Netflix’s Instant Watch has turned the best rental service around into an absolute necessity for movie lovers. While the selection was quite limited at the beginning they’ve been doing an incredible job of getting thousands of new and classic movies on board, never leaving you without a massive amount of films to enjoy at your leisure.
Today, it got a whole lot better. Criterion is on board with the service, and today has slammed down an absolute ton of classic films. Just look at this massive list below and start watching if you haven’t seen them all. Kurosawa! Von Trier! Fellini! Truffaut! Renoir! Antonioni! Bergman! De Palma!
This is film school at 9 bucks a month, folks. Let’s hope the selection continues to expand like this.
CLEO FROM 5 TO 7 – A woman delves into the inner depths of her soul and resurfaces transformed in this 1962 film by French director Agnes Varda. Young singer Cleo (Corrine Marchand) strolls along the bustling Paris streets, pondering the meaning of life and her own existence as she awaits the results of her cancer biopsy. Cleo’s observations offer a close look at Paris’s rich street life, and desperation turns into hope when Cleo encounters a young soldier.
CLOSELY WATCHED TRAINS – Surrounded by but seemingly removed from the violence of World War II, a naïve railroad apprentice (Václav Neckár) working at a train station in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia carves some excitement out of his humdrum existence by exploring his own sexuality. Jirí Menzel directs this Oscar-winning foreign-film classic based on a novel by Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal, who co-wrote the screenplay with Menzel.
CRIA CUERVOS – Director Carlos Saura’s haunting tale — part psychological drama and part political parable — features a mesmerizing turn by Ana Torrent. After watching her mother (Geraldine Chaplin) succumb to cancer, 9-year-old Ana (Torrent) blames the death on her womanizing father (Héctor Alterio) and tries to poison him. When he dies of a heart attack while in bed with a lover, Ana mistakenly assumes she’s responsible for his demise.
ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS – When the bewitching Florence (Jeanne Moreau) and her lover, Julien (Maurice Ronet), plot to kill Florence’s unsuspecting husband (Jean Wall), they don’t count on a technical glitch — a broken elevator — getting in the way of the perfect murder. Louis Malle directs this haunting French thriller in his feature film debut, an impressive achievement heightened by the film’s memorable improvisational score composed by jazz legend Miles Davis.
EUROPA – When American pacifist Leopold Kessler (Jean-Marc Barr) journeys to post-World War II Germany, he lands a job as a sleeping-car conductor on the nightmarish Europa railway line, where he discovers a group of partisans violently resisting the Allied occupation. Though he steadfastly remains neutral, before long, his lover (Barbara Sukowa) reveals a secret that forces to him make a stand. Lars von Trier directs this surrealistic thriller.
FOR ALL MANKIND – Director-journalist Al Reinert sifted through 6 million feet of film and 80 hours of interviews with astronauts to deliver a dazzling, Oscar-nominated documentary chronicling the American space program and its rush to put a man on the moon. With Brian Eno’s atmospheric score, the film uncovers vibrant, never-before-seen footage of the space race, which ended in 1969 when Apollo 11 fulfilled President John F. Kennedy’s challenge to NASA.
GENERAL IDI AMIN DADA – Director Barbet Schroeder, with the full cooperation of the infamous dictator Idi Amin, delivers a fascinating documentary on the former Ugandan leader. He talks about his outreach to Arab nations, his goal of eradicating Israel, his views on economic policy and his views of other world leaders. We also see him running a cabinet meeting, visiting a village and supervising a war-game simulation of an invasion of Israel.
HIDDEN FORTRESS – Akira Kurosawa directs this spirited period action-adventure in which two conniving peasants (Minoru Chiaki and Makatari Fujiwara) are tasked with smuggling a general (Toshirô Mifune), a princess (Misa Uehara) and the remains of her family’s wealth through mountainous, hostile territory in feudal Japan. Recognized as an influence on director George Lucas’s original Star Wars movie, this humorous epic samurai film has been newly restored.
HIGH AND LOW – Known for his historical epics, director Akira Kurosawa was also a fan of American film noir and detective novels — which explains why he based High and Low (also known as Heaven and Hell) on an Ed McBain story. Toshirô Mifune plays a wealthy corporate boss who must choose between saving his company and paying the ransom for his chauffeur’s kidnapped child. Kurosawa uses his brilliant visual style to reinforce the film’s sociological themes.
I VITELLONI – Federico Fellini directs this tale of a group of young men who are in no hurry to leave their small town. Funded by their families, Fausto (Franco Fabrizi), Leopoldo (Leopoldo Trieste), Alberto (Alberto Sordi), Riccardo (Riccardo Fellini) and Moraldo (Franco Interlenghi) enjoy days of frivolous fun, but not without apprehension. Are they missing out on all that life has to offer? Eventually, one of the men breaks out of his self-imposed routine.
IKIRU – When a stoic government official (Takashi Shimura, with a BAFTA nomination for Best Foreign Actor) in post-war Japan learns he has terminal cancer, he realizes he has squandered his life on meaningless red tape and has no close family or friendships to lean on. He resolves to use his remaining time to usher an insignificant but popular civic project, a children’s playground, through the bureaucracy he knows so well. The acclaimed Akira Kurosawa directs.
JULES AND JIM – Writers Jules (Oskar Werner) and Jim (Henri Serre) are close friends who fall in love with the same woman, the unpredictable Catherine (Jeanne Moreau), amid the turbulence of World War I Paris in one of director François Truffaut’s best-loved films, adapted from the novel by Henri-Pierre Roché. What results is a decades-long love triangle that both tests and strengthens the bond between the two men.
LA BETE HUMAINE – This classic film directed by the legendary Jean Renoir and based on the novel by Emile Zola stars Roubaud as Fernand Ledoux, a train station worker who, enraged that his wife, Severine (Simone Simon), has cuckolded him, forces her to help kill him. Roubaud’s co-worker, Jacques Lantier (Jean Gabin), knows the truth, having witnessed the gruesome events unfold, but all he wants to do is protect Severine because he wants her for himself.
L’AVVENTURA – Italian superstar Monica Vitti intrigues as a rich woman vacationing on a resort island in the Mediterranean who goes on a search for a missing friend, an investigation that evolves into a search for love and the meaning of life. As the breakthrough film for Michelangelo Antonioni — the man who would go on to direct Blow-Up — this art-house classic was discussed and debated by critics the world over in 1960 and won the Jury Prize at Cannes.
LE CORBEAU – The shadowy writer known only as “Le Corbeau” drives a French provincial town — via cryptic and damning letters — into exposing the suspicion and hard feelings hidden beneath the community’s surface. Made during the Nazi occupation of France, director Henri-Georges Clouzot’s film was vilified by the right-wing Vichy regime and other groups. But writers such as Jean Cocteau recognized the powerful subtext to Clouzot’s anti-Gestapo tale.
THE LOWER DEPTHS – Jean Renoir’s acclaimed drama, based on Russian author Maxim Gorky’s play, follows the denizens of a Paris slum as they struggle with their lives and loves. Among the miscreants are the thief Pépel (Jean Gabin), a baron (Louis Jouvet) whose gambling habit has cost him his wealth, a miserly landlord (Vladimir Sokoloff) and his shrill wife (Suzy Prim). Compare Renoir’s somewhat lighthearted version to Akira Kurosawa’s 1957 take on Gorky’s play.
M. HULOT’S HOLIDAY – Jacques Tati followed his acclaimed directorial debut Jour de Fête with this gently satirical comedy that introduced Tati’s alter ego, Monsieur Hulot. When Hulot spends a holiday at a seaside resort, he accidentally (but good-naturedly) wreaks havoc wherever he goes. Falling all over himself to impress a beautiful girl, Hulot inadvertently crashes a funeral, topples a priceless vase and ignites fireworks with his pipe — all to hilarious effect.
MALA NOCHE – Lonely liquor store manager Walt (Tim Streeter) pines for teenage Mexican immigrant Johnny (Doug Cooeyate) in acclaimed director Gus Van Sant’s debut feature film. Though Johnny doesn’t return Walt’s feelings, his very presence affects Walt’s life in profound ways. Based on Walt Curtis’s autobiographical novel, this poignant black-and-white drama co-stars Ray Monge as Johnny’s friend Roberto.
MAN BITES DOG – A satirical look at how the media affects and promotes violence in modern society. Spoofing reality television, a fascinated documentary crew follows a charismatic yet unrepentant serial killer on his murder sprees. The crew attempts to objectively document the horror, but as the violence escalates, they ultimately get sucked into participating. Man Bites Dog won the International Critics’ Prize at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival.
MY LIFE AS A DOG – This Oscar-nominated gem offers an honest depiction of the often-confusing nature of childhood. Shipped off to live with his uncle for the summer, 12-year-old Ingmar finds unexpected adventures with the help of the town’s warmhearted eccentrics. These experiences give him the strength to accept his life and eventually enjoy childhood.
ONIBABA – During the great war-torn upheaval in medieval Japan, a poverty-stricken mother and her daughter-in-law scratch out a desperate existence by murdering lost samurai, disposing of their bodies and selling their belongings for grain. But when a neighbor returns from the war, lust, jealousy and rage threaten to drive a wedge between the mother and daughter-in-law. It isn’t long before the presence of an ominous demon mask seals the trio’s fate.
OVERLORD – Upon hearing that he’s been called up for duty, young Tom Beddoes (Brian Stirner) enters army training and prepares to participate in one of World War II’s biggest battles: the D-Day invasion. Director Stuart Cooper’s thought-provoking drama — a meditation on one man’s minuteness relative to the vastness of global conflict — seamlessly integrates authentic archival footage thanks to the expert skills of cinematographer John Alcott.
PICKPOCKET – Acclaimed French director Robert Bresson helms this stylized black-and-white drama following the trials of a Paris pickpocket named Michel (Martin LaSalle), a thief who grows so successful at his craft that he worries his luck will run out. Despite his own fears — and the persistent pleas from his girlfriend and ailing mother that he take up a more honorable profession — Michel remains chained to his compulsion to steal.
RASHOMON – Considered one of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s masterpieces, this Oscar-winning crime drama unfolds as four witnesses to a rape and murder report their versions of the attack, leaving the viewer to decide what really happened. But the chain of events depicted by the bandit (Toshiro Mifune), the rape victim (Machiko Kyo), the murdered man’s ghost (Masayuki Mori) and the woodcutter (Takashi Shimura) have more differences than similarities.
SANJURO – Akira Kurosawa’s sequel to Yojimbo is a dark comedy about surly Sanjuro (Toshirô Mifune), a larger-than-life samurai who, adrift in an era of fading tradition and increasing lawlessness, instructs a gang of scheming radicals in samurai wisdom. An unlikely hero who loves an action-packed swordfight and is quick with the sarcasm, Sanjuro doesn’t always practice what he preaches, but he always remains true to himself.
SEVEN SAMURAI – Akira Kurosawa’s heroic tale of honor and duty begins with master samurai Kambei (Takashi Shimura) posing as a monk to save a kidnapped child. Impressed by his bravery, a group of farmers begs him to defend their village from encroaching bandits. Kambei agrees and assembles a group of six other samurai, and together they build a militia with the villagers while the bandits loom nearby. Soon the raids begin, culminating in a bloody battle.
THE SEVENTH SEAL – Exhausted and disillusioned, a medieval knight (Max von Sydow) makes the journey home after years of combat in the Crusades. But when the black-robed figure of Death confronts him, the knight challenges him to a game of chess. A powerful meditation on the existence of God and the meaning of life, this drama is considered one of Ingmar Bergman’s best and took the Cannes Film Festival Prize in 1957.
SISTERS – Reporter Grace Collier (Jennifer Salt) sees model Danielle Breton (Margot Kidder) commit murder in the apartment across the way and promptly alerts the police — who find no corpse or other evidence of the crime. Left to her own devices, Grace teams with private eye Joseph Larch (Charles Durning) to crack the case, with the trail leading to Danielle’s once-conjoined twin and a creepy mental asylum in director Brian De Palma’s disturbing shocker.
SUMMERTIME – Dreams of romance for American spinster Jane Hudson (Katharine Hepburn) become a bittersweet reality when she meets a handsome but married antiques dealer (Rossano Brazzi) while vacationing in Venice, Italy. David Lean directed this sensitive portrait of an independent woman who finds that, even in a beautiful European city, her sense of loneliness is unavoidable, and her initial disgust with the idea of an illicit love affair doesn’t last.
THE VANISHING – A young man obsessively searches for his girlfriend for three years after she disappears into thin air at a rest stop while the two are on a driving holiday. His investigation draws the attention of her calculating abductor, an apparently mild-mannered professor and family man. Using flashbacks, we see how the kidnapper carefully plans the woman’s abduction and contacts the boyfriend, promising to reveal to him the woman’s fate.
WALKABOUT – Horrific circumstances strand an urban brother and sister (Lucien John and Jenny Agutter) in the Australian outback, where they’re found by an aboriginal boy (David Gulpilil) who helps the pair return to their city. As they wander, the siblings survive danger with the help of their new friend. The bond between the three grows, but when they reach civilization, the aboriginal boy finds he’s unwelcome.
WILD STRAWBERRIES – This contemplative Ingmar Bergman film explores the disillusionment of aging physician Isak Borg (Victor Sjöström), who begins to reflect on his life while en route to Lund, Sweden, to receive an honorary degree. Along the way, a string of encounters causes him to experience hallucinations that expose his darkest fears, and he realizes that the choices he’s made have rendered a life devoid of meaning. Can he find redemption before it’s too late?
WINGS OF DESIRE – Wim Wenders won the award for Best Director at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival for this captivating vision about an angel (Bruno Ganz) who falls in love with a beautiful circus performer while drifting unnoticed through West Berlin. Overcome by the girl’s beauty, the angel decides he wants to become human. Peter Falk also stars, as himself, and aids the angel in his decision-making process.
YOJIMBO – Masterless samurai Sanjuro Kuwabatake (Toshiro Mifune) finds himself in a feud-torn Japanese village in legendary director Akira Kurosawa’s darkly comic film, which served as the prototype for Clint Eastwood’s A Fistful of Dollars. After pretending to work for merchants on both sides of the feud, Kuwabatake is imprisoned for treachery. And he escapes in time to watch the two warring factions destroy each other, just as he had intended.
Z – Based on true events, director Costa-Gavras’s Oscar-winning film closely parallels the real-life assassination of a Greek doctor and humanist whose 1963 murder led to public scandal and eventual overthrow of the democratic government in Greece. Part mystery and part thriller, the film made its mark as a groundbreaking political roman à clef, and its edge-of-your-seat plot, vérité photography and driving score resonate even today.