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 Hitch-Hiker (1953) dir. Ida Lupino
Sometimes, simple is best. And in the case of Ida Lupino’s 1953 thriller — a taut, tense road movie about a criminal who takes two friends hostage during a trip to Mexico — things don’t get much simpler. What is far less straightforward, however, is Lupino’s ability to create a near-perpetual sense of dread and unrelenting feeling of entrapment despite sweeping, desolate backdrops and a largely predictable narrative path. Widely considered to be the first mainstream film noir to be directed by a woman, the moody, high contrast lighting and overt machismo reflect the genre’s familiar look and feel. But Lupino’s script is deliberately and deceptively ambivalent, painting her characters — namely, William Talman’s villainous Emmett Myers — with just the right amount of grey to betray what initially appears to be a clear moral divide.
Starship Troopers (1997) dir. Paul Verhoeven
A searing satire of colonialism, right-wing militarism and hyper-jingoistic foreign policy? Or a big, stupid blockbuster about alien bugs that eat human brains? The war over Paul Verhoeven’s schlocky sci-fi flick Starship Troopers rages on. When it was released in 1997, just two years after he set audiences’ retinas ablaze with Showgirls, Verhoeven was lambasted. Here was a film that unashamedly flipped the military hero archetype on its head, daring to question the notion of traditional patriotism. A quarter of a century later, it represents science fiction at its most slippery. Full of tedious dialogue and bland performances that shrewdly serve the film’s ideas around conformity, as well as extreme violence and gratuitous nudity that speak rather tellingly of the hypocrisy of contemporary culture, it might just be the Dutch provocateur’s masterpiece.
Lynn + Lucy (2019) dir. Fyzal Boulifa
‘Stars Are Blind’ might have undergone something of an unexpected cultural renaissance earlier this year courtesy of Promising Young Woman, but Paris Hilton’s pulpy pop number was used to much more poignant effect in Fyzal Boulifa’s fiercely impressive debut feature Lynn + Lucy. Featured during a club scene where two working class girls from Essex blissfully dance the night away, the song forebodes the devastating turn their friendship will soon take. Elevated by two electrifying lead performances from Nichola Burley and Roxanne Scrimshaw, not to mention an appearance from Kacey Ainsworth (Eastenders’s Little Mo), Boulifa’s contemporary take on the kitchen sink drama is a gruelling, moving triumph.
Available to stream on BFI Player
The Foreign-Language Gem
Monos (2019) dir. Alejandro Landes
Alejandro Landes’s hypnotic coming-of-age drama hits like a dizzying fever dream. Set in the misty hills and dense jungle of an unnamed country which may or may not be his mother’s native Colombia, Landes’s tale of young guerrillas is a bleak, beautiful descent into the horrors of conflict. Underpinned by Mica Levi’s wonderfully atmospheric score, the path Monos treads towards humanity’s dark heart is littered with several nods to William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and Joseph Conrad’s seminal, if problematic Heart of Darkness. But the film has an identity of its own, not least through its striking, hallucinatory visuals and the androgynous protagonist at its centre.
Paris, Texas (1983) dir. Wim Wenders
What makes a truly great tearjerker? Is it a movie that has you reaching for the tissues from the first minute right up until the last? Or can it also be a singular moment that leaves you in a salty, snotty pool of your own heartbreak? If the latter, then there are few films more affecting than Paris, Texas, Wim Wenders’ beautiful, sweeping art-house road movie from 1984. Starring the late, great Harry Dean Stanton as the enigmatic Travis, for nearly two and a half hours of seamlessly grand and intimate filmmaking, we’re left to ponder why this mysterious figure has inexplicably wandered out of the desert to connect with his estranged family. The answers, coming during a poignant scene at a peep-show club, are suitably devastating.
School of Rock (2003) dir. Richard Linklater
It’s hard to think of a more perfect bit of casting in the last two decades than Jack Black as Dewey Finn, the wannabe rock star turned illicit supply teacher in Richard Linklater’s wild comedy School of Rock. Providing some of the finest comedic muscle flexing this side of Peter Sellers in Dr Strangelove, Black’s performance is joyously off the wall; a one-man band of hilarity and bumbling charisma that’s wonderfully at odds with the young gaggle of straight-faced non-actors — including the late Kevin Clark — opposite him. The film’s poignant message of staying true to who you are has only become more relevant in an age of social media, while the scene in which Finn acts out an entire, Spinal Tap-esque rock sequence on the spot is one for the ages. Stick it on. Stick it to the man.
Night of the Living Dead (1968) dir. George A. Romero
There were zombie films before Night of the Living Dead, but few have endured to quite the same degree as George A. Romero’s seminal horror flick. Like Psycho did for the modern slasher, Night of the Living Dead paved the way for hordes of hungry imitators, each one chomping at the bit for a piece of what Romero was tapping into in 1968. From Cold War paranoia to Vietnam, the film is rife with metaphor. That the action predominantly takes place in a farmhouse in rural Pennsylvania and not some far-off gothic location is telling of its biting social critique. And, despite assertions he never intended to make a film about race, Romero’s decision to cast a Black actor (Duane Jones) in the lead role during a time of fervent Civil Rights activism was as bold as it is inspired. The film’s famously nihilistic ending, meanwhile, remains painfully pertinent.
Only God Forgives (2013) dir. Nicolas Winding Refn
There’s divisive, and then there’s Nicolas Winding Refn. In fact, between Drive, Too Old To Die Young, and The Neon Demon, there seems to be a part of the Danish writer-director that actively wants a significant portion of the audience to despise his work. Never has this been more apparent than at the Cannes press screenings of Only God Forgives in 2013, where the film was met with both fervent booing and a standing ovation. Some found his ultra-violent, Oedipal-tinged neo-western — which stars Ryan Gosling and a virtually unrecognisable Kristin Scott Thomas — an abhorrent, self-indulgent betrayal of taste and storytelling. Others saw it as an astute, neon-drenched masterpiece. Either way, after witnessing an enigmatic law enforcer sing karaoke one moment and viciously torture a mob boss the next, it’ll certainly move you to feel something. And, after all, isn’t that what cinema is all about?
Words by George Nash
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