5 Best Modern Classics on Netflix Instant Streaming

best modern classics on netflixAmidst all your other resolutions and timely re-imaginings, maybe getting caught up (or just refreshed) on some classic movies will help round out your life. Here are some of our picks for the best and most interesting offerings from Netflix streaming this month.

The French Connection (1971): One of the all-time classic police-action films, directed by a young and daring William Friedkin, and staring Gene Hackman and the late Roy Scheider. Known best for its standout performances (in a role that really put Hackman on the cinematic map), its absolutely bug-nuts car-chase scene, which still rivets more than four decades later, and its unexpected ending, which we shall certainly not tell you about here. Fans of everything from NYPD Blue to End of Watch should definitely check out this bit of source material.

Chinatown (1974) Sure, he’s still hiding out in France fighting the U.S. injunction to have him extradited for a statutory rape conviction from 1977 (a case well-covered in the interesting documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired), but Roman Polanski has always been a hell of a filmmaker, and this film is his undisputed masterpiece. From a deeply complex and very nearly perfect screenplay from Robert Towne to towering performances from Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, its one of this country’s most compelling noirs.

Moonstruck (1987) A love story for those with peculiarly quirky senses of humor, this little flick, which stars Cher as Loretta, the unlucky widow who falls in love with the brother (Nicholas Cage) of the man she’s supposed to be marrying, remains endlessly amusing. Set adorably in Brooklyn with all of Loretta’s various wacky family members (including turns from Olympia Dukakis, Vincent Gardenia, Danny Aiello, and John Mahoney) in near constant chaotic tow, playwright John Patrick Shanley’s script hums with small, satisfying moments. Not just a good date movie, a potential life-altering one.

Swingers (1996) An unlikely great and affable comedy from a very young Jon Favreau, who wrote the script and co-stars with an equally young Vince Vaughn as a pair of good friends trying to make their way into careers in Hollywood while juggling busy social lives (Vaughn) and a seriously broken heart (Favreau). As directed with typical verve and flair by Doug Limon, the film is chock-filled with quotable poignancy (“Vegas, baby, Vegas!,” “You’re so money and you don’t even know it!”) and cringe-inducing humiliation—you will likely never forget the answering machine scene as long as you walk on this Earth—but at its heart, it’s a warm buddy-buddy picture starring two guys on the brink of something they hope will be suitably money. It turns out they were right.


Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) Put out of your mind for a moment a decade of hammy, precious roles and endless Pirates sequels, and think back to the late ’90s, when Johnny Depp was a dangerously talented and under-appreciated character actor, who developed an absolutely spot-on brilliant portrayal of the late Hunter S. Thompson for this Terry Gilliam adaptation of the good doctor’s most famous ranting tome. Depp aside, there is a lot else to love here, including Gilliam’s relentlessly creative and hectic style, which fits the gonzo journalist’s prose like a well-tailored workboot. Funny in its bleakness and counter-culture lamenting, ’70s-era Vegas turns out to be a perfect foil for Thompson and his thoroughly drug-addled lawyer (Benicio del Toro), as they try to make it out alive.

Piers Marchant is a film critic and writer based in Philly. Find more confounding amusements and diversions at his blog, Sweet Smell of Success, or read his further 142-character rants and ravings at @kafkaesque83.