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November 9, 2018

32 Great Movies to Savor on Filmstruck While You Still Have the Chance

Some things are just too good for this world. When news broke that Filmstruck was coming to an end, we were deeply saddened to know that we’ll be saying goodbye to a streaming service that’s introduced to countless gems from bygone eras and different countries. That’s what makes Filmstruck so special.

As film fans, we’re always playing catch up. There’s not enough time in the world to see all of the movies we want to see, but that doesn’t stop us from trying. Filmstruck is a brilliant platform for those seeking to brush up on their film history and global knowledge, as well as those who love spending time savoring great movies plucked from TCM, the Criterion Collection, and the uncharted corners of cinema. From bona fide classics to obscure treats, Filmstruck is like an island full of cinematic treasures.

That said, Filmstruck doesn’t just contain a library full of incredible blasts from the past, groovy independent efforts, and foreign flicks, though. The service has always gone that one step further to make our experience feel special. Whether that’s through their carefully curated collections picked by staff and notable names, or the inclusion of special features to complement many of their movies, there’s more to Filmstruck than finding a movie that looks good and hitting play. At the time of writing, you can check out a collection of animated movies from the early 20th century. No other streaming entity is doing that.

I really hope the petition to save Filmstruck is a success. More importantly, though, if the stars align, I’d encourage everyone to subscribe and spend a few hours every week checking out their fantastic selection. Some of these movies aren’t available anywhere else, and if Filmstruck closes, we could be waiting for years before they get picked up by another streaming service or see a home media release. However, should this really be the end, we still have some time to watch great movies.

With this in mind, some members of the FSR/OPS staff — Rob Hunter, Hans Qu, Brad Gullickson, Emily Kubincanek, Valerie Ettenhofer, Anna Swanson, and myself — formed like Voltron to pick our favorite movies currently streaming on Filmstruck. We’ve left out more great movies than we’ve included, but that’s because their library is stacked. However, you can’t go wrong with any of these masterpieces, either. Hopefully, you fall in love with some of these movies as much as we have should you decide to give any you haven’t seen a chance.

Lady Snowblood (1974)

Lady Snowblood

Most revenge films feature a character seeking vengeance for a wrong committed against someone else, but Toshiya Fujita‘s masterpiece of genre cinema takes that idea a step further. His film’s hero, Yuki (an intense Meiko Kaji), was conceived for the express purpose of revenge. She’s raised by female criminals, trained to be a killer, and set loose into the world. Her justice is as cold as her name—Yuki means “snow”— but far bloodier, and Fujita captures it all with equal parts beauty and pathos. The film’s forty-five years old now, but its mesmerizing effect hasn’t lost an ounce of bite. — Rob Hunter


Hour of the Wolf (1968)

Hour Of The Wolf

Filmstruck has a bunch of Ingmar Bergman movies, and master works like The Seventh Seal, Persona, and The Virgin Spring are among them. That said, I chose the eerie Hour of the Wolf because it’s just as good as those films, but perhaps overlooked in comparison. The terrifying tale takes place on a remote Scandinavian island and follows an artist as he loses his grip on reality and gets involved with a cult. 1968 is considered a monumental year for folk horror movies thanks to Witchfinder General, which is the first film in the genre’s ‘Unholy Trinity’ (followed by Blood On Satan’s Claw and The Wicker Man). Hour of the Wolf deserves a place in that conversation as well. – Kieran Fisher


Phoenix (2014)

Phoenix

Director Christian Petzold’s post-WWII set drama has frequently been compared to Hitchcock’s Vertigo in its chronicle of mistaken identity, lost romance, and doomed relationships. I’d also point to Max Ophüls as a comparison for Petzold’s work as both directors display an impeccable ability to craft stories built on coincidence and chance that, were they not handled with such skill, could be convoluted. In Phoenix, Nina Hoss, a frequent collaborator with Petzold, plays Nelly, a concentration camp survivor who has undergone facial reconstructive surgery and is searching Berlin for her husband, a man who may or may not have given her up to the Nazis. Few films capture longing in the poetic images that Phoenix offers, and fewer still understand the complexities of trauma with the depth that this film does. – Anna Swanson


A Colt Is My Passport (1967)

A Colt Is My Passport

Filmstruck is littered with hidden gems. While having an abundance of bona fide classics to be viewed is delightful, being able to discover obscure flicks from yesteryear is what makes the streaming service so special. A Colt Is My Passport is a Japanese yakuza movie which follows a hit man and his driver as they try to skip town after they assassinate a rival gang leader. That proves to be quite difficult, though, as every criminal in the place is out to get them. The heroes are morally grey, the tension will make your hairs stand up, and the style is slick and cool. As far as crime capers go, this is as good as it gets. – Kieran Fisher


Lon Chaney: Behind the Mask (1995)

Lon Chaney

There are so many exceptional examples of Lon Chaney’s genius on Filmstruck: The Phantom of the Opera, London After Midnight, He Who Gets Slapped, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, etc. Pick any one of them and you’ll discover a treat worth consuming. However, one of the coolest aspects of the streaming platform are the various long form and mini-documentaries that they supply alongside the work itself. Lon Chaney: Behind the Mask is a basic rundown of the life and career of the man with a thousand faces. It is a celebration of the artist and it holds him with the revere he so deserves. Yes, any one of his films will draw out your enthusiasm and respect for the performer, but when assaulted by his numerous works you will be transformed into an obsessive. – Brad Gullickson


The Great Dictator (1940)

The Great Dictator

Let’s be clear: Adolf Hitler was never funny. It’s important to remember the atrocities carried out in his name and never overlook just how downright evil he was. What is funny, though, is Charlie Chaplin’s take on the Fuhrer in this comedy classic. Released at the start of World War II, Chaplin set out to poke fun at the tyrant and fight back against everything he believed in. Chaplin regretted making the movie after learning about the Holocaust, but his savage and hilarious indictment of everything Hitler and his followers believed was still a worthwhile way to oppose fascism. The film’s big speech is pretty special as well. – Kieran Fisher


The Shop Around The Corner (1940)

The Shop Around The Corner

The Shop Around The Corner offers the rom-com set up to beat all rom-com set ups: James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan play warring employees at a gift shop who, against all odds, are also falling in love as anonymous penpals. Director Ernst Lubitsch takes what we now recognize as a familiar trope and turns it into a delightful and witty romance that, with the help of pitch-perfect performances from the two leads, makes the film an absolute must watch. – Anna Swanson


House (1977)

Hausu

This is the most batshit insane movie you’re ever likely to see. On paper, it’s a simple premise about a group of schoolgirls who move into a haunted house owned by a witch. In execution, House is a psychedelic trip that features seizure-inducing special effects, hungry pianos, evil cats, floating heads eating ass, and a bizarre fascination with watermelons. Yet despite the peril the characters find themselves in, they remain positive and cheerful throughout. In fact, House is the happiest horror movie ever made, but it’s also one of the most demented, unhinged and wacky. – Kieran Fisher


The Outrage (1964)

The Outrage

Rashomon is a masterpiece. No question. No argument. But what about Martin Ritt’s Western remake starring Paul Newman as the Mexican Bandit on trial and William Shatner as the preacher disturbed to the core by the murderous events? Yeah, no. It is not a masterpiece.The Outrage is an oddity, and its appearance on Filmstruck highlights what an astonishing service they truly are. Here is the snake eating its own tail. Ritt attempts to understand Kurosawa’s brilliance by reinterpreting his Samurai take on the Western back into the Western, and it is just odd and uncomfortable. But utterly fascinating in that rubbernecking train wreck kinda way. – Brad Gullickson


Le Samourai (1967)

Le Samourai

Jean‑Pierre Melville‘s Lê Samouraï is cooler than a polar bear’s toenails. Combining gangster tales and Japanese lone wolf samurai mythology, the story follows a hit man — clad in a trench coat and fedora — who gets caught between the law and the criminal underworld. Some movies make the life of crime look awesome because the protagonists are so elegant and meticulous in the face of danger, and this is one of them. Without this movie, the careers of Michael Mann, Quentin Tarantino, and Walter Hill could have taken different turns. All of these filmmakers — among so many others — have cited this masterpiece as a premier influence on their own work. – Kieran Fisher


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