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Netflix finally highlights classic movies – What are the milestone films you should watch in 2024?

Netflix finally highlights classic movies – What are the milestone films you should watch in 2024?

Netflix and canny curation don’t usually go hand in hand.

Let’s face facts: the streaming platform is more about quantity than quality, with its business model resuming itself to growing its subscriber base by drowning them in choice, at the price of condemning real gems to a cinematic graveyard filled with a lot of dross.

It has gotten worse over the years, as Netflix had to start competing with other streamers looking for their share of the audience’s attention and pennies, with more Netflix originals as a result. And even new additions to the platform are rarely organised consistently.

This has also meant that older movies have gone by the wayside in favour of the mock-blockbuster du jour.

Things are changing though, and classic movie lovers can rejoice.

The streaming service announced this week that it is starting a new series called Milestone Movies: The Anniversary Collection, which will highlight classic movies celebrating major anniversaries this year.

The site has already launched a series of 50-year-old movies from 1974, including Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles, Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, Alan J. Pakula’s The Parallax View, and Robert Altman’s California Split.

New collections will follow in April, July, and October, with movies from 1984, 1994, and 2004, respectively. The planned titles for these years have not yet been released.

So, with this heartening news in mind, Euronews Culture has looked back at the last three decades and pre-emptively selected a series of films turning 40, 30 and 20 we’d ideally have in our 2024 Anniversary Collection – with a special focus on one unmissable pick for each decade.

Here goes.

1984: Films turning 40 in 2024

1984 was one hell of a culturally influential year in cinema, as it saw the launch of several franchises like The Terminator and Ghostbusters. Legendary writer/director John Hughes released his first feature film, Sixteen Candles, and the Coen Brothers also made their screen debut with the stunning thriller Blood Simple. And who could forget This Is Spinal Tap, one of the greatest comedies of all time?

These are the must-haves Netflix should be looking to secure come April: Paris, Texas; This is Spinal Tap; Once Upon A Time in America; Ghostbusters; Amadeus; The Cotton Club; Splash; Dune; Blood Simple; The NeverEnding Story; Sixteen Candles; and of course, Terminator.

Our main pick for the year though celebrates the fact that 1984 was a solid year for the horror genre. Horror had its heyday in the 70s with the likes of The Exorcist, Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The early 80s saw Jason make his debut in Friday the 13th; however, it wasn’t until 1984 that Wes Craven added Freddy Krueger, Springwood’s resident dream slasher-stalker, to the ever-growing rogues gallery.

A Nightmare on Elm Street
A Nightmare on Elm Street - New Line Cinema

A Nightmare on Elm Street and its sadistic antagonist have become staples of the horror genre. Sadly, over the course of nine films, the series has sadly worsened, and out of the nine, only two merit particular attention. There’s 1987’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, which features some of the best lines and kills in the entire series. And there’s the original.

Like a great many franchises, the original movie ends up shining brightest, and Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street is still the scariest entry in the franchise. The uniquely unsettling premise of a burned child murderer with knives for hands that can only harm you in your sleep made it stand out, as did some of the visually creative and surreal elements that broke convention when it came to horror films that preceded it. Its subtext remains potent to this day, as Craven not only played with the now-hallowed theme of intergenerational trauma and the cursed absence of parental figures; he also touched upon puberty through Freudian imagery and delved into the traumatic experiences of adolescence, with Freddy becoming a metaphor for the irrational thoughts we inject into the things we try to avoid out of fear.

So, not just a film about scared teens trying to stay awake.

As an added bonus, A Nightmare on Elm Street also gave us Heather Langenkamp’s Nancy Thompson, one of the all-time greatest Scream Queens, whose portrayal became something of a blueprint for final girl characters to come.

1994: Films turning 30 in 2024

From The Lion King to Pulp Fiction, 1994 was another landmark year, in a banner decade for cinema. Indeed, the 90s had something for everyone, and 1994 (as well as 1999) stand out.

Consider the evidence: the consecration of Quentin Tarantino with Pulp Fiction ;the launch of Jim Carrey with The Mask and Dumb & Dumber ;the sheer amount of brilliant action films (The Crow, Leon, Speed, True Lies); and one of the decade’s greatest films, Wong Kar-wai's Chungking Express.

Here are the must-haves Netflix should be looking to secure come July: Pulp Fiction; Leon; Chungking Express; Speed; Four Weddings and a Funeral; The Crow; Ed Wood; The Mask; Natural Born Killers; Interview with the Vampire... As long as none of these are sacrificed, we’ll accept picks like Forrest Gump and The Shawshank Redemption, which will doubtlessly make the cut but seriously need to be deflated, as they’ve fully veered into cliché now and we’re tired of seeing them top Best Of 1990s lists. They’re fine. They’re just fine. Let’s collectively move on.

For 1994, our top pick for the film celebrating its pearl (or diamond, if you’re not a fan of the traditional gift) anniversary is Hoop Dreams, the greatest documentary ever made about sports. Beyond that, one of the greatest documentaries ever made, period.

Hoop Dreams
Hoop Dreams - Fine Line Features

Steve James‘ achievement paved the way for the Golden Age of documentaries, and showed that non-fiction could score big at the box office. Hoop Dreams is a masterclass in storytelling, one that follows two high-school basketball players, William Gates and Arthur Agee. Both are from underprivileged backgrounds in Chicago and dream of becoming professional basketball players in the NBA. We witness as they face a multitude of setbacks, as a bigger picture of economic and racial injustice emerges, in what is essentially a rigged lottery of lives.

To this day, Hoop Dreams remains a timely to a fault, as little has changed. It still hits hard as a topical and deeply humane exploration of US sociopolitical corruption, how the system is rigged against people of colour, as well as a dissection of the lie that is "The American Dream". Add the adrenaline rushes of the basketball games and how attached you become to the two men whose lives you’ve followed over the course of several years (with 250 hours of footage condensed into 171 very merited minutes), and you’ve got a doc that will not only open your eyes, but make them leak.

In 2005, Hoop Dreams was added to the US National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for its cultural significance, marking it as one of cinema’s greatest non-fiction works. It remains an important film, which has lost none of its impact in a landscape rich with memorable documentaries.

2004: Films turning 20 in 2024

As the aging millennials a lot of us are in the Euronews Culture team, this category stings a bit.

2004 is now twenty years ago – and it feels weird seeing the words written down. It was a time when Wong Kar-Wai wowed (2046); Martin Scorsese stilled stayed shy of the 3 hour mark (The Aviator); Tarantino capped off his roaring rampage of revenge in style (Kill Bill: Volume 2); Edgar Wright started the treasured Cornetto Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead); and the MCU wasn’t a thing, with Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man being the main hero we were rooting for on the big screen.

It’s impressive how so many of the 2004 releases have stood the test of time - the less said about Crash, the better – and curating a selection for this year was tough. But here are a few vital picks for Netflix’s October selection: Howl’s Moving Castle; Shaun of the Dead; Dead Man’s Shoes; 2046; The Machinist; Collateral; Hotel Rwanda; Layer Cake; Mean Girls; Anchorman; Hellboy; The Assassination of Richard Nixon; Kill Bill – Vol 2; Sideways; Enduring Love; Primer; and last but certainly not least, Before Sunset.

Oh, and the hardcore marionette sex of Team America: World Police makes the cut. Naturally.

For our main film of the year, it was a toss-up between Before Sunset and 2046, both sequels to devastating romances that not only live up to their predecessor but manage to top them. But there was no denying Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind the crown for 2004.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - Focus Features

Written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Michel Gondry, the film starred Jim Carrey as Joel, a wounded lover whose girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) recently dumped him without explanation. It turns out that she underwent a new experimental mind-altering procedure that erases her memories of their relationship. Learning this, a heartbroken Joel decides to follow suit. It’s only during the procedure, however, that he begins to realise that the past, no matter how painful, is worth cherishing.

Titled after a verse from Alexander Pope’s poem ‘Eloisa to Abelard’, director Michel Gondry adds layers of poignancy and meaning to the lyrical inspiration of a tragic love affair where the heroine’s only comfort was to forget. Do you pray for forgetfulness, or is the act of forgiving easier than forgetting?

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind may have rapidly attained cult classic status and amassed YA fans of the lovesick persuasion over the years, with every young romantic citing it as their film de chevet, but it remains one of the greatest romantic films in cinematic history.

It's imaginative, funny, surreal, moving, and impressive when you consider the universal appeal its has achieved by managing to explore the profundities of love and human nature, as well as the intertwined nature of happiness and sadness - ultimately making it a film you can watch when heartbroken and deeply loved up. Twenty years later, Kaufman's script remains one of the greatest screenplays of all time, and both Winslet and Carrey are pitch perfect here. Carrey is the most surprising, as the actor had made his mark on the 90s as the slapstick king (The Mask, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Dumb and Dumber), and finally showed that he could nail drama if given the right material.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is not only a key film when discussing 2004 and the 2000s in general – beyond that, it's a timeless film with lasting enchantment about enduring love, not in spite of the "negatives" we feel burdened with, but because of the flaws we're lucky enough to experience in another being. The fascination that decries from its themes and its heart qualifies it for one of the best films of all time.

If Netflix don’t secure this one, we give up. Our password goes to someone else.

So, well done on your first decade, Netflix. Don't let us down for the rest of the Milestone Movies.