The Best Movies You Can’t Actually Stream Anywhere Right Now

Movies
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While those who constantly champion the value of physical media can sometimes come across as old-timers flailing their arms against the inevitable, there is a tragic truth at the heart of their arguments that keeps their feet planted in their ways. While the average person may have access to more media than at any other point in human history, countless titles remain unavailable to stream, rent, or buy via modern digital platforms

The extent of this problem isn’t always fully appreciated. When we talk about those lost movies, we’re not just talking about shot-on-video obscurities that went out with the video stores they were practically made for. From bonafide classics to major studio pictures to revolutionary works that were denied their chance at widespread reappraisal, many important movies are slipping through the cracks of digital distribution.

Before we talk about some of the best movies that you currently watch digitally, here are a few things to keep in mind:

– This list contains movies that are unavailable to legally rent, purchase, or stream via modern major digital distribution platforms in the United States. Yes, you can find many of these films online via…other means, but our focus is on movies you can’t stream legally.

– This list is also based on movies that are unavailable via the above-mentioned means as of publishing. As such, it’s possible that availability could change in the future or that some of these movies were previously available online. In most cases, though, these movies have never been readily available digitally.

– Finally, there are hundreds of movies that fall into this category that we just didn’t have room for in our mission to highlight some of the best of the best. Sorry, Spice World. We still love you.

28 Days Later

28 Days Later is a remarkable piece of revolutionary horror filmmaking. In 2002, this Danny Boyle-directed film kicked the doors of the zombie (or “infected,” if you prefer) genre down with its almost documentary-like style and relentless creatures. 20+ years later, it remains a definitive turning point in our cultural view of modern movie zombies. Many works have tried to replicate it in some way but few have ever come close to topping it. 

Unfortunately, 28 Days Later seems to be a victim of the rights black hole that was opened when Disney acquired 20th Century Fox. While this certainly feels like one of those movies that every horror fan of a certain age owned on DVD at one point, it’s remarkable that one of the most significant genre films of the last couple of decades isn’t consistently available via digital platforms.

Cocoon

In some ways, Cocoon perfectly represents a different era of sci-fi films when downright weird stories without an obvious audience were slightly more common. This 1985 Ron Howard movie follows a group of senior citizens who are accidentally exposed to alien pods that gradually cause them to feel young again. It’s a truly bizarre film that certainly suffers from some of the questionable pacing you find in slightly older sci-fi movies. However, it’s also a genuinely heartfelt piece of genre filmmaking that uses an incredible premise as the jumping-off point for a very human story. 

Another apparent victim of the Fox fiasco, Cocoon never really made the transition into the digital age. That’s a shame. While many of us saw this movie as kids (for some reason), it hits so much harder as we grow older.

Crash

Crash is sometimes referred to as the “other Crash” or “that movie about people getting into car crashes and having sex.” The latter description isn’t entirely inaccurate, but David Cronenberg’s Crash is really a meditation on the evolving nature of human sexuality in the age of technology and the risks (and thrills) that come with rediscovering the power of our primal urges at a time when we can feel inseparably linked to such advances. It’s also arguably Cronenberg’s most divisive movie.

Unfortunately, you’ll have a hard time watching Crash and weighing in on that debate if you haven’t already seen the movie. If you’re feeling bold enough to take this movie on, the Criterion Collection edition of one of my personal favorite Cronenberg movies remains the best way to experience it. 

Dogma

Perhaps the most famous example of this topic, Dogma’s digital unavailability has become a big part of the movie’s legacy in recent years. Despite being one of Kevin Smith’s most successful movies, a complicated series of rights changes involving the Weinsteins have long prevented this one from ever making the digital leap. 

That’s a shame, because this may also be Smith’s greatest film and one of the most thoroughly buried gems of the ’90s. While incredibly controversial at the time of its release, Dogma’s absurdly stacked cast and surprisingly heartfelt (yet genuinely funny) views on faith, religion, and how we struggle to process all of it make it a miracle of the comedy genre. It deserves to be rescued for Alan Rickman’s portrayal of Metatron alone. 

Drop Dead Gorgeous

While Drop Dead Gorgeous has occasionally popped up on digital platforms and streaming services, it has long been a strangely elusive film that suffers from a series of rights issues amplified by its lack of initial success. Yet, Drop Dead Gorgeous has rightfully been embraced as a cult classic over the last couple of decades.

This mockumentary quite literally skewers the beauty pageant scene with its almost slasher-movie-like story about getting exactly what you want. While some drastic tonal shifts make this one hard to swallow for some, Drop Dead Gorgeous is both wonderfully of its time and a truly timeless tale about the costs of beauty, fame, and those who propel our hunger for it all. It deserves to join the fabled “Class of 1999.

Heavenly Creatures

Heavenly Creatures is the movie that proved director Peter Jackson had so much more to offer than his wonderfully schlocky gross-out horror films. Actually, as the story of two young girls whose shared sorrows and evolving relationships lead to them to make a stunning series of decisions, Heavenly Creatures is a big swing for most directors. It’s that rare kind of movie that navigates some truly dark subject matter with childlike tenderness that makes it easy to empathize with regardless of how much we may want to distance ourselves from what is happening.

Sadly, this is another case of Miramax’s/the Weinstein’s involvement with a movie seemingly complicating its digital distribution rights. With any luck, though, someone will find a way to rescue this film from its currently perilous position. It’s a tremendous movie that also happens to be a vital part of the career of one of the most notable directors of the last 25 years. 

Pink Flamingos

Granted, there is something appropriate about Pink Flamingos not being readily available. John Waters’ legendarily movie has long existed behind video store counters, at midnight screenings, and via other avenues that most well-adjusted people wouldn’t have a reason to wander down. Indeed, it seems unlikely that any major service is going to want to wander through this movie’s murky legal rights to add it to their library. It briefly appeared on the Criterion Channel a couple of years back (Criterion also has an excellent physical version of the movie available), but you’ve got to resort to those good old-fashioned back channels if you want to watch it online now. 

Anyone with a strong stomach for Waters’ particular brand of filmmaking needs to seek Pink Flamingos out, though. More than a rite-of-passage movie and a landmark moment in Waters’ career, Pink Flamingos still fulfills its primary goal of disturbing the seemingly desensitized. To my knowledge, it’s also the only entry in the Library of Congress that features a drag queen eating dog feces. 

Pink Floyd: The Wall

Pink Floyd: The Wall is an especially notable member of this curious collection. Not only is it unavailable via modern digital distribution platforms, but for quite some time, the only way to reliably see it was to hunt down its old VHS release. Thankfully, the movie is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray, but its scarcity has long contributed to its mystique. 

This movie doesn’t need any help in that department, though. It was, and remains, one of the boldest and greatest attempts to convert a concept album (minus some alterations and additions) into a film. Though I suppose you could argue that The Wall works best for those substance-loving Pink Floyd fans who also covet the album, I find that The Wall is one of the most fundamentally entertaining pieces of experimental filmmaking ever. Unfortunately, the movie’s notoriously troubled production and significant music licensing hurdles have cast it into the deepest depths of licensing hell. 

Rebecca (1940)

In some ways, this is the strangest movie on this list in terms of its unavailability. It’s not only generally agreed to be one of Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest films, but Rebecca “enjoyed” a 2020 remake that is sadly the only adaptation of this Daphne du Maurier you can easily find digitally. 

Anecdotally, I’ve found that many of those who otherwise love Hitchcock tend to overlook Rebecca simply because it hasn’t made that official leap to digital. Find the time to hunt it down, though, and you’ll discover why this twisty gothic romantic thriller has influenced generations of filmmakers and has somehow aged better than even many of the more acclaimed movies of its era. 

Sling Blade

Sling Blade has become something of a cultural gag in recent years, and I understand why. It is certainly a notable entry into what many now refer to as the “Simple Jack” era of filmmaking that saw actors chase awards by playing mentally handicapped characters. Furthermore, Billy Bob Thornton’s unique accent and line deliveries are fairly easy to ridicule, especially when they are taken out of context. 

“Context” is king in this instance, though. Not only is Sling Blade a significantly more emotionally nuanced and thematically complex movie than it sometimes gets credit for, but Thornton’s performance in this film remains the best in his career and the source of one of the most deserved “Best Actor” wins of the ‘90s. In case you’re wondering, this seems to be another one of those movies that is stuck in the Miramax/Weinstein void. 

Straw Dogs (1971)

Much like Rebecca, my frustrations regarding Straw Dog’s unavailability are amplified by the fact that its vastly inferior 2011 remake is readily available via multiple services. That remake’s fundamental inability to properly update this movie’s most important themes has only solidified the popular narrative that Straw Dogs is just another piece of exploitatively violent filmmaking from notoriously divisive director Sam Peckinpah.

Nobody can deny that Straw Dogs is shocking, but the film’s brilliance often gets caught up in the debate over its subject matter and imagery. This story of a mild-mannered man who feels obligated to seek revenge following the rape of his wife is arguably the most thorough and fascinating examination of that classic Peckinpah idea that we must acknowledge the violence within ourselves before we can treat and confront it. Strangely, this is just one of those  Peckinpah movies that just doesn’t exist in the modern digital landscape. 

The Driver

Perhaps the most obscure movie on this list, The Driver is director Walter Hill’s (The Warriors, 48 Hours, Streets of Fire) look at the life of a getaway driver whose feud with a detective and messy personal relationships clash with his desire to be a professional in a business that needs more true professionals. Yes, this movie was indeed a major influence on Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive as well as the works of Michael Mann and others. 

In many ways, The Driver feels like the missing link in the evolution of the action/crime genres. It’s a thrilling action movie that cleverly deploys characters as archetypes while still finding time to examine them. As someone who feels that Hill is one of our most underappreciated directors, it’s particularly disheartening that arguably his best film is so unnecessarily difficult to actually watch today. At least a recently released 4K edition of this movie makes it slightly easier (and cheaper) to check out the previously rare physical version. 

The Heartbreak Kid (1972)

Like Rebecca and Straw Dogs, The Heartbreak Kid also eventually received a vastly inferior remake. Unlike those other two movies, though, I’d argue that 1972’s The Heartbreak Kid never really got the chance to forge a lasting identity before its dreadful remake dominated even modern search results for its title. 

However, this Elaine May-directed and Neil Simon-penned movie remains one of the greatest romantic comedies ever. As the story of a young man who gets married too soon and quickly finds his interests starting to sway while on a honeymoon, The Heartbreak Kid is significantly darker than what you may think of when you think of romantic comedies. In that darkness, though, this movie finds a surprisingly poignant and often genuinely hilarious message about the challenges of making the sacrifices a healthy relationship requires while understanding and honoring who we are and what we want. 

To Live and Die in L.A.

When director William Friedkin passed away last year, many rightfully began to reexamine the career of one of our best and most outspoken directors. While movies like The Exorcist and The French Connection got their earned dues once more, some of Friedkin’s “other” movies like Cruising, Bug, and the once historically maligned Sorcerer enjoyed overdue reevaluations. Unfortunately, To Live and Die in L.A. was excluded from too many of those conversations, and it;s probably because it’s pretty much impossible to find digitally. 

To Live and Die in L.A. follows two cops who are willing to risk everything to take down an enigmatic money forger brilliantly played by Willem Dafoe. One of the most unabashedly “‘80s” movies ever in terms of its sheer style, To Live and Die in L.A. feels like it was at least co-directed by cocaine. Its soundtrack is an all-time banger, it looks fantastic, and it features one of the greatest car chases ever put on film. In a world filled with morally ambiguous law enforcement characters, this movie also does not shy away from showing just how dangerous and slippery that path can be. 

Wild at Heart

While it’s surprisingly difficult to stream many David Lynch movies, you can’t even rent or digitally purchase Wild Heart via modern major platforms. It’s another case of frustratingly vague rights issues being complicated by Wild Heart‘s mixed reception, at best, to this day. 

Wild at Heart has been a controversial film ever since it shockingly won the Palme d’Or in 1990, but that’s part of its charm. This movie about lovers on the run played by Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern is one of the most unapologetically aggressive works in Lynch’s career. Is it a series of stylish images and characters loosely held together by a creaky plot and vague themes, or is it one of the purest expressions of the power of imagery, sounds, and performances in the career of a director known for excelling at all of those things? It should be up to you to decide, if only you could actually stream it. 

The post The Best Movies You Can’t Actually Stream Anywhere Right Now appeared first on Den of Geek.

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