Netflix may get most of the attention, but it’s hardly a one-stop shop for cinephiles who are looking to stream essential classic and contemporary films. Each of the prominent streaming platforms — and there are more of them all the time — caters to its own niche of film obsessives. From chilling horror fare on Shudder, to the boundless wonders of the Criterion Channel, and esoteric (but unmissable) festival hits on the newly launched OVID.tv, IndieWire’s monthly guide will highlight the best of what’s coming to every major streaming site, with an eye towards exclusive titles that may help readers decide which of these services is right for them.
Here’s the best of the best for June 2019.
Amazon Prime isn’t offering its subscribers much in the way of exclusives this month, and — for reasons that aren’t entirely clear — the brunt of the platform’s new additions won’t be available to stream until June 30. Nevertheless, Prime loyalists will get a crack at some of the smaller and more enjoyable titles from last year’s summer movie season (including “The Spy Who Dumped Me” and “Juliet, Naked”), along with a random assortment of other films that run the gamut from “Airplane!” and “Arbitrage” to “Where the Truth Lies” and kung fu curio “Yong zheng ming zhang Shao Lin men” (aka “The Shaolin Invincibles,” though there’s no telling what condition that one will be in when it streams).
When “Elephant” first came out in 2003 — winning the Palme d’Or on its way to doing mediocre business at the box office — some viewers were frustrated by the numb and helpless anti-drama of Gus Van Sant’s mosaic-like approach to a school shooting. Bridging the gap between Columbine and Alan Clarke, Van Sant’s shattered portrait of a bloodbath embraced the banality of mass murder, and entertained the unsubstantiated theories behind them (everything from violent video games to homosexuality) only to underscore how useless they are in the face of such inexplicable horror. Back then, just five years after Columbine and before much of the country realized that our gun laws have turned the education system into a slaughterhouse, “Elephant” might have seemed exploitative and useless. Now, its nauseating uselessness is clearly the point: There’s no way to explain a massacre, but trying to do that is a great way of failing to prevent another one.
Available to stream June 30.
THE CRITERION CHANNEL
Three months into its existence and just starting to really heat up, The Criterion Channel is already so far ahead of its competition that it feels a bit unfair. Adding another 50 excellent films to the streaming world’s best library of classic and contemporary cinema, Criterion’s June slate runs the gamut from urgent documentaries like “The Times of Harvey Milk” (in honor of Pride and the 50th anniversary of Stonewall), to maddeningly relevant narrative works like Agnès Varda’s folksy abortion musical “One Sings, the Other Doesn’t,” and Cristan Mungiu’s very different take on the same subject, “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.” Spotlights this month include an always-welcome overview of Akira Kurosawa, an introduction to Abbas Kiarostami’s essential “Koker Trilogy,” and a trio of early films from “Our Time” director Carlos Reygadas. The embarrassment of riches continues with a deep dive into the films of Alec Guiness, a look at openly gay 1940s Hollywood director Dorothy Arzner, all three of Penelope Spheeris’ “The Decline of Western Civilization” docs, and a whole lot more.
“Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” (2010)
It’s been almost a full decade since Apichatpong Weerasethakul lulled us into stunned submission with “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” but with a new feature finally on the horizon, there’s never been a better time to discover or revisit one of the most beguiling films of the 21st century (four of his films are coming to the Criterion Channel this month, including the sublime “Tropical Malady”). Here’s what IndieWire’s Chris O’Falt had to say about Weerasethakul’s dream-like masterpiece when it clocked in at #15 on our ranked list of the 70 movies that had ever won the Palme d’Or at Cannes (“Parasite” later mater it 71):
Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s films aren’t just enveloping environments, they’re radically empathetic avant garde comfort food: you could do worse than just devoting one of your at-home TV screens devoted to playing his filmography on a loop. Of all Weerasethakul’s work, however, “Uncle Boonmee” may be the one that most feels like a security blanket. The story of an aging man with kidney failure who is revisited by the ghosts of his lost loved ones, the film boasts the best of its maker’s signature touches: sound design so immersive it seems to awaken your senses, depiction of medical treatment, the mixing of hyper-realism and surrealism, a determined effort to stimulate delta and theta wave activity in your brain. Even a throwaway line when he’s talking about his dialysis and says, “This is karma because I killed too many communists… and so many bugs around the farm” can’t diminish your very real affection for him. Life is full of horrors. This is the kind of film that makes life better.
Available to stream June 3.
FILM MOVEMENT PLUS
Film Movement Plus is the streaming complement to Film Movement, which began in 2002 as a mail-order DVD-of-the-month club with a special focus on arthouse and foreign cinema. The company’s online venture is a natural outgrowth of that brand, offering subscribers access to more than 250 recent festival favorites (and a scattering of older treasures) for just $5.99 per month. Perfect for cinephiles whose tastes are a bit off the beaten path, Film Movement Plus’ June lineup kicks off with a celebration of Pride that includes a bevy of contemporary queer cinema classics like Derek Jarman’s “Edward II,” Sean Mathias’ “Bent,” and Sophie Laloy’s “You Will Be Mine.” Come June 7, the platform rolls into Fathers’ Day with some dad-centric delights like Bille August’s “Peele the Conquerer” and Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio’s sublime “Alamar.” Of course, no conversation about modern dad movies is complete without a certain family-focused Japanese auteur…
“After the Storm” (2016)
Made less than two years before Hirokazu Kore-eda won the Palme d’Or for “Shoplifters,” “After the Storm” is a tender and achingly beautiful slice-of-life story that finds the Japanese auteur creeping towards the peak of his powers. Starring the brilliant Abe Hiroshi as a divorced gambling addict/relapsing novelist who’s becoming the same kind of satellite dad as the man who raised him — and co-starring the late Kiki Kirin as his wry battleaxe of a mother — “After the Storm” could very well have been called “Like Father, Like Son” had Kore-eda not already made a film by that title. But where that film was a military-grade tearjerker, this one offers a quieter and more contemplative story about the tempestuousness of being a man.
“Grown ups can’t live on love alone,” the protagonist’s ex-wife sighs in a tender moment that lands with the power of a force 10 gale. And while the people in the director’s films often express their truths in the plainest possible language, detailing their desires and outlining their wounds so that the audience can see them sublimated into every scene, Kore-eda knows that life is less about getting what you want than it is wanting what you get. Watching Abe’s character begin to reconcile the difference between those two notions is a profoundly powerful experience — funny, accessible, and as immense in feeling as it is small in scale.
Available to stream June 28.
Hulu’s big focus this month is the third season of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” so things are a bit slim on the movie side — slim, but not insubstantial. After all, 24/7 access to “Shakespeare in Love” is enough to justify the subscription fee in and of itself! In all seriousness, anyone who still thinks of that lightning in a bottle delight as “the movie that beat ‘Saving Private Ryan’ at the Oscars” owes it to themselves to give it another look. Other notable additions include “Jackass 3” (which is great) and “Vice” (which is not).
An intimate story about a woman staring death in the face and struggling to see its reflection in her own life, “Diane” is as depressing as it sounds. On the other hand, Kent Jones’ jury-winning narrative debut is told with such lucid sadness that it eventually achieves a kind of hallucinatory calm; it’s similar to “Synecdoche, New York” in how it uses the ordinary to reach the transcendental, but much simpler in its approach.
Mary Kay Place delivers the best performance of her career in the title role, a retired widow who now spends most of her time doting on the people in her life and doing what little she can to ease their burden. It sounds like small potatoes, but Jones’s film embraces the disconnect between the modesty of its size and the infinitude of its scale, using the former as a lens through which to better see the latter. It’s a pinhole portrait of life on Earth, and a non-judgmental story about trying to reconcile meaning with meaningless before the well runs dry and it rains again.
Available to stream June 28.
Kanopy continues to be a film lover’s most generous friend, as the streaming service taps into America’s library and university systems in order to provide totally free (no fees, no commercials) access to essential classic and contemporary cinema. Kanopy’s June lineup might look a bit limited when compared to some of the other services’ offerings, but it’s filled with strong films that you won’t find anywhere else on the internet. Also, did we mention that it’s totally free? This month’s truly random lot includes the 1949 John Wayne vehicle “Sands of Iwo Jima,” the 2018 Keira Knightley vehicle “Colette,” and the terrific ’90s twosome of “Election” and “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” (all titles mentioned begin streaming June 4, except for “Colette,” which follows on June 25).
“Infinite Football” (2018)
Romanian director Corneliu Porumboiu (“The Treasure,” “12:08 East of Bucharest”) knows a guy — a bureaucrat named Laurențiu Ginghină — who’s convinced that the most popular sport on planet Earth isn’t being played right. (“The rules of football are wrong,” he states outright.) For starters, Ginghină believes that the pitch should be octagonal, so as to get rid of all those game-deadening right angles. Beyond that, he thinks that each team should be divided into sub-teams, the players restricted to certain parts of the field so that the scrums are smaller and the games are faster. These aren’t the drunken ramblings of a guy who’s had a few too many pints — these are the ideas of a man who’s spent his entire life dreaming of a revolution that has yet to come.
Smirking and mirthful (if not laugh-out-loud funny), Poromboiu’s doc might present itself as a Herzogian portrait of a self-possessed dreamer, but every laugh in “Infinite Football” is followed by a bitter political backwash. Watching Ginghină suffer through the futility of his government job — where he works to expedite his own obsolescence — we hit upon the poignancy of trying to make the world a better place, and how even the slightest effort to create a brighter tomorrow can seem like tilting at windmills.
Available to stream June 4.
MUBI is all over the place this month, as the internet’s most fluid and exciting film streamer collects some recent festival standouts that fell through the cracks (e.g. Isabella Eklöf’s controversial “Holiday”) alongside a duo of early Alfred Hitchcock thrillers (“Blackmail” and “Murder!”), and the newly restored edition of Andrew Bujalski’s formative “mumblecore” classic “Mutual Appreciation.” And while MUBI’s ongoing investigation into auteur cinema continues with both parts of Steven Soderbergh’s “Che,” the platform’s best new title this month unequivocally belongs to an inimitable master of a very different stripe.
“Like Someone in Love” (2012)
The last and most austere narrative feature that Abbas Kiarostami made before his death in the summer of 2016, the spellbinding “Like Someone in Love” is perhaps the purest expression of the master filmmaker’s lifelong fascination in the dialectics between reality and illusion, truth and lies, seeing and believing. A beguiling — but quietly mind-blowing — story of private lives and public spaces, this heady but sensual late-career treasure finds Kiarostami touching down in Tokyo in order to tell the story of a teenage sex worker named Akiko (Takanashi Rin) who’s hired to spend the evening with a retired professor (Okuno Tadashi) who Akiko’s fiancée mistakes for her grandfather. While the premise might have the makings of a slapstick comedy, Kiarostami twists it into a gentle look at the mechanics of isolation, and how loneliness can take root in a life that’s full of other people. It’s essential viewing for anyone hoping to shore up their list of the decade’s best films.
Available to stream June 22.
Netflix’s June lineup is all about old comforts and bold counterprogramming. As the summer movie season heats up and even the most casual theater-goers trek to the multiplex, Netflix is serving up one of its most robust slates in recent memory in order to convince people to stay home. With a little help from the likes of Steven Spielberg, Bob Fosse, and Miles Morales, it just might work.
On the blockbuster front, the streaming giant is getting into the spirit of the season by re-upping “The Dark Knight” and — more excitingly — offering the Oscar-minted “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” for the first time. But the real action can be found in less obvious places, as the company is complementing its well-chosen array of newish favorites with a diverse roster of Netflix Originals that includes a searing documentary about the democratic crisis in Brazil, a ruminative bit of sci-fi that delighted audiences at Sundance, and a brand new (and seemingly free-wheeling) Martin Scorsese film about Bob Dylan. We haven’t seen that last one quite yet, but it feels like a safe choice to add to your Watch List all the same.
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018)
Tragic news for anyone who’s sick of superhero movies: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” reinvigorates the genre, reaffirms why it’s resonating with a diverse modern audience that’s desperate to fight the power, and reiterates to us how these hyper-popular spandex myths are able to reinvent themselves on the fly whenever things get stale. An eye-popping and irreverent experience from the marvelous comic minds who brought you “21 Jump Street,” this year’s Oscar-winner for Best Animated Feature is somehow both the nerdiest and most inviting superhero film in a long time, as Miles Morales’ origin story is turned into the kind of delirious postmodern spectacle that reminds us why these movies will exist for as long as people need to see themselves reflected in them. Sometimes, that can feel like a threat. Watching “Into the Spider-Verse,” it’s more like a promise — a promise that Miles delivers with a little help from his friends Gwen, Spider-Man Noir, Penni Parker, and of course Spider-Ham. This is one of the most rewatchable movies in a long time, and now it’s yours to revisit whenever and wherever you want.
Available to stream June 26.
Now in its fourth month and seemingly here to stay, OVID.tv bills itself as “an unprecedented collaborative effort of eight of the most noteworthy independent film distributors in the United States,” and that unique advantage has allowed it to burst out of the gate as a valuable (and inexpensive) way for dedicated cinephiles to track down exciting contemporary films that may have only played on the festival circuit. The service’s June lineup is devoted to the most varied and exciting Pride celebration on any streaming platform, which runs the gamut from Robin Campillo’s “Eastern Boys” to Sharon Shattuck’s touching and candid “From This Day Forward” and the impactful early short films of Cheryl Dunye.
“The Watermelon Woman” (1996)
Cheryl Dunye’s masterpiece ranked high on IndieWire’s recent list of the 100 best films directed by women. Jude Dry marked the occasion with this lucid and well-contextualized celebration:
In 1996, there were only so many images of black women onscreen, not to mention black queer women. Which is exactly why, when Dunye cast herself as a documentarian in her feature debut, this clever meta-theatrical device added another layer to what still would have been a charming micro-budget love story. Set in Philadelphia, the character Cheryl becomes obsessed with learning about a mysterious and beautiful black actress from the 1930s, whom she dubs The Watermelon Woman. In yet another meta-layer, Dunye worked with lesbian artist Zoe Leonard to invent The Watermelon Woman, since she couldn’t find a black actresses from the era. The oh-so-90s-it-hurts aesthetic extends to Cheryl’s plum job as a video store clerk, where she picks up Diana (Guinevere Turner) and takes dating advice from her hilarious butch buddy, Tamara (Valarie Walker). With cameos from Camille Paglia, Toshi Reagon, and Sarah Schulman, the movie is a feminist lesbian wet dream, and a pioneering model of an underrepresented artist making the film she wanted to see in the world.
The world’s best (and only) premium streaming service exclusively for genre fare isn’t messing around this summer, as its June slate complements a bevy of queer horror films (from 1971’s “Vampyros Lesbos” to last year’s “Lizzie”) with a trio of bonafide masterpieces that you’ve either seen a million times already or need to watch as soon as humanly possible: “The Exorcist,” Brian De Palma’s “Phantom of the Paradise,” and Antonia Bird’s wry and delicious “Ravenous.” And while any of those movies would be worth singling out as Shudder’s best new addition, Pride compels us to call special attention to a more recent delight that’s just starting to find its cult.
It’s the summer of 1979 and a serial killer is stalking the gay porn stars of Paris with a switchblade that’s holstered inside a large rubber dildo. It’s gruesome stuff, but the violence inflames the imagination of an atomic blonde super-producer named Anne (Vanessa Paradis), who finds herself increasingly inspired by the sudden rash of death around her, and starts using it as the basis of her meta new masterwork, “Homocidal.” Art imitates life, then life imitates art, and then death comes for them both.
So begins an unclassifiable genre exercise that unfolds like a vintage slasher by way of Kenneth Anger, and proves to be every bit as fascinating and difficult as that sounds. An appropriate follow-up to Yann Gonzalez’s pansexual fantasia of a 2013 debut, “You and the Night” (which melded elements of camp, smut, romance, Anger, and the self-aware stylization of Jean Genet into a chromatic fever that established Gonzalez as a unique new voice in contemporary queer cinema), “Knife+Heart” finds its writer-director growing stronger and more confident. Flecked with some new giallo flourishes and a generous helping of De Palma-like psychological distress, this frenzied second feature travels from reality to fantasy and back again in order to maximize the scopophilic pleasure of sitting in the dark and telling a deviant tale about the voraciousness of love.
Available to stream June 20.
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