"Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world." - Jean-Luc Godard
Best Movies to Stream in October 2020
With October upon us the nights begin to get colder, the leaves start to change color and drop from the trees, and the hordes of white girls break out their Bean boots and head to Starbucks to purchase overpriced pumpkin spice lattes. So what better way to deal with the colder temperatures then by snuggling up on the couch with your loved ones (or, let’s be honest, by yourself) and watching a great film? You’re in luck because there is a buttload of great films arriving on streaming services this month, and I’ve gone through to highlight some of the best and my personal favorites.
Basic Instinct (1992): Paul Verhoeven’s erotic thriller follows detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) as he investigates a brutal murder involving an ice pick and gets caught up with the seductive Sharon Stone. Perhaps most well known for the interrogation scene involving Stone’s character and her lack of undergarments, the film is an exciting mystery that is every bit as sexy as advertised and features some of the hottest sex scenes commited to film, if that’s what you’re into.
Cape Fear (1991): a Martin Scorsese remake of the 1962 film of the same name, the film features Robert De Niro and Nick Nolte in the roles played by Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck in the original, as well as Jessica Lange and Juliette Lewis in her only Oscar-nominated role to date. De Niro plays the terrifying Max Cady, an ex-con fresh out of jail with a vendetta against his old lawyer who he believes held back information that could’ve kept him out of jail 14 years prior. As far as Scorsese remakes go it’s not his best (we’ll talk about what is his best later) but it’s a good crime-thriller with an all-star cast made by an A-list director just a year after Goodfellas. Check it out!
Fargo (1996): Frances McDormand won her first Oscar for this film playing the pregnant police chief who finds herself in the middle of a bungled kidnapping plot. This was the first Coen brothers film to be nominated for Best Picture and the last until No Country For Old Men 11 years later and remains top-tier Coen to this day. The film is full of quirky characters, unforgettable Minnesotan accents, and is maybe the best movie of 1996.
Gran Torino (2008): Clint Eastwood directs and stars in this film about an old Korean War veteran who holds onto his prejudices long after the world around him has moved on. After a neighbouring Hmong boy attempts to steal his prized possession, a 1972 Gran Torino, he sees the incident as a justification for his prejudice toward the family but after spending more time with them begins to have a change of heart.
Her (2013): the film follows Joaquin Phoenix as he plays a lonely writer who seeks romantic companionship with an operating system. While the premise itself sounds pretty bizarre and could surely turn some people off, if you give it a chance you will be surprised by how beautiful and compassionate it really is. Phoenix gives a wonderfully nuanced performance and Scarlett Johansson lends her voice to the operating system with which he falls in love. I know we keep coming back to sex scenes, but who would have thought that sex with a phone could be so cinematically intimate?
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016): before Taika Waititi was directing Marvel movies and Best Picture nominees he was treating us to this delightful little film about a boy and his foster uncle who go missing in the wilderness of New Zealand. This was one of my favorite films of 2016 and I never miss an opportunity to recommend it. It shows us the value of those who choose to stay in our lives and is a great film for the whole family.
A Beautiful Mind (2001): A Beautiful Mind won 4 Oscars and would’ve won 5 had the Academy not already given Russell Crowe an Oscar a year prior for his inferior work in Gladiator. We follow the life of mathmetician John Nash starting from his enrollment at Princeton Univeristy and throughout his adult life. The supporting cast includes Ed Harris, Christopher Plummer and Jennifer Connelly who won an Oscar for this film.
Deep Blue Sea (1999): In an attempt to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, Dr Susan McAlester has conducted an experiment on sharks, enlarging their brains. When investors are invited to the underwater facility to observe the sharks a violent storm hits and the sharks break free, using their newfound intelligence to hunt and kill the scientists. It’s a film that’s somehow more dumb than it sounds and yet it’s an absolute blast from start to finish. Nothing can prepare you for the stupidity of this movie but it’s a hell of a fun ride and it’s a guilty pleasure for me.
The Hurt Locker (2008): Kathryn Bigelow’s Irag War film took home 6 Oscars and made her the first woman to win the award for Best Director. The film follows a bomb squad and introduces us to an element of modern warfare we haven’t seen before while also exploring mental health and PTSD. It’s an intense, edge of your seat ride from start to finish.
Raging Bull (1980): where to start on Raging Bull? A masterpiece from Martin Scorsese about the tragic life of Jake LaMotta, his ascension in the boxing ring, and his complete collapse outside of it. This might be Robert De Niro’s single greatest performance, and Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty are excellent in their respective supporting roles. The editing by the great Thelma Schoonmaker and the cinematography by the late Michael Chapman combine to make this film one of the most heartbreaking and memorable films about a man’s life, with boxing as merely a backdrop. It’s one of my favorite films of all time and I can not recommend it enough. Also available on Amazon Prime Video.
Spaceballs (1987): Mel Brooks is the king of parody, and while there are other Brooks films I prefer over Spaceballs, you can’t deny how popular or recognizable this film is. If you like Star Wars, know of Star Wars, or maybe have heard of some guy named Darth Vader once you’ll understand the film and chances are you’ll enjoy it. Also available on Amazon Prime Video.
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A Knight’s Tale (2001): a medieval story set to the tunes of modern rock music, A Knight’s Tale follows Heath Ledger, a squire to a knight who, after his knight is killed in a jousting tournament, takes up the guise of the knight and travels the land with his band of misfits taking part in tournaments and vying for the hand of the lady Jocelyn. It’s a genre-mashup that might not work for everyone but is a good time nonetheless.
The Departed (2006): remember that superior Scorsese remake I mentioned earlier? This is it. The Departed is a remake of the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs and is the film that finally got Scorsese his long overdue Best Director Oscar. The plot can be a little difficult to follow for some, but like most Scorsese pictures it is so tightly edited that you hardly even notice the 2 ½ hour runtime. The film centers around two undercover agents, one in the Boston police department and the other within an Irish gang. Both sides are aware of a rat on the other side and it becomes a game of who can out the other first. The stellar cast includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg, and if you’re into films set in Boston like myself, you’re gonna love it.
The Pianist (2002): a harrowing film led by Adrian Brody who plays a Jewish man trying to survive the destruction of Warsaw during WWII. The film won three Oscars including Best Actor for Brody, making him the youngest to accomplish that feat, and Best Director for Roman Polanski which was very controversial considering the director had fled the country and had been living in europe for 25 years since being accused of drugging and raping a 13 year old girl in 1977. Still a terrific film if you can put that aside, but some people cannot and frankly I can’t blame them.
Peeping Tom (1960): in the same year Alfred Hitchcock was shocking the world over with Psycho, Michael Powell was overseas disturbing audiences with one of cinema’s earliest slashers in Peeping Tom. The critical and audience reaction to the film ruined Powell’s film career, but over time the film has become regarded as a horror masterpiece far ahead of its time. The direction, camerawork, and story of a young man who films women as he murders them make this haunting film a must see and one of my favorite older horror films.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974): if you haven’t seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre yet you’re surely familiar with it or have at least heard of the killer Leatherface. The low budget film about a group of friends on a road trip that are terrorized by a family of cannibalistic psychopaths has become a landmark of modern horror and is easily one of the scariest and most disturbing films I’ve seen. There’s something about being chased down a dirtroad by a man with a chainsaw that I find frightening. Who woulda thought?
Videodrome (1983): Videodrome is a film that I haven’t been able to get out of my head since I first saw it several years ago. Max Renn is the sleezy president of a small television station who is always looking for new, controversial material for his channel. One night he stumbles upon Videodrome, an extremely violent and sexual broadcast and becomes obsessed with it. Max begins to spiral down a dark hole and quickly learns of the dangers of what he’s discovered. It’s an underrated film by David Cronenberg and has a lot to say of the dangers of televised media and the morality of what we call entertainment.
Cat People (1942): before CGI was invented and before studios were creating elaborate practical effects moviemakers had to get creative to pull off convincing horror transformations and Cat People is one of the most creative. The film centers on a newly married couple, American marine engineer Oliver Reed and Serbian fashion designer Irena Dubrovna who believes she suffers from an ancient Serbian curse that, when making love to a man would cause her to turn into a panther. The film became a huge hit at the box office and I highly recommend it for fans of old horror films or young filmmakers interested in horror.
The Host (2006): a monster movie from Parasite director Bong Joon Ho, The Host exploded into Korean cinemas in 2006 and became the highest grossing film the country had ever seen. Song Kang-ho plays a father whose daughter is taken by a mysterious creature that has emerged out of the Han river. He believes the girl to still be alive and sets out on a quest to get her back from the monster’s clutches. Bong Joon Ho was treating audiences to compelling films long before Parasite took the world by storm and The Host is one of his best early works.