With stunning original series like the new Star Trek: Strange New Worlds or the popular hit Yellowstone, Paramount+ is quickly becoming a powerhouse in the world of streaming. Outside of their modern hits, the streaming service also has a rich catalog of classic films that reflect the studio’s historic reputation.
Whether it’s with epic Westerns like Once Upon a Time in the West or horror classics like Night of the Living Dead, the Paramount+ catalog spans the entirety of cinema’s history. Though there are plenty of classics to chose from, some gained much higher scores on IMDb than others.
10 Cabaret (1972) – 7.7
Generally considered on of the best musicals of all time, Cabaret brought the dark and controversial Broadway show to life on the big screen. An American living in pre-WWII Germany, he strikes up an unusual friendship with a cabaret singer. As the noose of Nazi oppression begins to clamp down around them, their loyalties are tested.
Cabaret is such a unique musical because it finds a way to balance its lighter music with its heavy themes. What really helps the film shine is the dynamic performances from Joel Gray and Liza Minelli, both of which performed their roles onstage as well. Cinematically speaking, director Bob Fosse brought the right amount of stagey energy to the film, and his background in choreography meant that it was a feast for the eyes and ears.
9 Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956) – 7.7
Looking back on the sci-fi films of the 1950s often leads down a rabbit hole of cheesy flicks, but a few managed to capture the popular consciousness of the time in a way that still moves viewers today. The Invasion of the Body Snatchers is the story of a doctor in a small California town who begins to suspect that all of his neighbors are being replaced with alien duplicates.
Playing off of the fears of the 1950s Red Scare, Body Snatchers is a tense thriller that blends elements of horror and Sci-fi together in a clever way. With time running out and everyone he knew turning against him, the doctor’s harrowing journey is enough to chill any viewer to the bone. What makes the movie so scary is the isolation of it, and how there is nothing the doctor can do to stop the invasion.
8 Ordinary People (1980) – 7.7
Few family dramas packed the same punch as the Academy Award-winning movie, Ordinary People. In the wake of his older brother’s death in a boat accident, a depressed teen strikes up a friendship with his therapist. Navigating his parent’s toxic relationship, he struggles with a severe case of survivors guilt.
In a star-making performance, a young Timothy Hutton stole the show amongst a cast of seasoned veterans. Never letting off of the gas for a moment, the film is one gut-punch after another and it courted melodrama in a way that is rare in Hollywood cinema.
7 His Girl Friday (1940) – 7.8
Screen legend Cary Grant was at his best in comedies, and His Girl Friday is perhaps one of his most beloved. A New York City newspaper editor is desperate to keep his ace reporter from marrying a new man and settling down to a domestic life. Unfortunately for him, his star reporter also happens to be his ex-wife.
Very much a product of its time, the film has a dated view of women in the workplace when seen through modern eyes. Taking that into account, the film is a rolling screwball comedy that is surprisingly still hilarious despite being over 80 years old. The heart of the film is the charisma between Grant and his co-star Rosalind Russell, as well as Howard Hawks frenetic direction style that keeps the dialogue snappy.
6 Days Of Heaven (1979) – 7.8
The greatest films often take a simple premise and use the art of cinema to build on top of the story’s ideas. Days of Heaven follows a disgruntled farm worker who attempts to convince his girlfriend to marry their rich and elderly boss in order to inherit his fortune when he passes away.
Drawing visual inspiration from the American Magical Realism art movement, Days of Heaven has a wistful and almost dreamlike look. Relying heavily on the performances, director Terrence Malick allows the drama to breath with the appropriate amount of emotional gravitas.
5 Night Of The Living Dead (1968) – 7.8
When it comes to paradigm shifts in the world of horror, Night of the Living Dead ushered in a brand new era for the genre. The movie follows a group of strangers who hold up in a farmhouse after being attacked by a horde of flesh eating zombies.
Night of the Living Dead shattered a lot of barriers, not only with its depiction of the zombie, but also by having a Black man in the lead role. All of the historical elements aside, the film is a well made tale that ratchets up the tension without ever doing too much. Paranoia and suspense is the name of the game, and director George Romero created one of the most influential zombie films of all time.
4 Paper Moon (1973) – 8.1
At the time of its release, Paper Moon captured a bygone era of American history, and now it too has passed into nostalgia. The movie follows a conman who finds himself stuck with a young girl who may be his daughter. While on the road, they form a strange partnership and she begins to help him in his grift.
The father and daughter duo of Ryan and Tatum O’Neal is what really makes the film soar, and their quirky interactions are the stuff of comedy legend. The film’s rich black-and-white photography captures the beauty and desolation of the American heartland, and the colorless slate allows the performances to stand out.
3 The General (1926) – 8.2
During the silent era of film, many movies were produced that have been lost to popular memory and don’t hold up. However, Buster Keaton classics like The General continue to live on because they represented the best of what that era had to offer. The film follows a train engineer during the Civil War who is tasked with recapturing his beloved engine from the Union soldiers who stole it.
Using the train as a canvas for his hilarious physical comedy, actor/director Buster Keaton tells a compelling story without the benefit of sound. One of the biggest reasons that The General is considered one of the best silent films of all time, is because it manages to transcend its shortcomings and stand up next to most modern sound films.
2nd The Kid (1921) – 8.3
One of the reasons that Charlie Chaplin is such a recognizable piece of the cinema history quilt is because he was one of the first artists to wield the medium to its full effect. The Kid follows a young child that is abandoned by his mother and rescued by The Tramp. Years later, the kid’s mother is a successful opera star and has designs of taking her abandoned child back from the man who cared for him.
Chaplin films often walk a fine line between drama and comedy, and The Kid is balanced on a razor’s edge. Containing scenes of side-splitting comedy, as well as tear-jerking drama, the film expertly blends its tones. Unlike a lot of Hollywood silent films of the time, Chaplin’s greatest works spoke to the human condition at a real and visceral level.
one Once Upon A Time In The West (1968) – 8.5
Epic is the only word that appropriately describes the classic spaghetti Western Once Upon a Time in the West, and it is head and shoulders above a lot of its contemporaries. A mysterious harmonica playing man teams up with an outlaw to protect a widowed woman from an assassin sent by the railroad company to wipe her out.
Directed by Sergio Leone and penned by a venerable group of Italian cinema legends, the film is a summary of the Spaghetti variety of the Western genre. With over-the-top characters and a soaring score, the film is a hyper stylized vision of an Old West that never really existed. Leone’s impact on the Western genre is impossible to overstate, and every movie that followed owes a debt of gratitude to Once Upon a Time in the West.
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