I’m suspicious of streaming. Over the last few years the quality and ease of streaming movies has drastically improved, but I can’t help but think of all the films that aren’t currently available to stream anywhere, including many of the greatest works of world cinema. Streaming is particularly impermanent—even a movie that has been purchased digitally can disappear if Amazon or iTunes loses the rights to carry the film (whereas I can cherish my Godard Blu-rays even after the Criterion Collection loses the rights to them).
But streaming is also a great connector to important films. When I decided to watch the original version of The Beguiled (1971) prior to seeing Sofia Coppola’s remake, I found it streaming on HBO in less than a minute. Streaming is here to stay, so it’s best to focus on the bounty of great movies at our fingertips.
The esteemed actor announced his retirement earlier this week. Although Day-Lewis has made a few bigger budget excursions (The Last of the Mohicans, Lincoln), most of his work has been in smaller films you might have missed. Here are some of his best to check out.
There Will Be Blood (2007)
Day-Lewis plays Daniel Plainview, a relentlessly driven oilman in Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpiece. No other actor has depicted soul consuming greed so well. Beautifully shot, and with a now-classic score by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. Stream on Amazon Prime, rent on iTunes, Vudu, and Google Play.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988)
Philip Kaufman directs Day-Lewis in this adaptation of Milan Kundera’s classic novel. Day-Lewis plays a womanizing neurosurgeon whose trysts with a bohemian artist (Lena Olin) are challenged by his relationship with a more grounded woman (a charming Juliette Binoche). Features the best use of a bowler hat in a movie. Rent on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, and Google Play.
Gangs of New York (2002)
Initially considered one of Scorsese’s weaker films, the movie’s story of Americans adapting an anti-immigrant fervor gives it renewed relevance. Day-Lewis steals the show as William Cutting, the Italian American leader of an anti-immigrant gang that stalks the Irish. Also worth it for an early glimpse at Scorsese’s collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio. Stream on Amazon Prime and Hulu, rent on iTunes, Vudu, and Google Play.
Because it’s nice to remember when we had good presidents. Day-Lewis radiates charm and nobility, though Spielberg’s film never turns into a historical fairy tale. Rent on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, and Google Play.
Screwball Comedy and Serial Killers
What’s Up, Doc? (1972)
I saw Peter Bogdanovich’s update on Howard Hawks’s screwball classic at the TCM Classic Film Festival recently. I expected a pleasant museum piece, but ended up laughing until my ribs hurt. Barbra Streisand at her most playful, with Ryan O’Neal as the oblivious professor she sets her sights on. Madeline Kahn nearly steals the show as his screechy fiancé. Stream it on Filmstruck, rent on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, and Google Play.
David Fincher’s chilling film features great performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr. (in the midst of his comeback but a year away from making Iron Man). Part horror film, part mystery, part police procedural. Fincher is as concerned with the killer as with the obsessions that drive his pursuers. You’ll want to make sure your doors are locked after watching it. Stream on Netflix, rent on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, and Google Play.
Note: Zodiac only streams on Netflix in standard definition. It’s a beautifully made film with cinematography by the late Harris Savides, so if you care about picture quality, you might want to spend a few bucks and just rent it.