Sure, the latest blockbusters are exciting to watch, and who doesn’t love cuddling up on the couch to binge-watch a really juicy reality series… or two… or three? But let’s face it: With all the choices out there on network TV, cable and the ever-growing number of streaming services, it’s sometimes difficult to find a really good, quality film to get swept up in. That’s why — in the spirit of “they don’t make ’em like they used to” — we’ve compiled a group of classic movies from the 1930s to the 1960s that are sure to impress, and they’re all available for viewing through Amazon Prime Video.
Our list has something for every taste, from romance, adventure and sci-fi, to musicals, westerns and dramas. There are even some family-friendly holiday gems in the mix as well. Now’s the perfect time to put the Real Housewives on pause so they can settle down while you go grab some popcorn, put your feet up and start checking these truly bravo-worthy movies off your to-watch list tonight!
15 classic movies on Amazon Prime, ranked
15. Damn Yankees (1958)
This sports-themed musical sounds outlandish — a frustrated fan makes a deal with the devil so his favorite baseball team can win the pennant — but it’s a home-run winner that scored an Oscar nomination for, fittingly, best score. And made the entry spot on our list of classic movies on Amazon Prime.
Variety applauded this “sparkling film version” of the hit Broadway show, and Tab Hunter and Gwen Verdon are fantastic in the lead roles of Joe Hardy and Lola. Verdon’s “Whatever Lola Wants” performance is irresistible, and as a special treat, you can even catch her husband, legendary choreographer Bob Fosse, dancing with her in the fun “Who’s Got the Pain” number.
Click through to watch Damn Yankees now.
14. The Misfits (1961)
With its A-list cast (Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe), story by acclaimed author Arthur Miller (Monroe’s husband at the time) and stellar directing by John Huston, this contemporary Western is a surefire standout.
In what would sadly be both Monroe and Gable’s final film roles before their deaths, they star together as a divorcee and an aging cowboy who form an unlikely relationship and business with two others (Montgomery Clift, Eli Wallach) wrangling wild mustangs. A New Yorker review noted that “the casting of the film is almost impeccable,” adding that “in a part literally made for her, Miss Monroe displays a gentleness and a tired, childlike grace that are appropriate and moving and, very evidently, a reflection of herself.”
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13. Dr. No (1962)
Sean Connery has a license to thrill (and kill) in this very first Bond, James Bond, feature film. As Ian Fleming’s Agent 007, Connery is suave, stylish and much easier on the eyes than he is on his adversaries, most notably the titular villain (Joseph Wiseman), who’s out to foil the U.S. space program. Ursula Andress makes a bikini-clad splash as early Bond girl Honey Ryder, who “clung to me like a wet bathing suit,” as Bond notes, though Andress’ lines had to be dubbed by a different actress due to her thick accent. “With a debut like this, it’s no wonder [Dr. No] spawned one of the biggest franchises ever,” Empire magazine noted.
Click through to watch Dr. No now.
12. The Defiant Ones (1958)
Set in the South during the ’50s, this is one of those classic movies on Amazon Prime that stands the test of time. It stars Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis as two escaped convicts who are on the run while chained together.
“An advocacy drama that makes its points without belaboring them, The Defiant Ones relies on its clever concept and brilliant performances to repudiate racial prejudice,” according to Rotten Tomatoes. Both stars deservedly earned Oscar nods for their gritty performances, and the film won trophies for both its cinematography and its screenplay, which deftly shows, as Variety noted, “that what keeps men apart is their lack of knowledge of one another. With that knowledge comes respect, and with respect [comes] comradeship and even love.”
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11. The Westerner (1940)
“This here’s a big country,” saddle tramp Cole Hardin (Gary Cooper) mutters in one pool hall saloon scene, and he’s told, “Yeah, but it ain’t big enough for cattlemen and homesteaders, and it never will be. Now clear out of here!”
That friction, as this classic western’s trailer notes, ignites a lot of “hatred and jealousy, terror and violence!” Walter Brennan, who stars as Hardin’s antagonist, won his record-setting third Oscar as best supporting actor for his role as the villainous Judge Roy Bean. Brennan’s two previous wins including the first ever statuette given out in the category in 1937.
Click through to watch The Westerner now.
10. An American in Paris (1951)
Gene Kelly is downright swoon-worthy in this gorgeous and eye-popping MGM classic movie on Amazon Prime, in which he plays a former soldier who stays behind in the City of Light to become a painter. While there, he falls for the charms of Lise Bouvier, played by the similarly charismatic Leslie Caron, then a newcomer.
There’s divine dance numbers, lots of romance and a classic score from George and Ira Gershwin, all ethereally woven together by director Vincente Minnelli. “That movie pushed the boundaries of the American film musical. It’s rightly regarded as the pinnacle of Hollywood’s studio era,” his daughter Liza has said, referencing the film’s can’t-miss finale, which surely helped it nab Best Picture at the Oscars.
Click through to watch An American in Paris now.
9. A Star Is Born (1937)
We all know its basic storyline (a woman’s star is on the rise while her aging partner’s is quickly fading) since four versions of this film have been made. But before Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in 2018, before Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson in 1976, and before Judy Garland and James Mason in 1954 came Janet Gaynor and Fredric March in the lead roles, for which they both received Oscar nominations.
This early screen incarnation “stands out for being the only version…that focuses on an aspiring actress becoming involved with a washed-up actor, rather than centering on singers,” notes Collider, which praises it as “a well-made classic Hollywood film [that’s] surprisingly biting for its time.”
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8. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Stanley Kubrick’s out-of-this-world’s masterpiece, which is based on a short story by Arthur C. Clarke, was chosen for preservation in the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress in 1991, and sci-fans certainly know why. The ambitious, visually engaging work covers a lot of themes, from human evolution to the possibility of extraterrestrial life, and HAL, the film’s humanlike computer, is as timely as ever considering today’s heated debates over the promises — and threats— of artificial intelligence.
Click through to watch 2001: A Space Odyssey now.
7. Wuthering Heights (1939)
Emily Brontë’s classic novel comes to life in this fantastic period romance-drama that is, trust us, much more engrossing than skimming through the book’s CliffsNotes. It stars Merle Oberon as Cathy, Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff and David Niven, who complicates things, of course, as Edgar Linton.
The film won an Oscar for Best Cinematography, and it was nominated for seven others (including for Olivier and director William Wyler). As its original New York Times review notes, “It is, unquestionably, one of the most distinguished pictures of the year, one of the finest ever produced by Mr. [Samuel] Goldwyn, and one you should decide to see.”
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6. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
This hit drama was the highest grossing film of its decade, and it cleaned up at the Oscars, too, winning seven of the eight categories it was nominated in, including Best Motion Picture and Best Director (William Wyler).
Fredric March also won for Best Actor, playing one of the three World War II servicemen who return to the States but struggle to readjust to civilian life. “The Best Years of Our Lives is an eloquent tribute to returned veterans [and] a magnificent, brilliant contribution to motion pictures as an art,” raves the Boston Globe, and this heartwarming drama co-starring Myrna Loy is definitely worth checking out.
Click through to watch The Best Years of Our Lives now.
5. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
This is your sign to take the night off from your holiday shopping and treat yourself to a relaxing evening at home with your whole family, some hot cocoa and this beloved Christmas classic. Edmund Gwenn won one of the film’s three Oscars for his role as a Macy’s Santa who insists he’s the real Kris Kringle, resulting in a legal battle over his authenticity and sanity. This charmer — which features Maureen O’Hara, John Payne and a young Natalie Wood — is “the gift that keeps giving,” as noted by MovieFreak.com, which adds that the film is “overflowing with memorable moments.” Yes, this one definitely makes the “Nice” list!
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4. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
This intense mystery and political thriller has, as Roger Ebert said in 2003, “a quick-moving, hard-edged urgency.” The constantly twisting and turning plot revolves around a POW from the Korean War who is believed to have been brainwashed by Communists to become a presidential assassin.
Frank Sinatra, who stars as the army buddy who starts piecing the chilling plot together, has said it was the high point of his acting career, and his supporting cast includes Angela Lansbury, Laurence Harvey and Janet Leigh. If gripping political nail-biters are your thing, this one’s for you.
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3. The Little Foxes (1941)
She’s got Bette Davis eyes — and an Oscar nomination for her role as the devilish Regina Hubbard Giddens in this entertaining adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s 1939 play. The melodrama focuses on the greedy Giddens family, and Regina, like her conniving relatives, is constantly on a desperate hunt for wealth and power. If you were a fan of Dallas or Dynasty in the ’80s, you’ll see that those in The Little Foxes could’ve given the Ewings and Carringtons a run for their money: The New York Times noted this film might be for you “if you enjoy expert stabbing-in-the-back” plot lines.
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2. Funny Girl (1968)
“Hello, gorgeous,” as Barbra Streisand memorably greeted her Oscar statuette after winning it for this winner of a film. (There were actually two Best Actresses that night, as Streisand tied with Katharine Hepburn for The Lion in Winter.) This musical is a true tour de force for the legendary singer, who stars as Ziegfeld girl Fanny Brice, who sings her way to stardom while struggling in her relationship with Nick Arnstein (Omar Sharif). With unforgettable songs such as “People” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” which will make you want to board a tugboat just so you can reenact the film’s iconic scene, this is an absolute must-see for musical theater fans.
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1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Yes, it’s a classic we all know and love, and one that we can’t stop from watching over and over and over again. Jimmy Stewart could warm anyone’s heart as down-in-the-dumps George Bailey, who wishes he was never born.
Enter Henry Travers as Clarence, a guardian angel who shows George just how loved he is and how he’s made the lives of those around him (like his wife, played by Donna Reed) that much richer. Even legendary director Steven Spielberg is a sucker for Frank Capra’s timeless treasure. “It’s a Wonderful Life shows that every human being on this Earth matters — and that’s a very powerful message,” Spielberg once said.
Click through to watch It’s a Wonderful Life now.