100 Free Classic Films Everyone Should See

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January 28th, 2010

By Pamelia Brown

While summer blockbusters and new movies can be great, older movies have a lot to offer as well and can show you a wealth of artistry, inspiration for later films and great storytelling. These 100 films are worth a watch and won’t even require a trip to rent or borrow, and can help break up those study sessions for your college courses.

Action and Adventure

These films will take you exotic locales as characters engage in battles, conflicts and more.

  1. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Check out the 1916 adaptation of this classic novel for some adventure beneath the seas.
  2. Hercules: This film was a hit when it came out in 1958 and follows the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece.
  3. Long John Silver: This movie picks up with the adventures of Long John Silver after the events of Treasure Island.
  4. Snows of Kilimanjaro: In this 1952 Hemingway adaptation starring Gregory Peck, a writer on his deathbed takes a look back at his life.
  5. The Jungle Book: Here you’ll find the first film adaptation of the Kipling novel about a boy who is raised by wolves.
  6. Mark of Zorro: Watch this film to see one of the early film adaptations of the mysterious masked Zorro.
  7. Dick Tracy: In this 1945 film, Dick Tracy has to put together the clues to figure out the connections between a series of murders.
  8. The Iron Mask: Turned into a later adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio, this original tells the tale of a twin’s quest, along with the Three Musketeers, to foil an evil plot.
  9. Mutiny: Set during the War of 1812, this film shows the power of gold to sway loyalties.
  10. The New Adventures of Tarzan: This film from the 30’s shows Tarzan leaving his jungle home to seek out his friend and finding adventure along the way.
  11. Battle of Midway: Check out this film to see a dramatic retelling with real footage of the battle between the Japanese and Americans over Midway Island.


Take a look back at this once very popular genre in these films.

  1. ‘Neath the Arizona Skies: This film follows a cowboy as he works to protect an oil-heiress.
  2. Chino: Starring Charles Bronson, this movie tells the tale of a horse breeder who develops a strong bond with a young man he takes in and teaches to raise, break and care for horses.
  3. The Legend of Custer: See the exciting story of Custer’s battle and defeat in this 1968 series.
  4. Gunsmoke Ranch: In this film, three men try to warn the local people of the nefarious plans of Flagg, an unscrupulous businessman.
  5. The Outlaw: Watch the classic story of Billy the Kid, Doc Holliday, Pat Garrett and a host of other classic western outlaws in this film.
  6. McClintlock: Based loosely on Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, this film follows cattle baron George Washington McLintock as he tries to manage his wife, his land and his family.
  7. One-Eyed Jacks: In this film, a betrayed bank robber seeks out revenge on his partner, who is now a law-abiding sheriff.
  8. Gone With the West: Sammy Davis Jr. and James Caan star in this film that has its entertaining moments despite being widely panned by critics.
  9. The Proud and the Damned: In this film, a group of Confederate mercenaries must choose sides when a town becomes embroiled in a rebellion–a choice that may ultimately decide their fates.
  10. Deadwood ’76: Here you’ll see the story of a young man who is mistaken for Billy the Kid, with unpleasant consequences for him.


While comedy changes over the ages, these films are sure to elicit at least a smile from you.

  1. The Noose Hangs High: In this Abbot and Costello classic, the men are mistaken for messengers and are sent out on a errand by a gangster.
  2. His Girl Friday: This romantic comedy stars Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. Russell’s character is about to leave town and remarry but her ex-husband and former boss recruits her for one last newspaper story.
  3. Happy Go Lovely: Watch as one stodgy but kindhearted man learns to live life in this musical comedy.
  4. Making a Living: This hilarious Chaplin film is one of 22 different ones you can watch through this link.
  5. A Hole in the Head: Directed by Frank Capra and starring Frank Sinatra, this film incorporates music and humor into the main character’s battle to hang on to his hotel and his son.
  6. The Gold Rush: Watch this film to see Chaplin mug it up as an Alaskan gold miner who falls hard for the lovely Georgia.
  7. The Little Shop of Horrors: This classic musical film tells the tale of a young man who finds a bloodthirsty plant and is forced to provide food for it.
  8. That’s My Baby: In this film, a girl and her husband try to pull her father out of a funk through a series of fun musical numbers.
  9. This is the Army: WWII soldier Johnny Jones is called upon to develop an all-soldier performing act while balancing his personal life in this film.
  10. Animal Crackers: In this Marx brothers classic a painting is stolen and the brothers try to help, though really just hinder, finding it.


Check out these classic films for some serious drama.

  1. The Elephant Man: Based on a true story, this film explores the life of a man deformed by congenital disorder and the relationship he develops with a doctor who helps him live a happier and better life.
  2. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: This 1920 film tells the classic story of a Victorian scientist with a murderous and unpredictable dark side.
  3. The Phantom of the Opera: In one of the earliest film adaptations of this story, the beautiful Christine meets the phantom in the catacombs of the theater where she works.
  4. Windjammer: When a rogue ship sinks the yacht of a famous Commodore, he and his passengers are brought aboard as slaves–but not for long.
  5. The Great Gabbo: This film tells the story of a ventriloquist who begins relying more and more on his dummy to do the talking for him, to the point of madness.
  6. We Dive at Dawn: Here you’ll get to see a British submarine crew battle with a Nazi U-boat in this WWII drama.
  7. The Count of Monte Cristo: Based on the classic Dumas tale, this film details the betrayal and quest for revenge of the Count.
  8. Abraham Lincoln: Watch this film to learn more about the life and times of Abraham Lincoln through a dramatized retelling.
  9. Freaks: This film, a cult classic for its use of real sideshow performers and violent plotline, shows that true monsters are often scarier inside than out.
  10. Napoleon: Check out this movie to see a retelling of the life and death of Napoleon.

Film Noir

From dames in distress to shadowy characters, these films are great representations of the genre.

  1. D.O.A.: Perhaps one of the most classic of the genre, this film follows a doomed man’s quest to discover who poisoned him before the poison takes his life.
  2. Beat the Devil: This 1953 Bogart film mixes elements of comedy into the classic noir tale.
  3. Detour: On his way to California a man gets a ride from a stranger, a choice that will leave him in a bit of a pickle when he later picks up a femme fatale.
  4. He Walked By Night: This thriller follows a manhunt for a killer engaged in a game of cat and mouse with the police.
  5. The Hitch-Hiker: This film from the 50’s revolves around a couple of hunting buddies who pick up a mysterious hitchhiker.
  6. Jigsaw: A US District Attorney discovers an unusual group while investigating a series of murders in this 1949 film.
  7. Kansas City Confidential: In this classic noir film, a man is framed for a robbery he didn’t commit and must follow the real criminals to Mexico to prove his innocence.
  8. Love from a Stranger: After a young woman wins the lottery, she meets a man who she thinks is the love of her life, only to discover after they are married he may not be who he seems.
  9. The Red House: The teens at the center of this movie are warned to stay away from the creepy red house, but seek it out anyway in this 1940’s classic.
  10. Somewhere in the Night: A marine suffering from amnesia is at the center of this film as he tries to piece his life back together.

Thriller and Mystery

These films are sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.

  1. The 39 Steps: In this Hitchcock classic, a couple who can’t stand each other are chased by the police and other mysterious characters.
  2. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari: This horror-filled film is a must-watch for film buffs. It tells the story of a traveling magician and his assistant whose arrival in town always coincides with a series of vicious murders.
  3. Dressed to Kill: Get a dose of classic Sherlock Holmes in this film adaptation of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Series.
  4. Bluebeard: In this film, an artist captures the beauty of his models then disposes of them.
  5. The Man Who Knew Too Much: Hitchcock made two versions of this film, and this is the earlier one that tells the story of a couple being blackmailed by having their daughter kidnapped.
  6. The World Gone Mad: In this movie a District Attorney and a reporter are on a mission to find a out who murdered a man who discovered a large fraud scheme.
  7. M: In this Fritz Lang classic, a group of criminals decide to hunt down a murderer themselves because the increased police presence his actions have brought have made it impossible for them to operate.
  8. The Fall of the House of Usher: Check out this 1928 adaptation of the famous Edgar Allen Poe story.
  9. The Third Man: Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles star in this international thriller that won an oscar and received multiple nominations.
  10. Fog Island: In this film, a man out for revenge sets up traps and tricks on his island home for those who betrayed him.


From B-movie silliness to more serious issues, these films offer a great look back at classic sci-fi.

  1. The Lost World: In this film, a much maligned scientist is sure that dinosaurs still exists in the high reaches of South America.
  2. Killers from Space: This 50’s film takes a look at what an alien attack might be like–in classic B-movie style.
  3. Lady Frankenstein: Take a look at this movie for a continuation of the Frankenstein story.
  4. The Bionic Woman: On this site, you can watch a collection of episodes from this iconic US TV series.
  5. Flying Disc Man from Mars: In this film, Martians come to conquer Earth as they are worried about newly developed nuclear weapons.
  6. It Came from Beneath the Sea: This cheesy film is sure to keep you entertained with its hardly-terrifying octo-monster and its cute female scientist.
  7. Voyage to Prehistoric Planet: Here you’ll see two astronauts who are exploring the surface of Venus try to escape with their lives after something goes terribly wrong.
  8. Invaders from Mars: When strange lights appear in the sky, changes begin happening to the adult in a small town with one man left to question the cause.
  9. Last Man on Earth: In this Vincent Price classic, the actor is depicted as the last man on Earth, or so he thinks.
  10. Nineteen Eighty-Four: This adaptation of the Orwell novel was made in, appropriately enough, 1984.

B-Movies and Cult Classics

Sometimes movies are so bad they’re good. Check out these titles to stage your own Mystery Science Theater 3000.

  1. The Toxic Avenger: In this classic, a nerd is turned into a somewhat deformed superhero after falling into a barrel of toxic waste.
  2. Reefer Madness: Every wonder what all the fuss is about when it comes to banning marijuana? This film started it all.
  3. Plan 9 from Outer Space: Perhaps one of the worst, and consequently best, horror films of the era, this film sees an evil alien race resurrecting the dead to act out their sinister Plan 9.
  4. The Corpse Vanishes: The wife of a mad scientist stays curiously young looking, and as the film develops you’ll discover why.
  5. Attack of the Puppet People: In this film, a lonely and slightly mad puppet-master and doll-maker designs a machine that shrinks people.
  6. The Bloody Brood: In this early Peter Falk film, a group of beatniks does, well, what beatniks and outcasts do.
  7. Manos the Hands of Fate: Widely regarded as one of the worst films ever made, its appearance on Mystery Science Theater 3000 made this awful film a cult classic.
  8. Sex Maniac: Loosely based on an Edgar Allen Poe story, this film is an early example of the exploitation genre.
  9. Wasp Woman: This 1960’s film follows the head of a cosmetics company who, through using an untested treatment, manages to beautify herself with the unexpected consequence of sometimes turning into a murderous wasp.
  10. Carnival of Souls: When their car goes off of a bridge, three friends are assumed dead. One, however, emerges alive and tries to start her life over, but something isn’t quite right.


These foreign films will let you see classics from around the globe.

  1. L’age D’or: This surrealist classic by director Luis Bunuel will baffle you, shock you and downright confuse you–just what it was meant to do.
  2. Rashomon: Lovers of film have to see this Japanese classic that addresses the nature of truth by giving viewers four different accounts of a rape and murder.
  3. Un Chien Andalou: Look to this Salvador Dali film for shocking and sometimes gruesome imagery, but an artistic experience well worth having.
  4. Battleship Potemkin: Based on a true story, this Soviet film has been the inspiration for many modern filmmakers.
  5. Der Golem: Made in 1915, this horror film is inspired by the ancient Jewish legend of the Golem–a clay man who comes to life.
  6. Ikiru: Made by acclaimed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, this film is often considered to be his greatest masterwork and one that takes the harshest but ultimately most compassionate look at human life.
  7. Sword of Lancelot: This British film tells the tale of the night Lancelot and his love for the off-limits Guinevere.
  8. Fire Over England: In this period film starring Laurence Olivier, a man goes undercover to foil a plot to assassinate the queen.
  9. Faust: Based on the classic tale by Goethe, this movie tells the tale of Faust, tempted into sin by Mephisto.
  10. Nora Inu: Translating to Stray Dog in English, this Kurosawa film tells the story of a detective who is frantically trying to reclaim his pistol which has been stolen on the train. A manhunt ensues when the gun is used in a murder.


Make sure to watch these classics with the lights on.

  1. Dracula: Explore the classic tale of the battle between Dracula and Van Helsing in this film.
  2. White Zombie: A young couple is tricked into getting married on a Hatian plantation only to have the young woman, and several others, turned into zombies.
  3. Nosferatu: Perhaps one of the best known and most loved of vampire films, this movie stars Max Schreck as the terrifying Count Orlok.
  4. Beware the Blob: In this sequel to the original Blob, the blob is brought back to life and starts consuming everything around it.
  5. Night of the Living Dead: Radiation fallout brings the blood-thirsty corpses in this film back to life as a group of people hiding out in a farmhouse attempt to hold them off.
  6. Deep Red: An English pianist gets involved in trying to solve a series of murders in this film only to realize too late that the murderer is watching his movements closely in this Dario Argento classic.
  7. Dementia 13: In this film a young woman manipulates her family to get a share of the inheritance, but when she moves into their ancestral home she may get more than she bargained for.
  8. A Bucket of Blood: This film will make you laugh as much as you’ll be scared, as a young artist becomes murderous in his quest for success.
  9. The Ghost Train: Legends of a phantom train haunt the stranded travelers at a rural rail station in this film.


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