Stuck on what to stream this month? Unlike other lists, we’re on hand to recommend a variety of films for every mood: from tear-jerkers to trailblazers. Here are our picks for the best films to stream in the UK this month.
The Silver Screen Classic
The Big Combo (1955) dir. Joseph H. Lewis
Nobody really agrees on what exactly ‘film noir’ is, but we can all agree that The Big Combo is one of the few films which ticks almost all of that genre’s boxes (whatever they may be). Upon a 1979 revival, Time Out magazine described the film as “everything you always loved about film noir in one terrific movie”, and it’s not hard to see why. Focussing on Lieutenant Diamond (Cornel Wilde) as he works to bring down a crime syndicate headed by the unbalanced Mr. Brown (Richard Conte), The Big Combo has it all: adventure, excitement, torture, an elusive femme fatale and more. Fitting a noir, the film is draped in shadow by the masterful John Alton who literally wrote the book on cinematography. Whether you’re just dipping your toe into the genre or have a fond passion for all things noir, The Big Combo is sure to be an exhilarating ride.
The Prestige (2006) dir. Christopher Nolan
The Prestige may be better respected now than it was upon its release, but the film still hasn’t gained the respect it fully deserves. A historical thriller set in Victorian London, it focuses on the rivalry between two magicians, played by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale. The two go to increasing lengths to outperform each other with the stakes becoming near fatal not long into the film’s two-hour runtime. Nolan gets a lot of flak for his films being too clever for their own good: his cinema is one of spectacle and showmanship, which not everyone enjoys. The Prestige is no different, but this film stands out as one of Nolan’s best for the way in which the content is perfectly matched to the filmmaking. It’s a great watch—but just make sure you’re watching carefully…
Falling Down (1993) dir. Joel Schumacher
Falling Down is an action comedy which presents itself as an allegory, but for me it simply holds the title of ‘the most insane film I have ever seen’. Michael Douglas plays William Foster, a white-collar worker at the end of his tether. In an opening which is a perfect likeness to that of Federico Fellini’s iconic surrealist drama 8 ½ (1963), William ditches his car in a traffic jam to go ‘home’. What follows is a series of confrontations in which William challenges the symptoms of modernity with an ever-expanding arsenal of handguns, baseball bats and even, at one point, a rocket launcher. The 90s’ answer to The Swimmer, Falling Down is a movie that has to be seen to be believed.
Available to stream on Netflix
The Foreign-Language Gem
The Headless Woman (2008) dir. Lucrecia Martel
Ironically, this month’s foreign-language gem has very little actual dialogue. In this Argentine psychological thriller, María Onetto plays Vero, an upper-class woman who accidentally hits… something whilst driving. Vero doesn’t know what she has hit (a dog? A child? Something else entirely?) and neither do we, but the incident clearly marks a rupture of sorts. Vero keeps quiet about the incident, yet slowly but surely starts to unravel under the weight of her immense guilt. The filmmaking encourages us to be spectators alongside Vero, with long takes and fantastic sound design brilliantly putting us in her shoes (or perhaps even beneath her lavish golden curls). The Headless Woman is one of those films which will quite literally change the way you see the world.
Your Name (2016) dir. Makoto Shinkai
Rom-coms often make the prospect of lost love feel like the end of the world, but in Your Name love becomes entwined with an existential crisis. The film uses the tried and tested motif of a body swap, this time between two high schoolers who have never met (voiced by Ryûnosuke Kamiki and Mone Kamishiraishi), but adds enough of a twist to feel as if the phenomenon has been re-invented. Against their will, the two switch bodies on seemingly random days and use the opportunity to learn and help one another before, unsurprisingly, falling in love. The rest is best left for you to experience, but what follows this predicable tale of boy meets girl (or rather, boy becomes girl), is a profoundly moving film, with a remarkably poignant ending. That is, if you can focus through all the crying you’re about to do.
The Cat Returns (2002) dir. Hiroyuki Morita
Wonderfully, there’s a positive goldmine of Studio Ghibli films available on Netflix right now, and almost any of them could fill this spot. The Cat Returns, however, takes the prize because it’s one of the studio’s silliest films to date. High school student Haru (Chizuru Ikewaki) saves a cat from being run over, and the next evening a parade of cats turns up to reward her. It turns out the cat she saves is Lune, Prince of the Cat Kingdom, but the reward is a bit more complicated than Haru expects, and surreal fantasy hi-jinks ensue. There’s even an Easter egg for Ghibli aficionados, who might recognise dapper detective Baron Humbert von Gikkingen (Yoshihiko Hakamada) from his previous appearance as a statue (don’t ask) in the studio’s grounded drama Whisper of The Heart. The Cat Returns is a ridiculous, no holds barred fantasy adventure with a lot of heart and, at a very trim 85 minutes, is ideal for those who need a cinematic pick-me-up but don’t have a lot of time on their hands.
Available to stream on Netflix
Rocks (2019) dir. Sarah Gavron
A coming-of-age drama set among London’s council estates, Rocks is a shining example of what we’ve been missing out on thanks to the film industry’s chronic lack of diversity. The film evokes Céline Sciamma’s Girlhood—focusing as it does on a low-income group of girls, with the backdrop of a capital city looming over them—but Rocks feels unique in the jovial tone its young actors bring to the narrative. Bukky Bakray recently won the Rising Star Award at this year’s BAFTAs for her role as protagonist Olushola, and rightly so. The cast helped to shape the script through a series of workshops, and the fantastic results are right there on your screen. If you need more convincing, check out the glowing review I gave the film back in September. To summarise it: just don’t miss out on Rocks!
Available to stream on Netflix
Natural Born Killers (1994) dir. Oliver Stone
Based on a screenplay by master of controversy Quentin Tarantino, Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers managed to offend even Tarantino himself (but not for the reasons you might think). Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis play a sexy serial-killing couple, whose rampage is followed and glorified by the country’s news networks. The mass media is essentially the main character of Natural Born Killers, with the film evoking the visual landscape of the 90s. Everything from I Love Lucy to 24-hour news networks are parodied in this bloody collage of entertainment media, which is even thought to have inspired several copycat crimes. 26 years later, there’s still an enthralling venom to this film which, almost three decades ago, wrestled with demons that America is still facing today.
Available to stream on Amazon Prime
Words by Jake Abatan
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