As much as streaming services like to promote their new originals (both movies and TV show), a key draw for all of them is the library of the titles that they have at their fingertips. Peacock has hundreds of classic movies available for fans to watch (on its free version), plus it will be the exclusive streaming home for new Universal movies after theater runs starting in 2022.
Peacock’s full offering includes classic TV shows, current NBC programming, Peacock originals and live sports action, but here we’re going to share the best movies on Peacock right now.
Tim Burton is wonderfully strange, and perhaps in no movie is this better exemplified than in Beetlejuice, the mad-cap comedy about a pair of newly dead ghosts who try to enlist the help of a malicious ghoul to drive away a snobby new family that has moved into their old house.
The cast features Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara, Jeffrey Jones and Glenn Shadix. As good as they all are in the film, the movie belongs to Michael Keaton’s performance as Beetlejuice; a truly iconic turn from the actor. The only role that Keaton is perhaps better known for is Batman, which he made with Burton the year after Beetlejuice.
Say his name three times and conjure up this classic comedy to watch on Peacock.
Being John Malkovich (1999)
Most people have dreamed what it would be like to be a celebrity, but leave it to Charlie Kauffman to take it to such an extreme as Being John Malkovich. Paired with director Spike Jonze, Kauffman crafted one of the most original and delightfully odd films ever.
Being John Malkovich tells the story of a puppeteer who inadvertently discovers a portal that puts him in the body of actor John Malkovich. At first he’s just along for the ride, but soon he, his wife and the woman they both love are able to take control of Malkovich’s life for their own personal gain.
John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener and, of course, John Malkovich, star in the film that announced both Jonze and Kauffman as big name filmmakers (they’d both receive Oscar noms) and remains among their best work.
The Big Lebowski (1998)
Because of the cult status that The Big Lebowski has today, it’s hard to imagine that the film wasn’t a success upon its initial release, but thank goodness audiences found it. The Coen brothers’ comedy always ranks high among their fans’ favorite outputs, thanks to their ever unique sensibilities and a classic performance from Jeff Bridges as The Dude.
The plot is essentially second fiddle to the character interactions between The Dude, his bowling buddies Walter and Donny, as well as other memorable characters including Maude Lebowski, Jesus Quintana, Brandt and more. These are the things that, like The Dude’s rug, really tie the movie together.
After films like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad were among the biggest comedies closing out the 2000s, the ladies put their claim to the comedy throne with 2011’s Bridesmaids, a film that is every bit as good and popular as the previously mentioned trio.
Bridesmaids stars Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph as best friends. When the latter gets married, the Maid of Honor duties falls to Wiig’s character, Annie. But between all of the planning and some internal competition among her fellow bridesmaids, things quickly careen out of control (who can forget the dress-fitting scene).
Rose Byrne, Ellie Kemper, Wendi McLendon-Covey and a breakout Melissa McCarthy are Wiig’s fellow bridesmaids. Chris O’Dowd also stars, as do Rebel Wilson, Matt Lucas, Terry Crews, Ben Falcone and more.
The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
We’ve all seen the story of a group of teens going into the woods and getting involved in some evil stuff. The fun thing with The Cabin in the Woods though is that writer/director Drew Goddard (with Joss Whedon getting a co-writing credit) knows that and uses audiences preconceived notions for a satirical and incredibly entertaining deconstruction of the horror genre.
The movie sees five friends (which included a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth) head off for a weekend at the titular cabin. What they don’t know is that a shadowy organization is behind the horror that they are unwittingly about to unleash. There’s also a great cameo that I won’t spoil here.
The Cabin in the Woods is a fantastic blend of humor and some legitimate scares, mixing for an all-around fun watch.
The Deer Hunter (1978)
The Deer Hunter is the Best Picture-winning story of the impact the Vietnam war had on the soldiers who served in it and the community that they came from. Michael Cimmino’s epic war story does not offer many battle scenes, instead focusing on the mental battles that its characters go through.
The cast that features Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, Christopher Walken, John Savage, John Cazale, George Dzundza and Rutanya Alda is at the top of their game, with the trio of De Niro, Streep and Walken all getting nominated for an Oscar, the latter winning.
You may just know The Deer Hunter from its Russian Roulette scene, but the film is just as beautifully devastating beyond that scene and is worth a watch for all film fans.
Ryan Gosling barely utters a word in Drive, but that help his character become the embodiment of cool in 2011 as he drove fast cars, fought gangsters and wore a sweet scorpion jacket.
Some moviegoers complained when they first saw Drive because the film from Nicolas Winding Refn is not the fast-paced, action-packed story that the trailer tried to sell. But when you understand what Drive is, you happily go along for the ride in this film, presented with plenty of style by Winding Refn and featuring great performances from Gosling and Albert Brooks.
E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (1982)
Steven Spielberg’s filmography is stacked with classic films like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jaws, Saving Private Ryan and more, but it’s E.T. that features his most iconic shot and may actually be the dark horse contender for the prolific director’s best film.
E.T. is a lovely story of a young boy struggling with his parent’s divorce and the lost alien that he befriends and forms a deep connection with. It’s filled with movie magic, both in the behind-the-scenes making and the end result on the screen.
E.T. may be labeled as a kid’s movie, but when you’re watching it you can’t help but find the joy that it emits no matter what your age.
Field of Dreams (1989)
Baseball has long been considered America’s pastime, and the movies have come back to the sport time and time again, with few as iconic as Field of Dreams.
The film stars Kevin Costner as an Iowa farmer who hears a voice to tell him to build a baseball stadium in his corn field. He does, and one day the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson and other deceased ball players find their way to the field.
Field of Dreams has entered into the collective subconscious of American audiences. We can point to recent MLB game at a Field of Dreams-inspired stadium as to the fondness that fans have for the film.
Peacock is doubling down on that sentiment, as it is currently developing a Field of Dreams original series.
Friday Night Lights (2004)
Before there was the popular NBC series Friday Night Lights, there was the 2004 movie Friday Night Lights; and before that there was the best-selling book “Friday Night Lights,” but I digress. Based on said book, the movie of Friday Night Lights tells the true story of the Permian Panthers as they seek to win the state title for their football-crazed town.
Billy Bob Thornton leads the film along with Derek Luke, Lucas Black, Garrett Hedlund, Jay Hernandez, Lee Jackson, Lee Thompson Young, Tim McGraw and Connie Britton (while she plays the coach’s wife in both the movie and TV show, they are not the same character).
The TV show may be the more popular iteration of the story at this point, but Friday Night Lives the movie is a great film and without it we never would have gotten the TV show.
Inside Man (2006)
Spike Lee does a crime capper and it is awesome. Inside Man is an intricate and entertaining thriller that stars Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Willem Dafoe and Christopher Plummer.
When a brilliant criminal takes over a bank and holds people hostage, NYPD Detective Keith Frazier is put in charge of the investigation and must untangle the web to find out what’s really behind this heist.
Washington is of course as good as ever, and Lee infuses the film with plenty of style to make it his own. Even if you’ve seen it before, it’s a well-crafted, endlessly rewatchable film.
John Wick franchise
John Wick snuck up on audiences when the first film came out. But like Alfie Allen did in that movie, we all learned pretty quickly that it’s best not to underestimate John Wick, or Keanu Reeves for that matter.
Reeves stars as the legendary assassin who thought he had escaped his past of killing when the dog that his late wife got him is killed by a young gangster, leading him down a path of revenge that has spiraled into two action-packed sequels and at least two more on the way (plus a potential spinoff TV series).
The action in the John Wick franchise is some of the best being put to film right now.
Knocked Up (2007)
The 40-Year-Old Virgin put Judd Apatow on the map as a comedy director, but Knocked Up affirmed his position as one of the big names of the genre. Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl star two strangers who hook up for a one-night stand that results in a pregnancy and forces them to find out if there’s any hope for a relationship now that they are forced together.
Knocked Up features nearly every famous comedic actor of the lost 15 years. In addition to Rogen there is Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Jonah Hill, Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, Martin Starr, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Charlyne Yi, Alan Tudyk, Ken Jeong, Craig Robinson and Adam Scott, plus some fun cameos.
While definitely right in line with the bro-style, gross humor that is associated with many of Apatow’s films, Knocked Up also has arguably the most heart out of any of his filmography.
The Mask of Zorro (1998)
Zorro was an immensely popular character in the early days of film and radio serials, but he was successfully brought back for audiences of the ‘90s with The Mask of Zorro.
Antonio Banderas stars as the new masked vigilante attempting to protect the common people of California from the greedy noble class, as well as seeking revenge for the men who killed his brother. He is helped along the way by his mentor and original Zorro (in the story) played by Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones’ Elena.
The Mask of Zorro is a fun ride and one of Banderas most popular roles. Just be sure to stick with the original and not the underwhelming sequel.
Meet the Parents (2000)
Who knew we wanted the pairing of Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller so badly until we saw Meet the Parents. One of the funniest films from the early 2000s, the film sees Stiller desperately seeking the approval of his girlfriend’s father so that he can ask her to marry him. Of course, just about everything that can go wrong does go wrong.
Meet the Parents spawned a franchise that includes Meet the Fockers and Little Fockers (both also on Peacock), but the original forever stands as the best in the series, as well as being some of the best comedic work from Stiller and De Niro.
A narrative telling of California’s first openingly gay elected official Harvey Milk (there’s also an Oscar-winning documentary on Milk), Gus Van Sant’s biopic is a powerful depiction of the historic gay rights activist, with a fantastic performance from Sean Penn at its center.
With a script from Dustin Lance Black, Milk also stars Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna, James Franco, Allison Pill, Joseph Cross, Denis O’Hare and Victor Garber.
The biopic is a well-worn genre in Hollywood, but Milk remains one the best examples of it in recent memory.
Moneyball is a very different kind of baseball movie. Very little game action is actually shown as the film instead focuses on the sea change that Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) undertook when he began using a more analytical approach to finding talent and using players in the lineup than what had been traditional in baseball.
Because of this, Moneyball is a fantastically unique sports film that puts us squarely in the world. While it has some of the romantic aspects of sports movies that we know and love, it is much more character driven, including what may quite possibly be Pitt’s best leading performance.
Director Bennett Miller, with a script by Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, crafted a winner with Moneyball.
Out of Sight (1998)
Danny Ocean is the first thief that people associate with George Clooney, but a few years before he was robbing casinos in Las Vegas, Clooney teamed up with Steven Soderbergh for another fantastic crime film, Out of Sight.
The heist is fun and there are some great turns from Ving Rhames, Steve Zahn, Albert Brooks and Don Cheadle in the film, but what makes Out of Sight such a good film is the chemistry between Clooney’s crook and Jennifer Lopez’s U.S. Marshal, an all-time electric pairing.
Short Term 12 (2013)
Before director Destin Daniel Cretton entered the MCU with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, he burst onto the scene with his powerful indie drama Short Term 12, featuring a breakthrough performance from another future Marvel member, Brie Larson.
Set in a residential treatment facility for young teenagers, a supervising staff member tries to navigate the complexities of the kids’ lives while dealing with her own deeper issues and insecurities.
Larson grabbed much of the attention (and should have landed an Oscar-nod, in my opinion), but the ensemble is filled with at-the-time new talent, including LaKeith Stanfield, John Gallagher Jr., Rami Malek, Kaitlyn Dever and Stephanie Beatriz.
The Social Network (2010)
Widely considered as a masterpiece from David Fincher, The Social Network is a look at the founding of Facebook and its early years, with a razor-sharp script from Aaron Sorkin and a brilliant performance from Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg.
Even as Facebook continues to morph away from what it was when it was initially formed, The Social Network remains a compelling tale of the birth of the social media age and the people behind it.
The Social Network is also one of the first examples people give of films they think the Oscars whiffed on by not giving it Best Picture, opting instead for The King’s Speech that year.
Stanley Kubrick is one of the all-time great directors. While Spartacus is more of a studio-driven (and Kirk Douglas-driven) project than some of Kubrick’s later work, his touch undoubtedly helped make it the classic epic it is.
Telling the story of the Roman slave/gladiator Spartacus who launched a rebellion that nearly defeated the empire, Kubrick infuses a then 1960s studio epic with some phenomenal and all-time movie moments, including lingering on Douglas’ Spartacus and his opponent as they hear another gladiator fight going on in the arena and the iconic “I am Spartacus” moment.
Kubrick would have more idiosyncratic works in his career, but Spartacus is still a great entry from the director.
Wedding Crashers (2005)
Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson lead this classic comedy of two friends who like to spend their time crashing weddings and use the feeling of love at the events to get women into bed. Things change however when they crash a wedding and Wilson’s character begins to fall in love with one of the bridesmaids.
Wedding Crashers remains as funny as the first time you watched it. Vaughn and Wilson are great together, and the supporting cast of Rachel McAdams, Isla Fisher, Christopher Walken, Bradley Cooper, Jane Seymour and more are all hilarious. Not to mention an all-time great cameo from Will Ferrell.
There’s long been talk of a sequel to Wedding Crashers. If it ever comes to pass, it’ll have a high bar to meet.
X-Men movies have lost their caché in recent years thanks to multiple subpar efforts, but the early entries of the franchise are still some of the best superhero movies out there, including the team’s first big screen appearance, the simply titled X-Men.
The casting of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Rogue (Anna Paquin), Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) Cyclops (James Marsden) and Storm (Halle Berry, even with the accent) were about as close to perfect as you could get. The film also did a great job of capturing the themes of prejudice that the comics so often hit on.
Undoubtedly at one point or another Marvel will put the X-Men into the MCU, but we should always remember this original team and film.
Michael Balderston is a D.C.-based entertainment writer and content producer for What to Watch. He previously has written for TV Technology and Awards Circuit.
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