Lesser-known but good movies on streaming services thread (continually updated):
The Nightingale, 2018, a revenge thriller set in 1800s Tasmania, on Hulu. (It's got more than one rape scene so if that's a dealbreaker for you, just be advised.)
A Most Violent Year, the secret best movie of 2014, a dark look at the American dream featuring Oscar Isaac in double-breasted suits and Jessica Chastain doing this, on Netflix
Eighth Grade, 2018, on Amazon, a painful, joyful, insightful look at a time in a person's life that doesn't capture the pop cultural imagination nearly as much as high school despite being about 10 times as confusing.
Dolemite is My Name, 2019, on Netflix, briefly hailed as Eddie Murphy's best shot as an Oscar (he still should have won), it's the same kind of story as the screenwriters' "Ed Wood," an underdog story about how even if your art is cheesy or underappreciated, it's yours.
Ravenous, 1999, on Shudder, a viciously funny horror-Western that pulls no punches in using cannibalism as a metaphor for Manifest Destiny.
Green Room, 2016, on Netflix, basically Assault on Precinct 13 but with neo-Nazis and punk rockers. DEFINITELY not for either the squeamish or for people who don't want to hear Patrick Stewart say the n-word.
Mississippi Grind, 2015, on Netflix, a gambling drama with an all-time great performance from Ben Mendelsohn, who's never bad.
Night Comes On, 2018, on Amazon, a dark, contemplative road movie with a tremendous lead performance by Dominique Fishback, who should be a way bigger star by now
Pride, 2014, on Amazon, a true story about a London-based gay rights group that traveled to Wales during the mine strikes in the 1980s to show their support
Destroyer, 2018, on Hulu, an unfairly-overlooked high point for the Nicole Kidmanaissance that offers a rare opportunity for a woman character to be the kind of dirtbag noir protagonist the genre runs on.
Colossal, 2016, on Hulu, a movie that uses kaiju as a metaphor for abusive relationships and is somehow neither stupid nor depressing in its execution
Tigers Are Not Afraid, 2017, on Shudder, a modern dark fairy tale that, like much of the genre, is about how cruel the world is to children and their tremendous capacity to overcome it [Spanish-language]
First Reformed, 2017, on Amazon. I know this movie's quality isn't news to a lot of my mutuals but in case I live in a bubble, you absolutely must see this bleak character study about what it means to keep your faith in a world seemingly falling apart.
Wild Rose, 2018, Amazon, a Scottish kitchen-sink drama combined with a "Star is Born" plot and a killer central performance by Jessie Buckley
Whoops sorry, this is actually on Hulu
A Simple Favor, 2018, on Hulu; this has gotten some positive reevaluation since it first went up on Hulu but if you haven't checked it out yet, please do; it feels increasingly relevant amid our suspicions of wealthy suburban parents and reliance on vlogging.
Sorry to Bother You, 2018, on Hulu; another secret best movie of its respective year, and the movie that put Lakeith Stanfield firmly in my "watch anything he's in" column
Support The Girls, 2018, on Amazon; an Oscar-worthy Regina Hall performance and the ideal movie to watch at a time when a lot of people appear to be realizing for the first time just how much we depend on service workers
Barracuda, 2017, Amazon. You know I'll watch Allison Tolman in anything anyway but this is still fantastic, one of those thrillers where the suspense derives predominantly from the sense that something is just... off, in a way you can't put a name to.
Cropsey, 2009, Amazon. I wasn't sure how a "horror documentary" would work either but this is an excellent, chilling examination of a Staten Island bogeyman legend and the forgotten true story behind it.
Locke, 2013, Netflix; basically just Tom Hardy doing a one-man show in a car, but that's perfectly fine with me, with his tour de force performance managing to loop in ruminations on masculinity, fatherhood, love and loyalty.
20th Century Women, 2016, Netflix. A heartfelt semi-autobiographical effort by Mike Mills that rambles a bit, but that's entirely by design and it's part of what it makes it so good.
Lost Girls, 2020, Netflix. Based on the true, as-yet-unresolved true story of a series of disappearances of young women on Long Island, a simultaneously frustrating and inspiring story about what normal women who refuse to let it go can do.
Good Time, 2017, Netflix. If you liked Uncut Gems, check out their previous movie, a tense, grimy caper that fits neatly into the genre @jordan_harper dubbed "shitbag noir"
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, 2017, on Hulu; the true, hard-to-believe story of the man who created Wonder Women and his two wives, who were also in love with each other
Troop Zero, 2020, Amazon; the Bad News Bears with Girl Scouts! Also Viola Davis and Allison Janney and kids performing "Space Oddity," come on, how can you say no
The Act of Killing, 2012, Amazon; In the 60s, the Indonesian government outsourced liquidating suspected communists to local gangsters, who killed up to a million people; decades later, documentarian Joshua Oppenheimer convinced the perpetrators to re-enact it. Chilling stuff.
Devil in a Blue Dress, 1995, Hulu; a top-notch adaptation of Walter Mosley's postwar L.A. noir that should have spawned a franchise, and also showed the world what a young man named Don Cheadle could do
Blow the Man Down, 2020, Amazon; a Coen-esque noir set in a New England fishing village featuring Character Actress Margo Martindale in peak "evil matriarch" mode
Take Shelter, 2011, Shudder; a haunting look at what could be a Cassandra figure or what could be a descent into madness, featuring the most Michael Shannon performance ever
The Messenger, 2009, Amazon; a difficult but essential watch about casualty notification officers, featuring (and none of the following is a typo) an absolutely heartbreaking Steve Buscemi cameo
Blue Ruin, 2013, Netflix; a slow-burn revenge thriller that speaks volumes with silence and facial expressions rather than big, flashy set pieces and gives Macon Blair, one of our most underrated character actors, an opportunity to really shine
The Proposition, 2005, on Amazon; a bloody, beautiful Australian Western written by Nick Cave about an outlaw who faces the choice of the title: to save his developmentally disabled younger brother, he must hunt down their psychotic eldest brother.
Apostle, 2018, on Netflix, a nifty bit of folk horror with shades of the original Wicker Man from the director of The Raid.
Made in Dagenham, 2010, for rent on Amazon; the true story of the UK's Ford women's sewing machinists strike for equal pay in the 60s, featuring a theme song written by Billy Bragg and performed by Sandie Shaw
In The Shadow of the Moon, 2019, Netflix: A time-travel murder mystery (yes, that's right) that, by the end, becomes something deeper and more emotional in a way you'll have to see it for yourself to understand.
The Drop, 2014, for rent on Amazon; [Stefon voice] This movie has everything: James Gandolfini's final performance, Tom Hardy doing his finest '30s-Brooklyn-accent mumble, an adorable puppy even by puppy standards, Catholic angst, this scene.
The Seven-Five, 2014, Netflix; a can't-make-it-up documentary about a police corruption scandal in bad-old-days New York that ended up bringing down dozens of people.
The Wheelman, 2017, Netflix; a tense, gritty, '70s-style minimalist noir caper that proves Frank Grillo should be a bigger star
The Standoff at Sparrow Creek, 2018, Hulu; after a mass shooting targets a police funeral, a militia group assembles to determine which of them is responsible. A claustrophobic, play-like showcase for some of our finest That Guy actors (James Badge Dale! Chris Mulkey!)
Kill the Irishman, 2011, Netflix; the OTHER Netflix gangster movie with "Irishman" in the title, this one the story of Danny Greene, a Cleveland mob boss whose war of attrition against the city's Italian Mafia would eventually lead to its outright extinction.
The Sisters Brothers, 2018, Hulu: Doing this wonderful, quirky, unclassifiable book justice was a tall order but they pulled it off with some of the industry's best weirdos, including Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly, Riz Ahmed and Jake Gyllenhaal
You Were Never Really Here, 2017, Amazon: Speaking of Phoenix, here's the movie featuring him as a haunted, unstable killer that he SHOULD have won an Oscar for, featuring an absolutely unforgettable set piece depicted entirely in security cam footage
Inside Llewyn Davis, 2013, Amazon; an underrated Coen Brothers journey through the '60s folk-music scene with Oscar Isaac's brooding, self-sabotaging singer as our guide and great supporting work by the unlikely combination of Adam Driver, Justin Timberlake and F. Murray Abraham
Crip Camp, 2020, Netflix; you've probably already seen me sing the praises of this Obamas-produced documentary, about how an upstate New York camp for disabled teens radicalized the generation that got Section 504 and the ADA passed, but you absolutely must see it.
Rocket Science, 2007, Hulu; Hal, a New Jersey teen with a terrible stutter, accidentally joins his high school debate team; complications ensue. Could have been really cringey or mean-spirited but it's incredibly heartfelt and empathetic. You'll wish you had it growing up.
Richard III, 1995, Vudu; easily my favorite modernized Shakespeare (well, sort of, since it's modernized into 1930s UK that never existed), with Ian McKellen at the top of his game
The Void, 2016, Shudder; a thrilling Canadian bit of Lovecraft/Carpenter-influenced single-location horror that will make you count your blessings in terms of your own self-isolation.
Tangerine, 2015, Netflix: Sean Baker's funny, melancholy predecessor to his big breakout The Florida Project is shot in the same leave-the-camera-running style (on an iPhone) and follows a trans sex worker looking for her cheating pimp. Technically a Christmas movie!
Sweet Virginia, 2017, Netflix: another tense noir (yeah, I love those, sue me) about a retired rodeo champ whose motel in rural Alaska receives a mysterious, sinister new guest.
The Blackcoat's Daughter, 2015, Netflix: A chilly, both tonally and literally, boarding-school-set demonic-possession horror with a great Kiernan Shipka performance.
Chappaquiddick, 2017, Netflix: An unsparing dramatization of the death of Mary Jo Kopechne and its aftermath, featuring a titanic central performance by Jason Clarke, who nails Ted Kennedy precisely because he's focused more on acting than doing a Mayor Quimby voice
Calvary, 2014, for rent on Amazon: A priest in an Irish coastal village receives a confession from a victim of sexual abuse, who vows to kill him, a "good priest," to force the Church to take notice, in a week. Brendan Gleeson gives the single finest male performance of the 2010s
Miss Sloane, 2016, Amazon: A fun, overlooked political thriller that doesn't always work as a pro-gun control polemic but fires on all cylinders as a showcase for Jessica Chastain to glower and deliver rat-a-tat-tat blood-and-teeth monologues
25th Hour, 2002, for rent on Amazon: One of Spike Lee's best this century and the first major movie set in a deliberately post-9/11 New York, set in a single day as a prison-bound drug dealer settles his affairs with friends and family.
Free Fire, 2017, Amazon: An off-kilter bottle-episode of a movie about an arms deal gone horribly wrong in a Boston warehouse with one of the most charmingly random casts you'll ever encounter (Brie Larson! Armie Hammer! Cillian Murphy! The boyfriend from Midsommar!)
Small Town Crime, 2017, Netflix: Another Coen-esque caper, in a good way, that gives John Hawkes the oddball starring role he deserves and also features a great supporting cast including Octavia Spencer, Anthony Anderson, Clifton Collins Jr. and the late, great Robert Forster
Dumplin', 2018, Netflix: An incredibly cute, uplifting movie with something for anyone who's ever felt too big for society, too big for a small town or overcome with love for Dolly Parton. Made me bawl the first time I saw it because it's the kind of movie Caroline would've made.
Killing Them Softly, 2012, Netflix: A gangster movie about the 2008 financial crisis (you heard right) with some absolutely stupendous dirtbag performances from the likes of Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Ben Mendelsohn and Scoot McNairy
Blindspotting, 2018, Hulu; a tense, sweeping love letter to both Oakland and those lifelong friendships that endure because they involve people who have seen us at our worst.
Hold the Dark, 2018, Netflix: The latest from Jeremy Saulnier, also the man behind Blue Ruin and Green Room, elsewhere on this list, a foreboding tale of the maybe-supernatural set in the Alaskan wilderness with great work by Jeffrey Wright and Alexander Skarsgaard
The Death of Stalin, 2017, Netflix: A pitch-black historical comedy that, in a stroke of genius, cares nothing about accents or physical resemblance, allowing you to focus on the cruel absurdity of it all instead. Also Jason Isaacs as Georgi Zhukov.
Frailty, 2001, Shudder: The late, great Bill Paxton stars in his own directoral debut as a single dad who abruptly announces to his two young sons that he can see demons among us. A slow burn campfire tale that builds up intimate dread all the way to a shocking ending.
*for rent on Amazon
The Princess and the Frog, 2009, Netflix or Disney+; it's borderline tragic that this movie's underperformance scuttled the studio's plans for a return to traditional animation, because it's straight-up wonderful, visually beautiful and with incomparable music (RIP Dr. John)
The Awakening, 2012, Shudder: An old-school Turn of the Screw-esque country-manse ghost story with the added wrinkle of the UK's national trauma after World War 1
The Oath, 2018, Hulu: The kind of restrained, low-tech, darkly-funny political satire they don't really make anymore, Ike Barinholtz's directoral debut depicts a family's first Thanksgiving after the government introduces an "optional" oath of allegiance.
Dead Man, 1995, the Criterion Channel; every bit as surreal and hard to pin down as "Jim Jarmusch revisionist Western" implies, a highlight from an always-interesting filmmaker with particularly great performances from Gary Farmer, Lance Henriksen and Robert Mitchum.
Deidra & Laney Rob A Train, 2017, Netflix: An old-school save-the-farm caper with a 2008 financial crisis sensibility and an incredibly sweet sisterly relationship.
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