In theory, there has never been a more opportune time for movie enthusiasts. The widespread presence of streaming platforms has made films more easily accessible than ever before. With just one click, we can be transported to any country, genre, or time period. However, in practice, it is not as straightforward as it seems. Despite the vast selection of mainstream modern titles offered by major players like Netflix, Disney+, and Prime Video, as well as the commendable efforts of specialized platforms like Mubi, Curzon, BFI Player, and regional experts Klassiki, there are still numerous films that cannot be legally streamed by UK viewers. This includes not only obscure arthouse films (although my personal quest for Alexei German Jr’s Paper Soldier falls under that category), but also a surprising number of well-known movies that seem to have slipped through the cracks of streaming availability. For example, Jane Campion’s directorial debut Sweetie and David Lynch’s debut feature Eraserhead are currently unavailable for streaming.
What is the reason for this? For older titles, the important elements are restoration and digitisation. Many images are available only as film prints, kept in archives and cinematheques, and are not in the necessary digital format for streaming platforms. Even if they have been digitised, the quality may not meet the current standards, which are constantly improving with advancements in technology. This process is both costly and time-consuming. Additionally, there is often a challenge with obtaining rights for a film, making licensing or restoration impractical.
In other places, movies that were previously able to be watched online are now disappearing from streaming platforms at a concerning speed. This is due to a variety of reasons, including expired contracts and renegotiated rights, as well as cost-saving strategies. Removing a movie from a library can result in a tax deduction and also decreases the amount of money owed to the creators when the movie is shown. These factors make it difficult to have immediate access to movies through online streaming. In conclusion, this is a convincing reason to consider owning physical copies of films, like DVDs, when possible.
However, there is another aspect to consider: for numerous film enthusiasts, part of the joy of rediscovering partially-remembered and highly-regarded movies is the excitement of the search. While streaming a film on a laptop is convenient, there is a sense of fulfillment in finally locating an elusive movie that is hard to match. We reached out to 15 directors to choose their top picks of difficult-to-find titles that are not currently available for streaming in the UK. To all the movie sleuths out there: your task awaits.
Martin McDonagh on Kings and Desperate Men
The 1981 film “Alexis Kanner” is not easily accessible on streaming platforms or DVD.
Award-winning London-Irish playwright and film-maker whose best known films include In Bruges, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and The Banshees of Inisherin
I was a huge fan of The Prisoner TV show for many years before watching this movie. The lead actor is Patrick McGoohan and it was written and directed by Alexis Kanner, who also had a role in The Prisoner. I first saw it at the theater when I was 14 years old in 1984 and it left a lasting impression on me. The plot involves a terrorist group who use a radio talk show host to help free a man who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for accidentally killing a policeman in a hit and run. It’s a thrilling storyline that also touches on political themes and has unexpected twists. This avant garde Canadian film is quite unique and stands out among others. The soundtrack, which features medieval music, adds an interesting touch to a story set in the late 70s. The writing is exceptional, with humor and a standout performance by McGoohan. It’s worth noting that Margaret Trudeau, mother of Justin Trudeau, also stars in the film and gives an impressive performance. Sadly, Kanner never made another film and passed away at the young age of 61, giving the movie an added layer of poignancy.
It has been a challenge to locate it over the years. I possess a VHS copy of it, and there is a poor quality version on YouTube. However, out of all the movies I saw during that time that I have been unable to find, it is the one that has remained in my memory the most. I rewatched it a few nights ago and it still holds up well. It perfectly embodies the essence of independent film-making – I believe any aspiring filmmaker would gain valuable insights from it.
Mark Jenkin discussing Last Summer
In 1969, Frank Perry’s work is not widely accessible.
Jenkin, a filmmaker from Cornwall, gained recognition for his work on Bait (2019), which received a Bafta award for its exceptional debut. He is also set to release a folk horror film, Enys Men, in 2022.
I watched this movie as a teenager and it deeply affected me. I can’t recall if I saw it on TV or VHS, but I have been unable to find it again, which has only fueled my fascination with it. I’m not sure if my attachment is due to the movie itself or its unattainability. The plot revolves around three teenagers on vacation at Fire Island in New York, where they meet another girl. It explores their dynamic before taking a dark and disturbing turn at the end. Growing up in Cornwall, a place that resembled the movie’s setting, may be why it resonated with me so strongly. My childhood consisted of spending time on the beach and endless summers, much like the characters in the film.
I recently checked and discovered that I am able to obtain a VHS copy of the film from the United States, but it would cost around $350. I am surprised that no one has uploaded the full film onto YouTube, as there are only clips available. It seems that there are no 35mm versions of the film in existence. However, there is a 16mm version that was found in Australia, but it has not been screened in about 20 years. Other than this, the film does not exist. I have developed a slight fascination with this 16mm print and would love to attend a screening, as it appears to be visually stunning.
The convenience of being able to access most things online has taken away some of the magic for me. It’s refreshing to be reminded, like with Last Summer, that not everything is available for streaming. This particular film has slipped through the cracks and comes from a time when digitization and archiving were not yet common practices. There are countless films that share this fate. However, this realization can be quite daunting. That’s why I appreciate physical media. I still purchase DVDs and collect VHS tapes. I find it thrilling to browse through old secondhand shops and sift through boxes of DVDs in search of rare finds. I also enjoy collecting film prints. My most recent acquisition is an 11-minute version of Jesus Christ Superstar on Super 8, making it one of my most prized possessions at the moment.
Carol Morley on Sweetie
The film “Jane Campion,” released in 1989, can now be found on DVD.
The person who directed Dreams of a Life, The Falling, and Out of Blue is also the director of the newest movie in theaters, Typist Artist Pirate King.
I can’t believe this isn’t available on streaming. It’s Jane Campion’s first feature, and it concerns two sisters, Sweetie and Kay. It’s a psychosexual melodrama about difficult relationships and mental illness – it’s a really interesting study of a family trying to connect and disconnect from one another. It’s brilliant. One of my favourite scenes is when Kay goes to a meditation class and she just can’t get on with it, but then begins to have visions of a tree they’ve planted in the garden, which I guess stands for the family tree.
I don’t remember where or how exactly I saw it – I’m pretty sure it was at the cinema around the time of release, when I started to study film. I’ve seen it projected since. I have the DVD, which has lots of brilliant extras, and also a VHS. I still have my VHS player, and a spare DVD player that’s brand new in a box because I’m so afraid of all that going defunct. During the pandemic I did a Friday film club, and I would use this website – archive.org/movies – to link to films legally. It’s very good: people upload films there when they are out of copyright. Often when things aren’t available, it’s because of rights issues. I don’t know why someone’s not gone after the rights for Sweetie – maybe because it’s not going to make money. But it would be a crime if it wasn’t available for everybody: it’s a great film, it was at Cannes, it was a breakout film for Jane Campion. It’s part of film history.
Michael Winterbottom on The Clockmaker of St Paul
Bertrand Tavernier’s film from 1974 is currently available on DVD.
The director, who has received awards for their work, is known for their films such as 24 Hour Party People, 9 Songs, The Road to Guantanamo, A Mighty Heart, The Trip, and Greed.
I first watched this on telly in Blackburn when I was still at school. I remember loving the way it evoked a particular community in Lyon in France. When I left school and went abroad for the first time, I went to Lyon especially to visit where the film was shot. It’s a crime story, but it’s more about the relationship between a father and his son who has committed the crime – the father, played by the great Philippe Noiret, is coming to terms with what he knew and didn’t know about his son. It’s based on a book by Georges Simenon, that great chronicler of French life, but strangely the book is set in America, so Tavernier took it and transposed it to his home town. As I remember it, it’s a very low-key, intimate film, a subtle reflection on family life and on father-and-son alienation. For all those reasons, I would love to get a chance to watch it again if it came online and remind myself how good it is.
I used to watch many fascinating movies on TV before I moved out. Therefore, I believe it’s unfair to judge people for watching things at home, as that is how most individuals who live outside of major cities or lack access to independent movie theaters view films.
Asif Kapadia discussing Chungking Express
This film, directed by Wong Kar-wai and released in 1994, is currently available on DVD.
Award-winning director whose films include Senna, Amy, Diego Maradona and 2022’s Akram Khan collaboration Creature
My personal interest lies in international cinema, and I have noticed a lack of representation on streaming platforms. During the 1990s and early 2000s, when I was in college and university, there was a surge in popularity for Asian films. These movies resonated with me and sparked my desire to become a filmmaker. The films came from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Vietnam, making it an extraordinary time that influenced a new wave of filmmakers. I was surprised to discover that Wong Kar-wai’s “Chungking Express” is not available for viewing in the UK. Out of all the Asian films from that era, this one gained the most recognition. It was a game-changer in terms of production design, music, and cinematography by Christopher Doyle. This film is effortlessly cool, meandering, and visually stunning.
It can be difficult to find highly acclaimed films, so it is even more challenging to access lesser-known Asian films. Currently, there is no means of watching award-winning films such as The Story of Qiu Ju by Zhang Yimou or Tra Anh Hung’s Cyclo, both of which received the Golden Lion at Venice. There appears to be a significant delay in archiving films on streaming platforms, and the responsibility of deciding which films should be preserved and restored is not being taken seriously. Cinema is a global art form, and if this universal language continues to disappear, younger generations will not fully grasp the depth and diversity of cinema, which is a grave loss.
Prano Bailey-Bond on Eraserhead
The film “Eraserhead” by David Lynch was released in 1977 and is currently available on DVD.
A filmmaker and screenwriter from Wales, her first full-length movie, Censor, featuring Niamh Algar, came out in 2021.
I was surprised to discover that the film Eraserhead is not available for streaming online. I searched multiple times, hoping for different results, but it remains unavailable. I first watched the film when I was around 11 or 12 years old. Growing up in a remote area, access to cinema was limited. However, my parents had a great taste in films and we had a collection of videos on a shelf. One of these videos was a recording of Eraserhead, possibly made by my dad. I remember taking it off the shelf and putting it into the video player. This experience is one of the reasons why I believe it is important for the film to be available – watching it at a young age opened my eyes to the possibilities of cinema in a completely new way.
In short, the film is about a man coming to terms with becoming a parent for the first time, but that description does not fully capture its essence. It is truly a masterpiece. It was one of the films that motivated me to pursue filmmaking, as it operated on a level unlike any other work I had seen. It tapped into a familiar feeling from my own subconscious and presented it in a fascinating, beautiful, and oddly humorous way. Eraserhead defies expectations of what a terrifying film would be and instead taps into a deeper sense of dread, similar to that of a nightmare.
I don’t understand how it can’t be on any streamer. It’s a film by one of, if not the greatest living director. It’s his debut, and the film he made on his own terms. I think it has to be an oversight. If I can’t find a film online, there are places such as Second Sight, Vinegar Syndrome, Arrow and Criterion that may have physical media you can buy; otherwise I’d start asking my friends who’s got a copy of something. But we’re in a time now where if you’re not a cinephile or a film-maker, you’re less likely to buy physical media. So we’re relying more on streaming in order for young people and potential film-makers of the future to discover these movies and be inspired by them.
Peter Strickland discussing The Case of Barnabáš Kos
The film “Peter Solan” was released in 1965 and is currently available on DVD.
The director and writer behind films such as Berberian Sound Studio, The Duke of Burgundy, In Fabric, and Flux Gourmet.
This is an excellent piece of political satire. Although it was created during the peak of communism, its ridiculous concept – centered around a triangle player being promoted to orchestra director – sadly resonates with modern situations where party supporters are given positions beyond their abilities. Kafka’s influence can be seen, particularly in “The Trial.” The film is also quite humorous. The main character dismisses classical music that doesn’t include the triangle and attempts to incorporate it into works by Bach and others. There is a pivotal scene in the film where a cacophony of triangles takes center stage.
I previously resided in Slovakia, which may explain why I connected with it. Numerous Czech new wave films were popular in Britain, such as Věra Chytilová’s Daisies and Juraj Herz’s The Cremator. This particular film should not be overlooked; it has many merits. I watched it in 2019 when it was released on DVD. Currently, it must be ordered from Slovakia and with Brexit, it will be quite expensive. However, Second Run will be releasing it on Blu-ray next year.
I have traditional preferences and do not use any streaming services. Even though films may be available on streaming platforms, they can be removed at any time without your control. That’s why I continue to purchase DVDs. I enjoy browsing at stores like Fopp in Covent Garden or Foyles, but unfortunately many of these shops have closed down. The DVD section at His Master’s Voice is now like a deserted area. I am not opposed to streaming as it benefits many people, especially those who live far from cinemas or have financial constraints. However, it’s important to have both options available and not let one dominate the other.
I am not able to reword.
John Cassavetes’ film from 1984, which can be found on DVD.
Film and television director and screenwriter; her award-winning debut, Only You, was released in 2018, followed in 2021 by True Things
Cassavetes’ Love Streams was his final independent work before his passing. Despite his declining health, the film remains a powerful and visually stunning portrayal of the complicated relationship between two dysfunctional siblings. The brother struggles with alcoholism while the sister is consumed with unrequited love for her ex-husband, neglecting her own daughter in the process. One of the notable aspects of Cassavetes’ style is his use of ambiguity, leaving gaps in the narrative for the audience to reflect on the characters and their stories. This presents a challenge for writers, as they must strike a balance between tying up loose ends and leaving room for interpretation.
I believe Cassavetes is often underestimated by people. There seems to be a misconception that all of the performances in his films are entirely improvised, but I don’t believe that to be the case. According to my research, Cassavetes had his actors improvise during the development of the script, but not during filming. This is what contributes to the brilliance of the dialogue. Additionally, he has a talent for making domestic dramas feel cinematic, with clever camerawork that may go unnoticed unless one is actively looking for it.
It’s disheartening when movies like this are not accessible for viewing, as the younger generation will miss out on the chance to experience them. I was attempting to describe to my seven-year-old how we used to visit stores to browse and select a movie, similar to how we choose books. His response was, “Huh?”
Charlotte Wells on Simone Barbes Or Virtue
(Marie-Claude Treilhou, 1980, not widely available)
A Scottish filmmaker, author, and creator whose movie Aftersun received multiple accolades, including a Bafta for exceptional debut.
Simone is an usher at a Parisian pornography theatre; the lead actor, Ingrid Borgoin, is a former colleague of the director, Marie-Claude Treilhou, at that same theatre. It’s a portrait of people, of place, of the night. Almost as difficult to find as it is delightful to watch, I was lucky to catch it in a cinema for the first time earlier this year, but wish I could surrender to it at will more often. Sublime.
Joe Cornish discusses his role as a writer on the film The Heartbreak Kid.
Joe Cornish talks about his position as a screenwriter for the movie The Heartbreak Kid.
The film “Elaine May” was released in 1972 and is currently available on DVD.
He is a filmmaker and comedian, known for his work as one half of the duo Adam and Joe. Some of his notable films include Attack the Block and The Kid Who Would Be King.
This is a timeless comedy from the early 1970s during a period of exceptional American filmmaking. It was released in the same year as Cabaret and The Godfather, when filming took place on location and the performances were rich in detail. The director, Elaine May, is renowned as one of the greatest comedians of all time and the talented Charles Grodin stars as an unpleasant jerk – just looking at his face is enough to make you laugh. It’s a unique type of dark comedy that is not often seen in modern cinema; it is incredibly realistic and focuses more on character development than witty dialogues. However, there is a famous dinner scene where Grodin’s character, attempting to impress his future in-laws, quips, “there’s no insincerity in those potatoes.”
After Disney acquired 20th Century Fox, many beloved classic films were overlooked and never became available for streaming. I was unable to locate The Heartbreak Kid on DVD or Blu-ray, and this search reminded me of the days when finding a specific VHS or Japanese laserdisc required dedicated effort and time. This mindset still exists on the internet, with people scouring for low-quality bootleg videos on YouTube and sharing hidden links. One of my enjoyable pastimes is subscribing to foreign streaming platforms to access rare films, with my latest find being the Spanish service FlixOlé.
Romola Garai on On the Silver Globe
(A film by Andrzej Żuławski from 1988, with limited availability)
A performer and filmmaker whose first film as a director was the horror movie “Amulet” released in 2020.
The movie I am referring to came to my mind immediately. I have written a science-fiction film set in a dystopian space, and someone mentioned that it seemed like I was heavily influenced by this particular movie. However, I had not watched it at the time. After finally viewing it, I was completely captivated and it had a profound impact on me. It may be available on DVD, but it is not easily accessible – I was fortunate enough to receive a link to watch it. It’s a shame that streaming platforms do not offer more movies like this, as it serves as a reminder of the true purpose of watching films.
The story follows a team of astronauts who arrive on an unfamiliar planet and encounter its inhabitants. The themes of colonialism and faith are explored through the lens of science fiction. The film delves into the concept of humanity and how it differs from animals and technology. In a world where algorithms dominate art and conformity is on the rise, this film stands out as a unique experience. Its execution is very physical, incorporating various design elements and featuring a constantly shifting environment of sandy beaches and industrial landscapes. Overall, the film evokes a sense of meditation.
The process of creating this film was incredibly challenging, as Żuławski had to constantly fight against the communist authorities. At one point, half of the film was mysteriously lost and had to be remade. This film is not only remarkable in its storyline, but also serves as a powerful statement of someone’s determination to make a film despite facing immense resistance from a dominant authority. This is something that many modern film-makers can understand and empathize with.
Kim Longinotto discussing her film “To Kill a Tiger”
(Nisha Pahuja’s work, scheduled for release in 2022, is not yet widely accessible)
A filmmaker who frequently explores the female perspective through her documentaries, with notable works including Sisters in Law, Dreamcatcher, and Shooting the Mafia.
I served as a jury member at the ImagineIndia film festival earlier this year and was tasked with evaluating a documentary. The film follows the story of a 13-year-old girl in an Indian village who is raped by three men during a wedding celebration. In traditional circumstances, she would have been forced to marry one of the perpetrators in order to preserve her honor. What struck me most about the film is that the girl’s father stands by her and helps her take legal action against the men. Although he starts off as apologetic and timid, throughout the film he gains strength and confidence despite facing opposition from the entire village.
The jury had differing opinions on whether it was appropriate to reveal the girl’s identity, but I believe the blame should be placed on the perpetrators. This film is truly empowering, inspiring, and committed. By the conclusion, you feel completely immersed in the village and connected to all the characters. I hope everyone has the chance to watch it.
William Oldroyd discussing Short Cuts
The 1993 film “Robert Altman” is currently available on DVD.
The person who directed the critically acclaimed film Lady Macbeth (2016), which was nominated for a Bafta award. Their next film, Eileen, is based on Ottessa Moshfegh’s novel and will be released in theaters on 1 December.
I discovered that this particular movie is not available for streaming when I tried to watch it and was unable to. This came as a surprise to me, as I assumed that all of Robert Altman’s films would be easily accessible. Altman is a highly acclaimed American director, and the film boasts an impressive ensemble cast including Robert Downey Jr, Andie MacDowell, Jack Lemmon, Juliane Moore, Lily Tomlin, Tim Robbins, Tom Waits, and a young Frances McDormand.
I have not yet viewed Short Cuts, but it is essentially based on multiple Raymond Carver short stories. I believe Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1999 film Magnolia has a similar structure. I wanted to watch Short Cuts because I was attempting to explain to a writer the skillful use of overlapping dialogue by Altman. His scenes are full of life and the natural rhythms of speech. It is a difficult task to capture this on paper. I hoped to use Short Cuts as an example to illustrate my point, but I also found similar techniques in The Long Goodbye, which I could also show the writer.
Mubi and BFI Player offer a wide selection of movies that I am interested in watching. However, I am grateful for discovering JustWatch.com because I often struggle to find where a particular movie is available to watch. In the past, I would go to the film library in Bethnal Green. Now that I have moved to Rome, I have access to the Casa Del Cinema cinematheque and the impressive movie library at Cinema Troisi. These venues frequently host large retrospectives and there are many independent cinemas that showcase these types of films.
The Commitments was discussed by Thea Sharrock.
This film, directed by Alan Parker and released in 1991, can be found on DVD.
The director behind Me Before You and The One and Only Ivan, is set to release her latest film, Wicked Little Letters, in theaters on February 23, 2024.
In the midst of the 2020 lockdown, renowned director Alan Parker passed away. Wanting to revisit his work, I took the time to sit down with my children and watch The Commitments on DVD, as it was not available online. I had previously seen this film upon its release in 1991 and was captivated by Andrew Strong’s powerful vocals as the lead singer, Deco Cuffe. Despite most of the cast having no prior acting experience, Parker was able to bring out incredible performances from them without them even realizing it. The movie follows the journey of a soul band in inner-city Dublin, assembled by Jimmy Rabbitte and consisting of a diverse range of talents. As they gain success, their relationships become more complex. The storytelling is simple yet effective, filmed in a documentary style, but Parker infuses the film with heart and soul, creating a beautifully authentic world. It touches on themes of love, jealousy, and coming of age, while also portraying working-class Dublin. My children thoroughly enjoyed it, with fantastic performances and brilliant music. It was a joy to watch.
Fyzal Boulifa on Peking Opera Blues
This work, directed by Tsui Hark in 1986, is not readily accessible.
The filmmaker from Britain and Morocco gained recognition for his recent works “Lynn + Lucy” in 2019 and “The Damned Don’t Cry” in 2020. He has also received multiple accolades for his short films.
During my childhood, I stumbled upon a captivating film on Channel 4 late at night. Although I was only 10 or 11 years old at the time, it left a lasting impression on me. The title eluded me until many years later, as the movie had already begun when I tuned in. However, its unique blend of kung fu, revolutionary politics, and exploration of gender roles stuck with me. As a gay adolescent, the depiction of female friendship resonated deeply with me. The film’s adventurous and perilous tone, particularly in its acrobatic finale set on a theater rooftop, was both absurd and beautifully choreographed, almost transcendent. Its physicality reminded me of comedic legends such as Chaplin and the Marx brothers, breaking away from the more psychological tendencies in Hollywood cinema.
When I was approximately 20 years old, I managed to uncover the title of the movie online. It has always puzzled me why it is not considered a classic. It is highly regarded – even Quentin Tarantino is a fan. However, it is peculiar: although it was distributed upon its release, it has never been made available on DVD outside of Hong Kong. So that was my only option – it was the only way to watch it. I was hesitant to watch it again because I feared that perhaps I had been too young and naive before. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I finally rewatched it and found it to be a fantastic film. I have probably seen it a total of 10 or 15 times, and even now I still think it is absolutely wonderful. Unfortunately, the English translation is terrible – I am desperate to watch it with subtitles that accurately convey the meaning.