7 best classic movies on Netflix to watch right now, ranked

(left to right) Will Wheaton, River Phoenix, Jerry O'Connell and Corey Feldman in Stand by Me
(Image credit: Alamy)

Nothing hits quite like the classics.  Netflix has a vast library of iconic films from some of the best filmmakers of all time, including Ridley Scott, Stanley Kubrick, and Martin Scorcese. 

No matter whether you can recite the dialogue from entire scenes word-for-word or are checking these movies out for the first time, it’s always a great time to check out these groundbreaking masterpieces that helped shape the landscape of filmmaking and continue to captivate audiences across generations.

7. Field of Dreams (1989)

Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan and Gaby Hoffmann in Field of Dreams

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“If you build it, he will come.”

If you remember this iconic quote (and not the oft-misquoted “they” variant”) then you probably remember this late ‘80s fantasy film about a farmer in Iowa who hears a mysterious voice telling him to build a baseball diamond in his cornfield. The film then weaves a magical tale where spirits of the past are able to communicate with the living, and a father and son get one last chance to reunite, all through the power of a shared love of baseball. 

Field of Dreams has become a favorite for many due to its unique blend of fantasy, emotion, and themes of second chances and familial bonds. The movie also has a stellar cast, which includes Kevin Costner, Ray Liotta, and James Earl Jones as well as a soaring score by James Horner. 

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6. White Christmas (1954)

Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney in White Christmas

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“Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters.” 

When it comes to cozy Christmastime classics, it doesn’t get better than 1954’s White Christmas. Starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen and featuring the timeless music of Irving Berlin, this romantic film features a lighthearted plot that involves two sisters partnering with two World War 2 veterans to stage a show to save a struggling Vermont Inn. In short order, romance blossoms between the pair of veterans and the sisters, but a number of miscommunications threaten to stall true love in its tracks. 

The film features a number of show-stopping musical numbers including the titular “White Christmas” as well as “Sisters” and “Snow.” Though Hallmark movies may be all the rage at Christmastime now, White Christmas is arguably the original feel-good holiday movie. With heartwarming themes of friendship, love, and the holiday spirit, as well as songs so many of us know by heart, it’s no wonder why this movie is such a beloved holiday classic

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5. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Best comedy movies on Netflix: monty python and the holy grail

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“I’m not dead yet!” 

When most people think of the British comedy group Monty Python, which includes Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin, the first thing that probably springs to mind is Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Though this isn’t the only film produced by the legendary comedy team, this movie has become a favorite due to its unique blend of medieval parody and modern comedy, infinitely quotable lines, and of course its iconic Camelot musical sequence.

The film will be celebrating its 50th anniversary soon, and though it has been nearly half a century since its release, Monty Python and the Holy Grail’s unique send-up of medieval tropes as well as its timeless humor has helped cement it as one of the best comedies of all time. 

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4. Scarface (1983)

Al Pacino as tony montana in scarface firing assault rifle

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

“Say hello to my little friend!”

Brian de Palma’s epic about the rise and fall of Cuban immigrant turned Miami drug lord Tony Montana has become one of the greatest crime movies of all time, and in a field that includes movies from Francis Ford Coppola, Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorcese, that is high praise. 

The film explores themes of greed, power, corruption, and the destructive nature of the drug trade on families and communities, and is known for its intense and often violent scenes. Al Pacino's iconic performance as antihero Tony Montana is also a huge reason why the film has enjoyed such a long-lasting legacy, as he imbues the character with determination, charisma, and intelligence as well as a penchant for violence, greed, and a singular focused on gaining power at any cost.

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3. Stand by Me (1986)

River Phoenix and Wil Wheaton in Stand by Me

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"The most important time in your life is the time you spend with your friends."

The quintessential coming-of-age story, Stand By Me follows a group of four 12-year-old boys (played by Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O'Connell) who embark on a journey to find the body of a missing boy named Ray Brower, who is rumored to have been hit by a train. Though the main plot of the film deals with what happened to Bower, the movie also explores themes of loss, family dynamics, and identity.  

The movie is directed by Rob Reiner, who skillfully balances humor and poignancy, creating a film that, much like so many moments in childhood and adolescence, can make viewers laugh and cry at the same time. 

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2. Taxi Driver (1976)

Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver

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“You talkin' to me? Well, I'm the only one here. Who the f*** do you think you're talkin' to?"

Largely considered to be Martin Scorcese’s masterpiece, Taxi Driver stars an electric Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle, a Vietnam War veteran, and eponymous taxi driver who becomes obsessed with the idea of cleaning up New York City and ridding it of what he perceives to be rampant moral decay. Bickle also becomes obsessed with a local political campaign worker, and when she rejects him, he descends into a state of paranoia and delusion that culminates in a scene so violent, that it almost got the film banned in the US, and director Martin Scorcese had to change the colors in the scene so that the blood was less visible and the movie could receive an “R” rating. 

Robert De Niro's intense performance, coupled with Martin Scorcese’s direction have made this one of the most acclaimed films of all time and have cemented status as a cinematic classic. Though it isn’t an easy watch, Taxi Driver’s examination of the psychological toll of loneliness and alienation resonates with audiences over 50 years after its initial release and will continue to influence generations to come. 

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1. Jaws (1975)

Jaws (1975)

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“You’re gonna need a bigger boat”

Credited as being the first summer blockbuster in history, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws made an entire generation afraid of the beach. The film revolves around the residents of a coastal town called Amity Island, which is being terrorized by a great white shark with a taste for human flesh. The plot follows Chief Martin Brody, played by Roy Scheider, who wants to close the beaches and eliminate the shark threat. However, the town's mayor, Larry Vaughn, played by Murray Hamilton, resists the idea because the town relies heavily on summer tourism, even though this leads to more deaths.

The film’s suspenseful storytelling, incredible camera work, and groundbreaking special effects, (particularly the use of a mechanical shark nicknamed "Bruce") have become the stuff of legend, and John William’s iconic Jaws theme has become one of the most recognizable tunes in history. 

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Amanda Kondolojy

Amanda Kondolojy is an entertainment journalist based in Florida with over 15 years of experience covering film, TV, theme parks and more. When not in front of a screen you can find her reading something at the beach (usually by Neil Gaiman, Grady Hendrix or Brandon Sanderson) or dancing around the kitchen to her favorite showtunes.