Netflix Instant: Classic Films, 7th Ed.
Netflix is constantly changing its lineup of classic movies available to stream, so here are five more great classic films you can watch instantly!
For more streaming classics, check out my other Netflix Instant classic movie lists. And for more on classic films, you can follow me on Twitter, Instagram at BlondeAtTheFilm, tumblr, pinterest, and Facebook.
1. Beach Party (1963)
It’s not summer without Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello frolicking on the beach with their ragtag gang of buddies! This was the first “Beach Party” movie and tells the strange story of an anthropologist (Robert Cummings) secretly studying the odd behavior and surfer slang of a bunch of teens. A motorcycle gang (whose leader is a parody of Brando in The Wild One (1953)) complicates this idyllic beach existence, though of course they are no match for the strapping young surfers!
As one might expect in a movie aimed at teenagers, there’s sweet but complicated young love, inconvenient crushes, dance parties, and of course swinging sixties tunes written especially for the film.
It’s a fun, light movie that’s a veritable time capsule of the early 1960s (why did people dance like that?), and you can see why it spawned several sequels. Fun fact: Joel McCrea‘s son Jody plays Deadhead, one of the surfer dudes! Here’s the trailer, and you can buy this fun movie here.
2. State Fair (1945)
If you’re in the mood for a more traditional musical, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s State Fair is a good choice.
It’s the story of an Iowa family who pack up their prize hog, their special mincemeat, a restless daughter, and a brash son and head to the state fair. The fair is the biggest event of the year, and the family has high hopes for romance and blue ribbons!
The son (Dick Haymes) and daughter (Jeanne Crain) both enjoy flirtations with interesting people they meet at the fair (Guys and Dolls‘ Vivian Blaine and Laura‘s Dana Andrews), while their parents enjoy their respective competitions. It’s a lovely film with great songs and a fun cast, minus the scary dream ballets or deaths of Oklahoma, South Pacific, or Carousel. It’s great for kids, and perfect for summer!
Fun fact: this was the only Rodgers and Hammerstein production crafted specifically for the screen. Their other musicals were written for the stage and adapted for film later. Another fun fact: Esther Williams‘ husband Ben Gage provided the singing voice for Dana Andrews. And last one: this movie was remade in 1962 starring Pat Boone and Ann-Margret. Here’s the trailer for the 1945 version, and you can buy this film here.
3. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
Switching gears, here is a classic western directed by the master, John Ford, and starring two giants, James Stewart and John Wayne. Stoddard (Stewart), a senator, and his wife have come back to a tiny town out West to attend the funeral of Doniphon (Wayne). A reporter asks Stoddard why he journeyed so far for a rancher’s funeral–cue the flashback!
Twenty-five years ago, Stoddard was a newbie lawyer just arrived in the Wild West. A nasty outlaw named Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin) ruled the town, terrorizing its citizens, but Stoddard, with help from his new, less naive pal Doniphon stand their ground. Things get complicated when they fall in love with the same woman, but there’s not a lot of time for romance when Valance is on the loose. As you can guess from the title, someone eventually kills the outlaw, but I won’t spoil it.
This movie is considered to be one of Ford and Wayne’s best westerns, which is saying something! Fun fact: this movie contains the famous quote, “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” Also, although the title song by Burt Bacharach and Hal David didn’t actually make it into the movie, Gene Pitney’s recording reached #4 on the charts. It has since been covered by many other artists. Here’s a clip from the movie, and you can buy this classic here.
4. Bus Stop (1956)
Continuing with cowboys, but with the added inducement of Marilyn Monroe, here’s Bus Stop. If you’re expecting a light comedy, perhaps with millionaires, go watch something else. This is not that. Not at all.
Bus Stop is a drama about a young, cocky, overwhelmingly inconsiderate cowboy named Beauregard (Don Murray) who fancies himself in love with a rather pitiful singer stage-named Chérie (Marilyn Monroe). They meet at a cheap cafe on the bus route, and Beau basically kidnaps Chérie and plans to take her home to Montana and marry her.
She keeps trying to escape, and he keeps catching her. To add insult to really awful injury, he refuses to use her chosen name and instead calls her “Cherry.” Various people try to help Chérie throughout their bus journey, but Beau is incorrigible in a horrifying way.
The basic plot, but especially the abuse showered upon powerless Chérie makes this movie difficult to watch. It’s a more complex drama than my synopsis would suggest, but it’s still a fundamentally unpleasant story and I hate the ending. That being said, it’s worth watching because it’s generally regarded as one of Monroe’s better performances. This was the first movie she made after studying at The Actor’s Studio, and she was very clearly flexing her acting muscles and showing that she was more than a pinup.
Fun fact: this movie was based on a play by William Inge, who also wrote Picnic, which was adapted to the screen in 1955, and Splendor in the Grass (1961). You can watch Bus Stop’s trailer here, and you can buy this film here.
5. People Will Talk (1951)
Like Bus Stop, this film has not aged super well. You’ll understand why in a moment.
It stars Cary Grant as Dr. Praetorius, an unconventional physician and professor with a holistic approach that patients love but his colleagues distrust. A particularly jealous colleague has brought charges of misconduct against Praetorius and hopes to get the Doctor fired from the medical school faculty.
Against the backdrop of that witch hunt (which involves a practically supernatural character), a young student named Deborah (State Fair‘s Jeanne Crain) faints in one of Praetorius’ lectures. He runs some tests and finds out that she is pregnant. But this is horrible news because she’s not married, and the father of her child was just killed in the Korean War.
Deborah is so distraught that upon her release from Praetorius’ clinic she shoots herself. But she somehow misses everything important, and Praetorius is able to save her quite easily. In an incredibly patronizing and unethical move motivated by his concern, he lies and tells her that the test was faulty; she’s not pregnant, after all!
Eventually they fall in love. I won’t spoil things except to say that this is one of the rare times I don’t like Cary Grant in a movie. He’s so serious, so patronizing, and so godlike. And Jeanne Crain does her best, but her character could use a backbone. Fun fact: this film has been discussed as a commentary on McCarthyism with some Korean War stuff in there, too, so look for that. Here’s the trailer, and you can buy this movie here.
Bonus pick: If you’re looking for something a little different, try this film:
The Bicycle Thief (1948)
This movie is a masterpiece of Italian neorealism directed by a master, Vittorio De Sica. It’s gritty and at times grim, but beautiful and strangely uplifting at the same time.
Set in Rome, the story concerns Antonio (Lamberto Maggiorani), a man who is desperate for a job so he can support his wife and two children. The family pawns everything they’ve got so that Antonio can buy a bicycle and then get a job putting up advertisements all over the city.
But the bike is stolen on Antonio’s first day. The film then becomes a search for the thief as Antonio and his young son roam the city, desperation mounting. This film is a must-see, regarded as one of the best ever.
Fun fact: as is typical of Italian neorealism, De Sica shot the film entirely on location and cast non-professional actors. For example, Maggiorani was a factory worker who brought his son to audition for the film. De Sica liked him, and cast him as the lead. Here’s a clip, and you can buy this classic here.
For more streaming classics, check out my other Netflix lists here, and my picks from the Movie and Music Network here. And you can follow me on Twitter, tumblr, pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram at BlondeAtTheFilm. Happy watching!