The 100 Best Free Movies to Stream (December 2021)

Movies Lists Free Movies
Share Tweet Submit Pin
The 100 Best Free Movies to Stream (December 2021)

Monthly expenses for streaming services can add up quickly. Fortunately for movie-lovers, there are plenty of films streaming for free—and legally—across a variety of sites. These range from public domain classics on YouTube to more recent selections available to watch on the vast world of AVOD. These ad-based sites (you’ll watch for free, but with commercials) include the likes of Crackle, IMDb TV, Redbox, Pluto TV and Tubi. And if you’ve got a student ID or a public library card, there’s a huge selection of movies available for free check-out at Kanopy and Hoopla.

We’ve gathered up the best of the best from these services to bring you the 100 best movies to stream, updated for December 2021.


The 20 Best Free Movies on Crackle

Crackle has one of the best selections of free films, from classics to cult favorites to more recent hits.

1. 99 Homes

Thumbnail image for 99-homes-poster.jpg Year: 2014
Director: Ramin Bahrani

Watch free on Crackle

99 Homes is strongest when it captures the anger and desperation of those affected by the recent collapse of the housing market. Andrew Garfield stars as Dennis Nash, an Orlando single father whose family home is about to be foreclosed on. The man who comes to his door to deliver the bad news is Rick Carver (Michael Shannon), a shady realtor who carries a concealed weapon because of past altercations. Nash despises Carver, but because he’s desperate for a job he accepts work from the realtor. Nash is handy—he used to work in construction—so he starts off doing manual labor, but soon he graduates to being Carver’s right-hand man, becoming more involved in the realtor’s unscrupulous business practices. 99 Homes stays with you. The agony it depicts and the almost inarticulate rage it expresses are too insistent to shake off. The betting is that this film won’t be remembered as one of Ramin Bahrani’s best. But when we look back at the Great Recession years from now, 99 Homes may be one of those films we point to and say, “That was sort of what it felt like at the time. ”—Tim Grierson


2. The Wailing

the-wailing.jpg Year: 2016
Director: Na Hong-jin

Watch free on Crackle

The U.S. title of Na Hong-jin’s new film, The Wailing, suggests tone more than it does sound. There is wailing to be heard here, yes, and plenty of it, but in two words Na coyly predicts his audience’s reaction to the movie’s grim tableaus of a county in spiritual strife. Na trades in doubt and especially despair more than in what we think of as “horror.” He isn’t out to terrify us. He’s out to corrode our souls, much in the same way that his protagonist’s faith is corroded after being subject to both divine and infernal tests over the course of the film. The Wailing unfolds in Gokseong County, an agricultural community nestled among South Korea’s southern provinces. It’s a lovely, bucolic setting that Na and his cinematographer, the incredible Hong Kyung-pyo, take fullest advantage of aesthetically and thematically. The hushed serenity blanketing The Wailing’s opening images creates an atmosphere of peace that Na is all too happy to subvert (similar to how he subverts Bible verses). The film’s first full sequence shatters the calm as Sergeant Jeon Jong-gu (Kwak Do-won, turning in a knockout performance) is called to the scene of a savage multiple murder. When Jong-gu shows up, all is bedlam; people are screaming and crying, emergency workers litter the area like ants at a gory picnic, and the killer sits in a stupor, unaware of neither the mayhem nor the vicious boils coating their skin. This is an incredibly creepy and oft-unsettling film, but Na finds the tug of disbelief far more upsetting than the sight of bodies cut apart and blood splattering the wall. What do you do when your holy authority figures fail you? What do you do when you can’t trust your perception? Na has made these ideas, though hardly new in the horror canon, his film’s full purpose, and his conclusions are devastatingly bleak. When The Wailing arrives at its final, spectacular half hour, you’ll vow never to ask these questions about your own life, ever. You may not leave the theater scared, but you will leave it scarred, which is by far a more substantive response than naked fear. —Andy Crump


3. Black Christmas

black-christmas-poster.jpg Year: 1974
Director: Bob Clark
Stars: Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, Keir Dullea, Andrea Martin, John Saxon
Rating: R
Runtime: 98 minutes

Watch free on Crackle

Fun fact—nine years before he directed holiday classic A Christmas Story, Bob Clark created the first true, unassailable “slasher movie” in Black Christmas. Yes, the same person who gave TBS its annual Christmas Eve marathon fodder was also responsible for the first major cinematic application of the phrase “The calls are coming from inside the house!” Black Christmas, which was insipidly remade in 2006, predates John Carpenter’s Halloween by four years and features many of the same elements, especially visually. Like Halloween, it lingers heavily on POV shots from the killer’s eyes as he prowls through a dimly lit sorority house and spies on his future victims. As the mentally deranged killer calls the house and engages in obscene phone calls with the female residents, one can’t help but also be reminded of the scene in Carpenter’s film where Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) calls her friend Lynda, only to hear her strangled with the telephone cord. Black Christmas is also instrumental, and practically archetypal, in solidifying the slasher legend of the so-called “final girl.” Jessica Bradford (Olivia Hussey) is actually among the better-realized of these final girls in the history of the genre, a remarkably strong and resourceful young woman who can take care of herself in both her relationships and deadly scenarios. It’s questionable how many subsequent slashers have been able to create protagonists who are such a believable combination of capable and realistic. —Jim Vorel


4. Train to Busan

train-to-busan.jpg Year: 2016
Director: Yeon Sang-ho

Watch free on Crackle

Love them or hate them, zombies are still a constant of the horror genre in 2016, dependable enough to set your conductor’s watch by. And although I’ve probably seen enough indie zombie films at this point to eschew them from my viewing habits for the rest of my life, there is still usually at least one great zombie movie every other year. In 2016, that was Train to Busan, a film that has since been added to our list of the 50 Best Zombie Movies of All Time. There’s no need for speculation: Train to Busan would undoubtedly have made the list. This South Korean story of a career-minded father attempting to protect his young daughter on a train full of rampaging zombies is equal parts suspenseful popcorn entertainment and genuinely affecting family drama. It concludes with several action elements that I’ve never seen before, or even considered for a zombie film, and any time you can add something truly novel to the genre of the walking dead, then you’re definitely doing something right. With a few memorable, empathetic supporting characters and some top-notch makeup FX, you’ve got one of the best zombie movies of the past half-decade. —Jim Vorel


5. The Virgin Suicides

virgin-suicides-criterion-movie-poster.jpg Year: 1999
Director: Sofia Coppola
Stars: Kirsten Dunst, Kathleen Turner, James Woods, Giovanni Ribisi, Josh Hartnett
Rating: R
Runtime: 97 minutes

Watch free on Crackle

Set in the affluent Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe, The Virgin Suicides is yet another Detroit-area, ’70s-era film obsessed with death. That its quintet of young protagonists—sisters played to unnervingly angelic perfection by Kirsten Dunst, A.J. Cook, Hanna Hall, Leslie Hayman and Chelse Swain—all commit suicide in the end is far from a surprise, of course: What is a surprise is that we never know why. In fact, the film is almost an oneiric procedural, in which the neighborhood boys who become infatuated with the strange daughters pick apart, piece by piece, detail by detail, the befuddling lives behind the objects of their affection. As such, The Virgin Suicides gracefully attempts to remember what it’s like to be a suburban teenager, comfortable in Middle America but uncomfortable with one’s body. Yet, the brilliance of Sofia Coppola’s direction (on even her first film) is in the way she laces such a seemingly innocent story with malice and melancholy, fixating on details that don’t matter or moments that have no consequence. That the narrator (Giovanni Ribisi) refers throughout to the decaying of the auto industry in Detroit makes the film as much a ghost story about Southwest Michigan as it is a tale of unrequited love: Try as hard as we might, we’ll probably never be able to trace the tragedy of Detroit back to its source. —Dom Sinacola


6. Mother

11-free-movies-stream-mother-poster.jpg Year: 2009
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Stars: Kim Hye-ja, Won Bin, Ku Jin, Je-mun Yun
Rating: R
Runtime: 128 minutes

Watch free on Crackle

Mother, director Bong’s fourth film, sustains his usual themes but skews much darker amid the slapstick. It’s driven by Kim Hye-ja’s performance as the film’s namesake, a seemingly meek and long-suffering figure whose devotion to her only child knows no bounds. Her character (also named Hye-ja) is an herbalist and unlicensed acupuncturist who has raised a mentally disabled son by herself. Do-joon (Bon Win) is an indulgent, infantile 27-year-old who is the village idiot in their provincial town, subjected to mockery and casual violence, yet also prone to drunken antics and misdemeanors. Hye-ja’s relationship with her boy exceeds the usual mother-son norms, creepily epitomized in a scene where she tilts a bowl of broth to her son’s lips as he stands urinating on a street corner. The smother-love goes into overdrive when Do-joon is jailed for the rape and murder of a local schoolgirl, whose body is found near a bar Do-joon had been kicked of the previous night. More so than Bong’s other films, Mother takes the audience’s sympathies and expectations to surprising places. You can easily question if the director’s caricatures of the town’s characters undermine his purpose, or decide that his melodramatic plot twists are too much to sensibly abide. There’s no intellectual rigor behind the curtain, as with, say, the Coen Brothers, probably the closest American analogue to Bong’s filmmaking style. The whole shebang rides on the whirlwind force of Kim’s performance, something no one else is likely to soon repeat. —Steve Dollar


7. The Lady From Shanghai

the-lady-from-shanghai-poster.jpg Year: 1948
Director: Orson Welles

Watch free on Crackle

Orson Welles could do just about anything except speak in a convincing Irish accent, but regardless of his flimsy brogue, The Lady From Shanghai is a masterpiece. Funny to think that American critics looked down their noses at the film at the time of its release. Maybe they took offense at the inescapable scent of Welles’ passion for Rita Hayworth, his wife at the time and his ex shortly after production wrapped. He captures her in close-up with a hungry, enraptured eye, the most coherent image in a film that’s built on logical incoherence. The Lady From Shanghai has enormous ambitions that belie its tight running time, the end result of odious studio interference that nonetheless fails to impede the viewing experience. Come for Hayworth and Welles, stay for the film’s dizzying hall of mirrors shootout. —A.C.


8. Ginger Snaps

ginger-snaps.jpg Year: 2000
Director: John Fawcett

Watch free on Crackle

Ginger Snaps is a high school werewolf story, but before you go making any Twilight comparisons, let me state for the record: Where Twilight is maudlin, Ginger Snaps is vicious. A pair of death-obsessed, outsider sisters, Ginger and Brigitte, are faced with issues of maturation and sexual awakening when Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) is bitten by a werewolf. As she begins to become bolder and more animalistic in her desires, the second, meeker sister (Emily Perkins) searches for a way to reverse the damages before Ginger carves a path of destruction through their community. Reflecting the influence of Cronenberg-style body horror and especially John Landis’s American Werewolf in London, Ginger Snaps is a surprisingly effective horror movie and mix of drama/black comedy that brought the werewolf mythos into suburbia in the same sort of way Fright Night managed to do so with vampires. It also made a genre star of Isabelle, who has since appeared in several sequels and above average horror flicks such as American Mary. Even if the condition of lycanthropism is an obvious parallel to the struggles of adolescence and puberty, Ginger Snaps is the one film that has taken that rich vein of source material and imbued it with the same kind of punk spirit as Heathers. – —Jim Vorel


9. Bernie

bernie.jpg Year: 2011
Director: Richard Linklater

Watch free on Crackle

Bernie is as much about the town of Carthage, Texas, as it is about its infamous resident Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), the town’s mortician and prime suspect in the murder of one of its most despised citizens, Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine). Unlike Nugent, Bernie is conspicuously loved by all. When he’s not helping direct the high school musical, he’s teaching Sunday school. Like a well-played mystery, Linklater’s excellent, darkly humorous (and true) story is interspersed with tantalizing interviews of the community’s residents. Linklater uses real East Texas folks to play the parts, a device that serves as the perfect balance against the drama that leads up to Bernie’s fatal encounter with the rich bitch of a widow. The comedy is sharp, with some of the film’s best lines coming from those townsfolk. —Tim Basham


10. The Proposition

proposition.jpg Year: 2005
Director: John Hillcoat

Watch free on Crackle

If you’ve ever sat and wondered what Hell might look like, check out John Hillcoat’s The Proposition, in which Hell happens to look an awful lot like the Australian outback. You may not anticipate that shifting locales from one arid and unforgiving ecosystem to another would lend that much impact to a film’s visual texture, but The Proposition feels like a distinctly Aussie production even before you hear the accents. Nationality isn’t what makes the picture feel so utterly accursed, though; it’s the sheer unrelenting brutality. There’s a thematic nugget at The Proposition’s core that links it to John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, a movie about lawful men trying against all good sense to tame wild lands and civilize lawless men. But Ford’s film never even tries to ascend the peaks of barbarity that The Proposition comes to rest upon through its final moments, where blood is answered with more blood and violent action can only be stopped by a violent response. —Andy Crump


11. REC

rec-poster.jpg Year: 2007
Director: Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza

Watch free on Crackle

2007 was a breakthrough year for post-Blair Witch found footage horror, including the first Paranormal Activity and Romero’s own Diary of the Dead, but it wasn’t only in the U.S. that people were effectively employing that technique. The best of all the found footage zombie films is still probably REC, another film on this list that exhibits some playfulness in redetermining exactly what a “zombie” is or isn’t. The Spanish film follows a news crew as they sneak inside a quarantined building that is experiencing the breakout of what essentially appears to be a zombie plague. The fast-moving infected resemble those of 28 Days Later and are later revealed to be demonically possessed in a way that moves through bites, ably blending traditional zombie lore and religious mysticism. It’s a capable, professional-feeling film for its low budget, and there are some excellently choreographed scenes of zombie mayhem that feel all the more claustrophobic for being filmed in a limited, first-person viewpoint. Zombie horror seems to go hand-in-hand with the found footage approach more naturally than some other horror genres—perhaps it’s the fact that in the digital age, we’d all be compelled to document any such outbreak on our phones or other devices? Regardless, it’s not nearly so forced as some entries in this particular horror subgenre, and gives an excellent sense of what it might be like if you were just an average person locked in a huge apartment building filled with zombies. —Jim Vorel


12. Super Size Me

super-size-me-poster.jpg Year: 2004
Director: Morgan Spurlock
Stars: Morgan Spurlock
Genre: Documentary
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 98 minutes

Watch free on Crackle

Super Size Me is a lively and accessible account of director Morgan Spurlock’s attempt to spend 30 days eating nothing but McDonald’s food—for breakfast, lunch and dinner—while doctors monitor the changes in his vital statistics. It’s an increasingly important topic. As a society, we’ve built a machine that saves us dollars at the cash register but requires us to pay them back in health bills down the road. The movie accomplishes some of its more modest goals: it makes fast food look disgusting, makes the serving sizes seem outrageous and, perhaps most importantly, makes the food programs at many schools seem alarmingly poor at both providing nutritious meals and developing healthy eating habits. Since the film’s premiere at Sundance, he has modified its closing titles to take credit for McDonald’s decision to eliminate the “super sized” option from its menu. —Robert Davis


13. The Love Witch

13-best-movies-stream-love-witch-poster.jpg Year: 2016
Director: Anna Biller

Watch free on Crackle

If you watch The Love Witch with no knowledge of its production or point of origin, you might assume it’s a lost gem of 1960s or 1970s supernatural filmmaking that’s only recently been recovered, restored and released to the public for niche consumption. This isn’t the case, of course, but nobody would fault your logic. Biller’s style is set in the bygone days of B-movie camp, though unlike similar faux-retro productions, à la 2012’s disingenuously nostalgic The Ghastly Love of Johnny X, there’s unabashed joy to her mimicry that reminds us how much fun the flicks The Love Witch emulates can be in spite of, or maybe because of, their badness. The film’s cheese factor is its single most obvious element next to Biller’s enthusiasm for kitsch and her emphasis on superb production design. Samantha Robinson’s ravishing (but equally deluded) witch in search of “true love” never stops to consider whether she has any idea of what those words truly mean, or what personal freedoms are okay to trample in the process. Unsurprisingly, there’s a horror element present in giving so much magical power to a person with such an infantile grasp of right and wrong—like the little boy in The Twilight Zone’s “It’s a Good Life,” you’d be wise not to upset her. —Andy Crump


14. Ida

ida-poster.jpg Year: 2013
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski

Watch free on Crackle

A compelling examination of how the past can shape us even when we don’t know anything about it, Pawel Pawlikowski’s quiet Polish film takes place in the 1960s, when World War II has ended but still grips people’s lives. In the title role, Agata Trzebuchowska—with a well-tuned balance between naivete and curiosity despite being a non-professional actor—plays a nun-in-training who learns that her family was Jewish and killed during Nazi occupation. She embarks on an odyssey to find their graves with her cynical, alcoholic aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza), former prosecutor for the communist government. The relationship between the two characters grows more and more complex as they go deeper down the rabbit hole of their family’s past. Shot in black-and-white and academy ratio (1.37:1) by cinematographers ?ukasz ?al and Ryszard Lenczewski, Ida uses its frame to distinct effect, often resigning characters to the lower third of the screen. The effect can be unsettling, but intriguing; that space could contain the watchful power of Ida’s lord, but it could also be nothing more than an empty void. After a life of certitude, Ida has to decide for herself. —Jeremy Mathews


15. Hell House LLC

hell house llc poster (Custom).jpg Year: 2015
Director: Stephen Cognetti

Watch free on Crackle

This is just about as lean and minimalist a concept as you can choose for a modern found footage horror movie, but Hell House LLC is much more a practice in execution than imaginative settings. It’s the documentary-style story of a haunted house crew that picks a decidedly wrong location for their attraction, and boom—they all wind up dead. Very standard set-up for a “no one gets out alive” entry in the found footage genre, but Hell House LLC actually does have some inspiring scares and performances. It gets a whole lot out of very small set-ups and deliveries, such as the shifting positioning of props and the life-size (and appropriately horrifying) clown costumes, shooting scenes in what looks very much like “real time,” with no cuts. There’s a naturalistic air to the actors’ sense of frustration and unease as weird events start to mount, but of course it all goes quite off the deep end and into unintentional humor in the closing moments. Still, there are many islands of genuine, blood pressure-raising fear in this well-executed film. Certainly, it’s better than most found footage efforts in the post-Paranormal Activity landscape. —Jim Vorel


16. Phantasm

phantasm-poster.jpg Year: 1979
Director: Don Coscarelli
Stars: Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, Reggie Bannister, Kathy Lester, Angus Scrimm
Rating: R
Runtime: 89 minutes

Watch free on Crackle

There are few easier fights to pick among horror geeks than attempting to debate the relative merits of Phantasm sequels, but at least enthusiasm for Don Coscarelli’s 1979 original has never been hard to find. Phantasm is as alluring as it is strange, a dreamy mix of science fiction and haunted house tropes anchored by the gaunt visage of actor Angus Scrimm, portraying the sour-faced “Tall Man” who would become the recurring antagonist of the series. It seems inscrutable on purpose, hinting at elements of its weird internal mythology that will never quite get paid off, but at the same time it also delivers the horror goods via stylish death sequences. In particular, the Tall Man’s floating, bladed orb of death has become a classic horror film prop that naturally shows up in all the sequels, but in terms of iconic moments we have to recommend the final, perfectly executed “BOY!” jump scare, which nicely presaged the ending of Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street at the same time. —Jim Vorel


17. Prom Night

prom-night-poster.jpg Year: 1980
Director: Paul Lynch
Stars: Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielsen, Casey Stevens, Anne-Marie Martin, Antoinette Bower
Rating: R
Runtime: 91 minutes

Watch free on Crackle

It is perhaps odd to think, in the post-Jason Voorhees era of slasher villains, that slasher killers of the early ’80s were often weirdly justified in their slayings. Sure, there are some “escaped maniacs on the loose,” but many are basically avenging angels, punishing groups of young people for a terrible crime they tried to sweep under the rug, with Prom Night standing as one of the classic examples. Starring Jamie Lee Curtis in her first slasher role after Halloween, Prom Night knows it’s trying to cash in on that earlier film’s success, but it also manages to stand on its own, inspiring imitations all the way to I Know What You Did Last Summer. Portions of the film are kind of rote, and even the best-looking versions you can find today have a soft, gauzy quality that makes the picture look a little strange, but when Prom Night is good, it’s great. Oddly, it’s not really Curtis who gets the best sequences, but actress Eddie Benton as Wendy, who participates in one half of what is maybe the best (and certainly most formative) chase sequence in the history of the horror genre. Stalked by an axe-wielding killer in a ski mask, the frenzied, eight-minute scene spools out for an eternity as Wendy is chased through the locked, echoing halls of the high school, illuminated in impressionistic, Argento-esque shafts of red light. Not all of Prom Night can live up to it (the disco dance sequences are dreadful), but the chase alone makes it a classic. —Jim Vorel


18. We Need to Talk About Kevin

we-need-to-talk-about-kevin-australian-poster.jpg Year: 2012
Director: Lynne Ramsay

Watch free on Crackle

We Need To Talk About Kevin concerns the experience of a mother struggling with the aftermath of a school massacre carried out by her son. In its narrative construction, it draws upon two key tropes: that of the “whydunnit” thriller, in which the the mystery of the perpetrator’s motivations are a driving factor, and that of the family horror, in which some dark element tears a traditional household apart. Indeed, the real horror is not that a teenager chose total negation over the banality of normative family life—it’s that these appeared to be the only two choices available. —Donal Foreman


19. Meek’s Cutoff

meeks-cutoff.jpg Year: 2011
Director: Kelly Reichardt

Watch free on Crackle

Leave it to Kelly Reichardt to reclaim the Western for women. Western movies tend to be seen as “guy” affairs, less so now in 2017 than in years past; they are manly products about manly men doing manly things and pondering manly ideas, though that’s an oversimplified critique that erases the impact women have had on Westerns in front of and behind the camera. What Reichardt does in Meek’s Cutoff is shunt the men to the side and confront the bullshit macho posturing that is such an integral component of the Western’s grammar (the only man here worth his salt is Stephen Meek [Bruce Greenwood], and even he is kind of an incompetent, entitled scumbag). So it’s up to Emily Tetherow, played by the great and luminous Michelle Williams, to challenge his self-appointed authority and take responsibility for the people in the caravan he has led so far astray from their path. Meek’s Cutoff is a stark, minimalist film, which is to say it’s a Kelly Reichardt film. The stripped-down, simmering austerity of her aesthetic pairs perfectly with the sensibilities of Western cinema. —Andy Crump


20. Meek’s Cutoff

meeks-cutoff.jpg Year: 2011
Director: Kelly Reichardt
Stars: Michelle Williams, Shirley Henderson, Paul Dano, Bruce Greenwood, Zoe Kazan
Rating: PG
Runtime: 104 minutes

Watch free on Crackle

Leave it to Kelly Reichardt to reclaim the Western for women. Western movies tend to be seen as “guy” affairs, less so now in 2017 than in years past; they are manly products about manly men doing manly things and pondering manly ideas, though that’s an oversimplified critique that erases the impact women have had on Westerns in front of and behind the camera. What Reichardt does in Meek’s Cutoff is shunt the men to the side and confront the bullshit macho posturing that is such an integral component of the Western’s grammar (the only man here worth his salt is Stephen Meek [Bruce Greenwood], and even he is kind of an incompetent, entitled scumbag). So it’s up to Emily Tetherow, played by the great and luminous Michelle Williams, to challenge his self-appointed authority and take responsibility for the people in the caravan he has led so far astray from their path. Meek’s Cutoff is a stark, minimalist film, which is to say it’s a Kelly Reichardt film. The stripped-down, simmering austerity of her aesthetic pairs perfectly with the sensibilities of Western cinema. —Andy Crump

1linebreakdiamond.png

The 15 Best Free Movies on IMDBtv

IMDB moved into the streaming world—and was recently moved over to Amazon’s platform—offering almost 2,000 movies to stream for free.

1. Memento

17.Memento.NetflixList.jpg Year: 2000
Director: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Guy Pearce, Joe Pantoliano, Carrie-Anne Moss
Genre: Thriller
Rating: R
Runtime: 116 minutes

Watch free on IMDBtv

During a brutal attack in which he believes his wife was raped and murdered, insurance-fraud investigator Leonard Shelby (played with unequivocal intensity, frustration and panic by Guy Pearce) suffers head trauma so severe it leads to his inability to retain new memories for more than a few minutes. This device allows Nolan to brilliantly deconstruct traditional cinematic storytelling, toggling between chronological black-and-white vignettes and full-color five-minute segments that unfold in reverse order while Pearce frantically searches for his wife’s killer. The film is jarring, inventive and adventurous, and the payoff is every bit worth the mind-bending descent into madness. —Steve LaBate


2. His Girl Friday

his-girl-friday-poster.jpg Year: 1940
Director: Howard Hawks

Watch free on IMDBtv

Special effects have become so sophisticated that many of us have probably forgotten how much pure amazement you can wreak with a great story and a script that doesn’t let up for one second. This amazing, dizzyingly paced screwball comedy by Howard Hawks stars Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, and takes us back into two of the decade’s hallmark preoccupations: The “remarriage comedy” and the intrigue and obsessiveness of the newspaper world. The minute Russell’s Lindy Johnson stalks into the newspaper office run by her ex-husband Walter Burns (Grant), you know it’s to tell him she’s getting remarried and leaving journalism to raise a family, and you know that’s not how it’s going to end. No high-suspense mystery here. What puts you on the edge of your seat in this film is how you get there. Hilariously acted and expertly filmed, His Girl Friday derives much of its comedic impact from the incredibly clever and lightning-fast banter of the characters. Don’t even think about checking your phone while you’re watching this. In fact, try to blink as little as possible. —Amy Glynn


3. Whale Rider

27.WhaleRider.NetflixList.jpg Year: 2002
Director: Niki Caro

Watch free on IMDBtv

Whale Rider tells the story of a young girl, Paikea, who lives in New Zealand with a stern grandfather who, apparently, needs to get modern. Every scene tells us this and gives us an opportunity to tsk-tsk his staunch rejection of his granddaughter who he believes, despite her lineage, can’t inherit the leadership of this Maori village because of her gender. She’ll need to convince her grandfather she can lead just as well as the boys can, and she’ll need to do it before the end of the movie. But just when you think you have the film pegged, its sincerity manages to break through the thin characterizations and age-old plot. Young actress Keisha Castle-Hughes gives Paikea a richly expressive voice, and the turning point is an astonishingly heartfelt speech she delivers at a school program for parents. Castle-Hughes’ grace and beauty on the screen is probably the main reason Whale Rider became a surprise art-house hit. —Robert Davis


4. Dead Ringers

dead-ringers-movie-poster.jpg Year: 1988
Director: David Cronenberg
Stars: Jeremy Irons, Geneviève Bujold, Heidi von Palleske, Barbara Gordon, Shirley Douglas
Rating: R
Runtime: 115 minutes

Watch free on IMDBtv

In Dead Ringers, David Cronenberg reins in the extremities of his earlier genre works into something resembling a chamber drama—except there’s always a catch with Cronenberg, and this time he almost cruelly toys with the identities of identical twins, gynecologists Elliot and Beverly Mantle (very loosely based on Stewart and Cyril Marcus), played by a Jeremy Irons who is doubled on himself through black movie magic. Cronenberg also plays with the audience’s perception of the duo, taking steps to establish Beverly as the “good” twin (more sensitive) and Elliot as the “bad” one (more bullish) before eventually degrading those categorizations and blurring the lines between the two characters, in more ways than one. A troubled relationship with actress-patient Claire Niveau (a fierce Genevieve Bujold) creates fissures in the relational dynamic of the twins, which in turn creates fissures in their minds; things get to a point where freakish gynecological tools are created due to imagined mutation spreading. The later scenes of the film take on a haunting quality as Elliot and Beverly become untethered from each other and, thus, their reality. They do manage to find each other again, but this is a David Cronenberg joint; don’t expect a happy ending. Dead Ringers is a brooding rumination on the external realities we use to define ourselves, what happens when our duality is divided and the subconscious ways in which we plant the seeds of our own destruction. More, it’s about doubling our Jeremy Irons intake in one sitting, which is always a worthy cause. —Chad Betz


5. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

texas-chainsaw-massacre-poster.jpg Year: 1974
Director: Tobe Hooper

Watch free on IMDBtv

One of the most brutal mainstream horror films ever released, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, based on notorious Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein, resembles art-house verité built on the grainy physicality of its flat Texas setting. Plus, it introduced the superlatively sinister Leatherface, the iconic chainsaw-wielding giant of a man who wears a mask made of human skin, whose freakish sadism is upstaged only by the introduction of his cannibalistic family with whom he resides in a dilapidated house in the middle of the Texas wilderness, together chowing on the meat Leatherface and his brothers harvest, while Grandpa drinks blood and fashions furniture from victims’ bones. Still, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre might not be the goriest horror film ever made, but as an imaginal excavation of the subterranean anxieties of a post-Vietnam rural American populace, it’s pretty much unparalleled. Twisted, dark and beautiful all at once, it careens through a wide variety of tones and techniques without ever losing its singular intensity. (And there are few scenes in this era of horror with more disturbing sound design than the bit where Leatherface ambushes a guy with a single dull hammer strike to the head before slamming the metal door shut behind him.) —Rachel Hass and Brent Ables


6. Monster

monster.jpg Year: 2004
Director: Patty Jenkins

Watch free on IMDBtv

If you haven’t watched the difficult but terrific Monster, it would be easy to dismiss Charlize Theron’s Oscar-winning performance as a gimmick: pretty actress made to look plain or ugly. We’ve seen that many times, on screens big and small, and we’re usually left wondering why the producers just didn’t get a non-starlet to play the role. But even though Theron’s physical transformation takes the ruse to a new level—it is thorough enough to render the actress unrecognizable and often indistinguishable from the real person she plays—her portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos goes well beyond make-up tricks. It’s all encompassing. Theron is completely submerged in her character. Every glance, every hand gesture and every physical tick seem to be those of Wuronos. There’s not a single moment in the film in which the actress peaks out from behind those eyes. Charlize Theron captured something essential and magical (if very disturbing) in a performance that ranks as one of the best of cinematic history. —Tim Regan-Porter


7. The Brothers Bloom

brothers-bloom-210.jpg Year: 2009
Director: Rian Johnson

Watch free on IMDBtv

“He writes his cons the way dead Russians write novels”—this line from The Brothers Bloom not only illustrates the skills of schemer Stephen (Mark Ruffalo), but it also perfectly describes director Rian Johnson’s gift for constructing neo-noir masterpieces that manipulate the emotions of his audiences with enthralling grift. Featuring a cast that can do no wrong, The Brothers Bloom stars Ruffalo and Adrien Brody as a pair of fraternal conmen who mark an eccentric heiress—the magnetic Rachel Weisz—for her fortune. After crafting an entire language of hard-boiled vernacular in his jarring debut, Brick, Johnson makes a more approachable film along a syncopated rhythm of saturated camera pans and clever plot beats. But Ruffalo, Brody and Weisz don’t rest on plot twists and double crosses alone; their melancholic and moving characterization dominates the film as much as the sleight-of-hand on the main stage. A near-perfect symphony of intellect and entertainment, The Brothers Bloom forms one the most memorable cinematic families this side of the Tenenbaums. —Sean Edgar


8. Blue Valentine

blue-valentine-poster.jpg Year: 2010
Director: Derek Cianfrance

Watch free on IMDBtv

Most films about disintegrating marriages are grim, gray affairs, and filmmakers often use the device as an excuse to punish their audiences. But Blue Valentine is different—the story is told with such overwhelming tenderness and humanity that although the slow unraveling of Dean’s (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy’s (Michelle Williams) love is still heartbreaking, it feels like the director’s heart is breaking along with yours. That’s rare. It doesn’t hurt that Gosling is in top form, or that Williams gives the finest performance of her career. The script was promising enough to win the Chrysler Film Project even before those performances were turned in, and indie favorites Grizzly Bear contributed a haunting soundtrack. There was really nothing in director Derek Cianfrance’s resume to suggest he had such a nuanced, sensitive film in him, but we’ll certainly be watching his career with interest from here on out. —Michael Dunaway


9. Donnie Darko

donnie-darko.jpg Year: 2001
Director: Richard Kelly

Watch free on IMDBtv

Apparently, at some point in its burgeoning cult ascendency, director Richard Kelly admitted that even he didn’t totally get what’s going on in Donnie Darko—going so far as to release a “Director’s Cut” in 2005 that supposedly cleared up some of the film’s more unwieldy stuff. Yet another example of a small budget wringed of its every dime, Kelly’s debut crams love, weird science, jet engines, superhero mythology, wormholes, armchair philosophy, giant bunny rabbits and Patrick Swayze (as a child molester, no less) into a film that should be celebrated for its audacity more than its coherency. It also helps that Jake Gyllenhaal leads a stellar cast, all totally game. In Donnie Darko, the only thing that’s clear is Kelly’s attitude: that at its core cinema is the art of manifesting the unbelievable, of doing what one wants to do when one wants to do it. —Christian Becker


10. Battle Royale

battle-royale.jpg Year: 2000
Director: Kinji Fukasaku

Watch free on IMDBtv

It’s OK to compare Battle Royale to The Hunger Games movies—or, rather, to find how the lasting accomplishments of the latter franchise were essentially done better and with so much more efficiency by the former—because you probably will anyway. Battle Royale, like the immensely successful four-film crash course in crafting an action star who is really only a symbol of an action star, chronicles a government-sanctioned battle to the death between a group of teens on a weird, weapon-strewn island. (There are even regular island-wide announcements of the day’s dead as the sun sets on the remaining children.) Yet, Battle Royale is so lean in its exposition, so uninterested in dragging out its symbolism or metaphor, that one can’t help but marvel at how cleanly Fukasaku (who had a full career behind him when he made this, only three years before he died) can lend depth to these children, building stakes around them to the point that their deaths matter and their doomed plights sting. What the director can do with such a tenuous premise (which The Hunger Games takes multiple films to do, and without a single ounce of levity) is astounding—plus, he wrangled Beat Takeshi Kitano to play the President Snow-type character, which Kitano does to near-perfection. That Battle Royale II sets out to up the stakes of the first film, especially given the first film’s crazy success in Japan, is to be expected, but stick to the first: Battle Royale will make you care about kids murdering each other more than you (probably) would anyway. —Dom Sinacola


11. Short Term 12

short-term-12-poster.jpg Year: 2014
Director: Destin Cretton
Stars: Brie Larson, Rami Malek, Lakeith Stanfield, Melora Walters, Stephanie Beatriz, Alex Calloway, Kaitlyn Dever, John Gallagher Jr.
Rating: R
Runtime: 97 minutes

Watch free on IMDBtv

As it progresses, Short Term 12 remains rigorously structured in terms of plot; yet it never feels calculated. In fact, the film serves as a fine example of how invisible screenwriting can be. By allowing his characters’ irrational emotions to influence events and instigate key turning points, Cretton capably masks the film’s finely calibrated story mechanics. And while everything seemingly comes to a head during a key crisis, it’s only fitting that the story ends with a denouement that bookends its opening. Cretton’s clear-eyed film is far too honest to try and convince us that there’s been any sort of profound change for Grace or anyone else. Instead, it’s content to serve as a potent reminder that tentative first steps can be every bit as narratively compelling as great leaps of faith. —Curtis Woloschuk


12. The African Queen

the-african-queen-poster.jpg Year: 1952
Director: John Huston
Stars Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Robert Morley
Genre: Romance, Drama
Rating: NR
Runtime: 105 minutes

Watch free on IMDBtv

The madcap, screwball comedies of the ‘30s and ‘40s helped set the template for the battle-of-the-sexes comedies that would populate American cinemas for years to come (and still do, to some extent). Writer/director John Huston’s genius in making The African Queen was taking the feuding couple out of the metropolitan areas for which they’d often been associated with and instead placing them square in the middle of an inhospitable jungle. With the added element of survival driving their journey, the flirtatious banter between classy widow Rose Sayer (Katherine Hepburn) and crass boatman Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart) crackles all the more, making for a rom-com as vicious as it is sweet. —Mark Rozeman


13. Fighting with My Family

fighting-with-my-family-poster.jpg
Year: 2019
Director: Stephen Merchant
Stars: Florence Pugh, Jack Lowden, Lena Headey, Nick Frost
Runtime: 108 minutes

Watch free on IMDBtv

The dream of protagonists Saraya (Florence Pugh) and Zak (Jack Lowden) is to become the next big stars of pro wrestling, itself both sport and performance. The siblings have been primed pretty much since birth by their wrestling-obsessed parents, Julia (Lena Headey) and Ricky (Nick Frost), to prepare for their eventual stardom. This easygoing and heartwarming tale, based on a true story, begins with Saraya and Zak as children, engaging in the expected sibling activity of beating each other up over something trivial. Instead of breaking it up, Julia and Ricky give pointers to make the fight more exciting. Hey, at the very least it’s a good idea to teach your kids to defend themselves, with some showmanship as bonus. Cut to Saraya and Zak in their late teens, giving wrestling lessons to disenfranchised kids during the day, and “fighting” in the ring in the evening for an audience of ten as part of their parents’ financially struggling wrestling organization. After the family sends their audition tape to WWE for years, they finally get a call from a no-nonsense recruiter named Hutch (Vince Vaughn), who invites Saraya and Zak to a tryout. Even though both do their best, Hutch picks only Saraya, now with the wrestling name Paige, to advance to a rigorous training program in Florida. Devastated by the rejection, Zak tries to emotionally support his sister’s success, but dives further and further into depression. Meanwhile, Paige suffers from an identity crisis as the mentally and physically taxing training gives her second thoughts about whether or not she’s doing this for herself or for her family. Director Stephen Merchant reaches beyond the film’s wrestling fan core audience and constructs an inspiring story everyone can enjoy. Florence Pugh is a gem here—the glue that holds the film together. Along with Pugh, Jack Lowden is tasked with carrying the story’s dramatic heft, and just as with his character, he has his co-star’s back. And Dwayne Johnson is one of the film’s producers, so it should come as no surprise that the film portrays pro wrestling as grueling work and not just roided-up theater. —Oktay Ege Kozak


14. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

42. henry portrait of a serial killer (Custom).jpg Year: 1986
Director: John McNaughton

Watch free on IMDBtv

Henry stars Merle himself, Michael Rooker, in a film which is essentially meant to approximate the life of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, along with his demented sidekick Otis Toole (Tom Towles). The film was shot and set in Chicago on a budget of only $100,000, and is a depraved journey into the depths of the darkness capable of infecting the human soul. That probably sounds like hyperbole, but Henry really is an ugly film—you feel dirty just watching it, from the filth-crusted urban streets to the supremely unlikeable characters who prey on local prostitutes. It’s not an easy watch, but if gritty true crime is your thing, it’s a must-see. Some of the sequences, such as the “home video” shot by Henry and Otis as they torture an entire family, gave the film a notorious reputation, even among horror fans, as an unrelenting look into the nature of disturbingly mundane evil. —Jim Vorel


15. Iverson

iverson.jpg Year: 2014
Director: Zatella Beatty

Watch free on IMDBtv

For some of us, a great sports documentary is the kind of film that makes you forget you’re not that interested in sports—or better yet, the kind of film that makes you wonder why you’re not that into sports. Iverson starts out as a portrait of a young black man nearly lost to a criminal justice system that seemed determined to derail his life. Allen Iverson would go on to survive this attempt on his life and become one of the greatest basketball players of all time, as well as a representative of the dangers of respectability politics, which seep into all American organizations, including the NBA. Iverson invites you to sit with the complexities of fame, especially for black men and women who are expected to represent much more than their individual selves, and it also demands that—even if you don’t fall in love with the great Allen Iverson by the end, you have to respect his game. —Shannon M. Houston

1linebreakdiamond.png

The 10 Best Free Movies on PlutoTV

Pluto TV is best-known for its livestreaming of TV shows and movies, but it also has some good on-demand movies available, including tons of Oscar-winners, Bruce Lee movies and Star Trek films. Its user interface might be a bit clunky, but the selection is on point.

1. Snowpiercer

snowpiercer-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2014
Director: Bong Joon-ho

Watch free on Pluto TV

There is a sequence midway through Snowpiercer that perfectly articulates what makes Korean writer/director Bong Joon-ho among the most dynamic filmmakers currently working. Two armies engage in a no-holds-barred, slow motion-heavy action set piece. Metal clashes against metal, and characters slash through their opponents as if their bodies were made of butter. It’s gory, imaginative, horrifying, beautiful, visceral and utterly glorious. Adapted from a French graphic novel by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette, Snowpiercer is a sci-fi thriller set in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic world. Nearly two decades prior, in an ill-advised attempt to halt global warning, the government inundated the atmosphere with an experimental chemical that left our planet a barren, ice-covered wasteland. Now, the last of humanity resides on “Snowpiercer,” a vast train powered via a perpetual-motion engine. Needless to say, this scenario hasn’t exactly brought out the best of humanity. Bong’s bleak and brutal film may very well be playing a song that we’ve all heard before, but he does it with such gusto and dexterous skill you can’t help but be caught up the flurry.—Mark Rozeman


2. The Silence of the Lambs

Silence-Lambs-Criterion.jpg Year: 1991
Director: Jonathan Demme
Stars: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine
Rating: R
Runtime: 118 minutes

Watch free on Pluto TV

The camera hugs her face, maybe trying to protect her though she needs no protection, and maybe just trying to see into her, to see what she sees, to understand why seeing what she sees is so important. Not even 30, Jodie Foster looks so much younger, surrounded in The Silence of the Lambs by men who tower over her, staring at her, flummoxed by her, perhaps wanting to protect her too, but more likely, more ironically, intimidated by a world that would allow such a fragile creature to wander the domain of monsters. As Clarice Starling, FBI agent-in-training, Foster is an innocent who’s seen more than any of us could ever imagine, a warrior who seems unsure of her prowess. That Jonathan Demme—a director who came up under the tutelage of Roger Corman, able to adopt then immediately shed genres at whim—corners Starling within the confines of a “Woman in Peril,” only to watch her shrug off every label thrown at her, is a testament to The Silence of the Lambs as feminist, not because it so thoroughly inhabits a female point of view, but because its violence and fear is the stuff of masculine toxicity. Demme’s film is only the second to adapt Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lector novels to the screen, but it’s the first to draw undeniable lines between the way men see Clarice Starling and the way that serial killer Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine) projects his neuroses onto his victims. Demme (and Harris) links seeing to transformation to one’s need to consume, all pursued through a gendered lens, represented by the seemingly omniscient perspective of Hannibal Lector (Anthony Hopkins), a borderline asexual cannibal who literally eats those over whom he holds court. Buffalo Bill is a monster, and so is Lector, but the difference is that Lector does not attempt to possess Clarice Starling, though he sees her, because he is in control of that which he consumes. Buffalo Bill isn’t; as a man he believes that by consuming femininity he can become it, too stupid and too self-absorbed to realize that consumption is deletion, that wanting to protect a woman is only a matter of admitting that the World of Men is a weak and evil failure of the very ideals it strives to preserve. —Dom Sinacola


3. The Big Short

the-big-short.jpg Year: 2015
Director: Adam McKay

Watch free on Pluto TV

The Big Short, Adam McKay’s kaleidoscopic look into the months leading up to the 2007 financial meltdown, is an angry film. And rightfully so—the amount of callous thievery characters uncover here is enough to make any rational person’s blood boil. It’s also, unquestionably, a funny film, tempering its acerbic leanings by highlighting just how blatantly surreal the whole ordeal truly was. McKay looks to counteract the inherently dry, impenetrable subject matter on display with boatloads of vibrant, cinematic style. The Big Short may not always succeed, but it stands as an essential film nonetheless. —Mark Rozeman


4. The Foot Fist Way

foot_fisT_way_poster.jpg Year: 2006
Director: Jody Hill
Stars: Danny McBride, Mary Jane Bostic, Ben Best, Spencer Moreno, Carlos Lopez, Jody Hill, Collette Wolfe
Rating: R
Runtime: 87 minutes

Watch free on Pluto TV

Before The Righteous Gemstones, before Kenny Powers, even before his role in Hot Rod, Danny McBride made his mark with The Foot Fist Way. Together with his long-time collaborator Jody Hill and co-writer Ben Best, McBride introduced us to Fred Simmons, a Taekwondo instructor in a small Southern town with a huge ego and an anger problem. Consider Fred the proto-Kenny Powers, with McBride diving into the same reservoir of toxic masculinity and extreme arrogance undercut by insecurity and a barely understood depression. Rough around the edges, and visibly low budget, The Foot Fist Way isn’t as refined or powerful as McBride and Hill’s later HBO shows, but it’s still a hilarious character study with a keen eye for place and an understanding of the modern South rarely seen in movies or TV.—Garrett Martin


5. Moonstruck

moonstruck-poster.jpg Year: 1987
Director: Norman Jewison

Watch free on Pluto TV

Snap out of it! A rom-com with a genuinely romantic sensibility (the hopeless kind), Moonstruck is a basically undeniably adorable comedy about chance, family and what it means to “settle.” Pragmatic widow Loretta (Cher) agrees to marry a nice sensible guy (Danny Aiello), but soon finds herself in a sitch with his passionate and mercurial younger brother Ronny (Nicolas Cage). Cher’s comedic chops are not insignificant, and the chemistry between her and Cage is great. The film has an incredible wealth of wonderful supporting performers (perhaps most notably Olympia Dukakis, who plays Cher’s mother). Norman Jewison’s directorial sensibility here might not qualify as “high art” but it’s a damn fine rom-com, with crackling dialogue, tons of energy and seductively likable characters: Apaean to the joys and inevitable sorrows of dealing with your family, this film has spirit and smarts and soul. And a certain image of Cher in opera garb kicking a beer can up a silent Brooklyn street that one could be forgiven for characterizing as “iconic.” —Amy Glynn


6. Super Size Me

super-size-me-poster.jpg Year: 2004
Director: Morgan Spurlock
Stars: Morgan Spurlock
Genre: Documentary
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 98 minutes

Watch free on Pluto TV

Super Size Me is a lively and accessible account of director Morgan Spurlock’s attempt to spend 30 days eating nothing but McDonald’s food—for breakfast, lunch and dinner—while doctors monitor the changes in his vital statistics. It’s an increasingly important topic. As a society, we’ve built a machine that saves us dollars at the cash register but requires us to pay them back in health bills down the road. The movie accomplishes some of its more modest goals: it makes fast food look disgusting, makes the serving sizes seem outrageous and, perhaps most importantly, makes the food programs at many schools seem alarmingly poor at both providing nutritious meals and developing healthy eating habits. Since the film’s premiere at Sundance, he has modified its closing titles to take credit for McDonald’s decision to eliminate the “super sized” option from its menu. —Robert Davis


7. Kung Fu Hustle

kung-fu-hustle-netflix.jpg Year: 2004
Director: Stephen Chow

Watch free on Pluto TV

Stephen Chow is probably the biggest name in martial arts comedy since the days of Sammo Hung, and Kung Fu Hustle will likely remain one of his most well-regarded films—both as director and performer. Gleefully kooky, the film combines occasional song and dance with expectedly extremely exaggerated kung fu parody in telling the tale of a young man who ends up overthrowing a large criminal organization, the “Deadly Axe Gang.” This is nothing complex—rather, Kung Fu Hustle is unadulterated absurdity: The action has no basis in reality, reveling in Looney Tunes physics, while characters are broad pastiches and/or references to famous actors from the genre’s history. With gags teetering decidedly on the juvenile (or inscrutable, for Americans at least) side, the film is a testament to Chow’s style—entertain first, make sense later. That’s what he does, and he does it better than anyone else. —Jim Vorel


8. I Am Not Your Negro

not-your-negro-poster.jpg Year: 2017
Director: Raoul Peck

Watch free on Pluto TV

Raoul Peck focuses on James Baldwin’s unfinished book Remember This House, a work that would have memorialized three of his friends, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Medgar Evers. All three black men were assassinated within five years of each other, and we learn in the film that Baldwin was not just concerned about these losses as terrible blows to the Civil Rights movement, but deeply cared for the wives and children of the men who were murdered. Baldwin’s overwhelming pain is as much the subject of the film as his intellect. And so I Am Not Your Negro is not just a portrait of an artist, but a portrait of mourning—what it looks, sounds and feels like to lose friends, and to do so with the whole world watching (and with so much of America refusing to understand how it happened, and why it will keep happening). Peck could have done little else besides give us this feeling, placing us squarely in the presence of Baldwin, and I Am Not Your Negro would have likely still been a success. His decision to steer away from the usual documentary format, where respected minds comment on a subject, creates a sense of intimacy difficult to inspire in films like this. The pleasure of sitting with Baldwin’s words, and his words alone, is exquisite. There’s no interpreter, no one to explain Baldwin but Baldwin—and this is how it should be. —Shannon M. Houston


9. We Are the Best!

we-are-the-best-poster.jpg Year: 2014
Director: Lukas Moodysson

Watch free on Pluto TV

In 1980s Sweden, everything that’s happening in the world—the fear of Soviet submarines invading, the gradual industrialization of the country, the Moderate Party gaining control of parliament—doesn’t really include Bobo (Mira Barkhammer), an aspiring punk rocking tween with a lush of a mother. Spending most of her evenings in her room listening to tapes of her favorite punk band, the short and curly-haired Bobo teams up with her best friend and mohawk-sporting Klara (Mira Grosin) to create a band of their own. Wrangling a guitar-playing Christian girl, Hedvig (Live LeMoyne) into their quest to join the school talent show, they’re met with nothing but skepticism from their peers and parents. But Lukas Moodysson’s We Are the Best!, adapted from graphic novelist Coco Moodysson’s memoir Never Goodnight, is hardly a conventional coming-of-age film. Though it features recognizable tropes from the genre—Boys! Neglectful parents! Angst!—We Are the Best! is filled with such joy and ebullience that it feels liberated from the restrictive structure of so many teen films. With a freewheeling, quasi-improvisatory style, Moodysson imbues his film with a gorgeous ease and tenderness, crafting a little world for these girls and their audience to negotiate their politics, find their voice and fumble along the way. —Kyle Turner


10. Rabbit Hole

rabbit-hole.jpg Year: 2010
Director: John Cameron Mitchell

Watch free on Pluto TV

While some subjects seem absolutely natural to film, others are just the opposite. The death of a child is so personal and so interior that it’s ill-suited to a form that allows us to see what characters are doing but never get inside their heads. But that’s the challenge confronted by Rabbit Hole. Eight months after their son Danny is killed in a car crash, Howie (Aaron Reckhart) and Becca (Nicole Kidman) are still living one day at a time with their grief and struggling to return their lives to anything approximating normalcy. Howie turns to a support group for other parents of deceased children, eventually taking up smoking pot with a woman there in order to cope with reality, while Becca begins following around the teenager who accidentally killed her son, eventually confronting him when it becomes obvious what she’s doing. Rabbit Hole is unsurprisingly subdued, but it’s a remarkable tone for director John Cameron Mitchell, whose previous films Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Shortbus wouldn’t imply he had something like this in him. Mitchell lets his stars control the picture, and they bring out a full range of emotion with particularly great performances by Eckhart and Dianne Wiest who plays Becca’s mother. These performances give the film the intensity of a Cassavetes picture but with a more controlled director who gives every frame of the movie thematic potency. That may sound heavy-handed, but it reflects the viewpoints of Rabbit Hole’s two distraught parents, who are in fact seeing every aspect of their lives shaded by their son’s death—whatever they do, the inescapable loss follows them around. It’s a beautiful tribute to those coping with loss and trying to make sense of the world. —Sean Gandert

1linebreakdiamond.png

The 20 Best Free Movies on Redbox On Demand

Redbox has been streaming free movies supported by ads since 2020.

1. His Girl Friday

his-girl-friday-poster.jpg Year: 1940
Director: Howard Hawks
Stars: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy
Rating: PG
Runtime: 92 minutes

Watch on Redbox Free On Demand

Special effects have become so sophisticated that many of us have probably forgotten how much pure amazement you can wreak with a great story and a script that doesn’t let up for one second. This amazing, dizzyingly paced screwball comedy by Howard Hawks stars Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, and takes us back into two of the decade’s hallmark preoccupations: The “remarriage comedy” and the intrigue and obsessiveness of the newspaper world. The minute Russell’s Lindy Johnson stalks into the newspaper office run by her ex-husband Walter Burns (Grant), you know it’s to tell him she’s getting remarried and leaving journalism to raise a family, and you know that’s not how it’s going to end. No high-suspense mystery here. What puts you on the edge of your seat in this film is how you get there. Hilariously acted and expertly filmed, His Girl Friday derives much of its comedic impact from the incredibly clever and lightning-fast banter of the characters. Don’t even think about checking your phone while you’re watching this. In fact, try to blink as little as possible. —Amy Glynn


2. Battle Royale

battle-royale.jpg Year: 2000
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Stars: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Tarô Yamamoto
Rating: R
Runtime: 114 minutes

Watch on Redbox Free On Demand

It’s OK to compare Battle Royale to The Hunger Games movies—or, rather, to find how the lasting accomplishments of the latter franchise were essentially done better and with so much more efficiency by the former—because you probably will anyway. Battle Royale, like the immensely successful four-film crash course in crafting an action star who is really only a symbol of an action star, chronicles a government-sanctioned battle to the death between a group of teens on a weird, weapon-strewn island. (There are even regular island-wide announcements of the day’s dead as the sun sets on the remaining children.) Yet, Battle Royale is so lean in its exposition, so uninterested in dragging out its symbolism or metaphor, that one can’t help but marvel at how cleanly Fukasaku (who had a full career behind him when he made this, only three years before he died) can lend depth to these children, building stakes around them to the point that their deaths matter and their doomed plights sting. What the director can do with such a tenuous premise (which The Hunger Games takes multiple films to do, and without a single ounce of levity) is astounding—plus, he wrangled Beat Takeshi Kitano to play the President Snow-type character, which Kitano does to near-perfection. That Battle Royale II sets out to up the stakes of the first film, especially given the first film’s crazy success in Japan, is to be expected, but stick to the first: Battle Royale will make you care about kids murdering each other more than you (probably) would anyway. —Dom Sinacola


3. Metropolis

metropolis-poster.jpg Year: 1927
Director: Fritz Lang
Stars: Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, Gustav Fröhlich, Rudolf Klein-Rogge
Rating: NR
Runtime: 123 minutes

Watch on Redbox Free On Demand

Metropolis never slows as it delivers a constant stream of iconic images. Fritz Lang filled his parable with all the sci-fi/adventure tropes he could: the mad scientist, the robot, the rooftop chase, the catacombs and, as it turns out, a devious henchman. Metropolis, too, is a great reminder of just how difficult it is to judge an incomplete film. In fact, many silent films are missing material, even when it isn’t made clear in screenings or on home video. While Lang’s film has always been known for its spectacular special effects—it’s legally required that I use the phrase “visionary” while discussing it—not until a few years ago did modern audiences see a film anywhere close to the one that first premiered. It turned out that Metropolis’s best performance, Fritz Rasp as a ruthless spy for the corporate state, was part of that missing material, and it gives the film a greater sense of urgency, increasing the feeling of class-based antagonism. With that unknown excellence lurking in one of the most famous films of all time, it leaves us to wonder what else was lost in nitrate flames. —Jeremy Mathews


4. Nightbreed


nightbreed poster (Custom).jpg Year: 1990
Director: Clive Barker
Stars: Craig Sheffer, Anne Bobby, David Cronenberg, Charlie Haid, Hugh Quarshie, Hugh Ross
Rating: R
Runtime: 99 minutes

Watch on Redbox Free On Demand

Nightbreed is an odd duck of a movie, stranded somewhere between legitimate horror film and dark fantasy story. Clive Barker directs, only a few years after Hellraiser, but here his ambition perhaps got the best of him. It’s pretty clear that he wanted Nightbreed to be something akin to a horror epic, a movie with a profound message about identity, acceptance and community. In execution, though, it has a hard time picking what tone it’s supposed to be emanating. Sometimes it’s darkly humorous. Sometimes it’s legitimately spooky. Other times you’re not sure whether you’re supposed to be taking the action on screen seriously or not. One thing that is spectacular throughout is the art direction, sets, costuming and makeup. Some of the character designs may come off as “silly,” but just as many of them are likely to end up in your nightmares. Nightbreed is a mixed bag, a would-be inspiring story about monsters trying to build a safe community to peacefully live their lives, but lacking the iconic nature of Barker’s most famous creations. —Jim Vorel


5. But I’m a Cheerleader

22-but-im-a-cheerleader-best-youtube.jpg Year: 1999
Director: Jamie Babbit
Stars: Natasha Lyonne, Clea DuVall, RuPaul
Rating: R
Runtime: 85 minutes

Watch on Redbox Free On Demand

In our current climate, it feels strange to have a gay conversion therapy camp serve as the backdrop for a love affair between two young women. Especially now that we know the devastating psychological effects that those practices can have on the people sent to be “changed.” But the core message of this late ’90s gem is clear: our LGBT+ brothers and sisters were born this way and they deserve love just as much as we do. Luckily for our heroine Megan (Natasha Lyonne), she finds that love with Graham (Clea DuVall), another kid sent by her parents to be converted to heterosexuality. Their connection and chemistry is immediate, given life by the understated and thoughtful performances by the two leads. —Robert Ham


6. Ginger Snaps

ginger-snaps.jpg Year: 2000
Director: John Fawcett

Watch on Redbox Free On Demand

Ginger Snaps is a high school werewolf story, but before you go making any Twilight comparisons, let me state for the record: Where Twilight is maudlin, Ginger Snaps is vicious. A pair of death-obsessed, outsider sisters, Ginger and Brigitte, are faced with issues of maturation and sexual awakening when Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) is bitten by a werewolf. As she begins to become bolder and more animalistic in her desires, the second, meeker sister (Emily Perkins) searches for a way to reverse the damages before Ginger carves a path of destruction through their community. Reflecting the influence of Cronenberg-style body horror and especially John Landis’s American Werewolf in London, Ginger Snaps is a surprisingly effective horror movie and mix of drama/black comedy that brought the werewolf mythos into suburbia in the same sort of way Fright Night managed to do so with vampires. It also made a genre star of Isabelle, who has since appeared in several sequels and above average horror flicks such as American Mary. Even if the condition of lycanthropism is an obvious parallel to the struggles of adolescence and puberty, Ginger Snaps is the one film that has taken that rich vein of source material and imbued it with the same kind of punk spirit as Heathers. – —Jim Vorel


7. Black Christmas

black-christmas-poster.jpg Year: 1974
Director: Bob Clark
Stars: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon, Art Hindle, Andrea Martin, Marian Waldman
Rating: R
Runtime: 98 minutes

Watch on Redbox Free On Demand

Fun fact: Nine years before he directed holiday classic A Christmas Story, Bob Clark created the first true, unassailable “slasher movie” in Black Christmas. Yes, the same person who gave TBS its annual Christmas Eve marathon fodder was also responsible for the first major cinematic application of the phrase “The calls are coming from inside the house!” Black Christmas, which was insipidly remade in 2006, predates John Carpenter’s Halloween by four years and features many of the same elements, especially visually. Like Halloween, it lingers heavily on POV shots from the killer’s eyes as he prowls through a dimly lit sorority house and spies on his future victims. As the mentally deranged killer calls the house and engages in obscene phone calls with the female residents, one can’t help but also be reminded of the scene in Carpenter’s film where Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) calls her friend Lynda, only to hear her strangled with the telephone cord. Black Christmas is also instrumental, and practically archetypal, in solidifying the slasher trope of the so-called “final girl.” Jessica Bradford (Olivia Hussey) is actually among the better-realized of these final girls in the history of the genre, a remarkably strong and resourceful young woman who can take care of herself in both her relationships and deadly scenarios. It’s questionable how many subsequent slashers have been able to create protagonists who are such a believable combination of capable and realistic. —Jim Vorel


8. Nosferatu

nosferatu-murnau-poster.jpg Year: 1929
Director: F. W. Murnau
Stars: Max Schreck, Alexander Granach, Gustav von Wangenheim
Rating: NR
Runtime: 63 minutes

Watch on Redbox Free On Demand

F.W. Murnau’s sublimely peculiar riff on Dracula has been a fixture of the genre for so long that to justify its place on this list seems like a waste of time. Magnificent in its freakish, dour mood and visual eccentricities, the movie invented much of modern vampire lore as we know it. It’s once-a-year required viewing of the most rewarding kind. —Sean Gandert


9. The Proposition

proposition.jpg Year: 2005
Director: John Hillcoat
Stars: Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Emily Watson, John Hurt
Rating: R
Runtime: 104 minutes

Watch on Redbox Free On Demand

If you’ve ever sat and wondered what Hell might look like, check out John Hillcoat’s The Proposition, in which Hell happens to look an awful lot like the Australian outback. You may not anticipate that shifting locales from one arid and unforgiving ecosystem to another would lend that much impact to a film’s visual texture, but The Proposition feels like a distinctly Aussie production even before you hear the accents. Nationality isn’t what makes the picture feel so utterly accursed, though; it’s the sheer unrelenting brutality. There’s a thematic nugget at The Proposition’s core that links it to John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, a movie about lawful men trying against all good sense to tame wild lands and civilize lawless men. But Ford’s film never even tries to ascend the peaks of barbarity that The Proposition comes to rest upon through its final moments, where blood is answered with more blood and violent action can only be stopped by a violent response. —Andy Crump


10. Blue Valentine

blue-valentine-poster.jpg Year: 2010
Director: Derek Cianfrance

Watch on Redbox Free On Demand

Most films about disintegrating marriages are grim, gray affairs, and filmmakers often use the device as an excuse to punish their audiences. But Blue Valentine is different—the story is told with such overwhelming tenderness and humanity that although the slow unraveling of Dean’s (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy’s (Michelle Williams) love is still heartbreaking, it feels like the director’s heart is breaking along with yours. That’s rare. It doesn’t hurt that Gosling is in top form, or that Williams gives the finest performance of her career. The script was promising enough to win the Chrysler Film Project even before those performances were turned in, and indie favorites Grizzly Bear contributed a haunting soundtrack. There was really nothing in director Derek Cianfrance’s resume to suggest he had such a nuanced, sensitive film in him, but we’ll certainly be watching his career with interest from here on out. —Michael Dunaway


11. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

tucker and dale vs evil poster.jpg Year: 2010
Director: Eli Craig
Stars: Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden, Jesse Moss
Rating: R
Runtime: 89 minutes

Watch on Redbox Free On Demand

Let’s face it, hillbillies and their ilk have been getting the short end of the pitchfork in movies since the strains of banjo music faded in 1972’s Deliverance. And whether due to radiation (The Hills Have Eyes) or just good old determined inbreeding (Wrong Turn and so, so many films you’re better off not knowing about), the yokel-prone in film have really enjoyed slaughtering innocent families on vacation, travelers deficient in basic map usage skills, and, best of all, sexually active college students just looking for a good time. But fear not, members of Hillbillies for Inclusion, Consideration & Kindness in Screenplays (HICKS)—writer/director Eli Craig has your hairy, unloofahed back. His film, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, answers the simple question: What if those hillbillies are just socially awkward fellows sprucing up a vacation home and the young college kids in question are just prone to repeatedly jumping to incorrect, often fatal, conclusions? Think Final Destination meets the Darwin Awards. —Michael Burgin


12. Halloween

halloween-1978-poster.jpg Year: 1978
Director: John Carpenter

Watch on Redbox Free On Demand

For students of John Carpenter’s filmography, it is interesting to note that Halloween is actually a significantly less ambitious film than his previous Assault on Precinct 13 on almost every measurable level. It doesn’t have the sizable cast of extras, or the extensive FX and stunt work. It’s not filled with action sequences. But what it does give us is the first full distillation of the American slasher film, and a heaping helping of atmosphere. Carpenter built off earlier proto-slashers such as Bob Clark’s Black Christmas in penning the legend of Michael Myers, an unstoppable phantom who returns to his hometown on Halloween night to stalk high school girls. (The original title was actually The Babysitter Murders, if you haven’t heard that particular bit of trivia before.) Carpenter heavily employs tools that would become synonymous with slashers, such as the killer’s POV perspective, making Myers into something of a voyeur (he’s just called “The Shape” in the credits) who lurks silently in the darkness with inhuman patience before finally making his move. It’s a lean, mean movie with some absurd characterization in its first half (particularly from the ditzy P.J. Soles, who can’t stop saying “totally”) that then morphs into a claustrophobic crescendo of tension as Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode first comes into contact with Myers. Utterly indispensable to the whole thing is the great Donald Pleasance as Dr. Loomis, the killer’s personal hype man/Ahab, whose sole purpose in the screenplay is to communicate to the audience with frothing hyperbole just what a monster this Michael Myers really is. It can’t be overstated how important Pleasance is to making this film into the cultural touchstone that would inspire the early ’80s slasher boom to follow. —Jim Vorel


13. Mother

11-free-movies-stream-mother-poster.jpg Year: 2009
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Stars: Kim Hye-ja, Won Bin, Ku Jin, Je-mun Yun
Rating: R
Runtime: 128 minutes

Watch on Redbox Free On Demand

Mother, director Bong’s fourth film, sustains his usual themes but skews much darker amid the slapstick. It’s driven by Kim Hye-ja’s performance as the film’s namesake, a seemingly meek and long-suffering figure whose devotion to her only child knows no bounds. Her character (also named Hye-ja) is an herbalist and unlicensed acupuncturist who has raised a mentally disabled son by herself. Do-joon (Bon Win) is an indulgent, infantile 27-year-old who is the village idiot in their provincial town, subjected to mockery and casual violence, yet also prone to drunken antics and misdemeanors. Hye-ja’s relationship with her boy exceeds the usual mother-son norms, creepily epitomized in a scene where she tilts a bowl of broth to her son’s lips as he stands urinating on a street corner. The smother-love goes into overdrive when Do-joon is jailed for the rape and murder of a local schoolgirl, whose body is found near a bar Do-joon had been kicked of the previous night. More so than Bong’s other films, Mother takes the audience’s sympathies and expectations to surprising places. You can easily question if the director’s caricatures of the town’s characters undermine his purpose, or decide that his melodramatic plot twists are too much to sensibly abide. There’s no intellectual rigor behind the curtain, as with, say, the Coen Brothers, probably the closest American analogue to Bong’s filmmaking style. The whole shebang rides on the whirlwind force of Kim’s performance, something no one else is likely to soon repeat. —Steve Dollar


14. Train to Busan

train-to-busan-poster.jpg Year: 2016
Director: Yeon Sang-ho
Starring: Gong Yoo, Ma Dong-seok, Jung Yu-mi, Kim Su-an, Kim Eui-sung, Choi Woo-shik, Ahn So-hee
Rating: NR
Runtime: 118 minutes

Watch on Redbox Free On Demand

Love them or hate them, zombies are still a constant of the horror genre in 2016, dependable enough to set your conductor’s watch by. And although I’ve probably seen enough indie zombie films at this point to eschew them from my viewing habits for the rest of my life, there is still usually at least one great zombie movie every other year. In 2016, that was Train to Busan. This South Korean story of a career-minded father (Gong Yoo) attempting to protect his young daughter (Kim Su-an) on a train full of rampaging zombies is equal parts suspenseful popcorn entertainment and genuinely affecting family drama. It concludes with several action elements that I’ve never seen before, or even considered for a zombie film, and any time you can add something truly novel to the genre of the walking dead, then you’re definitely doing something right. With a few memorable, empathetic supporting characters and some top-notch makeup FX, you’ve got one of the best zombie movies of the past decade. —Jim Vorel


15. Grave Encounters

grave encounters poster (Custom).jpg Year: 2011
Directors: Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz, “The Vicious Brothers”

Watch on Redbox Free On Demand

It’s hard to understand why Grave Encounters doesn’t have a better reputation among horror geeks, who largely seem to be aware of it but deride the found footage movie as either derivative or cheesy. In our own estimation, it’s one of the best found footage offerings of the last decade, and certainly one of the most legitimately frightening, as well as humorous when it wants to be. It’s structured as a pitch-perfect parody of inane TV ghost-hunting shows, in the style of Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, and imagines the satisfying results of what might happen when one of these crews full of charlatans is subjected to a genuinely evil location. But Grave Encounters goes beyond what is expected of it—you hear that premise and expect some frantic, handycam running around and screaming in the dark, but it delivers far more. The FX work, on a small budget, is some of the best you’re ever going to see in a found footage film, and the nature of the haunting is significantly more mind-bending and ambitious than it first appears. We’ll continue to defend this film, although you should steer clear of the less inspired sequel. —Jim Vorel


16. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

dr caligari poster (Custom).jpg Year: 1920
Director: Robert Wiene

Watch on Redbox Free On Demand

The quintessential work of German Expressionism, of an entire cinematic style, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was described by Roger Ebert as the “first true horror film,” although a modern viewing is understandably unlikely to elicit chills. Still, in the same vein as Nosferatu, its fantastical visual palette is instantly iconic: Buildings cant in impossible angles and light plays strange tricks—are those shadows real, or painted directly onto the set? The story revolves around a mad hypnotist (Werner Krauss) who uses a troubled sleepwalker (Conrad Veidt) as his personal assassin, forcing him to exterminate his enemies at night. The film’s astonishingly creative and free-thinking designs have had an indelible influence on every fantasy landscape depicted in the near-100 years since. You simply can’t claim an appreciation for the roots of cinema without seeing the film. —Jim Vorel


17. Night of the Living Dead

night-of-living-dead.jpg Year: 1968
Director: George A. Romero
Stars: Judith O’Dea, Russell Streiner, Duane Jones
Genre: Horror
Rating: R
Runtime: 90 minutes

Watch on Redbox Free On Demand

It’s not really necessary to delve into how influential George Romero’s first zombie film has been to the genre and horror itself—it’s one of the most important horror movies ever made, and one of the most important independent films as well. The question is more accurately, "how does it hold up today?", and the answer is "okay." Unlike, say Dawn of the Dead (not on Shudder), Night is pretty placid most of the time. The story conventions are classic and the black-and-white cinematography still looks excellent, but some of the performances are downright irritating, particularly that of Judith O’Dea as Barbara. Duane Jones more than makes up for that as the heroic Ben, however, in a story that is very self-sufficient and provincial—just one small group of people in a house, with no real thought to the wider world. It’s a horror film that is a MUST SEE for every student of the genre, which is easy, considering that the film actually remains in the public domain. But in terms of entertainment value, Romero would perfect the genre in his next few efforts. Also recommended: The 1990 remake of this film by Tom Savini, which is unfairly derided just for being faithful to its source. —Jim Vorel


18. Sleepaway Camp

sleepaway camp poster (Custom).jpg Year: 1983
Director: Robert Hiltzik

Watch on Redbox Free On Demand

Of all the camp-based Friday the 13th rip-offs, Sleepaway Camp is probably the best one that isn’t The Burning. Our main character is Angela, a troubled girl who absolutely everyone picks on for no good reason. Seriously—it’s one of those ’80s era movies with a main character who is an “outsider” constantly harassed by dozens of people, but without any impetus or explanation—it’s just Angela’s lot in life. Everyone who meets her immediately hates her guts and subjects her to cruel taunting. But soon, the people at the camp who were mean to Angela start getting knocked off. The movie seems calculated to come off as a straight horror film, but the death scenes are often so outlandish that it veers pleasurably into horror comedy, as well. Highlights include the lecherous camp cook, who gets a giant vat of boiling water dumped on his face, or the kid who gets a beehive dropped into the outhouse with him. If you love classic slashers, it’s a must-see, especially for the ending. I won’t spoil anything, but Sleepaway Camp can proudly lay claim to one of the most shocking, WTF endings in slasher movie history. —Jim Vorel


19. House on Haunted Hill

5-best-movies-stream-house-on-haunted-hill-poster.jpg Year: 1959
Director: William Castle

Watch on Redbox Free On Demand

Every William Castle movie has its own campy charms, but House on Haunted Hill is the guy’s masterpiece. It’s got it all: Vincent Price at his goofiest, a big spooky house, a mystery and a profoundly non-frightening walking skeleton. The gimmick this time around was referred to by Castle as “Emergo,” and it amounted to a plastic skeleton on a pulley system being flown over the audience—not his most creative, but shameless enough that only Castle would stoop so low. To me, this is the quintessential 1950s horror film, even though it comes at the end of the decade. It’s totally tame by today’s standards but has some fun, over-the-top performances, a bit of witty dialog and a large helping of cheese. I can watch this thing over and over without ever getting tired of it. It’s like horror comfort food. The colorized version is even more fun, replacing the static black-and-white original with an unrealistic palette of color-coded characters you will remind you of the cast of Clue. —Jim Vorel


20. In Fabric

in-fabric-poster.jpg Year: 2019
Director: Peter Strickland

Watch on Redbox Free On Demand

Peter Strickland is a cinematic aesthete, an artist who is both beguiled by and displays a mastery over the slightest and most ephemeral elements of production design, visuals, texture and sound in his films. In 2012’s Berberian Sound Studio, he first applied this degree of hyper-attention toward the psychological horror genre, setting his story within the world of film industry foley itself to provoke audience reflection on sound and the nature of reality. In 2019’s In Fabric, meanwhile, he once again returns to core influences that range from Italian giallo to 1970s European erotic thrillers, but suffuses them with a gauzy style that is all his own. His films are sumptuous experiences that stimulate every sense one can use to appreciate cinema. In Fabric is one of those films where the premise could just as easily be applied toward a five-minute horror short as it could a feature film. You can say it in a couple words: “A haunted dress ruins people’s lives.” That sounds like source material easy to envision within the context of a cheesy horror anthology, like something from England’s Amicus Productions in the 1970s, but in Strickland’s hands it becomes the basis for a phantasmagorical descent into a certain, lushly appointed style of madness. In Strickland’s world, you’d end up stark raving mad in a room with padded walls, but they’d feel amazing to the touch. In Fabric deserves far more attention that it received last year.

1linebreakdiamond.png

The 10 Best Free Movies on Tubi

Tubi’s biggest strength is in the documentary and classic categories.

1. Stalag 17

1-best-movies-stream-stalag-17-poster.jpg Year: 1953
Director: Billy Wilder

Watch free on tubi

Tonally, Billy Wilder’s prisoners of war story is a true dramedy, fitting into an odd post-war space when American cinemagoers were apparently content to laugh at the horrors faced by prisoners, even while being reminded of the deadly results of incarceration, which were obviously even more dire for victims of the Holocaust. It’s William Holden who makes the film click and hum, portraying American airman Sefton as a somewhat sleazy but clever profiteer who figures that if he’s going to spend time in a POW camp, he might as well be an enterprising big shot while he’s there, living as comfortably as he can. In comparison with a film like The Great Escape, which would later come along and tell a story ringing with many of the same tropes, albeit without the screwball sense of humor, Stalag 17 is both an escape story and a light mystery, centered around the identity of the German informant who is sabotaging each attempt by the Americans to flee the camp and defy the Germans. With a cast of colorful characters and good-natured humor, Stalag 17 somehow takes a horrific premise and mines it for laughs more successfully than one would have thought possible. —Jim Vorel


2. The Silence of the Lambs

Silence-Lambs-Criterion.jpg Year: 1991
Director: Jonathan Demme
Stars: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine
Rating: R
Runtime: 118 minutes

Watch free on tubi

The camera hugs her face, maybe trying to protect her though she needs no protection, and maybe just trying to see into her, to see what she sees, to understand why seeing what she sees is so important. Not even 30, Jodie Foster looks so much younger, surrounded in The Silence of the Lambs by men who tower over her, staring at her, flummoxed by her, perhaps wanting to protect her too, but more likely, more ironically, intimidated by a world that would allow such a fragile creature to wander the domain of monsters. As Clarice Starling, FBI agent-in-training, Foster is an innocent who’s seen more than any of us could ever imagine, a warrior who seems unsure of her prowess. That Jonathan Demme—a director who came up under the tutelage of Roger Corman, able to adopt then immediately shed genres at whim—corners Starling within the confines of a “Woman in Peril,” only to watch her shrug off every label thrown at her, is a testament to The Silence of the Lambs as feminist, not because it so thoroughly inhabits a female point of view, but because its violence and fear is the stuff of masculine toxicity. Demme’s film is only the second to adapt Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lector novels to the screen, but it’s the first to draw undeniable lines between the way men see Clarice Starling and the way that serial killer Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine) projects his neuroses onto his victims. Demme (and Harris) links seeing to transformation to one’s need to consume, all pursued through a gendered lens, represented by the seemingly omniscient perspective of Hannibal Lector (Anthony Hopkins), a borderline asexual cannibal who literally eats those over whom he holds court. Buffalo Bill is a monster, and so is Lector, but the difference is that Lector does not attempt to possess Clarice Starling, though he sees her, because he is in control of that which he consumes. Buffalo Bill isn’t; as a man he believes that by consuming femininity he can become it, too stupid and too self-absorbed to realize that consumption is deletion, that wanting to protect a woman is only a matter of admitting that the World of Men is a weak and evil failure of the very ideals it strives to preserve. —Dom Sinacola


3. Not Another Teen Movie

not-another-teen.jpg Year: 2001
Director: Joel Gallen
Stars: Chris Evans, Jaime Pressly, Randy Quaid
Rating: R

Watch free on tubi

Chris Evans may have gone on to bigger and better things, but his blisteringly self-effacing performance as a deluded jock in subgenre parody Not Another Teen Movie was an early peak for Captain America. Bolstered by plenty of quotable lines and an expertly sliced cookie-cutter aesthetic from director and Comedy Central staple Joel Gallen, Not Another Teen Movie is a hilarious, barbed response to the wave of convoluted teen sex comedies that ran from the ‘80s to its 2001 release. Basically, this film did to teen rom-coms what Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story did to music biopics: the parody is so good that, after watching it, it’s hard to take earnest entries seriously. Raunchy yet sharp, the movie straddles low and high-brow with plenty of success—with a pissed-off Molly Ringwald capping it all in a perfect cameo.—Jacob Oller


4. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father

dear-zachary-cover.jpg Year: 2008
Director: Kurt Kuenne

Watch free on tubi

Kurt Kuenne was childhood friends with a man named Andrew Bagby, who, in late 2001, was murdered by ex-girlfriend Shirley Turner. Relieved he’d finally put an end to a turbulent relationship, he had no idea Turner was pregnant. So she killed him, then fled to Newfoundland, where she gave birth to Bagby’s son, Zachary. This is how Dear Zachary begins: a visual testament to both Andrew Bagby’s life, as well as the enduring hearts of his parents, who, as Kuenne chronicles, moved to Newfoundland after their son’s murder to begin proceedings to gain custody of Zachary. Kuenne only meant the film to be a gift, a love letter to his friend postmarked to Zachary, to allow the baby to one day get to know his father via the many, many people who loved him most. Told in interviews, photos, phone calls, seemingly every piece of detritus from one man’s life, Kuenne’s eulogy is an achingly sad portrait of someone who, in only 28 years, deeply affected the lives of so many people around him. And then Dear Zachary transforms into something profoundly else. It begins to take on the visual language and tone of an infuriating true-crime account, painstakingly detailing the process by which Bagby’s parents gained custody and then—just as they were beginning to find some semblance of consolation—faced their worst nightmares. The film at times becomes exquisitely painful, but Kuenne has a natural gift for tension and pacing that neither exploits the material nor drags the audience through melodramatic mud. In retrospect, Dear Zachary’s expositional approach may seem a bit cloying, but that’s only because Kuenne is willing to tell a story with all the disconsolate surprise of the tragedy itself. You’re gonna bawl your guts out. —Dom Sinacola


5. House on Haunted Hill

5-best-movies-stream-house-on-haunted-hill-poster.jpg Year: 1959
Director: William Castle

Watch free on tubi

Every William Castle movie has its own campy charms, but House on Haunted Hill is the guy’s masterpiece. It’s got it all: Vincent Price at his goofiest, a big spooky house, a mystery and a profoundly non-frightening walking skeleton. The gimmick this time around was referred to by Castle as “Emergo,” and it amounted to a plastic skeleton on a pulley system being flown over the audience—not his most creative, but shameless enough that only Castle would stoop so low. To me, this is the quintessential 1950s horror film, even though it comes at the end of the decade. It’s totally tame by today’s standards but has some fun, over-the-top performances, a bit of witty dialog and a large helping of cheese. I can watch this thing over and over without ever getting tired of it. It’s like horror comfort food. The colorized version is even more fun, replacing the static black-and-white original with an unrealistic palette of color-coded characters you will remind you of the cast of Clue. —Jim Vorel


6. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

butch-cassidy-sundance-kid-poster.jpg Year: 1969
Director: George Roy Hill
Stars: Paul Newman, Robert Redford
Rating: PG
Runtime: 110 minutes

Watch free on tubi

The top-grossing film of 1969 and four-time Oscar winner was an anachronistic wonder that poked at the stoic bravura of the traditional Western: Consider the broad buddy humor between its pitch-perfect leads, Paul Newman and Robert Redford; the poppy, Burt Bacharach-Hal David-penned score and that theme song, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”; and William Goldman’s wry, self-aware script. From the first sepia-saturated moments of George Roy Hill’s take on the Old West, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid rewrote history, literally: Author Goldman famously wanted to tell the story of the titular outlaws’ flight to South America but didn’t want to do sufficient research for a novel-length treatment. And thus, “Most of what follows is true,” the film winks at its start. Gorgeously shot by Conrad Hall, the film is a deftly balanced mix of reverential genre elegy and sometimes deadpan, sometimes slapstick comedy. At its heart is then box office superstar Newman and comparatively small-potatoes actor Redford, the latter taking over after Steve McQueen backed out, balking over whose name would be billed first in the credits. As the Kid’s girlfriend, Katharine Ross complicates the duo’s relationship and lends nuance to what is essentially a love story. Curiously, Butch and Sundance’s posse, the Hole in the Wall Gang, was known as the Wild Bunch in real life but was changed for the screen to avoid confusion with another Western set for release a few months prior to its own premiere. —Amanda Schurr


7. His Girl Friday

his-girl-friday-poster.jpg Year: 1940
Director: Howard Hawks

Watch free on tubi

Special effects have become so sophisticated that many of us have probably forgotten how much pure amazement you can wreak with a great story and a script that doesn’t let up for one second. This amazing, dizzyingly paced screwball comedy by Howard Hawks stars Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, and takes us back into two of the decade’s hallmark preoccupations: The “remarriage comedy” and the intrigue and obsessiveness of the newspaper world. The minute Russell’s Lindy Johnson stalks into the newspaper office run by her ex-husband Walter Burns (Grant), you know it’s to tell him she’s getting remarried and leaving journalism to raise a family, and you know that’s not how it’s going to end. No high-suspense mystery here. What puts you on the edge of your seat in this film is how you get there. Hilariously acted and expertly filmed, His Girl Friday derives much of its comedic impact from the incredibly clever and lightning-fast banter of the characters. Don’t even think about checking your phone while you’re watching this. In fact, try to blink as little as possible. —Amy Glynn


8. Young Mr. Lincoln

young-lincoln-criterion.jpg Year: 1939
Director: John Ford

Watch free on tubi

John Ford—embodiment of the American ideal; institutional director favorited by hardened cinephiles, casual film lovers and old-school auteurs like Sergei Eisenstein alike—does not cater too obliviously to the iconography of Abraham Lincoln (played by Henry Fonda as if Lincoln could’ve been the most charming union organizer any budding socialist has ever seen). Instead, Ford studies the moral mettle of Lincoln from a functional perspective: How does someone become a beloved member of a community? How does a homey sense of logic carve out the crucible of justice? Which pie was better, the apple or the peach? In Ford’s film, which rides the rails of both biopic and a sort of ur-text for a true crime procedural, Fonda’s Lincoln both occupies each frame and limns it, serving as the literal centerpiece for a courtroom drama while defining how the many personalities of a burgeoning Illinois town come together to decide the proper way forward. An early scene, in which Lincoln decides the fate of a feud between a farmer and a tenant, the two men seeking legal guidance from young lawyer Mr. Lincoln orbiting Lincoln’s desk, cinematographers Bert Glennon and Arthur C. Miller keep the camera anchored to Lincoln’s long legs, which Fonda casually props up often throughout the film, plopping down on desk and chairs and assorted posts. It’s as if the filmmakers know that Lincoln’s presence—physically, but also more than physically—defines the space in which the future President reclines. The crux of every argument, every ethical dispute, revolves around the man’s body. Criterion’s HD transfer transforms these carefully-blocked scenes into a sumptuous depth of field, eking out every inch of every shabby room Lincoln stretches within. It’s breathtaking stuff, even as the film ends with the trepidation towards the kind of larger-than-life people we’re intent on—with the political world as transparently mutable as it is and history as fungible as it is—re-evaluating today. —Dom Sinacola


9. Citizenfour

citizen-four.jpg Year: 2014
Director: Laura Poitras

Watch free on tubi

Few documentaries have cameras rolling as history is being made. But director Laura Poitras found herself in the middle of momentous times while making Citizenfour, which takes us behind the scenes as NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden works with (among others) journalist Glenn Greenwald to expose the organization’s systematic surveillance of everyday Americans. From the worried initial meetings in a Hong Kong hotel room to the later fallout across the globe, Citizenfour has the rush of a thriller, humanizing its subjects so that we see the uncertainty and anxiety coursing through them, along with the guts and indignation.—Tim Grierson


10. Django Unchained

django-unchained-poster.jpg Year: 2013
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson
Rating: R
Runtime: 165 minutes

Watch free on tubi

The best thing about Quentin Tarantino is also the worst thing about Quentin Tarantino—he believes, wholeheartedly, in whatever he’s doing. Most of the time, what he’s doing consists of overly referential homage mashups with dialogue that would give most screenwriters carpal tunnel. The old video store clerk is sublime at saying important things through mediums that don’t usually convey them—Kung Fu films, revenge fantasies and spaghetti Westerns, for starters. He is an artist dressed as a Philistine, splattering the screen with cartoonish violence when what he’s really blowing is our minds. Although Tarantino’s effort here isn’t his best, it is his most ambitious, and for someone capable of so much, that means quite a lot.—Tyler Chase

1linebreakdiamond.png

The 25 Best Free Movies on YouTube

YouTube has a bunch of public domain movies available for free, along with its own catalog of ad-supported films.

1. Steamboat Bill, Jr.

steamboat-bill-jr.jpg Year: 1928
Director: Buster Keaton and Charles Reisner
Stars: Buster Keaton, Ernest Torrence, Marion Byron
Genre: Silent, Action, Comedy
Rating: NR
Runtime: 77 minutes

Watch on YouTube

Steamboat Bill, Jr.’s climactic cyclone sequence—which is at once great action and great comedy—would on its own earn the film a revered place in the canon of great all time silent film. The iconic shot of a house’s facade falling on Keaton is only one of many great moments in the free-flowing, hard-blowing sequence. But Steamboat Bill, Jr. also showcases some of Keaton’s marvelous intimacy as an actor, such as a scene in which his father tries to find him a more manly hat, or during a painfully hilarious attempt to pantomime a jailbreak plan. —Jeremy Mathews


2. Sunrise

sunrise.jpg Year: 1927
Director: F.W. Murnau
Stars: Janet Gaynor, George O’Brien, Margaret Livingston
Genre: Silent, Romance, Thriller
Rating: NR
Runtime: 110 minutes

Watch on YouTube

During the last few years of the 1920s, the excitement was palpable as brilliant filmmakers pushed to unlock the medium’s full potential. Sunrise was born of that ambition, as Fox brought German genius F.W. Murnau to Hollywood, where he and his cameramen used all the resources at their disposal to create some of the most stunning visuals ever put on celluloid. Telling the story of a husband who strays and then tries to redeem himself, Murnau’s camera flies over country fields, gets tangled in the bustle of the city and desperately looms over a lake in a storm, while his actors, George O’Brien and Janet Gaynor, radiate with sincerity. —Jeremy Mathews


3. Fear and Desire

fear-and-desire-poster.jpeg Year: 1953
Director: Stanley Kubrick

Watch on YouTube

A 24-year-old Stanley Kubrick’s feature debut, which he later described as “a bumbling amateur film exercise,” Fear and Desire proves the filmmaker a clear-eyed judge of his own work. That’s not to say there’s nothing to like in the hour-long war film, a meandering and tepid critique of the ahem “police action” in Korea, but that those things to like are immature interests engaged with by a filmmaker still learning the craft. The purple prose of future Pulitzer-winner Howard Sackler fills both dialogue and voiceover with strained metaphors and abstract intellectualizing, and the actors, by and large, respond to the overwritten material by overacting it. Frank Silvera, who would appear in Kubrick’s much better follow-up Killer’s Kiss, finds the most humanity in the quartet of soldiers crash-landed behind enemy lines by going grimier and gruffer than the rest. His no-frills blue collar approach—contrasted against the simpering mania of Paul Mazursky (the Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice filmmaker making his acting debut here) and near comic-strip sincerity of Kenneth Harp—encourage us to read some of the intentional ambiguity of the film’s emotions on his face. And Kubrick’s faces are still at the forefront: A mid-movie freakout between Mazursky’s private and a local woman he’s captured is both the film’s best scene and perhaps the director’s first example of that disconcerting straight-at-the-camera look that—thanks to A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Fear and Desire’s superior foil, Full Metal Jacket, and others—has become known as the Kubrick Stare. Representative of violence and desire and how those two always seem to be neighbors in men, the look is a brief but telling stylistic choice in a scene filled with pet themes and physicalizations of these ideas. Grasping hands and spilled stew create some of the most memorable images, but that the images are what remain most memorable from the movie is itself a kind of indicator. As a film, Fear and Desire doesn’t live up to its experimental ambitions; as a “film exercise,” it’s a showcase for a director who’s got an eye and is quickly developing everything else.—Jacob Oller


4. Our Hospitality

our-hospitality.jpg Year: 1923
Directors: Buster Keaton, Jack Blystone
Stars: Buster Keaton, Natalie Talmadge, Joe Keaton
Genre: Silent, Family, Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 74 minutes

Watch on YouTube

Buster Keaton was never one for grandiose social commentary, but he loved observing absurd human behavior. So he had no trouble making Our Hospitality, about a generations-long family feud that comes head-to-head with a southern hospitality code. That code says that you can’t kill someone when they’re a guest in your house, so when Keaton’s character unknowingly stumbles into his enemy family’s home, he can’t leave. Keaton has a great time attempting escapes, with the inside of the house serving as his safe zone if things go wrong. The funniest moment is the dinner prayer, during which everyone is watching everyone else rather than actually praying. A river chase sequence, including a killer waterfall stunt, brings things to a perfect climax. And I didn’t even mention the first act’s use of Stephenson’s Rocket—the historically accurate, ridiculously puny train that transports our hero from New York City. This film also just entered the public domain on Jan. 1. —Jeremy Mathews


5. Sherlock Jr.

sherlock-jr-poster.jpeg Year: 1924
Director: Buster Keaton

Watch on YouTube

You could make a highlight reel of classic silent comedy moments using only Buster Keaton’s Sherlock, Jr., and no one could justly complain. In the 91 years since Keaton made his love letter to cinema, no one has crafted a better examination of the relationship between the audience and the silver screen. Keaton plays a movie theater projectionist and wannabe detective who dreams he walks into a movie screen and becomes a suave hero—the perfect metaphor for the appeal of the movies. Keaton plays with reality through virtuoso special effects, but also captures genuine stunts in single takes. (He broke his neck in one scene and still finished the take.) He daringly subverts structure—the conflict is resolved halfway through the movie with no help from the hero. He brings visual poetry to slapstick with rhyming gags. The laughs coming from failure in the real world and serendipity in the fantasy movie world, but the mechanics parallel each other. And he strings it all into a romp that never stops moving toward more hilarity.


6. The General

the-general.jpg Year: 1926
Directors: Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckham
Stars: Joseph Keaton, Marion Mack, Glen Cavender
Genre: Silent, Comedy, Romance
Rating: NR
Runtime: 79 minutes

Watch on YouTube

When Yankee spies steal his locomotive and kidnap his girlfriend, a Southern railroad engineer ("The Great Stone Face" Buster Keaton) is forced to pursue his two beloveds across enemy lines. While a few Charlie Chaplin pictures give it a run for its money, The General is arguably the finest silent comedy ever made—if not the finest comedy ever made. At the pinnacle of Buster Keaton’s renowned career, the film didn’t receive critical or box-office success when released, but it has aged tremendously. It’s a spectacle of story, mishmashing romance, adventure, action (chases, fires, explosions) and comedy into a seamless silent masterpiece. —David Roark


7. Safety Last

safety-last-poster.jpg Year: 1923
Directors: Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor
Stars: Harold Lloyd, Mildred Davis, Bill Strother
Genre: Silent, Comedy, Adventure
Runtime: 80 minutes

Watch on YouTube

“I shouldn’t have bothered scoring the last 15 minutes,” Rodney Sauer of the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra told me after accompanying Safety Last at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. He said he and his ensemble couldn’t even hear themselves over the uproarious laughter in the Castro Theatre during Harold Lloyd’s famous building-scaling sequence. The scene, with its famous clock-hanging finale—is such a perfect mix of suspense and comedy that it doesn’t much matter that the rest of the film seems to exist merely as a lead-up to it. This film just entered the public domain recently. —Jeremy Mathews


8. Nosferatu

nosferatu-murnau-poster.jpg Year: 1929
Director: F. W. Murnau
Stars: Max Schreck, Alexander Granach, Gustav von Wangenheim
Genre: Silent, Horror
Runtime: 63 minutes

Watch on YouTube

F.W. Murnau’s sublimely peculiar riff on Dracula has been a fixture of the genre for so long that to justify its place on this list seems like a waste of time. Magnificent in its freakish, dour mood and visual eccentricities, the movie invented much of modern vampire lore as we know it. It’s once-a-year required viewing of the most rewarding kind. —Sean Gandert


9. I Am Not Your Negro

not-your-negro-poster.jpg Year: 2017
Director: Raoul Peck

Watch on YouTube

Raoul Peck focuses on James Baldwin’s unfinished book Remember This House, a work that would have memorialized three of his friends, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Medgar Evers. All three black men were assassinated within five years of each other, and we learn in the film that Baldwin was not just concerned about these losses as terrible blows to the Civil Rights movement, but deeply cared for the wives and children of the men who were murdered. Baldwin’s overwhelming pain is as much the subject of the film as his intellect. And so I Am Not Your Negro is not just a portrait of an artist, but a portrait of mourning—what it looks, sounds and feels like to lose friends, and to do so with the whole world watching (and with so much of America refusing to understand how it happened, and why it will keep happening). Peck could have done little else besides give us this feeling, placing us squarely in the presence of Baldwin, and I Am Not Your Negro would have likely still been a success. His decision to steer away from the usual documentary format, where respected minds comment on a subject, creates a sense of intimacy difficult to inspire in films like this. The pleasure of sitting with Baldwin’s words, and his words alone, is exquisite. There’s no interpreter, no one to explain Baldwin but Baldwin—and this is how it should be. —Shannon M. Houston


10. The Navigator

the-navigator.jpg Year: 1924
Directors: Buster Keaton, Donald Crisp
Stars: Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire, Fred Vroom
Genre: Silent, Comedy
Runtime: 63 minutes

Watch on YouTube
The Navigator mines an ocean liner for every gag imaginable. Keaton plays a clueless rich young man who finds himself stranded on a giant, adrift ship with the clueless rich young woman who rejected him serving as his only company. These two spoiled upper-class twerps don’t know how to open canned food, let alone operate a ship, and have to improvise in hilarious ways to get things under control. The scene where the two characters each suspect someone else is on the boat, but can’t find anyone else, plays out in classic Keaton fashion: with perfectly timed wide shots that make it more believable that the two keep missing each other. The best moment may be a spooky night when the characters let the creepiness of the boat get the best of them. —Jeremy Mathews


11. The Scarecrow

the-scarecrow.jpg Year: 1920
Director: Buster Keaton, Eddie Cline
Stars: Buster Keaton, Joe Roberts, Joe Keaton
Genre: Silent, Comedy
Runtime: 21 minutes

Watch on YouTube

There are Buster Keaton two-reelers with more ambitious special effects, more epic stunts and more elaborate chase scenes, but in my experience, none get more laughs than The Scarecrow. The film never stops to catch a breath as it moves from place to place, always setting up and paying off new laughs. The best moments include an ingeniously designed one-room house, an appearance from the great Luke the Dog, and some truly divine knockabout between Keaton, Joe Roberts and Keaton’s father, Joe. —Jeremy Mathews


12. Bernie

bernie.jpg Year: 2011
Director: Richard Linklater
Stars: Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, Shirley MacLaine
Genre: Comedy
Runtime: 104 minutes

Watch on YouTube

Bernie is as much about the town of Carthage, Texas, as it is about its infamous resident Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), the town’s mortician and prime suspect in the murder of one of its most despised citizens, Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine). Unlike Nugent, Bernie is conspicuously loved by all. When he’s not helping direct the high school musical, he’s teaching Sunday school. Like a well-played mystery, Linklater’s excellent, darkly humorous (and true) story is interspersed with tantalizing interviews of the community’s residents. Linklater uses real East Texas folks to play the parts, a device that serves as the perfect balance against the drama that leads up to Bernie’s fatal encounter with the rich bitch of a widow. The comedy is sharp, with some of the film’s best lines coming from those townsfolk. —Tim Basham


13. Blackmail

blackmail.jpg Year: 1929
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: Anny Ondra, John Longden, Donald Calthrop
Genre: Thriller
Runtime: 86 minutes

Watch on YouTube

Alfred Hitchcock’s first sound film was also his last silent, as Blackmail was made in both formats. While the sound version is known for Hitchcock’s experiments with the new technology (most famously a scene that emphasizes the word "knife"), the silent version flows much smoother. And Donald Calthrop’s performance of the blackmailer feels even creepier with just his face and body language doing the job. —Jeremy Mathews


14. Hunt for the Wilderpeople


hunt-for-wilderpeople.jpg Year: 2016
Director: Taika Waititi
Stars: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House, Oscar Kightley, Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne, Rhys Darby
Runtime: 101 minutes

Watch on YouTube

Bella’s (Rima Te Wiata) first encounter with Ricky (Julian Dennison), the new foster child she’s agreed to take on, doesn’t inspire confidence, especially with her clumsy jokes at the expense of his weight. In turn, with child-services representative Paula (Rachel House) painting Ricky as an unruly wild child, one dreads the prospect of seeing the kid walk all over this possibly in-over-her-head mother. But Bella wears him down with kindness. And Ricky ends up less of a tough cookie than he—with his fondness for gangsta rap and all that implies—initially tried to project. An adaptation of Barry Crump’s novel Wild Pork and Watercress, Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople thrives on upending preconceived notions. The director shows sympathy for Ricky’s innocence, which is reflected in the film’s grand-adventure style. Cinematographer Lachlan Milne’s sweeping, colorful panoramas and a chapter-based narrative structure gives Hunt for the Wilderpeople the feel of a storybook fable, but thanks to the warm-hearted dynamic between Ricky and Hec (Sam Neill), even the film’s most whimsical moments carry a sense of real underlying pain: Both of these characters are outsiders ultimately looking for a home to call their own. —Kenji Fujishima


15. The Kid

the-kid.jpg Year: 1921
Director: Charlie Chaplin
Stars: Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Coogan, Edna Purviance
Genre: Silent, Comedy
Runtime: 60 minutes

Watch on YouTube

Charlie Chaplin’s first full-length film and one of his finest achievements, The Kid tells the story of an abandoned child and the life he builds with The Little Tramp. Chaplin went against heavy studio opposition to create a more serious film in contrast to his earlier work. However, The Kid features just as much slapstick humor as his previous shorts, but placed within a broader, more dramatic context. —Wyndham Wyeth


16. Night of the Living Dead

night-of-living-dead.jpg Year: 1968
Director: George A. Romero
Stars: Judith O’Dea, Russell Streiner, Duane Jones
Genre: Horror
Rating: R
Runtime: 90 minutes

Watch on YouTube

It’s not really necessary to delve into how influential George Romero’s first zombie film has been to the genre and horror itself—it’s one of the most important horror movies ever made, and one of the most important independent films as well. The question is more accurately, "how does it hold up today?", and the answer is "okay." Unlike, say Dawn of the Dead (not on Shudder), Night is pretty placid most of the time. The story conventions are classic and the black-and-white cinematography still looks excellent, but some of the performances are downright irritating, particularly that of Judith O’Dea as Barbara. Duane Jones more than makes up for that as the heroic Ben, however, in a story that is very self-sufficient and provincial—just one small group of people in a house, with no real thought to the wider world. It’s a horror film that is a MUST SEE for every student of the genre, which is easy, considering that the film actually remains in the public domain. But in terms of entertainment value, Romero would perfect the genre in his next few efforts. Also recommended: The 1990 remake of this film by Tom Savini, which is unfairly derided just for being faithful to its source. —Jim Vorel


17. Zodiac

Thumbnail image for zodiac_poster.jpg Year: 2007
Director: David Fincher
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Brian Cox, John Carroll Lynch
Rating: R
Runtime: 157 minutes

Watch on YouTube

I hate to use the word “meandering,” because it sounds like an insult, but David Fincher’s 2007 thriller is meandering in the best possible way—it’s a detective story about a hunt for a serial killer that weaves its way into and out of seemingly hundreds of different milieus, ratcheting up the tension all the while. Jake Gyllenhaal is terrific as Robert Graysmith, an amateur sleuth and the film’s through line, while the story is content to release its clues and theories to him slowly, leaving the viewer, like Graysmith, in ambiguity for long stretches, yet still feeling like a fast-paced burner. It’s not Fincher’s most famous film, but it’s absolutely one of the most underrated thrillers since 2000. There are few scenes in modern cinema more taut than when investigators first question unheralded character actor John Carroll Lynch, portraying prime suspect Arthur Leigh Allen, as his facade slowly begins to erode—or so we think. The film is a testament to the sorrow and frustration of trying to solve an ephemeral mystery that often seems to be just out of your grasp. —Shane Ryan


18. The Last Man on Earth

last-man.jpg Year: 1964
Directors: Ubaldo Ragona, Sidney Salkow
Stars: Vincent Price, Tony Cerevi, Franca Bettoja
Genre: Horror
Runtime: 86 minutes

Watch on YouTube

Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend has proven notoriously difficult to adapt while keeping any of its ideas intact, but compared to the later Omega Man or 2007 version of I Am Legend with Will Smith, this is probably the best overall take on the story. Some have called it Vincent Price’s best film, featuring wonderfully gothic settings in Rome where the last human man on Earth wages a nightly war against the “infected,” who have taken on the characteristics of classical vampires. It doesn’t fully commit to the inversion of protagonist/antagonist of the source material, but it makes the use of Price’s magnetic screen presence and ability to monologue. No one ever watches a Vincent Price movie and thinks “I wish there was less Vincent Price in this,” and The Last Man on Earth delivers a showcase for the actor at the height of his powers. Night of the Living Dead director George Romero has stated that without The Last Man on Earth, the modern zombie would never have been conceived. —Jim Vorel


19. Tortilla Soup

tortilla-soup-poster.jpg Year: 2001
Director: Maria Ripoll
Stars: Jacqueline Obradors, Tamara Mello, Elizabeth Peña, Hector Elizondo, Constance Marie, Ken Marino, Judy Herrera, Nikolai Kinski
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 103 minutes

Watch on YouTube

Many superb romance films double as family dramas. Little Women, About Time and the underappreciated 2001 dramedy Tortilla Soup are prime examples of this fact. In María Ripoll’s Tortilla Soup, a remake of Ang Lee’s Eat Drink Man Woman, Héctor Elizondo (yes from The Princess Diaries) portrays Martin Naranjo, a Mexican-American widower who uses his passion for food to unify his three disparate daughters: The pious Leticia (Elizabeth Peña), careerist Carmen (Jacqueline Obradors) and sprightly Maribel (Tamara Mello). All four members of the family navigate the challenges of their personal neuroses and respective romances while attempting to maintain a semblance of normalcy around their dinner table. Aside from the care the film offers each daughter in her distinct romantic journey—Leticia, a schoolteacher, falls for the baseball coach her students assure her is sending the romantic poems she receives daily—Tortilla Soup’s strength partially lies in the way familial love reinforces the boldness each character has to receive and offer romantic love. Romantic love is not hierarchically positioned as more important than any other kind of love in this film. Rather, Tortilla Soup suggests that the ways people are witnessed, through the love of their chosen family, gives them the courage to demand mightier and more fulfilling love in all aspects of their lives. Watch out for this sisterly scene in which Leticia, Carmen and Maribel perform a playful Spanglish rendition of “Quizas, Quizas, Quizas” after discussing their sexcapades.—Adesola Thomas


20. Sita Sings the Blues

sita-sings-the-blues.jpg Year: 2010
Director: Nina Paley
Stars: Deepti Gupta, Pooja Kumar, Annette Hanshaw
Genre: Family, Animation, Music, Romance
Runtime: 82 minutes

Watch on YouTube

Sita Sings the Blues is a study in cinematic obsession and a triumph of individual achievement for its creator, artist and animator Nina Paley. This is a feature animated film entirely undertaken by one determined woman, featuring four distinctly different styles of animation and storytelling, to wrap together the narrative of her own life with the millennia-old Hindu myth cycle The Ramayana after she noted the similarities between her own story and that of the myth’s heroine, Sita. A meditation on relationships and duty, it’s also set to the 1920s jazz vocals of Annette Henshaw, whose songs essentially become the soundtrack to animated music videos. It’s a beautiful, incredibly imaginative film that is equal parts funny, sobering and jaw-dropping as a technical achievement. It’s one of the most impressive animated features ever made by a single person. —Jim Vorel


21. The Lady Vanishes

lady-vanishes.jpg Year: 1938
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas
Genre: Thriller
Rating: PG
Runtime: 99 minutes

Watch on YouTube

Pretty much predating every trope you’ve ever come to expect out of a genre that gets its name from keeping the audience keyed-up, The Lady Vanishes is both hilariously dated and a by-the-numbers primer on how to make a near-perfect thriller. Far from Hitchcock’s first foray into suspense, the film follows a soon-to-be-married woman, Iris (Margaret Lockwood), who becomes tangled in the mysterious circumstances surrounding the titular lady’s disappearance aboard a packed train. No shot in the film is extraneous, no piece of dialogue pointless—even the ancillary characters, who serve little ostensible part besides lending complexity to Iris’s search for the truth, are crucial to building the tension necessary to making said lady’s vanishing believable. The film is a testament to how, even by 1938, Hitchcock was shaving each of his films down to their most empirical parts, ready to create some of the most vital genre pictures of the 1950s. —Dom Sinacola


22. Detour

detour-criterion.jpg Year: 1945
Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Stars: Tom Neal, Ann Savage, Claudia Drake, Edmund MacDonald
Genre: Drama, Thriller, Mystery & Suspense
Runtime: 68 minutes

Watch on YouTube

A Poverty Row staple with an unknown cast peering into the post-war dark night of the soul, Detour has come to embody the best film noir has to offer—namely, that budget and schedule concerns indirectly enriched the artistic product, paring down a weightier script and even more bloated source novel into a precise, exquisitely sharp bit of storytelling economy. Trapped within the sweaty mind of always-broke jazz pianist Al Roberts (Tom Neal) as he heads West from New York to settle down with his girlfriend (Claudia Drake), a symbol of stable life for Roberts who absconded with his heart to try to “make it” in Hollywood, we’re stuck with only the unlucky guy’s version of events throughout his increasingly desperate trip. After all, his hitchhiking journey seems doomed to fail from the start, but it grows damn near bleak with the accidental cadaver-ing of a gregarious Charles Haskell (Edmund MacDonald) following a whirlwind buddy meet-cute, and then completely hopeless with the introduction of Vera (Ann Savage), an iconic femme fatale who doesn’t have to try hard to ensnare Roberts, by that point so far out of his league he’s got his pants pulled up well past his nipples. As much an efficient encapsulation of its genre as it is a noir drowning entirely within its own hell-bent nightmare, Detour is most impressive for how gracefully Ulmer can get the most out of so little. —Dom Sinacola


23. But I’m a Cheerleader

22-but-im-a-cheerleader-best-youtube.jpg Year: 1999
Director: Jamie Babbit

Watch on YouTube

In our current climate, it feels strange to have a gay conversion therapy camp serve as the backdrop for a love affair between two young women. Especially now that we know the devastating psychological effects that those practices can have on the people sent to be “changed.” But the core message of this late ’90s gem is clear: our LGBT+ brothers and sisters were born this way and they deserve love just as much as we do. Luckily for our heroine Megan (Natasha Lyonne), she finds that love with Graham (Clea DuVall), another kid sent by her parents to be converted to heterosexuality. Their connection and chemistry is immediate, given life by the understated and thoughtful performances by the two leads. —Robert Ham


24. Life Is Beautiful

life-is-beautiful.jpg Year: 1997
Director: Roberto Benigni
Runtime: 116 minutes

Watch on YouTube

Italian writer, director, actor and concentrated ball of exuberance Roberto Benigni brought comedy to a story of a Nazi concentration camp without downplaying the tragedy. We all want to give our children their childhood, and his character’s efforts to do just that make the horror all the more relatable. The film tugs at heartstrings, but Benigni plays them so well, you’ll forgive any hint of emotional manipulation.—Josh Jackson


25. Beyond the Lights

beyond-the-lights-poster.jpg Year: 2014
Directors: Gina Prince-Blythewood

Watch on YouTube

Anyone expecting Gina Prince-Bythewood’s follow-up to Love & Basketball to be another Love & Basketball—with pop stars instead of sport stars—will be pleasantly disappointed. And although the director describes her own film as a love story, anyone expecting a mere romance will, again, be pleasantly disappointed. Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays a talented, rising star who grew up singing Nina Simone, but finds herself getting stripped down (literally), and auto-tuned up to have a career—one in which her mother (played by Minnie Driver) often has the final say. Nate Parker plays a police officer heading towards the political career laid out for him carefully and laboriously by his father (played by Danny Glover). Oh yes, these lovers are star-crossed, but the complexities explored in the journey of their relationship is what makes Beyond the Lights one of the most compelling and audacious movies of the year. Prince-Bythewood has given us a pulsating, exquisitely intense cinematic experience, with a critique of the pop music industry and the political landscape—both of which require its participants to sell themselves to the public, often selling off a bit (or more) of their souls in the process. These are powerful messages for a romantic film, and Prince-Bythewood is the right director to deliver them. She’s been fighting for years to tell the story she wanted, in a film industry where such a feat is incredibly difficult to accomplish for all directors. It’s even more problematic for a black director, looking to make a movie with black characters, all while fighting against the “black film” marginalization. Last year, Gina Prince-Bythewood released an incredible film about love, the music industry, politics and artistry, titled Beyond the Lights. On the surface, it’s a familiar tale of star-crossed lovers (played by formidable talents Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker), but on the whole, it’s a complex feature made with care for issues big and small. For the many critics who fell in love with—and championed the film—it was disappointing to see how many people missed out on this great story, which is why many of us made a point to continue shouting from the rooftops about it. —Shannon M. Houston