In the years since Netflix added a library of streaming titles to its disc rent-by-mail business, that stream has become a gusher and streaming movies and TV shows changed the home video habits of American households. But while there are plenty of classics are readily available to stream via subscription or VOD, from “Birth of a Nation” and “The Rules of the Game” to “Citizen Kane” and “Chinatown,” countless titles come and go. While this is far from a definitive list, these 10 noteworthy films that became available on streaming platforms in 2013 deserve singling out. To browse more, check out Indiewire parent company SnagFilms’ classics section.
“Fantomas: The Complete Saga” (1913-1914)
The adventures of the cinema’s first supervillain in five wicked, delirious surreal short features, “Fantomas” was Louis Feuillade’s first great serial and there was no more creatively energetic, playfully inventive and entertainingly surreal filmmaking of the era. Fandor has the complete five-film sage as well as his later serials “Les Vampires” and “Judex,” but “Fantomas” is the only one of them available to stream in HD.
“Die Nibelungen: Siegfried” (1924) and “Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild’s Revenge” (1924)
Fritz Lang’s pair of early works combine into the original fantasy epic, an astounding silent spectacle based on the German myth that inspired Wagner’s “Ring” cycle. It is magnificent to behold, a mythic landscape of ancient forests, fairy tale waterfalls, lakes of fire, and caves and crevices hewn out of earth and rock, built entirely in the studios of Ufa. They have previously been available on streaming services but the new restoration from the F.W. Murnau Institute trumps all previous editions and this definitive edition of Lang’s silent epic is now available on both Netflix and Fandor.
“Wild Boys of the Road” (1933)
William Wellman’s drama forgoes the saucy suggestions and bad behavior that makes other films of the pre-code era so much fun for a more serious (but not less electric) portrait of depression-era kids who have fled home to find work and end up a homeless army riding the rails around the country. A cinematic blast of anger and outrage and exasperation, its attitude is sprung from the immediacy of the depression. Warner Archive made it one of the initial offerings on its streaming service, which launched earlier this year.
“The October Man” (1947)
Written and produced by Eric Ambler and directed by Roy Ward Baker, “The October Man” is a film noir with British accents. Set in a shadowy nocturnal world of cobblestone streets, lonely alleys, and an atmospheric fog that seeps into the soul of the film, it stars John Mills as an innocent man recovering from head trauma and survivor’s guilt who is accused of murdering a woman from his boarding house. All this and Joan Greenwood too! Unavailable on disc, it can only be found streaming on Netflix.
“Gun Crazy” (1950)
Joseph H. Lewis’ exhilarating B-movie masterpiece explodes onto the screen in a fury of sex and guns and love and violence, burning fast and hot with passion and stylistic ecstasy. At times shot with a documentary realism on location, at others with bravura style and expressionist exaggeration, Lewis creates one riveting set piece after another on a starvation budget. It’s the greatest of the criminal lovers-on-the-run thrillers. Warner Archive offers it up on their streaming service HD quality.
“On Dangerous Ground” (1952)
Nicholas Ray’s film noir is the rare type to venture from the dark city to a snow-bright rural country setting. Angry, tightly-wound cop Robert Ryan meets blind woman Ida Lupino and begins to question the unforgiving certainty in street justice that has made him a black sheep in the department. Crisp cinematography, a haunting Bernard Herrman score, tight performances, and a brilliant sense of mood make this an underrated classic of the genre. At Warner Archive.
“The Steel Helmet” (1951)
The first American film about the Korean War, Sam Fuller’s “The Steel Helmet” remains one of the greatest war films ever made. At the time of its release, it offered a very different kind of war than the good fight of World War II, where no one here really knows what they’re doing here or what they’re fighting for, anticipating the themes that defined the Vietnam War movies 25 years later. Criterion released the film on disc a few years ago and made it available as part of the Criterion Channel on Hulu Plus earlier this year.
“The Housemaid” (1960)
This South Korea drama from Kim Ki-young was remade a few years ago by Im Sang-soo, but the 1960 version was recently restored by Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation. The remake received an American theatrical release and is readily available on disc, but the original – considered one of the masterpieces of Korean cinema – has been all but impossible to see short of importing a disc, and an unrestored one at that. It debuts on DVD this December but this restoration debuted on Hulu over the summer as part of its Criterion collection.
“Fox and His Friends” (1975)
One of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s most affecting, accomplished, and personal films, “Fox and his Friends” is long out of print on DVD (and it was a pretty bad disc anyway) and not on Blu-ray either. Though set in the gay community, this is less about sexual orientation than class, power, and sexual control through flattery, humiliation, and emotional manipulation. Fassbinder himself takes a rare lead. Criterion picked up the rights but, as with a lot of films they are currently preparing for release, they made it available on as part of the Criterion Collection on Hulu Plus.
“Days of Being Wild” (1991)
Wong Kar-wai’s sophomore production, shot by Christopher Doyle, is the first film you could really call a Wong Kar-wai movie. The ravishing colors, the seductive rhythms, and the elusive emotional undercurrent under the impassive faces of the cast are all here in what may be Wong’s first masterpiece. On Fandor.