The best streaming services for classic movies

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First things first, let’s debate precisely what this all-encompassing genre we’re calling classic movies really is.

It’s quite the debate; we regularly talk to audiences of every age, and they’ve all got a different impression of what it includes. There are those who won’t consider anything other than travelling back in time to the black and white days of Gable and Garland. Those were the hearty days of historic movie making. Pure classics: Casablanca, Citizen Cane, A Star is Born (Garland, not Streisand) and many more of the same quality and culture.

Yet, nudge yourself forward a decade or so and towards more contemporary cultural offerings, and you’ll find titles like Clockwork OrangeDirty Harry, and, of course, Godzilla that also fit this label more than comfortably. They are, without a doubt, some of the greatest cinema classics of their time.

How about 2001: A Space Odyssey? It gets our vote. So do Ben-HurTaxi Driver, and Goodfellas. We’d bring you even further forward if we thought we could get away with it, but for the time being, we’re going to leave the rules up to you. If we include something you disagree with—just pretend you didn’t see it—and move swiftly on.

For the duration of this article, let’s consider a fairly open playing field, one that draws from a history lesson-like walk down a cinematic memory lane.

Now, we understand what we’re looking for—where are we going to find them?

Which streaming services have the best classic movies?

HBO Max – our favourite streaming services for cinema classics and a whole lot more

We’re putting HBO Max at the top of our list. I can hear you asking already, “But HBO isn’t a classic movie channel; it’s a mainstream entertainment provider.”

Here’s why it takes our crown. When it comes to classic movies, The Criterion Channel is a provider like no other, dedicated to historic cinema, with over a thousand classic and contemporary films, Hollywood, international, and art-house movies.

HBO Max brings the best of Criterion, backed up by Warner Bros.’ classic catalogue. It’s the best mix of the biggest, authentic, vintage viewing titles, and yet, sadly, those titles remain in the background of the service’s marketing strategies.

What you get on top of those classics are the mainstream movies and HBO shows that are staples in TV entertainment. You can happily pick between episodes of Friends, Game of Thrones, and The Sopranos, but also, in the blink of an eye and the flick of a remote, you're watching The Wizard of Oz, Citizen Cane, and Gone With The Wind.

That’s a lot of bang for your buck. A LOT.

We’ve got access to a few long lists that will help tip your scales. We’re jumping back in time a little here but bear with us. When HBO Max launched around a year ago, the nice people at The Verge put together a list of hundreds of classic movies available from the service, showing just how much more their subscribers were getting than the expected sitcoms and box office offerings.

This list isn’t all the titles they’ve got, but it gives you plenty of reasons to subscribe. Literally, hundreds of reasons: from Blithe Spirit to The Postman Always Rings Twice and everything in between.

The American Film Institute 100 Greatest Films of All Time

The AFI could well be one of our best indicators of classic movies, and their 100 years… 100 movies has hit its 10th-anniversary edition.

Over 30 of the AFI top 100 are on HBO Max—probably more than anywhere else. It’s another indicator of how broad the range of movies is on the platform.

HBO Max really is a best-bet all-rounder for today’s TV. With masses of movie classics thrown in to sweeten the deal of an already impressive up-to-the-minute catalogue, it gets our vote. Just go check everything they’ve got going right now and see if we’re not right.

Disney+ brings you classics of a different kind

Where the mighty brand of Walt Disney might not be littered with black and white classics, Disney Plus does contain plenty of archive of animated masterpieces from the way back when. If you stop to think about Disney’s roots in animated feature films—that alone could be enough to drive you to shell out for a subscription. Once again, though, with the mix of bang-up-to-date favourites and huge pulling titles, it’s a double-whammy hard to resist.

Snow White, Cinderella, Fantasia, 101 Dalmatians are the types of titles you’d expect to find hidden in the Disney archives, but what about Tron, Willow, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Okay, they’re not quite Godzilla vs Gigan, but they’re still big moments in movie history and classics in our book.

Streaming classics on Amazon Prime

Another platform with plenty of movie history on its bones, along with a mass of modern entertainment, is Amazon Prime. Prime delivers a whopping selection of 60s and 70s cinema in its database. Chinatown, Raging Bull, The Apartment, A Clockwork Orange—they’re all there, and a whole lot more besides.

The classics on Prime might take some tracking down, but keep digging around, and you’ll find Joan Crawford, Humphrey Bogart and a host of famous historical faces. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s NestThe Man Who Would Be KingBullittBonnie and Clyde—they just take a bit of patience and knowing what you want because they’re tucked so far behind the titles of today at the top of the table.

StreamLocator puts you in the right place for HBO Max and all the classic content channels and streams

Okay, you have to be in the US to watch HBO Max, and there are variations in the catalogues on Disney+ (Disney Plus) in each location. These platforms need you to be in the same country as that catalogue, but that’s not a problem with StreamLocator. Our ingenious smart hub tells each of their servers that you’re exactly where they need you to be with a virtual location.

We’re opening up worldwide content to viewers in every corner of the globe. If you want to watch HBO Max thumping Scarlet O’Hara into your screens—there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t. StreamLocator’s got you covered.