Streaming services have so much content available, but more often than not you’re just scrolling endlessly through the screens unable to pick something. And boy, is there a lot of crap on there! But there are also fantastic movies on these services, as well, and if you haven’t seen some of the great classics available, here’s some picks currently streaming for the cinephile in you to check out.
The Third Man: In post-World War II Vienna, American Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) arrives after being given a job by his friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles), only to find out that his friend is dead. Or is he? Investigating what may have happened, Martins begins to uncover a disquieting portrait of a friend it seems he didn’t know as well as he thought. Although not directed by Welles, this movie would not exist without the innovations he’d made from his previous films. This stunning film uses expressionist cinematography and actual post-war Vienna locations to create one of the best films of all time.
Sunset Boulevard: An unsuccessful screenwriter (William Holden) hides out in faded film star Norma Desmond’s (Gloria Swanson) house and begins to feed into her delusions of mounting a great comeback while half-enjoying living off her largesse. This classic noir film–co-written and directed by Bill Wilder–is a must-see for any film fan, who will be impressed at the wit and cynicism–not to mention crystal-clear cinematography–that a film made 67 years ago could deliver.
To Kill A Mockingbird: You may have read the book back in high school, but have you watched the film? This oddly haunting look at a racially charged trial observed through the eyes of a child features Gregory Peck’s iconic performance as the principled small-town lawyer Atticus Finch and is still considered one of the best American films of all time.
The Panic in Needle Park: Before the nightmarish Requiem For A Dream, there was 1971’s The Panic in Needle Park. Detailing the increasingly harrowing lives of Bobby (Al Pacino) and his girlfriend Helen (Kitty Winn) as they descend into heroin addiction, this film had gone out of print for a number of years and has only enjoyed a limited blu ray release in 2016. An upsetting drama about how addiction quickly spirals out of control and sends its users to the fringes, The Panic in Needle Park is upsetting, hard-hitting drama.
The Commitments: A young music fanatic in Ireland puts together a soul band despite its apparent clash with his country’s additional culture, proving that race and ethnicity are no obstacle if you truly have soul inside. This incredibly likeable, entertaining film features outstanding musical performances and is one of those movies that will have you seeking out the soundtrack once it ends. If you’re feeling down and looking for a film filled with energy, comedy, and life, it’s hard to pass up The Commitments.
Mr. Smith Goes To Washington: Jefferson Smith is a Boy Rangers leader who’s installed as a state’s senator after the death of the sitting member, with the political bosses of his state thinking he’ll be easy to manipulate. But when Mr. Smith arrives in Washington, his staunch ideals lead him to fight his established political party’s boss over a crooked land deal. Made in 1939, it made a star out of Jimmy Stewart and although it may seem a little corny today, its Frank Capra charm shines through and makes for a heartwarming film about the power of democracy in action.
Apocalypse Now: Maybe the film about the Vietnam War, Apocalypse Now is a masterpiece and such a lauded meditation on war that it’s easy to forget that it’s an adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Francis Ford Coppola directed an impressionistic, hallucinatory vision of the various hells of combat in Vietnam and the psychological impact of the war on its combatants, all while losing his own mind in the process. It’s still an incredible feat and a film that couldn’t have been made at any other place in time by any other director.
JFK: Oliver Stone’s 3-hour-long drama about the JFK assassination and subsequent conspiracy theory-laden investigation by District Attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) is a hypnotic piece of filmmaking and an important work about the potential multi-threaded possibilities that may be behind the president’s assassination. Thrilling audiences upon its release in 1993, as we spiral into yet more conspiracy theories in the 21st century concerning major events in American history (*cough* 9/11 *cough*), JFK seems as prescient a look as ever at the shadowy machinations behind the “official” story being presented and the more unsettling alternatives.
Bottle Rocket: Wes Anderson has become the king of the twee indie movie: his whimsical creations feature depressed, complex characters, flighty bright-eyed youngsters, and altogether spaced-out outsiders. His debut film, Bottle Rocket, didn’t have the budget for giant ships or stop motion, just the Wilson brothers and his home state of Texas. Following the repeatedly failed efforts of dreamer criminal Dignan (Owen Wilson, who co-wrote the script) trying to rope his friends into his heist schemes, Bottle Rocket reveals Anderson’s future whimsical tendencies while also showing off his impressive control over the camera and creating a distinct atmosphere and memorable characters.
Caddyshack: “Hey everybody! We’re all gonna get laid!” Well, maybe not, but the incredibly stupid, very entertaining early 80’s comedy film Caddyshack is still worth a watch. Featuring great comedic performances from Chevy Chase, Bill Murray (as a demented groundskeeper) and Rodney Dangerfield, maybe some of the movie can be skipped over, but for the parts that feature any of these three comedians, it’s a hole in one.
Velvet Goldmine: A “this movie is about David Bowie but it’s not about David Bowie *wink!*” movie, Velvet Goldmine examines the age of glam rock without infringing on any copyrights or actual persons involved in the scene. But even with these restrictions, it’s still an evocative film about the heady, halcyon days of glam rock in the 1970’s.
Beetlejuice: Tim Burton maybe never made a funnier movie than Beetlejuice. This 1989 ghoulish comedy follows two recently dead squares who hate the new residents of their home (except for Lydia [Winona Ryder], the proto-goth daughter) and are looking to scare them off. But when their lame attempts fail, they call in Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton, in one of his best performances), an out-of-control spirit that starts to take over once he’s summoned. Weird, funny, and truly unique, Beetlejuice still holds up now nearly 30 years after its release.
Monster: Aileen Wuornos was the rare female serial killer. A prostitute who began murdering her johns at first out of self-defense and then for financial gain, Wuornos is played by Charlize Theron, who underwent a shocking physical transformation for the part of the unrefined, violent Wuornos. A brutal but well-made film that hinges on Theron’s incredible performance (she rightfully won Best Actress that year at the Academy Awards), Monster is a hell of a drama about how low people can stoop in life without anything stopping them.