YouTube might not be the first platform you think of when it comes to streaming movies, but its streaming library is surprisingly healthy, with a number of great titles available to watch for free. But, of course, as with any other streaming service, there’s a surplus of material available.
To make it easier to parse through the mix, we’ve picked out the ten best titles currently available, from updated takes on Shakespeare’s work, to heist capers, to foreign dramas featuring former Game of Thrones stars. There’s something for everyone.
Ralph Fiennes’ directorial debut is a spin on one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays, Coriolanus. The tale of a Roman general who rises to power after military success but quickly finds himself unsuited for politics gets a makeover as this particular adaptation sets events in the present day and “a place calling itself Rome.” For the most part, Fiennes is decked out head-to-toe in camo military gear, and robes are exchanged for suits and fleeces. Even journalist and TV presenter Jon Snow cameos as a newscaster, reading the latest updates in iambic pentameter. Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox, and Jessica Chastain round out the cast.
A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
One of the most charming heist films of all time, A Fish Called Wanda was nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Picture, and won one for Best Supporting Actor for Kevin Kline. Four con artists — played by Kline, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Palin, and Tom Georgeson — manage to steal a fortune in diamonds, but as with all heists, greed gets in the way. The four cross and double-cross each other — and even draw a hapless barrister played by John Cleese into the mix — in the name of riches. It’s a hoot — an audience member even died of laughter during the film’s initial run.
Much Ado About Nothing (1993)
Adapted and directed by known Shakespeare master Kenneth Branagh, Much Ado About Nothing is simple fun in the sun. The film stars Branagh and Emma Thompson as the argumentative and electric Benedick and Beatrice, who must work together in order to clear Hero’s (Kate Beckinsale) name so she may marry Count Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard). Keanu Reeves stars as Don John, who aims to keep Hero and Claudio apart, with Denzel Washington as Don Pedro, the requisite straight man, and none other than Michael Keaton as Dogberry, the local constable and comic relief.
New World (2013)
This South Korean crime drama follows a familiar storyline — an undercover cop finds his dual identity increasingly difficult to keep up — and makes it fresh by putting the focus on the characters rather than going for gratuitous action and violence. Choi Min-sik (Oldboy), Hwang Jung-min (The Wailing) and Lee Jung-jae (The Thieves) star, though it’s Hwang who steals the show as the brash would-be heir to a crime syndicate, alongside whom Lee’s undercover agent had come up through the mob ranks.
Queen of Versailles (2012)
Lauren Greenfield’s documentary Queen of Versailles is a rewarding look at the American Dream, looking surprisingly kindly (but not without also inviting ridicule) upon its subjects, the super-rich David Siegel, owner of Westgate Resorts, and his wife Jackie. They’ve begun construction on the Versailles house — named, yes, after the Palace of Versailles — but their plans are stymied by the Great Recession of 2008, with all of the Siegels struggling to cope with a less-than-lavish lifestyle as construction is halted.
Shadow Dancer (2012)
Based on Tom Bradby’s novel of the same name and set in 1993 Belfast, Shadow Dancer pits different kinds of family loyalty against each other as Collete (Andrea Riseborough) is forced to choose between spying on her own family or going to jail for 25 years and losing custody of her young son. Both of her brothers are members of the IRA and targets of MI5, though, as Colette becomes more entrenched in the operation, it turns out that the people pulling the strings have ulterior motives. Clive Owen stars as Colette’s handler, with Gillian Anderson, Aidan Gillen, and Domhnall Gleeson circling around the ill-fated pair.
Directed by André Øvredal (The Autopsy of Jane Doe and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark), Trollhunter is one of the more innovative entries into the horror genre in recent years. Shot in the style of found footage documentary, Trollhunter follows three film students who encounter a man (Otto Jespersen) who hunts trolls for the Norwegian government. As the film delves into the bureaucracy around troll-hunting as well as into Norwegian social satire, it proves itself a smart horror gem, and an understandable springboard for Øvredal’s entry into Hollywood.
Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)
Tucker: The Man and His Dream is likely not the first movie to come to mind when Francis Ford Coppola’s name is mentioned in conversation. That said, it’s one of the brightest of Coppola’s movies, centering on real-life automobile entrepreneur Preston Tucker (portrayed by Jeff Bridges, pre-Lebowski) and the 1948 Tucker Sedan. His efforts led to trouble with General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler, which forms the crux of the drama of the film. Bridges’ performance, like the film itself, is wonderfully bright, as are supporting turns from Joan Allen, Christian Slater, and Dean Stockwell.
A War (2015)
One of the nominees for Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards, the Danish film A War stars Game of Thrones’ Pilou Asbæk as a military commander who is accused of committing a war crime after calling in an airstrike and causing civilian casualties. He’d lacked proper identification (PID) but felt it necessary to save the men under his command, and struggles with the consequences — as well as the burden borne by his family in his absence — as the trial commences.
The Wolfpack (2015)
The story behind the documentary The Wolfpack is almost too crazy to believe. By chance, director Crystal Moselle encountered a striking-looking group of six kids walking down First Avenue in Manhattan. As it turned out, they were all siblings, and had lived confined to their apartment for the past 14 years. They had learned about the outside world solely by watching movies — right up until one of them decided to go outside against their father’s wishes. The film tells the story of their confinement, as well as their eventual introduction to the rest of the world.