In the wonderful world of video streaming, there are a lot of options to choose from. Do you want to keep up-to-date with the latest proprietary series everybody seems to be talking about? Choose Netflix. Do you want to have the best compromise between great TV show and Hollywood blockbusters? Choose Hulu. Are you really only interested in watching anime? Choose CrunchyRoll. But if your specific subset of interests include watching the very best movies from around the world and throughout history, there’s really only one option that won’t leave you disappointed. You choose FilmStruck.
For fans of classic and global cinema, FilmStruck is the first and last stop for all of your streaming needs. It combines the vaults of Turner Classic Movies with the ever-expanding Criterion Collection: providing subscribers with a vast and varied library of content to choose from. And even if you aren’t a fan of stuffy arthouse fare or dialog-heavy treatises, they’ve packed in a surprising array of worldly action movies, such as the ineffable…
10 . Lady Snowblood (1973)
Fans of Quentin Tarantino are doubtless familiar with his Kill Bill duology: a frenetic infusion of Samurai action into the uncomfortable rape-revenge genre of exploitation films. All told, it’s a pretty kickass movie, with brutally excessive gore and violence and a super stylish veneer that only the most jaded of movie-goers can’t help but enjoy. And while many fans are likely to spread the movies’ influences among Tarantino’s usual suspects, he actually lifted the vast majority of the movie’s narratives and visuals from a single source: this movie.
Based on a graphic manga series, Lady Snowblood is a Japanese riff on the sadly familiar rape-revenge genre that combines gorgeous visuals with a truly ludicrous amount of blood. The titular character is the daughter of an unfortunate traveler who is assaulted on the road, watches her husband get killed in front of her and is then raped by the men responsible. When she kills one of her captors in self-defense, she is imprisoned for murder and dies while giving birth to a daughter, Yuki, while still in jail. The daughter trains her entire life to become a renowned assassin, the infamous Lady Snowblood, and take vengeance on the three remaining men who destroyed her parents years before.
9 . High and Low (1963)
Too often, renowned director Akira Kurosawa is thought of as a period action director: interested only in Samurai, Feudal Lords and ancient warfare. While that does encompass the majority of his most celebrated works, he is also an astute filmmaker who not infrequently sets his narratives in then-present day Japan, such as the Hamlet modernization The Bad Sleep Well (1960) and the viscerally affecting Ikiru (1952). Perhaps y favorite of these, however, is this thoroughly modern crime thriller that pulls double duty as an inversion of the relationship dynamics in Shakespeare’s MacBeth (previously played straight in 1957’s Throne of Blood). It’s a complex story about a wealthy man whose child is abducted and held for ransom, as well as the impossible lengths that he and the police are willing to go in order to get him back.
8 . Antichrist (2009)
Like Mother! (2017) and Hereditary (2018), this Lars von Trier horror movie isn’t for every horror fan. It’s suspenseful and cerebral and takes a long while before it becomes everything that it intends to be. It’s the kind of movie where the main characters — a husband and wife duo coming to terms with the untimely death of their infant son — don’t have proper names, and instead are referred to as “He” and “She,” extrapolating into the upper echelons of metaphor and symbolic meaning. If you can get past all that, however, this is one of the most gripping and rewarding horror films in the genre’s spine-tingling history and filled, perhaps, with some of its most gruesome imagery once the ball really starts rolling.
7 . Funny Games (1997)
The work of Austrian director Michael Haneke is, by design, bizarre and inaccessible. He’s a director far more interested in a film’s meta-narrative than its actual text, and is willing to incorporate the former in the latter in defiance of almost everything that a century’s worth of filmmaking has taught us to expect from movies. He could very typically be thought of in the same stretch as post-modern authors like Flann O’Brien and Nicholson Baker. And that is precisely why he is so indispensable to today’s film industry. He takes what would otherwise be a fairy straightforward home invasion narrative, ala The Strangers (2008) or Hush (2016), and inverts the entire proceeding with a series of unexpected, if not outright insane, twists that make us question the very nature of reality itself. English-speaking audiences may be more familiar with the 2007 film than Haneke also directed, but nothing beats the original.
6 . In the Mood for Love (2000)
Whenever the subject of the best movies from the 21st century comes up, there is a narrow list of candidates of what deserves the top spot. There’s David Lynch’s cerebral neo-noir Mulholland Drive (2001), Hayao Miyazaki’s animated fairy tale Spirited Away (2001) and this meditative Hong Kong romance whose every frame acts in complete defiance to the worn-out tropes of Hollywood rom-coms. Like Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, this immaculately composed and gorgeously framed film is far more interested in depicting the realities of relationships as they actually exist in the real world rather than the glossed-up and hopelessly optimistic movies that come to us more as modern-day Harlequin novels.
5 . Peeping Tom (1960)
Although Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) is often labeled the sole progenitor of the modern-day Slasher, it was actually only one half of the true history of that sub-genre. Coming out mere months before its more celebrated competition, Peeping Tom was so reviled in its day for mixing extreme psycho-sexual violence with an otherwise germane mystery that it effective killed director Michael Powell’s career. It provides an interesting companion piece to Hitchcock’s Psycho in that both films explore themes of sexual repression, voyeurism and madness and has been reappraised as one of Britain’s greatest cinematic accomplishments ever. Furthermore, the film is infuriatingly difficult to track down outside of the Criterion Collection, so this marks the best way possible to see this too-often overlooked classic.
4 . Before Sunrise (1995)
I’ve sung writer-director Richard Linklater‘s praises here before, but it warrants stating once more for the record. He is not only one of the most singularly unique talents working in the film industry today (providing a rare American entry into the slice-of-life genre) but perhaps the best writer of any kind still active today. His characters feel realistic and lived-in. Their conversations feel natural and meaningful (the perfect combination of elevated themes and familiar construction). And their relationship, which stretches out over the course of three decades-spanning films, run the full gamut of the emotional range. We too often settle for absolute dreck or unrelated side-stories when it comes to our depictions of romance on film, and this is absolutely the best challenge to that which can be found anywhere.
3 . Ugetsu (1953)
It should come as no surprise to those who have been paying attention that I have a boundless love for Japanese movies, especially those coming from the celebrated Golden Age following the second world war. The caliber of talent they had to work with, the gorgeousness of the countryside that they could film against and the bristling angst leftover from their defeat at the end of the war culminated into a jaw-dropping stretch of unimpeachable filmmaking. One of the three undisputed master-class directors from this era was Kenji Mizoguchi: a visionary filmmaker born of a harsh, working-class background whose lessons he channeled into his riveting, socially conscious films. But of his numerous masterpieces produced across his expansive career, none have outstripped Ugetsu, a spellbinding ghost-story that warns against the evils of seduction and greed.
2 . An Autumn Afternoon (1962)
Of the three masters of the Japanese Golden Age of cinema, Yasujiro Ozu is undoubtedly the most polished. Rather than ghost-stories or Samurai epics, his films focused on the domestic lives of the Japanese people struggling to regain their composure and sense of identity following their disastrous defeat in World War II and subsequent American occupation. So although there aren’t any phantasmal specters or feudal warlords or other exotic conceits that often draw in non-Japanese audiences, his work is rife with arresting drama and fascinating character studies, none more so than his last, and best, film.
1 . Seven Samurai (1954)
I’ve always had a hard time identifying one single film to stand in as my favorite of all time. That’s just not how my mind works, often shifting between any number of dozens of films that speak to me at any given point of time. But if there was one movie that I had to point to as the sole point of orientation for my taste as a movie-goer and film critic, it would have to be Seven Samurai: easily the great Akira Kurosawa’s greatest and most ambitious film in his storied filmography. While the prospect of such a lengthy, black-and-white, foreign-language film is imposing for most would-be cinephiles, its expert blend of compelling drama and thrilling action sequences are just as riveting and accessible as they would have been in any language, pallet or length. It is easily among the greatest spectacles ever committed to screen, easily holding its own with (or outright exceeding) it’s modern day competition from Hollywood blockbusters.
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