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
Viva Las Vegas (1964) dir. George Sidney
This month marks 65 years since Elvis Presley’s first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, a TV spot that assured The King’s legacy and status. As much a star of movies as he was of music, there is no better time to get acquainted with one of Presley’s most successful films. Viva Las Vegas was one of the year’s biggest hits upon release, defying a more lukewarm critical reception to go down a storm with US cinemagoers. Lucky Jackson (Presley) is a talented grand prix driver working as a waiter in Vegas to pay for a new engine. He runs into hotel pool instructor Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret), and the pair quickly strike up a musical, toe-tapping rock’n’roll romance. The singing and dancing is worth savouring, but it is the chemistry between the onscreen protagonists that makes Viva Las Vegas such fun to watch even all these decades later.
Available to stream on BBC iPlayer
Practical Magic (1998) dir. Griffin Dunne
Despite a critical panning upon release, this witchy story of female friendship and strength has rightly emerged as a stylish cult classic, complete with moments of malevolent magic and more than a few midnight margaritas. Based on Alice Hoffman’s novel, Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman excel as the loving but contrasting witch sisters Sally and Gillian, who have to face down prejudice in a small-minded town. Asides from having plenty of moments of corny fun, Practical Magic is genuinely touching in the way that it delicately allows love back into Sally’s life. If at times the film feels unsure of itself, it is perhaps more a reflection of the muddled mixture of emotions that follow the two sisters as the story unfolds. Practical Magic is a loving, warm and entertaining reminder that feeling a little mixed up need not curse you for the rest of your life.
Available to stream on Amazon Prime
Eaten By Lions (2018) dir. Jason Wingard
Discussing Eaten By Lions, director Jason Wingard told Outtake Mag that “sometimes a good way to deal with serious topics is via comedy.” Prejudice is a scourge explored with comedic aplomb and heart in this story of brotherly love and family reunions. This simple seaside story knows what it wants to do and does it well, foregrounding issues of trust and acceptance that cuts through pretence to get to the heart of how people are really feeling. With a delightful sense of colour and humour, the film is elevated by some memorable performances (most notably from Jack Carroll and People Just Do Nothing’s Asim Chaudhry). It isn’t perfect, but demonstrates that films exploring difficult topics need not suffocate under the weight of their own grim reality. Comedy’s potential as a means for exploring these topics in an entertaining way is something that Eaten By Lions makes abundantly clear.
Available to stream on BBC iPlayer
The Foreign Language Gem
The Dreamed Path (2016) dir. Angela Schanelec
The acclaimed German auteur Angela Schanelec challenges notions of love and narrative with The Dreamed Path, a film that sarcastically laughs in the face of anything resembling true love. Two separate stories, mirroring and following one from one another, take place thirty years apart. Both stories ultimately speak volumes about futility, change, and recovery in the face of a love fracturing before your eyes. Schanelec’s quietly masterful story shares a disorientating and puzzling state of affairs with the viewer, condensed generously into a fairly brief running time. Focusing far more on individual scenes than the film as a whole, and with an unwavering focus on groups rather than individual characters, The Dreamed Path is as provoking as it is perplexing. Moreover, it is one of those films that leaves you in little doubt that you have watched something incredibly unique and special.
Available to stream on MUBI
Up (2009) dir. Pete Docter & Bob Peterson
The tragic passing of Ed Asner has brought his incredible career back into focus. Although it is hard to pick just one starring moment, it is his role as Carl Fredricksen in Disney Pixar’s Up that won him a new generation of fans. And happily, Up is a film more than worthy of Asner’s talents. The unforgettably heart-wrenching opening montage, cramming all the emotional highs and tragic lows of life into the space of a few minutes, is still as good as any animation has ever got. The rest of the film can’t keep up that standard, but Up is still an uplifting, deeply moving and at times goofball adventure story practically guaranteed to leave you blubbing. With the new TV series Dug Days taking you back into the world of the film, the time is right to refamiliarise yourself with one of the best animations of recent times.
Available to stream on Disney+
The Iron Giant (1999) dir. Brad Bird
Brad Bird’s directorial debut is one of the most beloved animations of the 1990s, and yet thanks at least in part to a sub-par marketing campaign it was a box office bomb. This failure is not, however, what The Iron Giant will be remembered for. A beautiful and moving story, The Iron Giant is a fairytale fit for the cold and harsh realities of the Cold War (or even for the alienating, harsh times of today). Bird’s film subverts expectations of just how affecting, powerful and relevant animated films can be, doing so with a stupendous sense of purpose. A rich moral tale lies underneath the fantasy, pulling off a perfect blend of the fantastical and the sincere when bringing the story to life. It is a level of sophistication that goes above other animations of the time, continuing to set the standard even more than twenty years later.
Available to stream on Netflix
P.S. Burn This Letter Please (2020) dir. Michael Seligman & Jennifer Tiexiera
Shown at the BFI Flare festival early this year, P.S. Burn This Letter Please captures an essential chapter of LGBTQ+ history—one that precedes the Stonewall riots of 1969. An archive of letters written by New York drag queens from the 1950s and 1960s unearths a plethora of incredible, tragic and uplifting stories. The filmmakers catch up with the letter writers decades later, mixing their interviews with photographs and video footage to create a portrait that is as evocative as it is respectful. It is a gripping, phenomenally crafted documentary, one that unsurprisingly features a number of emotional revelations. A provocative and revelatory story of sexuality and creativity, Seligman and Tiexiera explore the need within all of us to thrive and be yourself, no matter what gets in your way. It has moments of unbearable heartbreak, but this is ultimately a film about spellbinding, powerful triumph.
Available to stream on Discovery+
Battle Royale (2000) dir. Kinji Fukasaku
Kinji Fukasaku somehow condensed a 500 page epic novel into a 100 minute film while barely losing any substance or important detail. It is far from the only noteworthy thing about Battle Royale, a notorious and sensational film dripping in violence. A class of high school children in a dystopian future are sent to an island, told to kill one another until there is only one left standing. It has emerged as an utter phenomenon, one of Fukasaku’s greatest successes and a film that has gained a worldwide following. A film of heightened, almost unbearable tension and bloodshed that dives deep into Japanese social psyches, Battle Royale deserves its legendary status as a film that courted controversy to brilliant effect. It remains a textbook lesson on how to make a violent film feel purposeful and significant, blending high school melodrama with a thirst for blood that can never be quenched.
Available to stream on Amazon Prime
- Films To Stream In The UK In August 2021
- Films To Stream In The UK In July 2021
- Films To Stream In The UK In June 2021
- Films To Stream In The UK In May 2021
Words by James Hanton
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