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

The definition of classic movies has changed quite a bit over the years. Keep in mind that even flicks that came out in 2000 are now over 20 years old. Films that were once contemporary in the ‘80s and ‘90s are now relics of previous generations. But cinema as an artform is over a century old, and it has a lot to offer modern fans. Hulu’s selection of films from the previous century is a little thin, but there are a handful of titles that have withstood the test of time. If you’re looking to expand your horizons, we’ve put together a list of the best classic movies that you can stream on Hulu right now.

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

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

Watch on Hulu

Sands of Iwo Jima

Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)

World War II movies are a frequent subgenre of war films, but Sands of Iwo Jima has the unique distinction of coming to the big screen a mere four years after the actual battle that inspired it. Some of the soldiers who participated in the conflict actually appear as well. But the story primarily chronicles the journey of a Marine unit led by Sgt. John M. Stryker (John Wayne). The sergeant isn’t exactly beloved by his men, especially PFC Peter “Pete” Conway (John Agar) and PFC Al Thomas (Forrest Tucker). Yet, in the unforgiving theater of war, these Marines had the commanding officer they needed before facing the test of their lives on Iwo Jima.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Stars: John Wayne, John Agar, Forrest Tucker, Adele Mara
Director: Allan Dwan
Rating:
N/A
Runtime:
110 minutes

Watch on Hulu

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

Watch on Hulu

The Pawnbroker

The Pawnbroker (1965)

The Pawnbroker is one of the first American dramas to fully acknowledge the horrors of the Holocaust. Rod Steiger stars as Sol Nazerman, a man who lost both of his children and his wife to Nazi atrocities. In the present, Sol is so emotionally distant that he keeps Marilyn Birchfield (Geraldine Fitzgerald) at an emotional distance even when she displays obvious romantic interest in him. Sol also pushes away a young man named Jesus Ortiz (Jaime Sánchez), who clearly idolizes him. This sets off a tragic turn of events that neither Sol nor Jesus can stop. It’s an unsettling and very sad story, but it’s also one that deserves to be told.

Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Stars: Rod Steiger, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Brock Peters, Jaime Sánchez, Thelma Oliver
Director: Sidney Lumet
Rating:
N/A
Runtime:
116 minutes

Watch on Hulu

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid takes a lot of liberties with the real history of its titular outlaws, but it’s a western that has retained its thrills for decades. Paul Newman stars as Butch Cassidy, with Robert Redford as Harry Longabaugh, aka the Sundance Kid. Butch and Sundance’s successful career as train robbers is derailed by an elite posse hired to take them down. To escape the heat, Butch, Sundance, and Sundance’s lover, Etta Place (Katharine Ross), relocate to South America and rebuild their reputations by committing even greater robberies. This isn’t a history lesson; it’s simply a compelling tale of two legends.

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Stars: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross, Strother Martin, Jeff Corey, Henry Jones
Director: George Roy Hill
Rating:
PG
Runtime:
110 minutes

Watch on Hulu

Young Frankenstein

Young Frankenstein (1974)

Mel Brooks famously took on one of the most iconic monsters of cinema and literature in Young Frankenstein. Amusingly, this comedy has the conceit that the events depicted in Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein novel actually happened decades earlier. That’s why Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) is so eager to escape the stigma that comes with his family name. Regardless, Frederick simply can’t resist an opportunity to reanimate a new Monster (Peter Boyle) before attempting to reintroduce his creation to polite society. Once a Frankenstein, always a Frankenstein. This is a relentlessly silly movie and frequently hilarious.

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Stars: Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr
Director: Mel Brooks
Rating:
PG
Runtime:
105 minutes

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The Shootist

The Shootist (1976)

John Wayne famously starred in several westerns throughout his five-decade Hollywood career, so it’s fitting that his final film role, The Shootist, was also a western. Additionally, Wayne’s character, J.B. Books, is a former gunslinger who is facing a terminal cancer prognosis — just a few years before Wayne’s death from the same disease. In retrospect, this gives the movie an even greater sense of gravitas as J.B. comes to terms with the impending end of his life while befriending a teenager, Gillom Rogers (Ron Howard), and making arrangements for one last showdown.

Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Stars: John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard, James Stewart, Richard Boone
Director: Don Siegel
Rating:
PG
Runtime:
100 minutes

Watch on Hulu

The Omen

The Omen (1976)

Who is Damien Thorn (Harvey Spencer Stephens)? That question looms over The Omen, one of the seminal horror films of the ‘70s. Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) arranged for Damien’s adoption after he and his wife, Katherine (Lee Remick), lost their own child. Years later, Father Brennan (Patrick Troughton) and Keith Jennings (David Warner) warn Robert about the suspicious circumstances of Damien’s birth and the seemingly supernatural threats that surround him. Yet, the truth is hard to face until Robert realizes that his son may be the antichrist himself.

Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Stars: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Billie Whitelaw
Director: Richard Donner
Rating:
R
Runtime:
111 minutes

Watch on Hulu

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

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Malcolm X

Malcolm X (1992)

Spike Lee’s masterful retelling of the life of Malcolm X follows the civil rights icon from his early years as Malcolm Little (Denzel Washington). Malcolm and his girlfriend, Sophia (Kate Vernon), were criminals before a long stint in jail caused Malcolm to reexamine his life and embrace the Nation of Islam. Spiritually reborn as Malcolm X, he uses his unmatched oratory skills as an activist. Lee didn’t shy away from depicting Malcolm X’s faults, but he also captured the essence of the man that became a legend.

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Stars: Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, Albert Hall, Al Freeman Jr., Delroy Lindo
Director: Spike Lee
Rating:
PG-13
Runtime:
201 minutes

Watch on Hulu

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