Ever ask your Apple remote (you know, the one you can never ever find) to look up a no-brainer of a title like Straw Dogs or, on the other, cheerier end of the spectrum, Spice World, only to stump Siri? Or ask her to search for an iconic film like Wild at Heart, only for her to dig up the 2006 series about an English family moving to the South African Bush instead (but hey, Haley Mills is in it so if you’re feeling more Pollyanna than David Lynch, you’re in luck).
There’s a common misconception that every film you could have rented at your local Blockbuster is automatically available to stream somewhere in that plethora of subscription services out there. Alas, not necessarily so. And we’re not just talking obscure, rare foreign prints, but studio films and American classics from all eras.
How can this be, you ask? How can a comedy like French Kiss, from the legend Lawrence Kasdan, be nowhere to be found? A myriad of reasons: issues with overseas production companies and distribution, family estates getting involved and withholding the rights, film ownerships having lapsed so nobody knows who has the right to put it online, and sometimes (often) the studios just not bothering to digitize the work for any number of reasons. No matter how you slice it, the end result is – no Bobby Peru for you tonight.
All this to say, it might be time to lean into the nostalgic factor and pull out the ole Blu-Ray (or DVD player, if you really wanna get sentimental). Below, we list some of our favorite films which are criminally unavailable to stream anywhere and where to buy them the old fashioned way.
WILD AT HEART (1990)
David Lynch’s much-anticipated follow up to Blue Velvet came out the same year as his groundbreaking television series Twin Peaks, and is the work of an auteur at the height of his powers. Part romance, part black comedy crime thriller, part horror, Wild at Heart plays out like a Wizard of Oz fever-dream and went on to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
FRENCH KISS (1995)
Lawrence Kasdan’s topsy-turvy romantic comedy was a big hit when it came out back in 1995, despite being released the exact same month as the similarly themed Forget Paris, and for once the audience chose right. This is the better movie. For one thing, it has the always great Kevin Kline holding down the fort with a somewhat ridiculous French accent – worth the price of admission right there. And for another, it stars America’s Sweetheart Meg Ryan at her most charming (the fact that she would basically only do two more rom-coms of note after this, before drifting off into relative obscurity seems shocking in hindsight).
TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. (1985)
Director William Friedkin had been in somewhat of a slump since his magnum opus Sorcerer back in 1977. After a string of films that didn’t do particularly well, he returned to the police action film, a sub-genre he helped invent with his masterpiece The French Connection. This film may not quite live up to that one (how could it), but any ounce of fat on it has been stripped off to make for a hell of a ride with some of the most interesting L.A. locations ever shot, and a very strong contender for the greatest car chase ever filmed—the first movie to ever feature a car chase going down the wrong side of a freeway into oncoming traffic, which more than holds up today.
What do you get if you put British dignitaries Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine in a film together that is both a murder mystery, hilariously funny, brilliantly acted and a commentary on the British Class System? You get a film that for some reason nobody can watch online, despite its obvious influence of newly released films like Glass Onion and See How They Run.
This coming of age drama about four young California teens dealing with drugs, abuse, family dysfunction, and the Wild West that was the San Fernando Valley in the 1970s. The cast alone is worth getting out your DVD: post Taxi Driver Jodie Foster, The Runaways’ singer Cherie Currie, Laura Dern, Sally Kellerman, Randy Quaid, and Chachi-era Scott Baio.
THE DRIVER (1978)
Walter Hill’s extremely stripped-down, neo-noir, police procedural, chase film about a professional getaway driver stars Ryan O’Neal, Bruce Dern, and Isabelle Adjani, and is still little seen to this day, despite being very influential on the genre. It’s just one action set piece after another, back in the day when it had to be done for real and on camera.
STRAW DOGS (1971)
When it comes to director Sam Peckinpah, there’s a whole host of films missing, including what many believe to be his last great action picture, The Iron Cross, and his most personal opus, Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia. Both of these films deserve to be seen and streamed at the click of a button. But more surprising is the lack of availability of his 1971 violent thriller masterwork, Straw Dogs – not only because it stars a full on bona-fide movie star in Dustin Hoffman, but in that it was also remade forty years later under the same title and similar premise. To say that the original is superior is, of course, a serious understatement. The fact that it is impossible to find online in order to compare it is downright negligent.
ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES (1938)
No less an authority than Quentin Tarantino recently called this James Cagney classic, for which he got an Oscar nomination, the best of all the classic Warner’s gangster pictures of the 1930s and ‘40s. It is a favorite of many directors from the New Hollywood period and beyond, and features one of the all-time great death scenes ever put to film.
PUMP UP THE VOLUME (1990)
Viewed today, Pump Up The Volume could either come across as prescient or naive. Like Heathers before it, the film deals with high school as a dark reflection of society. While not as clever as the classic black comedy, the movie is considered an underground cult classic with ’90s heads and Slater die-hards, though the soundtrack easily overshadowed it. And as anyone who grew up watching (or making) films of the era knows, if you couldn’t get Winona, you called up Samantha Mathis.
SPICE WORLD (1997)
In all its glorious kitsch and straight-up weirdness – not to mention bit parts and cameos from none other than Roger Moore, Meatloaf, Elvis Costello, Bob Hoskins, Alan Cumming, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, and Elton John – and despite its attempted homage, no one’s mistaking this one for A Hard Day’s Night. Regardless, say what you will, but the movie as much as the pop group itself, has come to be culturally beloved, ironically iconic, and as much of a symbolic relic of the ’90s as a pair of Doc Martens. Apropos to its era, you can’t even get this one on Blu-Ray, it’s only available on DVD. There may even be a Laser Disc of it laying around somewhere.