The Best Movies to Stream on Starz On Demand
Don't limit yourself -- premium cable channel Starz, along with its on-demand app Starz On Demand (hey, simple works!), offers a collection of movies that will satisfy even the toughest critics. These are just a few of the best.
Annie Hall (1977)
This psychoanalytic story of Brooklyn comedian Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) and his titular temporary love (Diane Keaton) breathed new life into the rom-com genre with its unconventionally less-than-rosy outcome and groundbreaking narrative devices (split frames, mental subtitles, camera-facing soliloquies, layered flashbacks). Fans and critics like to call this Oscar-winner Allen's very best movie -- it's in the top three, at least.
Being John Malkovich (1999)
You can't doubt the audacity of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Anomalisa), whose first produced screenplay hinged on attracting the title actor to get on board with a script that has office drones discovering a portal into his mind. John Cusack, Catherine Keener, and Cameron Diaz combine to create an atmosphere of desperate, egomaniacal darkness, and by the end you'll feel confused and maybe a little slimy about the times you've participated in celebrity gawking.
Robert Towne's Chinatown script is often cited as one of, if not the greatest of all time. (And not just because of that iconic line.) As a struggling private eye, Jack Nicholson dives headfirst into a mystery that turns into a maelstrom of LA corruption. The result is a well-paced noir tale, equal parts frustrating and fascinating, that still lives up to its reputation.
John Woo, Nicolas Cage, and John Travolta are at their mid-'90s best in this absurd action thriller, in which Cage's villain Castor Troy (yep) and his nemesis, Travolta's FBI agent Sean Archer (hell yep) switch faces in a plot far too complicated to explain here. Anyway, the expected hijinks ensue, with Travolta -- who's now the bad guy acting like the good guy -- running criminal operations from inside the FBI. There's even a scene in which Cage -- who's now the good guy acting like a bad guy -- tells his cohorts, "I'd like to take his face... OFF." This movie excels in self-awareness while still delivering wild, excessive action sequences (plane vs. Humvee and helicopter!), and the result is a viewing experience as enjoyable the 20th time around as it was the first. Oh, and don't forget the doves.
Fargo is elemental. There's good, there's evil, and then there's the Earth, dusted white, dying to be splattered with blood. Like all great Coen brothers movies, the "snow-oir" kicks off with an idiotic decision: Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) hires two hitmen, Carl (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear (Peter Stormare), to kidnap his wife. With stand-up police chief Marge Gunderson (Best Actress Oscar-winner Frances McDormand) on the case, all the players squirm through the mess, wondering how the hell they got there. FX's recent TV adaptation could make you forget the simple beauty of Fargo, which unspools its fictitious details with the tact of real reporting (it's not based on a true story, despite a title card's claim) and peers deeper into the universal psyche than almost anything in the Coens' filmography and beyond, just by sitting still. Backed by Carter Burwell's stringed score and flavored with Midwestern-nice speak, it's the obvious choice for a reason: Fargo is elemental, timeless, perfect.
Groundhog Day (1993)
Recommendation: Double-feature Chinatown with this Bill Murray comedy so you don't fall into a super-cynical slump. Harold Ramis' award-winning flick sends Murray's weatherman to Punxsutawney, PA, where he reports on the town's titular festivities, enters a time loop, straightens out his life priorities, and tries to court Andie MacDowell. It's a hilarious '90s gem that has Murray transitioning from his shit-disturber film phase to his more world-weary one (also: a blessing in the form of under-appreciated actor Stephen Tobolowsky).
Hoop Dreams (1994)
Heralded as one of the great portraits of American life, Hoop Dreams filters race, class, socioeconomics, and teenage life through the competitive world of high school basketball. William Gates and Arthur Agee, the athletic hopefuls at the heart of Steve James’ three-hour nonfiction epic, see the sport as a way of escape. If they train hard enough, play hard enough, endure the hour-long drives to predominantly white schools, they’ll get into college, the NBA, and their own futures. James depicts the events like home movies. There’s little editing interference or Hollywood magic gussying up the arcs. Hoop Dreams straight shoots to powerful effect.
In Bruges (2008)
With this year's dark indie comedy The Lobster, many moviegoers learned what fans of In Bruges already knew: Colin Farrell is a seriously funny actor. In playwright Martin McDonagh's sly directorial debut, Farrell plays Ray, an Irish hitman wracked with guilt over the accidental killing of a young boy. Instead of using his rugged good looks to play yet another "badass" assassin character, Farrell goes full neurotic, twitching his eyes and fidgeting like a child struggling to stay still in class. It's a hilarious, manic performance that makes the film's comic moments pop, and allows its somber, reflective moments to sneak up on you like a dark stranger approaching in an alley. You won't know what hit you.
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
When analyzed under the right microscope, everyday life can look like a colossal conflict worthy of The Avengers. In Kramer vs. Kramer, a bitter divorce between Joanna Kramer (Meryl Streep) and her laser-focused workaholic husband Ted (Dustin Hoffman) sparks, explodes, then ripples with seismic effect through every facet of existence, including the life of their son. Their custody battle is equally perilous, though the film, written and directed by Robert Benton (The Human Stain), never hammers down on one side. Instead, Hoffman and Streep are given room to vent, question, and grow -- resulting in two of the best performances in their legendary careers. Kramer vs. Kramer is legit they-don't-make-'em-like-they-used-to drama.
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
It's too bad that an entire generation's reference for a mainstream cinematic representation of Jesus is The Passion of the Christ, and not just because of the dogma and accusations of racism: It overshadows director Martin Scorsese's superior film from nearly two decades earlier. Willem Dafoe's Jesus shows depth of character that resists straightforward apotheosis, and his betrayer Judas (Harvey Keitel) equally resists simple vilification. It's all capped by a brilliant score and fortuitous (you might use another adjective) final shot.
For most movie lovers, George C. Scott is Patton: the costume, the walk, and the giant flag hanging behind him. Years after playing deranged General Buck Turgidson in Stanley Kubrick's 1964 Cold War satire Dr. Strangelove, the gravel-voiced actor brought to life America's legendary military leader with a hint of mischief, playfulness, and rich ambiguity. Was Patton simply a brilliant commander? Or was he a lonely, disturbed man? Over nearly three hours, the movie's Oscar-winning script written by Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North plays chicken with these questions, never providing definitive answers.
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Quentin Tarantino’s debut is all talk, and mostly bullshit, spewing from the mouths of knuckleheads who just screwed up the diamond heist of a lifetime. Unencumbered by Hollywood’s rules, Tarantino deconstructs masculinity through monologue, standoffs, and the literal removal of body parts (the now-legendary ear scene deserves that status). Speaking of ears, Tarantino has one; the "tipping" scene alone is an apogee of crude, poetic vernacular. Reservoir Dogs will always feel primordial, an introduction to the writer-director's isms and a kickoff for endless imitators.
Wayne's World (1992)
The best comedies are quotable even in their quieter moments. As a pop-cultural touchstone, Wayne's World may be remembered best for its catchphrases ("Schwing!" "Excellent!"), but it's the goofy line-readings ("Little. Yellow. Different."), Dada-ish insults ("If Benjamin were an ice cream flavor, he'd be pralines and dick."), and brilliant asides ("I don't even own a gun, let alone many guns that would necessitate an entire rack.") that make this the definitive SNL movie. By bringing a touching poignancy to their head-banging duo, Mike Myers and Dana Carvey elevate this admittedly thin sketch premise to dizzying, hilarious comic heights. More than 20 years later, we're still not worthy.
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