It seems commonly accepted that streaming platforms Amazon Prime Video and Netflix offer popular, often trashy films that one can tune into to pass the time or to have on in the background, rather than places where good, enriching, and valuable films live. Many, including myself, have turned to platforms like MUBI which not only offer more ‘specialised’ content (i.e. lots of independent and international films), but also more curated or hand-picked films, meaning you don’t have to scroll endlessly to find a film to watch. However, spend a bit of time working your way through the different categories and playlists on Amazon and Netflix, as well as free platforms (in the UK) BBC iPlayer and All 4, and you will find some hidden gems that are well worth your time. It’s not all Will Ferrell comedies and Fast and Furious films.
I’ve made a start for you. Here’s 3 films: 1 each from Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, and Netflix. In my opinion, they are well worth a watch and might help adjust your algorithm to recommend different films in the future.
1 – The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, Italy-Algeria 1966)
If you’ve seen The Battle of Algiers before, you’ll be pleased to know you can currently catch it on Amazon Prime Video, included with a Prime membership or rentable for £3.49. If you haven’t seen it before, what have you been doing? It is one of the most powerful and enduring films of all time. Made just four years after Algeria achieved independence from France, and amidst ongoing political turmoil in Algeria, the film focuses specifically on the country’s capital between the start of the war in 1954, and 1957. Filmed in black and white, using many amateur actors, produced by revolutionary leader Saadi Yacef, and scored by the late Ennio Morricone, the film is a masterpiece in political filmmaking. Enjoy.
(If you enjoy the Algerian history here, you can follow this up with Rachid Bouchareb’s Days of Glory (2006), a film I wrote about for my PhD, also available on Amazon Prime Video).
Available on: Amazon Prime Video.
2 – Rocks (Sarah Gavron, UK 2019)
So you’ve started your weekend of film with The Battle of Algiers. You’re thinking, it doesn’t get much better than this. Well, it doesn’t. But, Sarah Gavron’s Rocks, starring debutant Bukky Bakray in the title role, is an astonishing film. It premiered in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, drawing many people back to the cinemas after months of closure, whilst simultaneously airing on Netflix. The film tells the story of schoolgirl Olushola, ‘Rocks’, as she desperately tries to keep social services from separating her and her little brother after the sudden departure of their mother.
The film is political, touching, and hopeful, and earned Bukky Bakray the BAFTA Rising Star Award in 2020, following in the footsteps of Letitia Wright, Daniel Kaluuya, and John Boyega. One to watch.
Available on: Netflix.
3 – Rosie (Paddy Breathnach, Ireland 2018)
The BBC has lots of great content and given debates about the license fee, is excellent value for money. In addition to award winning TV shows, it also occasionally shows films on BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Four, and of course on iPlayer. One such film is Irish film Rosie, starring Sarah Greene (Connell Waldron’s Mum in Normal People) in the title role as a Mum-of-four who finds herself homeless after her landlord serves her an eviction notice.
Written by author Roddy Doyle, the film is a Ken Loach-esque political call to arms about the housing crisis.
Available on: BBC iPlayer