By Raquel Stecher, classic film blogger
Over the past 20 years of DVD Netflix, subscribers’ tastes have varied as greatly as the selection of movies available to rent. But it’s no surprise when it comes to the classics, there are some big movies that have stood the test of time.
Whether it’s an opportunity to watch a film for the first time, to watch it again for the 100th time or to introduce the movie to a new generation, these films show up on queues again and again. What are DVD Netflix subscribers’ favorite classics? Here are the top ten most rented pre-1970s movies and why they are important.
What do you expect out of a great movie? Casablanca has all your criteria, and then some. Great cast? Check. Great director? Check. Memorable lines? Check. Interesting plot and characters? Check. Beautiful music? Check. Casablanca has it all.
It’s a timeless story about love, heartbreak, the fight against evil, and patriotism. This film launched Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman into the stratosphere and they have been film icons ever since. But let’s not forget the excellent performances by Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrard Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and more.
Citizen Kane is considered by many to be the best film ever made. Orson Welles was only 25 years old when he directed, produced, co-wrote, and starred in the film. He perfected camera techniques and scene compositions that we take for granted now, but were revolutionary for the time.
Controversy plagued the film when powerful newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst was none too pleased that the film closely resembled the story of his life. Some contemporary viewers find the film difficult to get into, but it can’t be denied the impact Citizen Kane had on film history.
Just as Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird has become a staple in classrooms across the country, the film adaptation is equally as important. It’s rare to have a movie adaptation live up to the very high expectations of the much beloved source material.
This Southern drama explores racial tension in a small tight-knit community. It stars Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Mary Badham as his daughter Scout. Memorable performances and a compelling story told through the perspective of a child drives this film home. Over the years, the story has come to represent the Civil Rights movement and the fight for social justice.
Did you know that Cary Grant comes up in conversation in nearly every DVD Netflix Twitter chat? It’s true! The much beloved Grant shines in Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller North by Northwest. Cary Grant is equal parts debonair and bewildered as the advertising executive mistakenly caught in espionage. He’s matched with the incredibly sexy and smart Eva Marie Saint. Iconic scenes like the crop duster chase sequence, Grant and Saint’s date on the train and the grand finale on Mount Rushmore excite audiences even today. Anyone new to Hitchcock movies would be wise to start with one of his best.
David Lean’s grand sweeping epic is one of the most visually stunning films to have ever graced the silver screen. Peter O’Toole stars in this biopic about British Intelligence scholar T.E. Lawrence who travels to the Arabian Desert during World War I.
The film boasts fine performances by big names like Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jose Ferrer, Claude Rains and Arthur Kennedy. It’s an investment in time clocking in at over 3.5 hours. Patient viewers can lose themselves in the story, and the setting and time will feel like it’s standing still.
This much beloved classic has been a family staple for multiple generations, especially because there is much to enjoy for both kids and adults. Dick Van Dyke was already a huge star with his eponymous TV show and Julie Andrews made a splash in her movie debut as Mary Poppins.
The film went on to win numerous Oscars including Best Actress, Best Picture, Best Music, and more. With its catchy music numbers, fantastical story, and delightful stars, it’s no wonder DVD Netflix subscribers keep coming back to this one.
The Graduate is more than just a movie about a college graduate who has an affair with an older woman. That’s not why this touchstone film resonates with viewers. It’s really a coming-of-age story about a young man trying to figure out what do with the rest of his life. This is something that any young generation of college graduates can relate to.
The film also speaks to older generations who feel that they lost out on something in their youth. Simon & Garfunkel’s classic song “The Sound of Silence” has become the anthem for a quarter-life or mid-life crisis. The Graduate put Dustin Hoffman on the map and boosted the careers of actress Anne Bancroft and director Mike Nichols.
Picture it: Audrey Hepburn wearing a black dress, matching gloves, pearls, a tiara, and dark sunglasses. She juggles a cup of coffee and a croissant as she stands in front of Tiffany in New York, admiring the window display. This is one of the most iconic scenes not only in film history, but also in cultural history.
Adapted from a Truman Capote novella by the same name, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of the most fashionable films of all time. You can thank Givenchy and Hepburn for making the little black dress a staple in women’s wardrobes. Beyond the film’s style, the story also has emotional resonance with audiences as we follow the story of Holly Golightly, a young woman who escapes her humdrum small town life to be a party girl in the city.
Whenever someone asks me what my favorite Alfred Hitchcock film is, I never hesitate when I reply with Rear Window. And I’m not surprised it’s a big hit with DVD Netflix subscribers. Hitchcock’s thriller is effective because it’s simple in concept, but intricately complicated in execution.
We are the voyeurs alongside James Stewart, Grace Kelly, and Thelma Ritter as they discover a murderer in an apartment across the way. The tension is palpable and, as the audience, we’re ringing our hands with anticipation. Hitchcock was the master of this genre and superb performances by the principal cast, including a terrifying one by Raymond Burr, make Rear Window a film that viewers from any generation will want to watch again and again.
Stanley Kubrick’s satire is both a scathing look at Cold War politics and a hilarious comedy about absurd characters with equally absurd names. The film explores what happens when an Air Force General orders a nuclear attack on Russia.
The film stars Peter Sellers in a three-part role as the title character Dr. Strangelove, Capt. Lionel Mandrake, and President Merkin Muffley, as well as some other great actors including George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Slim Pickens, James Earl Jones, and more. The explosive beginning and ending and everything in-between has kept audiences in rapture for decades. Should we be laughing or crying? Maybe both!
Raquel Stecher has been writing about classic films for the past decade on her blog Out of the Past. She attends the TCM Classic Film Festival as well as other events where old movie fanatics get together to geek out. Raquel has been a devoted DVD Netflix member since 2002! Follow her on her blog Out of the Past, or find her on Twitter @RaquelStecher and @ClassicFilmRead, Facebook, and Instagram.