You’re in the mood to stream a movie, one that won’t put you to sleep or waste another two irretrievable hours of your ever so finite life. So what do you do? Like a zombie you call up Netflix and initiate that familiar routine that drives thousands into therapy every day. Yes, it’s true. Surfing for watchable feature movies on Netflix is now the leading cause of clinical depression in the United States.
To be sure, there are a handful of golden needles available on Netflix, and you’ve even sleuthed out a few over the years. But such rarities are buried in the least user-friendly haystack imaginable and are accessible only to the stoutest of heart.
But don’t despair. In the spirit of public service we have engaged our exclusive search algorithm (exhumed from the Roswell UFO crash in 1947) and uncovered ten gems on Netflix in hopes of sparing you a bit of time, misery, and disappointment. We’re guessing you’ve seen some or even most of these, but if you haven’t, or are game to re-watch a classic (always preferable to watching a brand-spanking new clunker), they’re available… At least until the geniuses at Netflix yank them from the catalog for failing to meet their unfathomably low straight-to-video standards.
In alphabetical order (not including the definite article, which these all are):
The African Queen (1952) – Katherine Hepburn finally makes a movie in color and Bogie aces out Brando in “Streetcar” to nab the Oscar for best actor. This marvel, which takes place on a souped-up African steamboat during World War One, defines entertainment and should be on every serious movie fan’s bucket list. John Huston directs.
The Big Short (2015) – Who thought the recent real estate bubble could be so much fun? The film features a stellar ensemble cast, led by Christian Bale, and contains a classic scene in which the delectable Margot Robbie, taking a bubble bath and sipping Champagne, parses the fine points of sub-prime lending. Adam MacKay directed.
The Commitments (1991) – It’s safe to say the VHS tape of this film got more play on our VCR in the early 90s than any other, including Talk Dirty To Me, Part 6. Boy is it fun. And a harbinger of our favorite movie of 2016, Sing Street. If you fancy Joe Cocker, you will LOVE Andrew Strong, who fronts the rag tag Dublin blues band at the heart of gem. Directed by Alan Parker.
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) – Klaatu Barada Nikto. Despite being sixty-six years old this masterpiece holds up and is incredibly relevant to our time. Its initial release put “smart science fiction” on the cinematic map, while scaring the crap out of little baby-boomers. You’ll never forget the three words above. Oh, and PLEASE skip the 2008 Keanu Reeves remake. Directed by Robert Wise.
The Graduate (1967) – Okay, nobody hasn’t seen The Graduate, but it’s time to see it again. It never gets old. Director Mike Nichols considered Robert Redford, Jack Nicholson, and Warren Beatty for the lead role, but brilliantly cast an obscure New York stage actor, Dustin Hoffman, against type. Thanks Mike, and also for the Simon & Garfunkle score.
The Ref (1994) – Despite its title, this early showcase for Keven Spacey and Judy Davis isn’t a sports flick. It’s about a cat burglar, played by Denis Leary, who wishes he’d stayed home on Christmas Eve. This movie put the term “dysfunctional family” into the vernacular and featured the big screen debut of the estimable J.K Simmons. Directed by Ted Demme.
The Third Man (1949) – Most everyone knows the theme music of this film (played on the zither – a musical instrument resembling a loom that you actually see being plucked during the opening credits), but how many remember the great scene of Harry Lime (portrayed by Orson Welles) being pursued through the sewers of Vienna. Based on the novel by Graham Greene and directed by Carol Reed.
The Trip (2010) – Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon play themselves (or fanciful versions thereof) on this oh-so-smart, oh-so-funny road trip, the ostensible objective of which is for Steve to review Britain’s finest restaurants for The Observer. There is no credited screenwriter as the entire, joyful, enterprise is improvised. Not to be missed. Directed by Michael Winterbottom.
The Usual Suspects (1995) – Kevin Spacey again, this time in the performance for which he won his first Academy Award. A second Oscar went to Christopher McQuarrie for a script that is routinely touted in film schools as coming about as close to perfection as is possible by a mortal screenwriter. No matter how many times you’ve seen this film, it’s not enough. A Deja View if there ever was one. Bryan Singer directed.
The Verdict (1982) – Paul Newman’s best movie, and in our book, the finest about redemption (and ambulance chasing) ever to hit a screen, big or small. A stellar supporting cast including James Mason (in one of his last roles), Charlotte Rampling, and Jack Warden. If it hadn’t been for Ghandi, this film would have swept the Oscars. David Mamet wrote the screenplay. The great Sidney Lumet directed.
© 2017 Ron Dulaney