Hey, classics? Right? They’re the best. That’s why they’re classics, after all. Streaming services carry a great number of classics, both old and new, and these shouldn’t be overlooked even if they’re not prominently featured on these services. For Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime users, here are some classics available on streaming services in July 2017 to check out.
Heathers: Teen comedies don’t get much darker than this 1988 film about Veronica (Winona Ryder), a disaffected high-schooler who vents her frustrations about the cruel group of Heathers (a clique of posh, popular girls at her high school she’s frenemies with). When a dangerous new loner enrolls at the high school (Christian Slater), she strikes up a romance with him and unwittingly becomes an accomplice in his murder of various students that cross him. It’s pitch-black comedy and satire at its finest and a fine film besides this. It’s also a movie that could never be made today–which makes it surprisingly transgressive for a teen movie.
Less Than Zero: The wealthy and decadent youth of Los Angeles is detailed in this harrowing film about addiction, loosely based on Bret Easton Ellis’s novel. A rich kid (Andrew McCarthy) returns home on Christmas break to his shallow fellow rich kid friends, including a drug-taking ex-girlfriend and his best friend Julian (Robert Downey, Jr.). With a stunning (and soon to be haunting) performance by Downey as a young, out-of-control drug addict, Less Than Zero also looks at the superficial glamour of drug use while depicting its ugly realities. Not the feel-good movie of the year but still a solid classic from the 80’s.
The Emperor’s New Groove: On a completely different note, there’s The Emperor’s New Groove. When selfish Incan emperor Kuzco (David Spade) is turned into a Llama by a scheming sorceress (Ertha Kitt), a kindly shepherd (whose village is going to be destroyed so Kuzco can build himself a new summer palace) helps him return to his former human self. This snazzy Disney animated film is atypically not a musical, instead relying on fast-moving humor that kids and parents alike will enjoy. Lots of lighthearted fun to be had here.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: When a callous magazine editor is paralyzed from an accident and suffers from locked-in syndrome, he must learn how to cope with his new life while also agonizing over his past choices, which had hurt his wife and children. Learning how to “speak” one agonizing blink of an eye at a time, he writes his memoir, The Divind Bell and the Butterfly. Based on a true story, this drama features unique cinematography that literally places the camera from the man’s limited perspective. This visually dynamic and alternately heart-rendering and inspirational film is a must-see.
Anatomy of a Murder: While trial movies have practically become a subgenre in themselves, there was nothing like Anatomy of a Murder before. Directed by Otto Preminger, this film follows a somewhat lacidasical lawyer (James Stewart) who defends a rough wife-beater Army Lieutenant (Ben Gazzara) who has killed a man. Unrepentant about the crime, which he claims he did because the man raped his wife, the lawyer believes there’s more to the case than his client’s telling him and attempts to get his client acquitted. Regarded as one of the finest criminal trial dramas ever made, Anatomy of a Murder is even shown in law schools as an example of what criminal procedure involves. Well-acted and riveting, this is a classic that any classic film fan will enjoy.
On The Waterfront: Many contemporary classic film fans may have heard of but never seen this Elia Kazan masterpiece starring Marlon Brando. Featuring a washed-up boxer and current dockworker who colludes with a mob-controlled union to keep worker’s rights down but finds a change of conscience as he witnesses the exploitation of labor and hard crime occurring under the oppressive thumb, On The Waterfront was a controversial film upon its release–not the least of which because many people in Hollywood saw it as Kazan’s apology to cooperating with the McCarthy hearings just a few years before–it’s still a powerful piece of cinema that features perhaps Brando’s best work as a brute who realizes he has a soul.
The Naked Gun 1, 2 ½, and 33 ⅓: Listen: really stupid things are a lot of fun sometimes, and the Zucker-Abrams-Zucker combo of wide parody The Naked Gun is proof of this. The three films this incredibly silly comedy trilogy produced are available on Hulu and are the kind of films that let your brain stop working so you can relax and enjoy a few silly hours of entertainment. It’s not high comedy, but it’s very fun nonetheless. And hey! Before OJ Simpson became a Famous Murderer, he was in these movies! And not as a murderer!
Road House: As tough but philosophical protagonist Dalton espouses in this film, “Pain don’t hurt.” Of course it does, but who cares? If you want a really fun few hours of 80’s machismo at its best, there’s Road House. Is it stupid? Oh yes. But it’s oddly a classic kind of stupid, filled with tits and murder and cackling villains and other crazy shit that the 1980’s was great at producing. Hell, it’s a lot of fun in general. Get rowdy one evening with Road House.
Magnolia: P. T. Anderson is perhaps the finest filmmaker of his generation. Picking up where Robert Altman left off and bringing his own idiosyncratic style to the big screen, his third film, Magnolia, is a stunner: taking place over 3 days across Los Angeles circa 1999, numerous plots are interwoven as people have epiphanies, face crises, and in general try to figure out exactly what the hell it is they’re doing in this life. It’s magical realism at its finest, especially when the frogs begin to rain down and some touch of divinity (or not) metes out some sort of metaphysical justice. It’s a film that needs to be watched by any serious cinephile at least once just so they have a touchstone of what Anderson is trying to relate in his oeuvre.
Where The Red Fern Grows: For those that grew up with this classic children’s novel about a young boy in the Ozarks growing up and raising his two beloved dogs, Big Dan and Little Ann, this 2003 adaptation of the story delivers the sort of sentimental coming-of-age story that the novel evoked so perfectly. If you recognize the title, this is worth watching–and even if you don’t, switch it on one night and maybe it’ll capture your sentimental fancy anyway.
Jackie Brown: Quentin Tarantino had a really hard time following up his seminal masterpiece Pulp Fiction, and although it didn’t please everybody, Jackie Brown was a great example of a director finding his footing after great success. This multi-storyline adaptation of an Elmore Leonard novel has the style, quirk, quick turns and overall panache that’s Tarantino’s signature without the need to overcompensate after Pulp Fiction. Tarantino fans, don’t sleep on this: it’s a largely overlooked (and under-discussed) great film in the director’s filmography.
I Capture The Castle (2003): Listen: I am not, nor have been, an adolescent girl. But if I were, I would have loved the novel I Capture The Castle. In fact, I do anyway because it’s both a great novel and, as this movie bears, a great film. Following a young woman who lives in her family’s castle but have fallen on somewhat hard times while rapid changes occur in her life, it’s a gem of both a novel and film. Realized with clarity and honesty in this adaptation, I Capture The Castle is a literature and film adaptation fan’s dream and one of the better adaptations from book-to-film I’ve ever seen. Ladies will love it, and guys will even find something about the movie that may movie them. As much as we men can without admitting it, at least.