In theory, there has never been a more opportune moment to be a fan of movies. With the widespread availability of streaming platforms, films are now 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’s not as straightforward as it seems. Despite the plethora of popular modern titles offered by major players such as Netflix, Disney+, and Prime Video, as well as specialized platforms like Mubi, Curzon, BFI Player, and regional specialist Klassiki, there are still numerous films that cannot be legally streamed by UK audiences. And we’re not just talking about obscure independent films (although my personal “holy grail” of missing movies, Alexei German Jr’s Paper Soldier, may fall into that category); surprisingly, a significant number of well-known movies seem to have slipped through the cracks of streaming availability. For example, Jane Campion’s directorial debut, Sweetie, and even David Lynch’s debut film, Eraserhead, are currently unavailable for streaming.
What is the reason for this? When it comes to older titles, the main factors are restoration and digitization. Many images exist as physical film prints, stored in containers in archives and cinematheques, but they are not available in the digital format required for streaming platforms. Even if they have been digitized in the past, the quality may not meet current standards, which are constantly evolving with advancing technology. This process is both costly and time-consuming. Furthermore, there is often a problem with determining who holds the rights to a film, making it difficult to obtain licenses or restore it.
In other places, movies that could be watched through streaming are rapidly disappearing from platforms. This is due to a mix of reasons: licenses expiring and negotiations for rights; as well as cost-saving actions – removing a film from a collection can be used as a tax deduction and also decreases the fees owed to the creators when the movie is aired. These factors make it challenging to have immediate access to movies online. Overall, this supports the idea of having physical copies of films, like DVDs, whenever feasible.
However, there is another perspective to consider: for numerous avid movie enthusiasts, a significant aspect of the enjoyment in revisiting partially-remembered and deeply beloved films lies in the exhilaration of the search. While watching a movie on a laptop is convenient, there is a sense of fulfillment in successfully locating a missing film that is hard to match. We requested 15 filmmakers to choose their preferred elusive titles that are not currently available for streaming in the UK. Movie sleuths, your task awaits.
Martin McDonagh discussing rulers and desperate individuals
Unfortunately, the 1981 film starring Alexis Kanner is not readily accessible on streaming platforms or DVD.
A successful playwright and filmmaker from London and Ireland, known for his acclaimed works such as In Bruges, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and The Banshees of Inisherin.
I have been a devoted fan of The Prisoner television series for many years, and it was not until I watched this movie that I truly appreciated its brilliance. The talented Patrick McGoohan stars in this film, which was both written and directed by Alexis Kanner, who also had a role in The Prisoner. I first experienced this film at the age of 14 in 1984, and it left a lasting impression on me. The story follows a terrorist group who take control of a radio show host in an attempt to free a man who has been imprisoned for accidentally killing a police officer in a hit-and-run. This thrilling premise provides a platform for discussing the political climate of the time, while also delivering unexpected twists and turns. As a Canadian avant-garde film, it stands out among others. The use of medieval music as the soundtrack is a unique touch for a film set in the late 70s. McGoohan delivers a standout performance with his quirky and humorous portrayal of his character. Another notable cast member is Margaret Trudeau, mother of Justin Trudeau. Her performance alone makes this film worth watching. It is unfortunate that Kanner did not have the opportunity to create another film before his untimely passing at the age of 61. This adds an additional layer of melancholy to the overall viewing experience.
It has been challenging to locate it over the years. I do have a VHS copy of it, and it can also be found on YouTube in a poor, faded quality. However, among all the movies I watched during that time and have since been unable to find, that one has stayed with me the most. I recently rewatched it, and it still holds up well. It perfectly captures the essence of indie filmmaking – I believe any aspiring filmmaker could gain valuable insights from it.
Mark Jenkin on Last Summer
Frank Perry’s work, released in 1969, has limited availability.
Jenkin is a filmmaker from Cornwall who gained recognition for his work on the film Bait (2019), which received a Bafta award for its impressive debut. He is also set to release a folk horror film titled Enys Men in 2022.
I viewed this movie only once during my teenage years and it left a lasting impact on me. I am uncertain if I watched it on television or VHS, but I have been unable to locate it again, causing my strong fascination with it. I’m unsure if this is due to the film itself or its unattainable nature. The story revolves around three teenagers on vacation at Fire Island in New York, where they meet another girl. It portrays their interactions and then takes a dark and horrific turn towards the end. Growing up in Cornwall, this film deeply resonated with me as it reminded me of my own life spent on the beach during long, endless summers.
Occasionally, I like to check and see if I can obtain a VHS copy of the film from the United States. However, it seems that it would cost around $350. Surprisingly, the entire film has not been uploaded on YouTube, only some clips. It appears that there are no 35mm prints in existence, but there is one 16mm print that was discovered in Australia. Unfortunately, it has not been screened in about 20 years. My interest in this 16mm print has become a bit of an obsession. I would be thrilled to attend a screening of it, as the quality appears to be exceptional.
The fact that you can now find most things online removes a bit of the magic for me. It’s almost nice to have a reminder every now and then, like with Last Summer, that it’s not all available to stream. It’s just one of these films that’s fallen through the gaps, that comes from a time when there was no digitising and no archiving: there are a huge number of films that that’s the case for. But it does become quite a terrifying thought. That’s why I like physical media: I still buy DVDs, and I collect VHS tapes. I find that very exciting, going through old secondhand shops and boxes of DVDs, searching for rarities. I also like collecting film prints: the last one I got was an 11-minute cut down of Jesus Christ Superstar on Super 8, which is one of my treasured possessions at the moment.
Carol Morley on Sweetie
The 1989 film “Jane Campion” can be found on DVD.
The person in charge of Dreams of a Life, The Falling, and Out of Blue is also the director of the new movie, Typist Artist Pirate King, which can currently be seen in theaters.
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
The film “Bertrand Tavernier” was released in 1974 and is currently available on DVD.
The director who has received awards for his work, including 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 the most intriguing movies on TV before I moved out. Therefore, I believe there should not be a snobbish attitude towards people watching content at home, as it is the primary means for individuals living outside of major cities or without access to independent theaters to view films.
Asif Kapadia on Chungking Express
The film “Wong Kar-wai” was released in 1994 and can now be found on DVD.
The recipient of numerous awards, this director has worked on acclaimed movies such as Senna, Amy, Diego Maradona, and the upcoming 2022 project Creature, a collaboration with Akram Khan.
I am deeply passionate about international cinema, and I have noticed a concerning lack of representation on streaming platforms. During my time in college and university in the 90s and early 00s, there was a surge in popularity for Asian films. These films had a profound impact on me and sparked my desire to become a filmmaker. I was disappointed to discover that one of my favorite Asian films from that era, Chungking Express by Wong Kar-wai, is not available for viewing in the UK. This film stood out among others for its innovative production design, use of music, and Christopher Doyle’s stunning camerawork. It is a unique, mesmerizing, and visually striking masterpiece.
Finding a highly acclaimed film can be difficult, so it’s even more challenging to access lesser-known Asian films. Unfortunately, popular titles like Zhang Yimou’s “The Story of Qiu Ju” and Tran Anh Hung’s “Cyclo,” both recipients of the Golden Lion at Venice, are not currently available for streaming. This suggests that streaming services have a significant backlog in preserving and restoring films, and the responsibility of selecting which films to preserve is not being fulfilled. Cinema is a universal art form, but if this international language is being lost, younger generations will miss out on the vast and diverse world of cinema, which is a serious loss.
Prano Bailey-Bond on Eraserhead
The film “Eraserhead” was created by David Lynch in 1977 and can be found on DVD.
Welsh director and writer; her debut feature film, Censor, starring Niamh Algar, was released in 2021
I was surprised to discover that Eraserhead is not currently available online. I searched multiple times with the expectation of finding it, but it remains unavailable. I first watched the film when I was quite young, around 11 or 12 years old. Growing up in a remote area, access to cinema was limited. The internet did not exist, but fortunately my parents had excellent taste in movies and we had a wonderful collection of videos. My dad had recorded Eraserhead from television, and I eagerly retrieved it from our shelf to watch it on our VCR. This film’s availability is important because watching it at a young age opened my eyes to the possibilities of cinema in a completely different way.
In summary, this film follows a man’s journey as he becomes a parent for the first time. However, this description does not fully capture its essence. It is truly a work of art that inspired me to pursue filmmaking. The film operates on a unique level, tapping into familiar yet unsettling subconscious emotions. It is a beautiful, intriguing, and oddly humorous depiction of fear that defies traditional expectations. Eraserhead is not what one would typically consider a terrifying film, as it evokes a deeper sense of dread that is almost inexplicable, akin to 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 DVD of Peter Solan’s work, released in 1965, is now available.
Filmmaker and writer known for creating Berberian Sound Studio, The Duke of Burgundy, In Fabric, and Flux Gourmet.
This is an excellent political satire. Despite being created during the peak of communism, its ridiculous plot – centered around a triangle player being promoted to orchestra director – unfortunately has similarities to modern day situations where party supporters are given positions beyond their abilities. The influence of Kafka, particularly his work The Trial, is evident. Additionally, the film is quite humorous. The main character comically rejects classical music that does not include the triangle and attempts to incorporate it into pieces by Bach and others. The climax of the film is a chaotic symphony of triangles.
I used to reside in Slovakia, which may explain why it struck a chord. Numerous movies from the Czech new wave were popular in Britain, such as Věra Chytilová’s Daisies and Juraj Herz’s The Cremator. This particular film should not be overlooked as it has many strengths. I watched it fairly recently in 2019, when it was released on DVD. Currently, it can only be ordered from Slovakia and with the introduction of Brexit, it will be quite expensive, but Second Run will be releasing it on Blu-ray next year.
I have a traditional mindset and do not use any subscription-based streaming services. Even if movies are available on these platforms, they can be removed without warning and I have no control over it. That’s why I prefer to purchase DVDs. I enjoy browsing through Fopp in Covent Garden or Foyles for DVDs, but unfortunately many stores have closed down. The DVD section at His Master’s Voice store is like a deserted area. I am not against streaming, as it benefits many people, especially those who live far from theatres or have financial constraints. However, it would be ideal to have both options available and not have one dominate the other.
Harry Wootliff on Love Streams
The film “1984” directed by John Cassavetes is currently available on DVD.
She is a filmmaker and writer for both film and television. Her first film, Only You, was a success and won awards when it was released in 2018. She followed it up in 2021 with True Things.
Cassavetes’ Love Streams is his final independent film, made when he was near death. Despite this, it remains a poignant and striking portrayal of two dysfunctional siblings and the love that exists between them. The brother struggles with alcoholism while the sister is consumed with her ex-husband, who does not reciprocate her feelings. One of Cassavetes’ strengths is his ability to leave gaps in the story, allowing the audience to reflect on the characters and their journeys. As a writer, this presents a crucial challenge: striking a balance between clarity and ambiguity.
In my opinion, Cassavetes is often underestimated. There is a misconception that all of the performances in his films are improvised, but I do not believe that to be the case. Based on my research, it seems that he allowed his actors to improvise during the script development stage, but not while filming. This approach results in the dialogue being exceptionally well-crafted. Additionally, Cassavetes has a talent for infusing a domestic drama with cinematic elements. His camerawork is technically impressive, though it may go unnoticed unless one is actively searching for it.
It is disheartening when movies like this are not easily accessible, as it deprives the next generation of the chance to appreciate them. I attempted to convey to my seven-year-old how we used to browse through stores to pick out a movie, similar to how we select books. His reaction was: “What?”
Charlotte Wells on Simone Barbes Or Virtue
(Marie-Claude Treilhou’s work from 1980 is not easily accessible)
The filmmaker from Scotland, known for his work as a director, writer, and producer, earned several accolades for his film Aftersun, including a Bafta for his exceptional debut.
Simone works as an attendant at a pornographic theater in Paris. The main star, Ingrid Borgoin, used to work with the director, Marie-Claude Treilhou, at the same theater. The film is a reflection of the characters, the setting, and the night. It’s a rare gem that I had the fortune of seeing in a theater earlier this year, and I wish I could watch it more frequently. It’s truly magnificent.
Joe Cornish on The Heartbreak Kid
The 1972 film “Elaine May” is currently available on DVD.
The individual is a filmmaker and comedian who is known for being one half of the duo Adam and Joe. Some of his notable works include Attack the Block and The Kid Who Would Be King.
This film is a classic comedy from the early 1970s, during a golden era of American filmmaking. It was released in the same year as Cabaret and The Godfather, when location filming and detailed performances were the norm. Directed by the talented Elaine May, who is considered one of the greatest comedians of all time, the film features the brilliant Charles Grodin as an unlikeable jerk whose face alone can make you laugh. It is a type of dark comedy that is rarely seen in cinema today, with a focus on naturalistic acting and character development rather than relying on funny lines. However, there is a famous dinner scene where Grodin’s character, attempting to impress his future in-laws, hilariously proclaims “there’s no insincerity in those potatoes.”
Many classic films may have been overlooked or forgotten when Disney acquired 20th Century Fox, leading to their absence from streaming platforms. Even physical copies of certain movies, like The Heartbreak Kid, are difficult to find on DVD or Blu-ray. This reminds me of a time before digital media, when I would spend months searching for a specific VHS or Japanese laserdisc. The internet has revived this treasure-hunting mentality, with people sharing bootleg versions in low quality on sites like YouTube and exchanging secret links. One of my favorite pastimes is subscribing to foreign streaming services in order to access rare films – my most recent find being a Spanish one called FlixOlé.
Romola Garai on On the Silver Globe
Unfortunately, the film “Andrzej Żuławski” from 1988 is not easily accessible.
Actor and director, whose directorial debut was 2020’s horror film Amulet
The movie came to my mind instantly. I wrote a science fiction film set in a dystopian world in space, and someone mentioned that it seemed heavily influenced by another film. However, I had not seen it before. After watching, it was a remarkable and life-changing experience. The film may be available on DVD, but it is difficult to find – I was provided with a link to watch it. It is unfortunate that streaming platforms do not offer more films like this, as it reminds me of the true value of watching movies.
The story follows a team of astronauts who land on a distant and unfamiliar planet and come across its inhabitants. It delves into themes of colonization and faith, but within the framework of science fiction. The film explores the concept of humanity and what sets us apart from animals and technology, especially in a time where algorithms dominate art and conformity is prevalent. This film stands out from anything else I have ever seen with its powerful visual execution, incorporating various design elements and an ever-changing landscape that is difficult to define – from sandy beaches to industrial settings. Overall, it was a deeply contemplative experience.
The process of creating this film was incredibly challenging, as Żuławski continuously faced struggles against the communist government. At one point, half of the film disappeared mysteriously and had to be redone. Not only is the film itself remarkable, but it also serves as a powerful testament to the determination of someone who was determined to make a film despite facing significant resistance from a dominant authority, a struggle that many filmmakers can understand today.
The subject of “To Kill a Tiger” according to Kim Longinotto.
Unfortunately, Nisha Pahuja’s work will not be widely accessible until 2022.
A film-maker who specializes in creating documentaries that center on the female perspective. Some of her notable works include Sisters in Law, Dreamcatcher, and Shooting the Mafia.
Earlier this year, I served on the jury for the ImagineIndia film festival 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 this culture, it is common for the victim to be forced into marriage with one of the perpetrators in order to preserve her honor. What struck me most about the film was the girl’s father, who supports her decision to take the men to court. Initially, he is apologetic and withdrawn, but as the film progresses, he grows stronger and more confident despite facing opposition from the entire village.
The jury had a discussion regarding the decision to reveal the girl’s identity, but I believe the focus should be on holding the culprits accountable. This film is truly empowering, uplifting, and well-crafted. By the end, you feel fully immersed in the village and connected to all the individuals. I highly recommend everyone to watch it.
William Oldroyd discussing Short Cuts
The film “Robert Altman” was released in 1993 and is currently available on DVD.
The individual who directed the critically acclaimed film Lady Macbeth (2016) and received a Bafta nomination. Their second movie, Eileen, which is based on Ottessa Moshfegh’s novel, will be released in theaters on December 1st.
I discovered that this film is not available for streaming when I tried to watch it and was unable to do so. I was taken aback as I assumed that all of Robert Altman’s films would be accessible, given his significance as an American director. Additionally, the movie features a talented ensemble cast including Robert Downey Jr, Andie MacDowell, Jack Lemmon, Julianne Moore, Lily Tomlin, Tim Robbins, Tom Waits, and a young Frances McDormand.
I have not yet viewed Short Cuts, but it is essentially a film based on multiple short stories by Raymond Carver. I believe that Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1999 film Magnolia has a similar structure. The reason I wanted to watch Short Cuts was to demonstrate to a writer the skillful use of overlapping dialogue by Altman. His scenes feel incredibly vibrant to me, with natural speech rhythms. This is difficult to capture on paper. I hoped to show the writer an example of what I meant, and I also noticed this technique in The Long Goodbye, so I could at least show them that.
Mubi and the BFI Player cover a lot of movies I want to watch, but I’m very happy to have been introduced to JustWatch.com because sometimes I get very confused about where to see something – now I can see where it is showing. I used to go to the film library in Bethnal Green, and I’ve actually moved to Rome, where there’s the cinematheque Casa Del Cinema, and there’s a fantastic movie library at Cinema Troisi. They also have huge retrospectives all the time, and there’s lots of great independent cinemas that show these films.
Thea Sharrock discusses her thoughts on The Commitments as a director.
The film “Alan Parker” was released in 1991 and can now be found on DVD.
The person who directed Me Before You and The One and Only Ivan also has a new movie called Wicked Little Letters that will be released in theaters on February 23, 2024.
In the midst of the 2020 lockdown, filmmaker Alan Parker passed away. Wanting to revisit his work, I sat down with my children to watch The Commitments on DVD as it was not available online. I had previously seen it in 1991 and was amazed by the vocals of Andrew Strong, who portrays lead singer Deco Cuffe. Strong and the rest of the cast were mostly inexperienced actors, but Parker’s direction brought out superb performances from them without their knowledge. The film follows a soul band’s rise and fall in inner-city Dublin. Band manager Jimmy Rabbitte assembles a diverse group of talented individuals, but as they gain success, their relationships become more complex. The storytelling is simple and filmed in a documentary-like style, but Parker infuses the film with heart and soul, creating a realistic world. It explores themes of love, jealousy, and coming of age in working-class Dublin. My children thoroughly enjoyed it. The performances are outstanding, and the music is brilliant. It’s a delight to watch.
Fyzal Boulifa on Peking Opera Blues
This work, directed by Tsui Hark in 1986, is not widely accessible.
The filmmaker from Britain and Morocco gained recognition for his works “Lynn + Lucy” in 2019 and “The Damned Don’t Cry” in the previous year. He has also received several accolades for his short films.
When I was around 10 or 11 years old, I stumbled upon this film on Channel 4 late at night. Despite not knowing the title at the time, I was completely mesmerized by it. The story centers around three female characters who are brought together during the 1911 revolution in China. It’s a unique blend of kung fu, political turmoil, and exploration of gender roles. As a young gay boy, I was particularly drawn to the strong friendship between the female characters. The film is full of adventure and danger, culminating in an acrobatic finale on the rooftop of a theater. It may seem absurd, but the choreography is so beautifully executed that it’s almost transcendental. The physicality of the film is reminiscent of Chaplin or the Marx brothers, breaking away from the more psychological approach seen in Hollywood cinema.
When I was approximately 20 years old, I managed to find the title of the movie online. It has always puzzled me why it is not considered a classic. The film is highly respected, even Quentin Tarantino is a big admirer. However, it is quite peculiar that it was only distributed at the time of its release and has never been released on DVD outside of Hong Kong. That was the only way I could watch it. I was hesitant to watch it again as I was afraid that my younger self may have been too naive. But to my delight, when I finally rewatched it, it was a wonderful and remarkable film. I have probably seen it 10 or 15 times overall, and even now I still find it truly magnificent. Unfortunately, the English translation is terrible and I am eager to watch it with proper subtitles.