Other than the fantastic Criterion Channel, which is unfortunately unavailable outside the USA and Canada, and UK’s streaming service BFI Player, Amazon Prime is the best place for lovers of older, classic movies. From 1920s silent films to forgotten gems of the 1990s, Amazon Prime’s vast catalogue has a surprising amount of classic films, yet most of them are buried beneath the endless amount of more recent films.
The titles presented on this list are by no means obscure classics that no one has ever heard about, yet they are still not talked about enough, and chances are you’ve never watched some of them. In no particular order, here are our choices for 10 great movie classics on Amazon Prime you may have missed.
1. The Circus (1928)
This early Charlie Chaplin silent movie was released between two of his more famous works, 1925’s “The Gold Rush” and 1931’s “City Lights”, and has been rather overshadowed by the aforementioned films. “The Circus” features Chaplin’s iconic Tramp as he gets hired as a clown in a traveling circus and falls in love with the circus owner’s daughter, a beautiful bareback rider.
Even though it is not Chaplin’s best work, “The Circus” is definitely worth a watch. Technically innovative, filled with energetic slapstick, constantly entertaining, and containing some of Chaplin’s funniest gags, the film might lack the depth of “City Lights”, but when it comes to pure comedy, it is just as great.
2. Love And Death (1975)
One of Woody Allen’s silliest films, “Love And Death” is a funny parody of 19th century Russia in the vein of the films of Mel Brooks or Monty Python.
Set in the czarist Russia, the film stars Allen as Boris, a coward intellectual who becomes a soldier, accidentally gets decorated as a war hero, falls in love with his beautiful and pretentious cousin Sonja (Diane Keaton), and devises a plot to assassinate Napoleon.
Entertaining, filled with over-the-top gags, zany characters, quotable one-liners, and moments of characteristic philosophical debate, “Love And Death” is much more cartoonish than Allen’s more famous films, but clever enough not to fall in the category of mindless comedies.
3. The Long Goodbye (1973)
Perhaps the most known film on this list, Robert Altman’s adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s novel 1953 “The Long Goodbye” is a suspenseful neo-noir that stars Elliot Gould as the charismatic Philip Marlowe, a private detective who finds himself in the middle of a mysterious case that includes a missing man, a murdered wife, violent gangsters, and corrupt Mexican cops.
Set in the moody backdrop of 1970’s Los Angeles, Altman’s film is filled with night scenes, cigarette smoke, and quirky characters. Even though at its base a murder mystery, “The Last Goodbye” subverts genre expectations and takes its plot in unexpected directions. The result is a unique film that is as much a hard-boiled detective story as it is a dark comedy, an examination on the frailty of friendship and trust or, as Altman himself called it, “a satire in melancholy”.
4. The Birdcage (1996)
Mike Nichols’ remake of the 1978 French comedy “La Cage aux Folles” is a funny, flamboyant, heartwarming, and surprisingly progressive film that stars Robin Willilams as Armand Goldman, the gay owner of a South Miami Beach nightclub, and Nathan Lane as Albert, his longtime drag queen lover.
When their son Val decides to get married to a woman with ultraconservative parents (played by Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest), Armand has to pretend to be straight while meeting his soon-to-be inlaws, while Albert presents himself as Val’s straight uncle. The results are, as expected, hilarious.
5. Eat Drink Man Woman (1994)
An aging Chinese chief has to come to terms with old age, while his three daughters try to make their way in life and romance in “Eat Drink Man Woman”, the third film in Ang Lee’s “Father Knows Best” trilogy.
Perfectly balancing comedy with drama, the movie touches many important themes, from the generational gap and the divergence of moral values between parents and children to family and gender roles, death and aging, religion, and globalization. However, the film’s powers reside in its well-constructed, real-like, and very likable characters. Rarely does a film with multiple protagonists manage to keep each one’s story interesting, yet Ang Lee’s characters are authentic, with quirks that make them so different from the usual Hollywood protagonists, and it’s practically impossible not to root for them all.
Overshadowed by Lee’s more acclaimed films such as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Brokeback Mountain” or “Life Of Pi”, “Eat Drink Man Woman” has become somewhat of a hidden gem in the director’s catalogue, so if you’ve missed it, we strongly suggest you check it out. Just make sure not to be on an empty stomach: there is so much food in this film and it all looks so great!