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The best movies on the Criterion Channel right now

What’s left to watch when all the Disney-Marvel superheroes and other tentpole blockbusters have all been consumed? If you’re looking for something a bit more alternative, we’d recommend taking a dive into the sprawling annals of the Criterion Channel.

From the esteemed team behind the Criterion Collection, the Criterion Channel is home to a trove of celebrated classics, foreign features, and arthouse epics, as well as entire sections dedicated to directors, actors, and notable genres. If you’re not up for digging through the platform’s long list of titles, we’ve put together this roundup of all the best movies on the Criterion Channel right now.

If you’re looking for suggestions for other streaming platforms,  we’ve also rounded up the best movies on Netflix, the best movies on Hulu, the best movies on Amazon Prime Video, and the best movies on Disney+.

Cameraperson (2016)

86 %
Genre Documentary
Stars Kirsten Johnson, Jacques Derrida, Michael Moore
Directed by Kirsten Johnson
Kirsten Johnson has traveled around the world as a cinematographer, the hired gun for a number of independent documentaries. Cameraperson, released in 2016, is a compilation of Johnson’s many years in the field, showcasing clips from some of the features she worked on, as well as snippets of footage that weave a portrait of the artist’s personal life. Cameraperson is an impressive sum of all its vignettes, covering a number of emotionally impactful themes, including love, life, death, and what it means to be an artist. Wining top prizes at a number of festivals during its initial exhibition, Cameraperson is powerful filmmaking that you don’t want to miss.
Cameraperson Official Trailer 1 (2016) - Documentary

Stagecoach (1939)

93 %
Genre Western, Adventure, Action, Drama, Romance
John Ford’s Stagecoach was the 1939 Western epic that would truly cement the director as the go-to maestro of frontier cinema, and it’s an enduring film that continues to receive bountiful amounts of critical acclaim. Starring an ensemble cast made up of John Carradine, Claire Trevor, and the mighty duke himself, John Wayne, our story follows a group of travelers that board the titular buggy to get from Arizona to New Mexico. The riders all come from different walks of life, and each have their own aspirations, beliefs, and reasons for reaching the one shared destination amongst the bunch. A culturally significant picture that imbued the typical Western with a much heftier backbone of drama and social commentary, Stagecoach is a triumph like no other.
Stagecoach (1939) Official Trailer - John Wayne, John Ford Western Movie HD

Onibaba (1964)

89 %
Genre Horror, Drama
Stars Nobuko Otowa, Jitsuko Yoshimura, Kei Satō
Directed by Kaneto Shindō
There’s terror in the reeds in director Kaneto Shindo’s 1964 film Onibaba. The story follows the mother and daughter-in-law (Nobuko Otowa and Jitsuko Yoshimura) of a warrior named Kichi, both living off the land in medieval Japan. Their source of livelihood: Murdering displaced samurai and selling their armor and goods to local merchants in exchange for food and other necessities. But when another blade-wielder returns from battle and enters the lives of Kichi’s kin, the dutiful family unit starts to crumble. Ari Aster, the director of Hereditary and Midsommar, has named Onibaba as one of his major influences, and considering the latter’s maze-like visuals, theatrical performances, and brutality, we can totally see why.
Onibaba (1964) ORIGINAL TRAILER [HD 1080p]

A Woman Under the Influence (1974)

A Woman Under the Influence
88 %
r 155m
Genre Drama
Stars Peter Falk, Gena Rowlands, Fred Draper
Directed by John Cassavetes
In John Cassavetes’ A Woman Under the Influence, Gena Rowlands (Cassavetes’ real-life spouse) stars as Mabel Longhetti, a mother of three with disturbing mannerisms. When Nick (Peter Falk), her construction worker husband, decides to have Mabel committed for six months to a psychiatric institute, his plans for a reconditioned spouse and realigned family quickly spiral upon Mabel’s return. Featuring an iconic performance from Gena Rowlands, A Woman Under the Influence is a raw film that speaks to the powers of truly independent cinema. Shot in a cinéma-vérité fashion by cinematographers Mitch Breit and Al Ruban, the guerilla look and feel is brutally honest and at times uncomfortably claustrophobic, lending to the overall mood of the picture.
A Woman Under the Influence (1974) Original Trailer [FHD]

45 Years (2015)

45 Years
94 %
r 95m
Genre Drama, Romance
Stars Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay, Geraldine James
Directed by Andrew Haigh
Writer-director Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years is a delicate depiction of a pin-drop-quiet marriage. The bride and groom are Kate and Geoff Mercer (Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay), a pair that spend their seemingly idyllic days in the English countryside drinking tea, reading mail, and planning little errand runs in and out of town. When a letter arrives for Geoff the day before the couple’s lavish wedding anniversary, its contents unravel years of marital bliss as Kate begins to learn things about her husband’s long-ago past through images and words that can’t be reframed or rewritten. An emotional film with incredible performances from Rampling and Courtenay, 45 Years achieves an incredible amount in less than two hours.
45 Years - Official Trailer I HD I IFC Films

Beauty and the Beast (1946)

Beauty and the Beast
92 %
Genre Drama, Fantasy, Romance
Stars Jean Marais, Josette Day, Marcel André
Directed by Jean Cocteau
Before Disney’s animated interpretation of the 1757 Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont fairy tale, French filmmaker Jean Cocteau would take a stab at the classic story. In this mesmerizing 1946 iteration, Belle (Josette Day) is one of four siblings. Her father (Marcel André) has his wealth commandeered by the government to pay off his mighty debts, and the disparate patriarch has no money to secure lodging on his journey home. Instead, he takes refuge in a mysterious chateau, where he soon awakens the castle’s master, a horrific beast (Jean Marais) that wants to kill Belle’s father for stealing one of his sacred roses for Belle. A bargain is struck between man and beast for Belle to be transported to the monster’s castle to be his captive instead. Featuring jaw-dropping production design, costuming, and fantastical trick photography, Jean Cocteau’s masterpiece continues to stand the test of time.
La Belle et la bête (1946) - Trailer

Beyond the Hills (2012)

Beyond the Hills
79 %
r 150m
Genre Drama, Romance
Stars Cosmina Stratan, Cristina Flutur, Valeriu Andriuță
Directed by Cristian Mungiu
Voichița (Cosmina Stratan) and Alina (Cristina Flutur) are two reunited Romanian orphans. Where Voichița has chosen a life of faith under the guiding hand of a Romanian Orthodox priest (Valeriu Andriuta), Alina has led a life adrift from religion in Germany. Hoping to rekindle the romantic relationship the two women once shared, Voichița shuts down Alina’s advances, leading the latter to begin exhibiting strange behaviors in a feeble attempt to regain Voichița’s love. But Alina’s plan quickly turns on her when the other nuns in the monastery believe the woman is possessed and take an exorcism-inspired cure into their own hands. Tragically scripted, lovingly acted, and gorgeously shot, Cristian Mungiu’s Beyond the Hills is a powerful, slow-burning commentary on love, faith, and sexuality.

Carnival of Souls (1962)

Carnival of Souls
Genre Horror, Mystery
Stars Candace Hilligoss, Herk Harvey, Sidney Berger
Directed by Herk Harvey
On a Sunday drive with friends, Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) is challenged to a drag race by a gang of wily boys, a proposal the woman accepts. During the race, however, Mary loses control of the vehicle, sending the sedan cascading over a bridge into a ravine. Mary, shaken but alive, escapes the wreckage with no memory of how she made it out of the river. Agreeing to take a job as a church organist in Salt Lake City, Mary relocates to the city center, only to be plagued by a series of horrific visions featuring a ghoulish apparition known only as The Man (Herk Harvey). Is Mary losing her mind? Or, perhaps less comforting, is she stumbling through some kind of unmoored purgatory? Needless to say, Harvey’s 1962 film has gone on to become a cult classic of the horror genre.
Carnival of Souls (1962) ORIGINAL TRAILER [HD 1080p]

8½ (1963)

91 %
Genre Fantasy, Drama
Stars Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimée
Directed by Federico Fellini
Life imitates art in Federico Fellini’s 1963 masterpiece, , a sprawling surrealist comedy about a film director, Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni) in the throes of an artistic crisis. Suffering from writer’s block on the cusp of his latest film production, Guido’s mind devolves from intense, philosophical ramblings about his new masterpiece into childhood memories — specifically, his adolescent years spent in a Catholic school and his experiences with a local prostitute. But the more the director wishes to escape into his personal recollections, the more the industry movers and shakers want him to hone his role as a director, socialite, husband, and lover. 8½ has an undeniable undertone of autobiography, a recurrent device that Fellini would continue to explore over the years, a theme perhaps best realized in his 1973 film, Amarcord.
8 1/2 Trailer (1963) - The Criterion Collection

Chungking Express (1994)

Chungking Express
78 %
Genre Drama, Comedy, Romance
Stars Takeshi Kaneshiro, Brigitte Lin, Tony Leung Chiu-wai
Directed by Wong Kar-wai
Writer/director Wong-Kar-Wai is perhaps most famously known for films like The Grandmaster and In the Mood for Love, but 1994’s Chungking Express helped to truly engrain the auteur as an international visionary. Our story is split in two, each side depicting the tribulations of Cop 223 (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and Cop 663 (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung), police officers with love troubles. Cop 223 is dumped by his girlfriend but vows he will give her one month to return. In the meantime, he takes to buying cans of pineapple with a May 1 expiration date (the day the month will pass) and pining for a local drug-smuggler (Brigitte Lin). Cop 663, after a breakup of his own, begins frequenting a train-line snack station. His flight attendant ex-lover goes to meet him there, but Faye (Faye Wong), a shop employee, informs her that it’s his day off. She gives Faye a key to 663’s apartment, which Faye uses to break into the officer’s home, where she takes to cleaning and decorating. Oh, and she’s falling for 663. Worlds collide, stories weave, and characters cross paths in this unconventional but utterly mesmerizing film that was really nothing more than an exercise for Wong-Kar-Wai. The director whipped the story together and shot the film in less than two months, while he was taking a break from editing his historical epic, Ashes of Time.
Chungking Express (1994) ORIGINAL TRAILER [HD 1080p]

The Double Life of Véronique (1991)

The Double Life of Véronique
86 %
r 98m
Genre Drama, Mystery, Fantasy
Stars Irène Jacob, Halina Gryglaszewska, Philippe Volter
Directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski
Irène Jacob mesmerizes as the titular Véronique, and her double, Weronika, in the deeply layered The Double Life of Véronique. Our story takes place in both Poland and France and first centers on Weronika, a choir singer, as she comes into her own as a successful soprano. At the height of a solo performance, key events occur, which introduce us to Véronique, a French music teacher living in Paris — a sad woman who begins falling in love with a puppeteer, Alexandre (Phillipe Volter). To say more of the story would be doing it a disservice. It’s one to be experienced without the details. We will say that director and co-writer, Krzysztof Kieślowski, crafts a masterful duality of performances, settings, and themes, with recurrent motifs in both Sławomir Idziak’s painterly cinematography and Zbigniew Preisner’s profound score.

Eraserhead (1977)

87 %
Genre Fantasy, Horror
Stars Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart, Allen Joseph
Directed by David Lynch
The feature film debut of writer/director David Lynch, Eraserhead is a surrealistic tale about the horrors of parenting, repressed desires, and whatever other metaphors you can plug into Lynch’s weird blueprint. When Henry (John Nance) joins his girlfriend, Mary (Charlotte Stewart), and her family for a very odd dinner, Mary informs him that she is pregnant. Only a few cuts later, and we are introduced to the baby, an otherworldly creature that quickly falls ill. Suffering an emotional breakdown, Mary leaves Henry alone with their ailing creation, where a deluge of nightmarish visions begins to consume him. Eraserhead can be interpreted in several haunting ways, but above the symbolism, the film introduced the world to the dreamlike narratives, strange dialogue, and droning soundscapes of its auteur, David Lynch. The film was financed by Lynch and the AFI Conservatory, which is where it was also shot. Production was on-again/off-again over a period of five years, where at times the cast and crew even lived on-set. Their efforts were noble, and the product of their labor quite extraordinary, if not totally out of this world.
Eraserhead (1977) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

Paris, Texas (1984)

Paris, Texas
80 %
r 145m
Genre Drama
Stars Harry Dean Stanton, Nastassja Kinski, Dean Stockwell
Directed by Wim Wenders
Austrian auteur Wim Wenders has several films on the Criterion Channel, and rightfully so. Every Wenders epic is intricately crafted, lovingly acted, and (in most cases) beautifully photographed by the late-great Robby Müller. Paris, Texas may represent one of the best realizations of Wenders’ directorial vision. From a script by Sam Shepard and L.M. Kit Carson, the film is about a silent nomadic wanderer named Travis (Harry Dean Stanton). After wandering through the deserts of West Texas, Travis eventually blacks out from the grueling heat. While he’s unconscious, a German doctor who examines him finds a phone number on his person and calls it. It turns out the digits are for Travis’ brother, who is living in Los Angeles with his wife and a young boy — Travis’ son. What follows is an unraveling of identity, family ties, and lost love, set against the harsh sunlit backdrops of both Texas and LA.
PARIS, TEXAS Trailer (1984) - The Criterion Collection

Persona (1966)

86 %
r 83m
Genre Drama
Stars Bibi Andersson, Liv Ullmann, Margaretha Krook
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Ingmar Bergman is another industry name that most are familiar with, whether you’ve seen one of his films or not. For those who haven’t, Persona is a great place to start. The bulk of the narrative was conceived in hospital by Bergman over several weeks, while the writer/director was recovering from a bout of pneumonia. Our story focuses on Elisabet (Liv Ullmann), a stage actress that has stopped moving and speaking, and her live-in nurse, Alma (Bibi Andersson). In an effort to pull Elisabet from her fugue state, the duo retreat to an idyllic seaside cabin where Alma tends to the actress. As the film progresses, Alma’s psychological state starts to crumble as the worlds of both women begin colliding in unforeseen ways. Featuring top-notch performances from both Ullmann and Andersson, Persona would go on to influence countless filmmakers. Bergman’s dualistic themes of psychosis, sexuality, and identity can be traced to epics as recent as Robert Eggers’ seaside horror film, The Lighthouse. In fact, this is a fitting comparison, as Persona is often recognized as a kind of experimental horror film.
Persona Official Trailer #1 - Liv Ullmann Movie (1966) HD

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