The Best Classic Movies on Hulu Right Now (September 2021)

Two decades have passed in the 21st century, and the films that many of us grew up with are now considered to be classics. But age isn’t the only mark of a true classic movie. The medium has come a long way in the last 100 years, but the films of the past still have a lot to offer modern audiences. Some of the greatest movies ever made were released between the ‘30s and the ‘90s, and they deserve another chance to be rediscovered in 2021. To further your cinematic education or to help you revisit the hidden gems of the past, we’ve put together a list of the best classic movies that you can watch on Hulu right now.

We’ve also curated a guide to the best war movies on Hulu and the best movies on Netflix if you’re looking for additional recommendations.

The cast of The Big Chill.

The Big Chill (1983)

In The Big Chill, a group of friends reunites after nearly two decades following the suicide of their mutual friend, Alex. Harold (Kevin Kline) and Sarah Cooper (Glenn Close) temporarily allow Sam Weber (Tom Berenger), Meg Jones (Mary Kay Place), Michael Gold (Jeff Goldblum), Nick Carlton (William Hurt), and Karen Bowen (JoBeth Williams) to stay in their house while they are in town for Alex’s funeral. This film masterfully mixes comedy and drama as the group is forced to reexamine the choices they’ve made and decide what they want to do in the future.

Rotten Tomatoes: 69%
Stars: Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Kevin Kline
Director: Lawrence Kasdan
Rating:
R
Runtime:
105 minutes

Watch on Hulu

Gene Hackman in The Conversation.

The Conversation (1974)

Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather films are so ubiquitous that many of his other movies get lost in the shuffle. Case in point, The Conversation, a ‘70s thriller starring Gene Hackman as private electronic surveillance expert Harry Caul. An intensely private man, Harry’s skill at his job is matched only by his overpowering paranoia about the invasion of his own privacy. When tasked by a client known only as The Director (Robert Duvall) to spy on a couple, Harry becomes convinced that the couple’s conversation is about their fear of being murdered by his client. That’s why Harry refuses to hand over the recording to The Director’s assistant, Martin Stett (Harrison Ford). However, Harry’s client refuses to take “no” for an answer, and Harry’s fear of falling under surveillance proves to be well-founded.

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Stars: Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Cindy Williams, Harrison Ford
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Rating:
PG
Runtime:
113 minutes

Watch on Hulu

Christopher Walken in The Dead Zone.

The Dead Zone (1983)

The Dead Zone is a different kind of Stephen King horror story. Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) loses years of his life to a coma after a car accident. When Johnny awakens, his girlfriend, Sarah Bracknell (Brooke Adams), has moved on and married someone else. Johnny also discovers that he can read someone’s future by making physical contact with them. This is more of a curse than a blessing, since Johnny is forced to retreat from the world. But when Johnny meets a rising third party politician named Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen), the vision he sees causes Johnny to question just how far he will go to avert a potential apocalypse.

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Stars: Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerritt, Herbert Lom, Martin Sheen
Director: David Cronenberg
Rating:
R
Runtime:
103 minutes

Watch on Hulu

The cast of The Grapes of Wrath.

The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

Director John Ford adapted John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath into one of the most compelling films of the ‘40s. During the Great Depression, Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) is released from prison, only to find that his family’s farm has been abandoned. He also discovers that a local preacher, Jim Casy (John Carradine), has become a vagabond after losing his faith. Tom renews his friendship with Jim before they locate the Joad family. Hoping to make a fresh start in California, Tom, Jim, and the rest of the family make the difficult journey west. Unfortunately for the group, the Golden State isn’t the land of opportunity that they hoped to find. Personal tragedies also bring Tom to a realization about his desire to create a better world for everyone.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Stars: Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, John Carradine, Shirley Mills, John Qualen
Director: John Ford
Rating:
N/A
Runtime:
129 minutes

Watch on Hulu

John Wayne in Hondo.

Hondo (1953)

John Wayne made his name in Westerns, and Hondo is one of his best. In the film, Wayne plays Hondo Lane, an army cavalry member who befriends Angie Lowe (Geraldine Page) and her young son, Johnny (Lee Aaker). The local Apache tribe respects Angie and her son, but they give her a deadline to take a husband from their people if her own missing husband does not return. To save Hondo’s life, she tells the Apache that he is her husband. However, the rising tensions between the army and the Apache puts Hondo and Angie in a very difficult situation. And there is no way to avoid bloodshed when the two sides converge.

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Stars: John Wayne, Geraldine Page, Ward Bond, Michael Pate, James Arness
Director: John Farrow
Rating:
PG
Runtime:
84 minutes

Watch on Hulu

Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason in The Hustler.

The Hustler (1961)

The Hustler is one of those films that left such a big impression on popular culture that you’ve likely heard of it even if you’ve never seen it. Paul Newman stars as “Fast” Eddie Felson, a hustler who wants to challenge the legendary pool player Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason) to a series of games. Although Eddie has some initial success, he soon falls to the superior player. While figuring out his next move, Eddie falls for Sarah Packard (Piper Laurie), but his desire for a rematch with Minnesota Fats outweighs his love for her. Eddie needs to win so badly that he even agrees to work with professional gambler Bert Gordon (George C. Scott) despite the cost to his soul.

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Stars: Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie, George C. Scott
Director: Robert Rossen
Rating:
N/A
Runtime:
134 minutes

Watch on Hulu

Charles Bronson in Once Upon a Time in the West.

Once Upon a Time in the West (1969)

Sergio Leone made some terrific Spaghetti Westerns, but Once Upon a Time in the West stands above all of the others as a great movie in its own right. Fair warning, this is an epic film with a very long running time. Henry Fonda plays against type as Frank, a terrifying mercenary who murders the McBain family and attempts to intimidate the widow, Mrs. Jill McBain (Claudia Cardinale), into surrendering her valuable land. Unfortunately for Frank, his actions make an enemy out of a local bandit, Manuel “Cheyenne” Gutiérrez (Jason Robards). He also has to worry about an enigmatic gunslinger who Cheyenne calls “Harmonica” (Charles Bronson) because his grudge against Frank goes back even longer.

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Stars: Claudia Cardinale, Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson, Gabriele Ferzetti
Director: Sergio Leone
Rating:
PG-13
Runtime:
166 minutes

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Timothy Hutton in Ordinary People.

Ordinary People (1980)

Robert Redford made his directorial debut with Ordinary People, a story about a family in crisis. Following the accidental death of his brother, Conrad Jarrett (Timothy Hutton) is released from an institute after trying to take his own life. Conrad’s parents, Calvin (Donald Sutherland) and Beth (Mary Tyler Moore), take differing approaches to their son’s pain. Calvin tries to appease Conrad, while Beth emotionally shuts out her son and withholds affection from him. As Conrad’s life continues to unravel, Dr. Tyrone C. Berger (Judd Hirsch) tries to help him understand his emotions instead of fleeing from them. But Conrad’s struggle is more than just his battle against himself.

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Stars: Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore, Judd Hirsch, Timothy Hutton, Elizabeth McGovern
Director: Robert Redford
Rating:
R
Runtime:
124 minutes

Watch on Hulu

Steve Martin and John Candy in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)

Steve Martin and John Candy are a great comedic duo in director John Hughes’ Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Within the film, Martin plays Neal Page, a marketing executive who is desperate to get home in time to see his family for Thanksgiving. Much to Neal’s annoyance, he keeps crossing paths with Del Griffith (Candy), a shower curtain salesman who loves to talk. When their flight is diverted because of bad weather, Neal and Del become unlikely traveling companions. Their misadventures and occasional conflicts may temporarily split them up, but Neal and Del somehow find their way back together on their shared journey home.

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Stars: Steve Martin, John Candy, Laila Robins, Michael McKean, Dylan Baker
Director: John Hughes
Rating:
R
Runtime:
92 minutes

Watch on Hulu

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)

Before Lon Chaney, the Man of a Thousand Faces, portrayed the Phantom of the Opera, he had an unforgettable turn in the title role of Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. This is definitely not the Disney version of this tale, as poor Quasimodo is even more harshly treated in this depiction of 15th-century Paris. The gypsy dancer, Esmeralda (Patsy Ruth Miller), is one of the few who offers Quasimodo compassion and kindness. Esmeralda also catches the eye of Phoebus de Chateaupers (Norman Kerry), and he quickly becomes enamored with her. When their mutual enemies frame Esmeralda for Phoebus’ murder, Quasimodo gives her sanctuary and fights for her survival.

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Stars: Lon Chaney, Patsy Ruth Miller, Norman Kerry, Kate Lester
Director: Wallace Worsley
Rating:
N/A
Runtime:
101 minutes

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Johnny Guitar

Johnny Guitar (1954)

Johnny Guitar is a very unusual western in part because the key rivalry is between two women, Joan Crawford’s Vienna and Mercedes McCambridge’s Emma Small. Vienna is a salon owner who has a very contentious relationship with the other residents in town. But Emma’s hatred of her rival is so great that she encourages her lover, John McIvers (Ward Bond), to force Vienna to leave town. Fortunately, Vienna’s ex, Johnny Guitar (Sterling Hayden), arrives just in time to give her some backup — yet even Johnny has a strained relationship with Vienna. Although Johnny is the gunslinger of the duo, Vienna still has to take up arms to defend what’s hers.

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Stars: Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden, Mercedes McCambridge, Scott Brady, Ernest Borgnine
Director: Nicholas Ray
Rating:
N/A
Runtime:
110 minutes

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Mel Gibson in Mad Max

Mad Max (1979)

The post-apocalyptic Mad Max franchise has evolved significantly since the first film hit theaters in 1979. In this movie, Mel Gibson’s Max Rockatansky was a family man and a member of the police force. But when Max and his fellow officer, Jim “Goose” Rains (Steve Bisley), run afoul of Johnny the Boy (Tim Burns) and his gang, it’s Max’s family who pays the ultimate price. This is the birth of the anti-hero who went on to headline all of the other Mad Max films. It’s also a good explanation for why Max is called “Mad.”

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Stars: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Billie Whitelaw
Director: George Miller
Rating:
R
Runtime:
93 minutes

Watch on Hulu

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