilda (1996)Photo: Sony Pictures

Matilda (1996)

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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19 / 20

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)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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20 / 20

Best Classic Movies On Netflix Canada - Spirited AwayPhoto: 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.

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