Don’t just settle for the movies available on streaming. Rent a classic instead.
The age of heading to Blockbuster renting a movie wasn’t that long ago. And yet, the rise of streaming has rewired my brain into only considering the movies available on the subscription services when searching for something to watch.
I have a sunk-cost mindset, figuring that I already paid for these subscription services and therefore should only stick to them.
I hardly think about the vast library of classic movies I always meant to check out, even though I can digitally rent them for only a few dollars. As such, I’ve been recently touting the merits of renting. Last week, I wrote an article on recent movies to rent. This week, I’m focusing on classics you can rent on Amazon Prime Video.
To keep things concise, I limited “classics” to movies that debuted in 2000 or before. I’ve also kept the list to 10 because this article isn’t so much a list of recommendations, but more of a reminder that you can watch some of the greatest movies of all time through renting on any given night. You probably already know the classics you want to watch ― so just go watch them.
The movies I mention below are not on the primary subscription services. They also tend to cost about $4 to rent.
And if you want to stay informed about everything joining streaming services on a weekly basis, subscribe to the Streamline newsletter.
“2001: A Space Odyssey,” (1968)
Premise: In this science-fiction epic, astronauts travel to Jupiter with a sentient computer. The discovery of an alien monolith and the existence of the decision-making computer calls into question the nature of human life.
Setting: Space in a “future” with more advanced space operations
Runtime: 2 hours, 29 minutes
Notable Cast: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, Douglas Rain and William Sylvester
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Academy Awards: Four nominations, including Best Director, and one win for Best Visual Effects
Premise: In this teen comedy, affluent high school students discover that material wealth doesn’t lead to a fulfilling life by itself. The script draws influence from the Jane Austen novel, “Emma,” which just had a new adaptation debut this week in theaters.
Setting: Beverly Hills in the mid-90s
Runtime: 1 hour, 37 minutes
Notable Cast: Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy, Paul Rudd and Alicia Silverstone
Director: Amy Heckerling
“Love & Basketball,” (2000)
Premise: In this romantic drama, two childhood sweethearts pursue dreams of basketball greatness. The two have deep feelings for each other, but their basketball careers lead to repeatedly diverging and re-connecting paths.
Setting: Los Angeles in the 1980s
Runtime: 2 hours, 4 minutes
Notable Cast: Omar Epps, Dennis Haysbert, Sanaa Lathan and Alfre Woodard
Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood
“Apocalypse Now,” (1979)
Premise: In this war epic, the U.S. military attempts to stop a U.S. Army 5th Special Forces soldier who has presumably gone insane and created a guerilla force without permission. The script adapts Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” to a story involving the Vietnam War.
Setting: Cambodia during the Vietnam War
Runtime: 2 hours, 27 minutes
Notable Cast: Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Frederic Forrest and Martin Sheen
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Academy Awards: Eight nominations, including Best Picture, and two wins including for Best Cinematography
“The Matrix,” (1999)
Premise: In this science-fiction action film, intelligent machines have created a simulation of Earth to distract the trapped humans from the horror of actual reality. The machines harvest energy from the imprisoned bodies, and a few enlightened humans try to stop this.
Setting: A simulated reality in the future
Runtime: 2 hours, 16 minutes
Notable Cast: Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Keanu Reeves and Hugo Weaving
Director: Lana and Lilly Wachowski
Academy Awards: Four nominations and four wins including Best Visual Effects
“Raising Arizona,” (1987)
Premise: In this crime comedy, a small-time crook and a police officer fall in love and get married. Due to infertility and the male’s criminal record, the couple can’t procreate or adopt, so they steal a quintuplet baby.
Setting: Arizona in the late-80s
Runtime: 1 hour, 34 minutes
Notable Cast: Nicolas Cage, William Forsythe, John Goodman and Holly Hunter
Director: Joel Coen
“The King of Comedy,” (1982)
Premise: In this satirical black comedy, an aspiring stand-up comedian meets a successful talk show host and believes he’ll earn a spot on the show. The comedian harbors delusions of a burgeoning relationship with the host and becomes increasingly unstuck from reality.
Setting: New York in the early-80s
Runtime: 1 hour, 49 minutes
Notable Cast: Diahnne Abbott, Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis and Tony Randall
Director: Martin Scorsese
“A League of Their Own,” (1992)
Premise: In this sports-focused, historical comedy, World War II prompts the creation of a women’s baseball league. After a slow start, the league catches on, but the horrors of the war continue to overshadow any athletic success.
Setting: The U.S. Midwest in the 1940s
Runtime: 2 hours, 8 minutes
Notable Cast: Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Madonna and Lori Petty
Director: Penny Marshall
“Malcolm X,” (1992)
Premise: In this biographical drama, Black human rights activist Malcolm X helps build a movement from humble beginnings. As his prominence grows, so does backlash from entrenched American power structures. His evolution as a leader and his growing influence are cut short by assassination.
Setting: Malcom X’s life from the 1920s to the 1960s
Runtime: 3 hours, 22 minutes
Notable Cast: Angela Bassett, Al Freeman Jr., Albert Hall and Denzel Washington
Director: Spike Lee
Academy Awards: Two nominations, including Best Actor for Denzel Washington
“Point Break,” (1991)
Premise: In this action film, a rookie FBI agent goes undercover to try and thwart a team of bank robbers called the “Ex-Presidents” who wear masks of ex-presidents. Through the undercover work, the agent befriends the roaming surfers responsible for the robberies and becomes conflicted in stopping them.
Setting: The U.S. West Coast in the early-90s
Runtime: 2 hours, 2 minutes
Notable Cast: Gary Busey, Lori Petty, Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves
Director: Kathryn Bigelow