There are so many great new movies out, you need never be bored again. But the classics are classic for a reason—you're guaranteed to be moved, delighted, terrified, or all of the above with these much-loved films. Some classics are old school, black-and-white mainstays that have been delighting movie lovers for years. Some are nostalgic favorites from our childhoods and teen years—the kinds of movies that just light up your soul when you watch them and make the world seem like a better place again, even if it's just for 90 minutes. And some classics are more modern and fall into that "instant classic" category—the kind of movies that you don't even need to see a second time to be sure they're going to stick with you (and earn a place in pop culture) forever.
No matter what you're in the mood for, we have you covered. If you feel like catching up on a movie you've been meaning to watch, or just want a second look at a film you love a lot, there's something on this list for everybody. This list features a mix of genres and subject matter and spans the past 50 years, but each one is terrific for its own special reasons. Even better: These are all streaming on Netflix right now.
Back to the Future
You know the premise: Marty McFly is a teen who ends up traveling back in time and accidentally ruining his parents' meet-cute, putting his own existence into peril. This movie has '80s nostalgia plus '50s nostalgia and a soundtrack you can't help but sing along to.
The Silence of the Lambs
You know a movie is a classic when visual images and creepy lines are burned into your brain and play over and over again at random. There's plenty about The Silence of the Lambs that sticks with you. Hannibal Lecter's haunting eyes. Lines like "it puts the lotion on its skin." BRB, rewatching this right now.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Some movies are true classics at least partly because they brought us iconic performances from some of the greatest actors of our time. Jack Nicholson won the Best Actor Academy Award for his performance in this movie and it was definitely well-deserved.
Monty Python's Life of Brian
Holy Grail is ALSO on Netflix (and you absolutely should go watch it), but this is just as funny and much more pointed. It was really controversial at the time, and you can see why: Brian isn't Jesus, but he keeps being mistaken for the Messiah. Like a lot of Monty Python material, the satire's aimed at people in power, the mob mentality, and the temptation to attack other people for no reason (honestly, this feels so relevant right now it's depressing). Spoiler alert, this isn't exactly a feel-good movie, but it's funny all the way through: Ending on "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" mid-crucifixion is farcical brilliance.
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
Indiana Jones is one of the most iconic movie characters of all time and this is the movie that introduced him to the world and set up his mythology forever. He's a hot, sexy, smart AF archaeology professor who moonlights as a world class treasure hunter, recovering amazing artifacts for museums before bad guys can steal them to sell on the black market.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
This was definitely an instant classic the second it hit theaters in 2004. The science fiction rom-com tells the story of a couple whose breakup is so terrible, they each decide to have it completely erased from their memories. It's the kind of movie that will make you think, all while serving up a few gut-punch emotional moments.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
If you're a lover of gritty drama, then Taxi Driver, which stars Robert De Niro as an unhinged (like, actually crazy) New York taxi driver who ends up saving a teen sex worker (played by a young Jodie Foster), is a must-see.
The Evil Dead
This 1981 classic inspired a generation of zombie movie-makers and established some of the modern classic horror movie tropes that inform so many movies that have followed it. It's a classic that any horror movie lover needs to watch, STAT.
If you like your crime movies with a healthy dose of dry, dark comedy, then the Coen brothers' 1996 classic Fargo was made just for you. There's a reason almost every movie Joel and Ethan Coen make is an instant classic, after all.
Sleepless in Seattle
If a rom-com classic is what you're looking for, Sleepless in Seattle will scratch that itch. The movie stars the classic rom-com combo of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks and has a classically convoluted love plot—a widower's son calls into a radio station to help his dad find love, prompting an engaged woman on the other side of the country to fall for him. Love-fueled antics ensue.
My Best Friend's Wedding
This rom-com stars Julia Roberts at the top of her game as a woman who realizes she's in love with her male best friend during the weekend of his wedding to another woman (played by a young Cameron Diaz).
If you love '90s action movies, classic sci-fi stories come to life, and/or Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, then Total Recall is one to add to your queue, right this second. The movie, based on a 1966 short story by sci-fi legend Philip K. Dick, takes place in a future where instead of actually taking a life-changing vacation, you can pay to have the memories of an adventure implanted in your brain. Predictably, this messing-with-people's-memories thing doesn't always go well. (Note: This is not to be confused with the 2012 remake, under any circumstances.)
Admit it: "Summer Nights" and/or "You're the One That I Want" immediately started playing in your head when you read the word Grease. And if they weren't, they are now. That's how you know it's a classic.
Any movie made in the '80s and starring Matthew Broderick is basically guaranteed to have achieved classic status in some sense of the word. In WarGames, Broderick plays a teen who hacks into a military program looking for video games and accidentally sets into motion events that could lead to World War III unless he's able to stop it. Is your heart racing yet?
Obviously, actual life right now often feels like we're all living in a dystopian hellscape, but if you want to escape into a fictional dystopian future that's actually worse than our current world, try out the original Mad Max.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Anything from the genius Monty Python team is a comedy classic, but Holy Grail is their Holy Grail of comedy. The movie follows absurd versions of the Knights of the Roundtable on a sometimes nonsensical, often tangential quest for the Holy Grail that has been making comedy fans laugh for generations now.
If the comedy stylings of Monty Python aren't your thing, but you're still in the mood for some classic movie laughs, try Airplane!. The spoof takes hilarious aim at the disaster movies of the 1970s.
If you love spoof comedies, it doesn't get much more classic than Spaceballs, Mel Brooks' hilarious 1987 sendup to the Star Wars franchise.
Netflix is streaming another, very different Mel Brooks classic too: The Producers. The musical parodies the entire business of Broadway and stars a producer and accountant who realize they can make more money with a guaranteed flop than with a hit—and then set out to make the worst musical in Broadway history.