If you have an Amazon Prime subscription, make sure you take advantage of all the benefits that come with it. For example, there’s a ton of content that’s completely free for you to watch in Amazon Prime Video as long as you have a Prime subscription. There are plenty of Prime Originals if you’re looking for something new. Or, if you’re looking for something a bit older, check out the classic movies on Amazon Prime.
Amazon gives you the ability to filter your movie search by decade. So if you’re specifically looking for, say, a laugh-out-loud gem from the 1960s, you can type in comedy and then filter by the 1960s for your perfect results.
Or, if you’d like to take a look at some of the best classics I could find on Amazon Prime right now, just keep on reading. The movies I selected range from 1939 to 1975, and I’ve listed out the genre so you can easily spot a classic that catches your eye.
Best classic movies on Amazon Prime Video:
The Count of Monte Cristo (1975)
- Director: David Greene
- Screenplay by: Sidney Carroll
- Starring: Richard Chamberlain, Donald Pleasence
- Genre: Drama
The Count of Monte Cristo is based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas, finished in 1844. The book itself has multi-layered plots so intricate that it’s no wonder the book is considered a literary classic today. Dumas’s exceptional writing skills crafted a story that has stood the test of time in its novel and film forms.
Several important characters and scenes are omitted from the 1975 film adaptation, but the overall essence of what Dumas was trying to get across in his novel is there. In the film, Edmond Dantes, played by Richard Chamberlain, is falsely accused by three men of conspiring with Napoleon Bonaparte.
This film primarily involves a story of revenge, so you’re not necessarily going to get a traditional happy ending. But not all movies have to have a happy ending to be great movies.
Where The Red Fern Grows (1974)
- Director: Norman Tokar
- Screenplay by: Douglas C. Stewart, Eleanor Lamb
- Starring: James Whitmore, Beverly Garland, Jack Ging
- Genres: Kids, Adventure
If you haven’t seen this movie or read the novel it was based on (written in 1961 by Wilson Rawls), you’re really missing out. This is such a classic story that has many different examples of core values and life lessons, like the value of hard work and the importance of family.
The story centers around a boy named Billy who really wants two Redbone Hound dogs to take hunting with him. His parents can’t afford to buy him any dogs because of the Depression. Throughout the film, Billy goes through a lot of exciting adventures and experiences some tragedy too.
Although there are always things that are missed when a story is transcribed from a novel to a screenplay, this movie does a good job encompassing the themes of the novel. Watching this movie makes you feel like you’re on an emotional roller-coaster, but I think that’s what makes it such a great classic.
To Catch a Thief (1955)
- Director: Alfred Hitchcock
- Screenplay: John Michael Hayes
- Starring: Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Jessie Royce Landis
- Genres: Drama, Suspense
This romantic thriller is based on a novel of the same name by David Dodge, published in 1952. Alfred Hitchcock is known for chilling thrillers, like Psycho, so it’s interesting to see him take on more of a drama-filled movie. There’s still plenty of suspense in the movie, but it also follows the love story between Cary Grant’s character and Grace Kelly’s character.
In To Catch a Thief, Cary Grant plays a retired thief who’s suspected of a new series of crimes. He has to catch the impersonator going after the wealthy tourists of the French Riviera in order to clear his name. In the midst of his mission to clear his name, he falls in love.
The romance between Grace Kelly’s character and Cary Grant’s character drives the story forward, but not all on its own. Underneath all the romance on the surface, there are elements of hypocrisy and dishonesty that give the characters and the story more depth. Overall, this is a highly entertaining and gripping film to watch.
The African Queen (1951)
- Director: John Huston
- Screenplay by: John Huston, James Agee, Peter Viertel, John Collier
- Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Robert Morley
- Genres: Adventure, Drama, Military and War
There’s not a whole lot to say about this movie without giving too much of the magic away. The plot follows an unkempt riverboat owner, played by Humphrey Bogart, and a prim and proper missionary, played by Katharine Hepburn. These two are complete opposites, but they have a back-and-forth banter that’s entertaining to watch throughout the movie.
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Humphrey Bogart’s character is forced to cart Katharine Hepburn’s character up the river to civilization. They disagree on the route they should take and the reason why they should take each prospective route. This dispute is one of many things that fuels their entertaining banter.
Aside from the chemistry between Bogart and Hepburn, this movie is a great classic you can watch for free with an Amazon Prime subscription. If you haven’t watched this movie yet, I’d highly recommend it before it possibly changes platforms and isn’t available through Amazon Prime anymore.
Funny Face (1957)
- Director: Stanley Donen
- Screenplay by: Leonard Gershe
- Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Kay Thompson
- Genres: Musical, Comedy, Arts, Entertainment, and Culture
Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire are two wildly famous names in old Hollywood. Funny Face is the only movie that they were ever in together. That’s pretty special all by itself, but this romantic comedy musical shines in so many other ways.
Funny Face was originally a Broadway musical by the Gershwin brothers in 1927. The Broadway version also starred Fred Astaire and 4 of the songs transferred over from Broadway to the film adaptation. The plot in the film was completely new and different when compared to the stage musical; the four songs were pretty much the only thing that carried over.
The film takes place in Paris, the City of Lights. There’s phenomenal singing and dancing, as well as great chemistry between all the cast members. In terms of musicals, this is one of the best classics that come to mind. The songs “Bonjour, Paris!” and “‘S Marvelous” come to mind as two of the more stunning songs of the film soundtrack.
Shirley Temple’s The Little Princess (1939)
- Director: Walter Lang
- Screenplay by: Ethel Hill, Walter Ferris
- Starring: Shirley Temple Black
- Genres: Kids, Drama
The Little Princess is a true Shirley Temple classic and perfect for all ages. Even though the movie is from 1939, it still has a charm to it that appeals to younger kids today. Although it may be labeled as a film in the kids’ genre, this movie really is something that almost everyone can enjoy.
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In this classic movie on Amazon Prime, Shirley Temple plays Sara Crewe, a young girl who is sent to a boarding school when her father is called away in the war. After a few run-ins, the headmistress of the boarding school becomes increasingly mean towards Sara. Sara is treated like a servant instead of treated lavishly like she was when her father was still alive.
The screenplay is very loosely based on a novel titled A Little Princess, written by Frances Hodgson Burnett and published in 1905. The story has Cinderella-like aspects to it. The film was shot beautifully and all the actors do a wonderful job making you feel strongly for the characters.
The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952)
- Director: Henry King
- Screenplay by: Casey Robertson
- Starring: Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward, Ava Gardner
- Genres: Action, Drama
The Snows of Kilimanjaro is a movie based off of a short story by Ernest Hemingway, originally published in 1936. A few significant moments of the screenplay written by Casey Robertson differed from the original short story version. But overall, this movie was a wonderful adaptation of Hemingway’s work.
The story centers on a well-known writer who becomes injured on a famous mountain in Africa known as Kilimanjaro. Played by Gregory Peck, the character Harry Street realizes he is going to die from the infection he caught while on his African safari. The knowledge of his inevitable death causes him to want to look back at his life.
We learn a lot of Peck’s story through his flashbacks. He reminisces about his past successes in love and life as well as his regrets. He thinks about his romances with three different women – what worked and what didn’t – and ultimately realizes his love for one of them is stronger than the other two.
It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
- Director: Frank Capra
- Screenplay by: Frank Capra, Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett
- Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore
- Genres: Drama, Holiday
This last classic movie on Amazon Prime is a Christmas perennial on television. Yet, it’s also a great, if fantastical, drama about a man who thinks at first he needs to get out of his small town in order to accomplish anything. Playing the role of George Bailey, Jimmy Stewart clearly thinks the town of Bedford Falls is beneath him, and who can blame him? Henry Potter, the richest and meanest man in the town, wants everything for himself. George manages to keep Potter from getting his hands on some of the town’s residents by providing them with good homes to live in, and relaxed rates at his small building and loan.
However, a mistake by his uncle on Christmas Eve may finally shut down the building and loan for good. George thinks the only way out is to kill himself. That’s when the movie takes a full turn into fantasy land, as a guardian angel appears, and shows George that he really does matter, for so many people in Bedford Falls. You will almost certainly get a bit emotional at the end.
Here are a few more classic movies on Amazon Prime Video that didn’t quite make our top list but are worth your attention:
- The Greatest Show on Earth – Yes, this is a circus movie, but this classic film makes working at the circus feel like an epic adventure. Watch for a huge train crash in this film.
- The Odd Couple – One of the best comedies of all time with great banter from its stars Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.
- True Grit – Simply put, this is John Wayne’s greatest Western movie, and that’s saying something.
- The Fog – A 1980 horror gem from John Carpenter, starring a young Jamie Lee Curtis.
- His Girl Friday – The quintessential fast-talking screwball comedy from director Howard Hawks.
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