50 films to see on FilmStruck UK before it shuts down
Staff Reporter | On 09, Nov 2018
3 weeks today, FilmStruck UK will officially have closed its doors, following a decision by AT&T (owners of Warner Bros. and Turner) to cut the streaming service from its operations. Will it return in another form once its parent company has consolidated its online platforms (which include HBO) into one subscription package? That’s anybody’s guess right now, and even then, that doesn’t give us an idea of what will happen in the UK. But with FilmStruck home to the Criterion Collection online – and with no word yet on where Criterion might next make its streaming home (it’s previously had a deal with MUBI) – FilmStruck’s closure marks the end of easy access to one of VOD’s most impressive and diverse catalogues, particularly when it comes to classics, arthouse films and world cinema. For those, your best bet will soon be BFI Player+ (£4.99 a month) or MUBI (£7.99 a month) – or you can see our guides to the best classic films on Netflix UK, Amazon Prime Video UK and NOW TV.
For now, though, if you have a FilmStruck UK account (new sign-ups are no longer permitted), don’t miss your chance to delve into its catalogue and watch films that you’re unlikely to find on other subscription streaming platforms for at least the near future. Here are our top 50 film recommendations to catch on FilmStruck UK before it shuts down on 29th November:
Read Why the end of FilmStruck matters (and what to do about it) – or sign a petition called “Keep FilmStruck Alive” here.
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
What does a Martin Scorsese rom-com look like? Star-studded, with Ellen Burstyn winning an Oscar as she plays Alice, a widow with an 11-year-old son who decides to head home to begin a singing career.
Secrets and Lies
With Peterloo in cinemas, don’t miss the chance to revisit (or discover) Mike Leigh’s Palme d’Or-winning classic, which stars the inimitable Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Hortense, a successful black woman who traces her parents – and discovers her mother is the white Cynthia (Brenda Blethyn).
This landmark documentary takes us inside the bizarre, strangely beautiful world of Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter, Edie, eccentric cousins to Jackie Kennedy who live in the titular decaying mansion in East Hampton.
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
Catherine Deneuve was launched to stardom by this dazzling musical heart-tugger from Jacques Demy. She plays an umbrella-shop owner’s delicate daughter, glowing with first love for a handsome garage mechanic, played by Nino Castelnuovo. When the boy is shipped off to fight in Algeria, the two lovers must grow up quickly.
Seven Samurai with attitude? Home Alone with swords? Takashi Miike’s violent film is bloody fantastic.
Before Blade Runner 2049 and Arrival, Denis Villeneuve blew minds with his twisting, confusing, scary drama starring Jake Gyllenhaal.
Lift to the Scaffold
Louis Malle’s classic crime film about a wealthy married woman who plans to kill her husband with her lover is accompanied by an impossibly cool score improved by Miles Davis.
One Sings, The Other Doesn’t
Agnès Varda delivers an ode to female friendship in this chronicle of women’s shifting roles in modern society.
This 2009 film sees 15 year old Mia get a little too close to her mum’s boyfriend (Michael Fassbender). Shot in an apartment block with a raw immediacy, it won the Jury Prize at Cannes – announcing Andrea Arnold as one of Britain’s most exciting filmmakers. A free-wheeling, intimate drama that captures the claustrophobia of council flat living, and (like many of Arnold’s films) captures the rolling Essex landscape with the shadow and colour of a Constable painting. Superb.
What We Do in the Shadows
There’s one thing you need to know about Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s horror comedy, which follows a group of vampire flatmates in Wellington: it’s very, very, very funny.
Before The Decalogue and the Three Colors trilogy came Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieślowski’s first metaphysical work, a compelling drama about the difficulty of reconciling political ideals with personal happiness.
Day for Night
Francois Truffaut’s loving and humorous tribute to the communal insanity of making a movie, which inspired future satires of the craft and went on to win the 1973 Oscar for Best Foreign Film.
The Young Girls of Rochefort
Demy’s follow-up to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg explores missed connections and second chances as dance teacher Delphine and music teacher Solange find their longing for big city life come one step closer to reality when a fair comes to their quite port town.
Before Star Wars came another kind of sci-fi altogether, with George Lucas’ debut dystopia, which follows a man (Robert Duvall) in a totalitarian state where people are numbers, not names.
Martin Sheen are Sissy Spacek fantastic in this film about a couple on a murderous crime scene, shot with the beautiful haze of romanticism by Terrence Malick, making his striking debut at the helm.
The Maltese Falcon
Humphrey Bogart is the stuff of cinema legend as Raymond Chandler’s hard-boiled private eye Sam Spade, who finds himself caught up in the hunt for a priceless treasure in this gripping, archetypal film noir.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton are on award-worthy form in Mike Nichols’ classic drama about a bitter couple who unleash verbal war on each other.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
John Cameron Mitchell made an instant modern classic with this film based on the off-Broadway musical, which follows Hedwig, a transgender punk-rocker. As mainstream society becomes more aware and accepting of transgender issues, this feels like the right time to revisit it.
With the new HBO TV series in full swing, don’t miss the chance to go back and revisit the original 1973 sci-fi film, written and directed by Michael Crichton, which sees a theme park staffed by robots go horribly, violently wrong.
Jane Fonda won the Oscar for Best Actress for her dazzling dramatic performance in Alan Pakula’s haunting neo-noir.
Ruben Östlund’s film follows a family whose ski holiday is disrupted by a disaster – only for the husband and father of the gang to reveal his true, dubious character. A superbly thought-out black comedy that dares to touch every nerve.
The wife and the mistress of a sadistic headmaster join forces to plot his murder in this old-school chiller from Henri-George Clouzot.
The Big Sleep
Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall electrified the screen in The Big Sleep, Howard Hawks’ definitive film noir.
Mikey and Nicky
Written and directed by Elaine May from her own family experience, this drama stars John Cassavetes as Nicky, a small-time gangster in trouble for swindling the mob. Recruiting his old friend Mikey (Peter Falk), the pair go on the run.
Juzo Itami’s black comedy pokes irreverent fun at Japanese traditions, in particular strict Buddhist funeral rites, in this poignant comedy.
This insight into life under Islamic militant rule is a perturbing, pertinent piece of cinema.
Take some time out to enjoy one of silent film’s brightest talents, Harold Lloyd, who entertains as a playboy trying to impress the daughter of a politician, and, along the way, concocts one of cinema’s all-time greatest stunts.
Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura struck controversy with this tale of a young woman mysteriously disappearing during a yachting trip around Sicily. Her best friend and indifferent lover begin searching for her, but they soon discover a mutual attraction.
F for Fake
Orson Welles’ playful side comes out in this free-form documentary that knowingly blurs the boundary between truth and illusion, as he charts the story of famous fraudster Elmyr de Hory and never misses a chance to play tricks on the audience too. A reminder of how dizzyingly creative and post-modern the director could be – and, in many ways, the ideal warm-up to (and companion piece for) The Other Side of the Wind.
Andrei Tarkovsky’s stunning genre piece unites science fiction with a sad, spiritual study of grief and reality.
Once you’ve seen Solaris, you have to follow it up with this, Tarkovsky’s final Soviet feature that revisits some of its themes through a parable about a writer and a scientist following the Stalker through a mysterious forbidden wilderness called the ‘Zone’, in search of the ‘Room’, a mystical place of truth.
All the President’s Men
Alan J. Pakula’s gripping thriller is a vital reminder of the importance of a free press – and a historical document that only gets more topical.
The Duke of Burgundy
As moving as it is arousing, The Duke of Burgundy’s melancholic masochism makes for seductively good cinema.
Pawel Pawlikowski’s impressively directed and deeply moving drama about a young novice in a 1960s Polish commune is anchored by a pair of terrific performances
One of the most influential films of all time, Sergei Eisenstein’s seminal Soviet depiction of a mutiny by the crew of the titular vessel is a masterful experimentation of montage that still packs a huge emotional punch.
North by Northwest
One of Hitchcock’s best, this classic innocent-man-on-the-run thriller finds Cary Grant playing an ad man who’s pursued by a spy, after he’s mistaken for a secret agent.
Disillusioned and exhausted after a decade of battling in the Crusades, a knight (Max von Sydow) encounters Death on a desolate beach and challenges him to a fateful game of chess. Much studied, imitated, even parodied, but never outdone, Ingmar Bergman’s masterpiece is a stunning allegory of man’s search for meaning.
With The Little Drummer Girl airing on BBC One, there’s no better time to go back to Park Chan-wook’s vengeance trilogy, with this concluding entry – about a woman who’s spent 13 years in prison for a murder she didn’t commit – arguably the most visually stylish.
Berberian Sound Studio
“I’ve never worked on a horror movie before,” mumbles Toby Jones’ timid sound engineer, who goes to Italy to produce effects for a 1970s horror film. In between the chopping of cabbages and squishing of carrots, the tiny Brit loses himself completely. This is a brilliant demonstration of how sound can warp our fragile little minds, and the best on-screen use of a vegetable since 2002’s Mrs Caldicot’s Cabbage War. Foley crap, it’s awesome.
Little Shop of Horrors
Who can’t identify with the tale of a loser who accidentally purchases a man-eating plant from outer space, which forces him to feed people to it? Hot on the heels of The Muppets Take Manhattan, Frank Oz’s darkly hilarious musical combines superb puppet work and a killer cast – watch out for Steve Martin as a violent dentist and Bill Murray as his patient – with irresistibly snappy songs from Disney legend Alan Menken. It’s hard to believe it’s only a PG, but even harder to believe it got made in the first place. Show-stopping stuff for all the family.
Cool Hand Luke
Paul Newman has rarely been more iconic than in Stuart Rosenberg’s egg-scellent prison drama.
Adventures of Robin Hood
Errol Flynn is the epitome of charisma in this gorgeously old-fashioned adventure that sees him play the swashbuckling hero Robin Hood, fighting against the dastardly Prince John.
John Ford cemented himself as a master of the Western with this deceptively complex epic, which sees a grizzled John Wayne playing a Civil War veteran returning to Texas to find his family killed or kidnapped by Comanches. A relentless search for his sole surviving niece ensues.
The White Ribbon
A baron (Ulrich Tukur), a doctor (Rainer Bock) and a pastor (Burghart Klaussner) rule over a small German village with a stern hand. One day, the doctor falls off his horse after it trips over a wire strung between two trees. More violent pranks follow, seemingly without reason, all directed at the village’s upper class. Michael Haneke’s study of conformity is harsh, provocative viewing.
An artist husband and wife come to terms with their relationship while trying to sell their house in Joanna Hogg’s tale of middle class ennui. It isn’t likely to get the crowds in but top performances from Liam Gillick and Viv Albertine certainly add a beating heart under its icy exterior.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Iron Man 3. Lethal Weapon. Shane Black seriously likes Christmas. His best December-set outing, though, is easily this post-modern film noir, which stars Robert Downey Jr. as a wannabe detective, who untangles a conspiracy worthy of Chinatown in a snow-covered LA. Darkly funny and boasting a stellar turn from Val Kilmer, this is a buddy comedy that will leave you with a festive smile on your face, no matter when you watch it.
Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams
Not a feature film, but a rare, intriguing chance to catch eight short films from the maestro Akira Kurosawa, who depicted his actual dreams on celluloid towards the end of his life.
Russian director Larisa Shepitko’s final film is set in the freezing backwoods of Belarus during the darkest days of World War II, as two Soviet partisans are captured by the Nazis whilst seeking refuge, leading them on a path of betrayal, self-awareness and heroism.
The Music Room
It’s not often you get to see a film by Satyajit Ray. The Music Room depicts the world of a declining aristocrat as he clings to a decadent way of life that is crumbling before his eyes.
One of the great cult classics, The Blob melds ’50s schlock sci-fi and teen delinquency pics even as it transcends these genres with strong performances and ingenious special effects. The result helped launch the careers of super-stud Steve McQueen and composer Burt Bacharach.