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 Film Movement Plus and 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 August 2019.
There are some big new movies coming to Amazon Prime this month (“Mission: Impossible — Fallout” and of course “A Simple Favor,” the biggest movie of them all), but most of these recent Hollywood titles will also be available to stream on Hulu and/or Netflix. The list is a lot smaller if you just look at the platform’s new exclusives, which include Amazon theatrical releases like Ritesh Batra’s sweet but somnambulant “Photograph,” and little else. But Prime loyalists will be rewarded at the end of the month, as one of the best studio blockbusters of the 21st century stomps home just before Labor Day.
It’s still hard to believe that — in the year of our lord 2014, and at the height of the franchise era — Gareth Edwards actually got away with making a massive summer blockbuster that was shot with symphonic grace, that left so much to the imagination, and that unambiguously flattened its (dull) human characters into the background in order to illustrate how their species was beginning to lose its grip over the world. A majestic cinematic experience that couldn’t have been more out of place in such a product-driven Hollywood environment, “Godzilla” was one of the decade’s only studio tentpoles that felt like it was guided by a real artistic ethos. Needless to say, the movie underperformed, and its two sequels (including “Skull Island”) are both hot garbage. But we’ll always have Edwards’ chonky take on the King of Monsters to remember what might have been.
THE CRITERION CHANNEL
Every month, the Criterion Channel’s lineup seems to grow more impressive, and the absurd embarrassment of riches the service is offering up this August continues that trend in dramatic fashion. Where do you even begin? You could start with the 11-film series about immigrant stories, which ranges from Elia Kazan’s “America America” to Aki Kaurismäki’s sublime “Le Havre.” No interest in cringing through Ulrich Seidl’s “Paradise Trilogy”? No problem, just click on over to three delights from golden age romanticist Frank Borzage (“A Farewell to Arms,” “Man’s Castle,” “No Greater Glory”). Looking for something a little more scandalous? Sink in to any of the 12 movies that comprise the Pre-Code Barbara Stanwyck series, which is highlighted by “illicit” treasures like Frank Capra’s “Forbidden” and Archie Mayo’s, um, “Illicit.”
We’ve only just scratched the surface. The Criterion Channel is also serving up three by André Techiné (you can’t miss “Rendez-vous”), five by Athina Rachel Tsangari (“Attenberg”), a slew of British Hitchcock, a tribute to the late Jonas Mekas featuring a video homage by Jem Cohen, and — of course — the Jackie Chan masterpieces “Police Story” and “Police Story 2.” There’s plenty more, but August only has so many days.
“Aguirre, the Wrath of God” (1972)
Oh, right, the Criterion Channel is also adding 16 Werner Herzog films this month, from “Even Dwarfs Started Small” to 1999’s “My Best Fiend.” And while highlighting a single title from this treasure trove is beyond futile, there’s never a bad time to extoll the virtues of “Aguirre, the Wrath of God,” which isn’t only one of the most deliriously visceral movies ever made about madness (and all of its attendant foibles), but also doubles as a perfect gateway drug to the fetid wonders of 1970s German cinema.
Hypnotic from its opening shots of Spanish conquistadors descending into a South American jungle, and fueled by the bug-eyed fever of Klaus Kinski’s immortal lead performance, Herzog’s masterpiece turns a search for El Dorado into a feverish portrait of power and insanity and the power of insanity. You truly haven’t lived until you’ve watched Kinski stand on a sinking raft, clutch a small monkey in his hands, and deliver a deranged monologue about marrying his own daughter in order to take over the world.
Available to stream August 4.
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’ August lineup is fronted by a strong grab bag of topical premieres that have absolutely nothing in common with each other. On August 13, the platform is marking Alfred Hitchcock’s birthday with “Jamaica Inn,” “The 39 Steps,” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much.” Later that week, Film Movement is honoring World Humanitarian Day with Rungano Nyoni’s BAFTA-winning “I Am Not a Witch.” But the brunt of the goods are bundled in a nine-film package timed to the start of the Venice Film Festival, as the service is streaming past Lido hits like Derek Jarman’s “Edward II” and Kitano Takeshi’s explosive “Hana-bi.”
“Full Moon in Paris” (1984)
The fourth film in Éric Rohmer’s “Comedy and Proverbs” cycle, “Full Moon in Paris” is based on a proverb that the filmmaker invented himself: “The one who has two wives loses his soul, the one who has two houses loses his mind.” It certainly sounds true enough. While perhaps not quite as profound a masterpiece as the movies that Rohmer made just before and after it (“Pauline at the Beach” and “The Green Ray,” respectively), this sly and probing slice-of-life story follows a young design intern named Louise who can’t decide if she’s more herself with her boyfriend or on her own.
Played with troubled capriciousness by Pascale Ogier — who died at the age of 25, mere weeks after winning Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival for her performance — Louise is a vintage Rohmer heroine, torn and vibrant and suffering under the weight of everything she’s always wanted. Her funny, eminently human character provides the fluttering heartbeat of this funny, eminently human film.
Available to stream August 23.
Hulu ekes out another victory of Amazon this month, as the platform’s batch of new exclusives include a handful of 2019’s best films (watch out for Olivier Assayas’ “Non-Fiction” and Harmony Korine’s “The Beach Bum”), festival commodities like “AWOL” and “Dogman,” and — the cherry on top — the immortal Johnny Depp vehicle “Mortdecai.” He’s got a funny mustache! But the most vital of all the new movies on Hulu is a subversive documentary that might just inspire you to pledge allegiance to the Dark Lord.
“Hail Satan?” (2019)
Penny Lane’s funny, damning, and provocative documentary about The Satanic Temple (and its leader, Lucien Greaves) explores how a group of atheistic rabble rousers banded together to challenge the role of organized religion in our ostensibly secular country. At a time when evangelical groups are effectively attempting to retcon America into a Christian nation — a time when they’re eager to support godless men like Donald Trump so long as he pledges to advance their otherwise inflexible doctrine — there’s an urgent need for a sociopolitical counter-myth, and “Hail Satan?” finds one taking shape in all sorts of cheeky and volatile ways.
Lane has an unmatched ability to strike the right balance between anger and absurdism. By following along as Greaves and his cohorts expose the hypocrisy of organized religion, her film keys in on the idea that blasphemy can be an invaluable expression of personal indepedence.
Available to stream August 22.
Kanopy hit a bit of a snag earlier this summer, as the (too) popular streaming service — which 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 — was ditched by the massive New York Public Library system. You might not always be the one footing the bill, but nothing in this world is ever really free.
But while New Yorkers are out of luck, and the rest of the country might be streaming on borrowed time, Kanopy is continuing to offer an excellent service to those who have access to it. Its August lineup kicks off with “Monrovia, Indiana,” the latest documentary epic from Frederick Wiseman (the most Kanopy-friendly of all filmmakers). Other notable additions include the controversial Sundance ’18 thriller “Holiday” — which comes with the most explicit of warnings for those triggered by sexual assault — and Michel Hazanavicius’ you-have-to-see-it-before-you-can-hate-it Godard biopic, “Godard Mon Amour.”
It’s ironic that David Fincher’s first digital feature was also his first period piece, the director stepping into the future while looking over his shoulder. On the other hand, he’s always been quick to point out that the format change was motivated less by aesthetics than workflow, and “Zodiac” is nothing if not a movie about workflow — its ebbs and ties, its stagnant waters. An epic portrait of process and obsession, this is the kind of movie that could only be made by someone who likes to shoot 100 takes at a time, and made at a time when they actually could.
Life is what happens when you’re looking for answers, and “Zodiac” makes a meal of that search, following Robert Graysmith’s quest for the eponymous San Francisco serial killer and implicating us a bit more in the manhunt every step of the way. Of course, it helps that each of the unnervingly sedate murder sequences tap right into our deepest fears, and that the late Harris Savides shoots them like blood-spattered postcards, and that John Carroll Lynch delivers what might be — pound for pound — the most impactful supporting performance of the 21st century (“I am not the Zodiac. And if I were, I certainly wouldn’t tell you”).
Arresting, confounding, and endlessly re-watchable (“okay but this is the time I’m gonna figure it out,” you say to no one in particular as the opening credits unspool on TBS), “Zodiac” is the quintessential film about trying to follow the plot in a world that’s made up of loose ends.
Available to stream August 1.
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An elegant and well-stocked streaming service that offers subscribers unlimited access to movies from the Magnolia Pictures library for just $4.99/month, Magnolia Selects offers a library that’s already filled with genre hits like “13 Assassins” and “I Saw the Devil,” essential documentaries like “Man on Wire” and “No End in Sight,” and epochal dramas like “Force Majeure” and “The Double.”
The platform’s August slate is another strong reminder of just how many good movies Magnolia has released during its existence. New additions include Jeremy Saulnier’s hard-to-find “Murder Party,” Olivier Assayas’ ass-kicking “Boarding Gate,” and the surprisingly affecting comedy tour doc, “Conan O’Brien: Can’t Stop.”
It’s hard not to think about the end of the world these days. Of course, the ever-morbid and fatalistic Lars von Trier hasn’t been waiting around for the rest of us to catch up; his apocalyptic 2011 drama “Melancholia” — which IndieWire recently crowned as one of the best films of this decade — got the jump on oblivion, as the impish provocateur tried to make peace with it on his own terms.
The film stars Kirsten Dunst as a newlywed who welcomes the coming doom as a kind of catharsis, her despair growing so powerful and complete that it seems capable of pulling entire planets out of their orbits. “Melancholia” may not make you feel any better about things (no one should turn to von Trier’s work for comfort), but few movies have more powerfully grappled with the weight of depression, and the relief that comes from accepting that it’s real.
Available to stream August 11.
The internet’s most exciting and unpredictable indie and arthouse streamer is back with another strong month, as MUBI’s August lineup runs the gamut from the Romanian New Wave to a couplet from Straub-Huillet and — why not — Steven Soderbergh’s “The Limey.”
In celebration of this year’s Locarno Film Festival, MUBi is streaming four standouts from last year’s edition, including Andrea Bussman’s remarkable “Fausto” and Tarık Aktaş Best Emerging Director-winning “Dead Horse Nebula.” The platform’s ongoing exploration of auteurism continues with close-up looks at the careers of Corneliu Porumboiu (“Police Adjective” and “When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism”), Phillippe Garrel (“Frontier of Dawn” and “A Burning Hot Summer”) and Peter Strickland, whose first two features offer a look inside the seams of his new killer dress comedy, “In Fabric.”
“The Duke of Burgundy” (2014)
One of the only films in recent memory to include a “perfume by” credit in the opening titles, Peter Strickland’s giallo-inflected delight remains the best and most sensual movie ever made about the sadomasochistic relationship between two lesbian entomologists. “The Duke of Burgundy” ranked high on our list of the 100 Best Movies of the 2010s, and here’s what IndieWire’s Jude Dry wrote to mark the occasion:
A sumptuous and visually evocative tribute to ’70s European sexploitation films, Peter Strickland’s erotic drama is as precise in its artistry as its dual heroines are in the humiliating ways they punish each other punishments, as Cythia (Sidse Babbett Knudsen) and Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna) exchange power in ways both lovingly tender and hardcore in their kinkiness. The lighting is supple, the camera charged, the chic and glamorous costuming titillating. Strickland understands the keys to eroticism are imagination and anticipation; most of the naughty business takes place offscreen, every touch adding to the Hitchcockian psychodrama that’s taking place just beneath the layers upon layers of festishistic beauty.
Available to stream August 17.
Leaning into the dog days of summer, when everything is languid and everyone is just waiting for Labor Day, Netflix’s August movie slate is light on excitement and heavy on familiar pleasures — the kind of stuff that you’ve probably seen a million times before, and can only watch while lying down across the entire couch.
Major new additions are few and far between, with the breakout Sundance documentary “American Factory” being the streaming giant’s biggest exclusive release of the month. That essential new film is joined by a hodgepodge of cable standards that ranges from Nancy Meyers’ most beloved rom-com to Quentin Tarantino’s most human story; “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” might borrow a few tricks from the likes of “Inglourious Basterds,” but its tender side harkens all the way back to the touching story of “Jackie Brown.”
“Jackie Brown” (1997)
There are a number of reasons why “Jackie Brown” never seems to get the respect that it deserves (not that QT’s devoted acolytes don’t enjoy the feeling of getting to keep one of his movies for themselves), but one of them is that — even in the wake of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” it’s still the subtlest, most comfortably human thing he’s ever made. There’s also the fact that Elmore Leonard’s hard-boiled source material that keeps this crime saga of bail bondsmen, surfer girls, and low-rent drug dealers from getting too high on its own supply. And that this achingly half-realized love story features the best performances that Pam Grier and Robert Forster have given in their long and illustrious careers.
And, of course, it all builds to the most touching ending that Tarantino has ever written, as the film’s hard-luck heroine — an emotionally grounded flight attendant who gets caught between the cops and robbers — pays a bittersweet farewell to a lifetime of bullshit. If “Jackie Brown” is a blindspot in your Tarantino viewing, now is the perfect time to make things right.
Available to stream August 1.
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. Five months in — and now boasting more than 500 films, the majority of which aren’t available on any other streaming platform — this most esoteric of services is continuing to showcase the virtues of its unique approach.
OVID’s characteristically diverse and obscure August lineup is one of its most robust slates to date. Documentaries are as well-represented as always, with the service adding vital non-fiction work from all over the world (standouts include Petra Costa’s elegiac “Elena,” and Tatiana Huezo’s “The Tiniest Place,” which explores a small El Salvadorian mountain town as it tries to rebuild in the wake of a civil war). And with Ingmar Bergman enjoying a high tide of recognition thanks to “Midsommar,” a Criterion Collection box set, and Mia Hansen-Løve’s forthcoming “Bergman Island,” it’s a great tome to check out “Trespassing Bergman,” in which the likes of Lars von Trier and Martin Scorsese wax poetic about the late master’s legacy.
But the most exciting new titles on OVID might be on the fiction side of the fence, as “Special Treatment” — in which Isabelle Huppert plays a sex worker whose life parallels that of her psychiatrist — finally sees the light of day, and a semi-animated classic reminds us that photorealism has nothing on the grim power of the imagination.
Arguably the best screen adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland” (and certainly the creepiest, Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter notwithstanding), Jan Švankmajer’s debut feature was intended to play like an impure dream, and boy does it ever. As dark as Tim Burton’s version was garish, and as drunk on the dangerous beauty of stop-motion animation as Burton’s was on the plastic weightlessness of CGI animation, this eerie dive into the human unconscious is beautiful and nightmare-inducing all at once. The staccato visuals are plenty deviant, but the scariest thing about Švankmajer’s film might be Alice herself (Kristýna Kohoutová), who doesn’t necessarily learn all of the right lessons from her time with the White Rabbit.
Available to stream August 13.
The world’s best (and only) premium streaming service exclusively for genre fare usually opts for quality over quantity, but its August lineup has the goods and plenty of them. The month kicks off with Brian De Palma’s singular John Lithgow vehicle “Raising Cain” and the entirety of the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” series. When you’re done with those, both “Slumber Party Massacre” films will be waiting to be watched, with Jim Wynorski’s beloved “Chopping Mall” arriving the next week. There’s even a new season of “NOS4A2,” which the internet insists is a real show.
“The Love Witch” (2016)
A spellbinding homage to old pulp paperbacks and the Technicolor melodramas of the 1960s, Anna Biller’s “The Love Witch” is a throwback that’s told with a degree of perverse conviction and studied expertise that would make Quentin Tarantino blush. Shot in velvety 35mm and seen through the lens of a playfully violent female gaze, the film follows a beautiful, narcissistic young sorceress named Elaine (Samantha Robinson, unforgettable in a demented breakthrough performance) as she blows into a coastal Californian town in desperate search of a replacement for her recently murdered husband.
Sex, death, Satanic rituals, God-level costume design, and cinema’s greatest tampon joke ensue, as Biller spins an archly funny — but also hyper-sincere — story about the true price of the patriarchy. There hasn’t been anything quite like it in decades.
Available to stream August 26.