The 40 Best Movies on Kanopy Right Now

Updated May 13, 2022 • Staff

Kanopy is a platform that allows you to stream movies for free with your library card or university login. It's just like making a trip to the library to borrow DVDs, except without the trip or the DVD part - just the watching.

Kanopy, like your library, is full of classics. That's a great thing if you're into older movies, but if you're looking for quality recent titles you have a lot of digging to do. The goal of this list is to gather the excellent recent movies available on Kanopy in one place. 40 of them.

All of these movies, like everything else on agoodmovietowatch, are highly-rated by viewers and acclaimed by critics.

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40.

The Disaster Artist (2017)

A hilarious and smart comedy that is almost impossible to hate. It doesn’t matter if you liked The Room or not; or if you’ve even heard of it, you will find The Disaster Artist extremely enjoyable. Same applies for James Franco, it’s irrelevant if you think he’s the hottest man walking or a complete waste of screen-time - this movie is better approached without any preconceived ideas. It follows the true events surrounding Tommy Wiseau’s making of The Room, a movie so bad it actually became a worldwide hit. Tommy’s character, played by Franco, is 100% mystery. He pops out of nowhere and does and says things that contain little to no logic. Capitalizing on this, the movie is both absolutely hilarious and intriguing from beginning to end.

Our staff rating: 8.6/10
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Actor: Adam Scott, Adwin Brown, Alison Brie, Amechi Okocha, Andrew Santino, Ari Graynor, Bob Odenkirk, Brett Gelman, Brian Huskey, Bryan Cranston, Cameron Brinkman, Casey Wilson, Cate Freedman, Charlyne Yi, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Danny McBride, Dave Franco, David DeCoteau, Dree Hemingway, Dylan Minnette, Eliza Coupe, Erin Cummings, Frankie Ponce, Frederick Keeve, Greg Sestero, Hannibal Buress, Ike Barinholtz, J.J. Abrams, Jacki Weaver, James Franco, Jason Mantzoukas, Jason Mitchell, Javi Sánchez-Blanco Boyer, Jenna Curtis, Jerrod Carmichael, Jessie Ennis, Joe Mande, John Early, Jolie Mitnick Salter, Josh Hutcherson, Judd Apatow, June Diane Raphael, Kara Gibson, Kate Upton, Katherine Neff, Keegan-Michael Key, Kelly Oxford, Kether Donohue, Kevin Smith, Kristen Bell, Lauren Ash, Lizzy Caplan, Megan Ferguson, Megan Mullally, Melanie Griffith, Nathan Fielder, Nicole Gordon-Levitt, Paul Scheer, Peter Gilroy, Ramona Tibrin, Randall Park, Ricky Mabe, Seth Rogen, Sharon Stone, Slim Khezri, Steven Liu, Sugar Lyn Beard, Tamzin Brown, Taylor DeVoe, Tom Franco, Tommy Wiseau, Tudor Munteanu, Xosha Roquemore, Zac Efron, Zach Braff, Zoey Deutch
Director: James Franco
Rating: R
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39.

Leave No Trace (2018)

Leave No Trace is the amazing new movie from the director of Winter's Bone, Debra Granik. It's the story of a father and his daughter who live completely off the grid in a national park in Portland, and their quiet quest to not be separated and remain off the grid. It's not the sensational, tear-jerker story that you'd expect something with this premise to be. Rather, and like Winter's Bone, it chooses a humane and realistic approach to the subject matter. The decision to live outside society is almost irrelevant to this movie. More so, its inevitability for certain people with certain mindsets is what is interesting. A stunningly quiet movie, really well-acted too.

Our staff rating: 8.6/10
Genre: Drama, Mystery
Actor: Alyssa McKay, Ayanna Berkshire, Ben Foster, Dale Dickey, Dana Millican, Debra Granik, Derek John Drescher, Isaiah Stone, Jeff Kober, Jeffery Rifflard, Michael Draper, Spencer S. Hanley, Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, Thomasin McKenzie
Director: Debra Granik
Rating: PG
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38.

For Sama (2019)

This story of a filmmaker who stayed in Aleppo, Syria during the war, got married then had a child called Sama, is a mix of difficult and inspiring.

There are stories of unsurmountable loss, as the filmmaker’s husband is one of the 30 remaining doctors in Aleppo (a city of almost 5 million), and she films many of the victims that come to his hospital. But while this is happening, there are also uplifting stories of resilience and rare but profound moments of laughter and joy.

We’re growing too sensitized to violence in Syria, and this movie, possibly the most intimate account of the war, can stir back a much-needed awareness of the injustices that take place.

When things get really bad in the documentary, it’s hard not to wonder where the humanity is in all of this. You quickly realize that it’s right there, behind the camera, in Sama and her mother’s will to live.

Our staff rating: 8.6/10
Genre: Documentary, War
Actor: Hamza Al-Khateab, Sama Al-Khateab, Waad Al-Kateab, Waad Al-Khateab
Director: Edward Watts, Waad Al-Kateab, Waad Al-Khateab
Rating: TV-PG
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37.

And Then We Danced (2020)

Georgian dance has cut-throat competition: the art form is dying even within Gerogia, and to make it, dancers compete to join the one duo that represents the country. The chance finally comes and the spot opens up, igniting the hopes of performers from around the country. Mervan is one of them, a young dancer from a poor background who takes food from his restaurant job to feed his family. His main competition is a newcomer, Irakli, who also comes from a difficult background and hopes to secure the spot to provide for his ill father.

When their lives hang on them competing against one another, Mervan and Irakli fall for each other.

And Then We Danced is full of incredible dance sequences that add to the beauty of the romance at its center; but it's also a heartbreaking exploration of unfulfilled ambition.

Our staff rating: 8.6/10
Genre: Drama, Romance
Actor: Aleko Begalishvili, Ana Javakishvili, Bachi Valishvili, Giorgi Tsereteli, Mate Khidasheli, Ninutsa Gabisonia, Tamar Bukhnikashvili
Director: Levan Akin
Rating: 12
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36.

35 Shots of Rum (2008)

This bittersweet film about a father and a daughter marks one of the more tender spots in Claire Denis’ brilliant filmography. Frequent collaborator Alex Descas plays Lionel (the father), while Mati Diop, now a director in her own right, plays Josephine (the daughter.) The film captures the two at a crossroads, with their closely-knit relationship tested as Josephine grows closer to her boyfriend, and Lionel must face the possibility of finally letting her go.

A melancholy lingers in the air as we learn more about their lives and the small community of neighbors and coworkers in their orbit. Meanwhile, the film's climax holds a mesmerizing sequence set to the Commodores’ Nightshift, which has to rank as one of the best needle drops in cinema from a director who already has an all-timer under her belt. (see. Beau Travail)

Our staff rating: 8.6/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Adèle Ado, Alex Descas, Djédjé Apali, Ériq Ebouaney, Grégoire Colin, Ingrid Caven, Jean-Christophe Folly, Mati Diop, Nicole Dogué
Director: Claire Denis
Rating: Unrated
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35.

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005)

Mr. Lazarescu is a widower living with his cats in a small Bucharest apartment. One night when he begins to feel sick and calls for help, he sets in motion a kafkaesque parade of nurses, doctors, and hospitals as he is ferried through a bureaucratic maze unable to get treatment for his rapidly deteriorating condition. Cristi Puiu’s searing indictment of a failed healthcare system mixes kitchen-sink realism with tinges of gallows humor for a remarkable one-of-a-kind experience.

Beneath its grim demeanor is a clear-eyed portrait of the heart-rending weariness of paramedics and hospital staff that speaks spectacularly to our current mid-pandemic moment of exhausted doctors and overflowing facilities. This focus on the toll of the system on paramedics, in particular, makes this a fantastic pairing with Martin Scorcese’s’ underrated Bringing Out the Dead.

Our staff rating: 8.6/10
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Actor: Adrian Titieni, Alexandru Potocean, Alina Berzunteanu, Bogdan Dumitrache, Cerasela Iosifescu, Clara Vodă, Cristi Puiu, Dan Chiriac, Dana Dogaru, Dorian Boguta, Doru Ana, Dragos Bucur, Florin Zamfirescu, Gabriel Spahiu, Ioan Fiscuteanu, Ion Fiscuteanu, Luminita Gheorghiu, Mimi Brănescu, Mimi Branescu, Monica Bârlădeanu, Monica Barladeanu, Rodica Lazăr, Șerban Pavlu, Simona Popescu
Director: Cristi Puiu
Rating: R
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34.

Shiva Baby (2021)

A young bisexual woman attends a shiva, caught between her parents and their expectations, her ex, and her sugar daddy. Rachel Sennott’s Danielle is yet to find her path in life and everyone is determined to remind her of that. Taking place almost entirely in real-time, the film’s sharp wit is contrasted with constant anxiety, complemented by Ariel Marx’s horror-like score, full of discordant pizzicato that sounds like every last bit of sanity snapping. 

It’s a sex-positive take on 20-something life, treating bisexuality as wholly unremarkable and passing no judgment on Danielle’s sugar daddy income. Its specificities about Jewish customs and traditions are non-exclusionary, while its social claustrophobia is achingly universal. It’s comforting in the way it portrays the social horrors we all face, the feeling that everyone but you has life figured out, and that – ultimately – those who matter will pull through, eventually. One of 2021’s best.

Our staff rating: 8.6/10
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Actor: Ariel Eliaz, Cilda Shaur, Danny Deferrari, Deborah Offner, Dianna Agron, Fred Melamed, Jackie Hoffman, Molly Gordon, Polly Draper, Rachel Sennott, Sondra James
Director: Emma Seligman
Rating: Unrated
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33.

Embrace of the Serpent (2015)

This movie is gentle and utterly chaotic, intimate and massive, beautiful and ugly... it tries to be so many things and somehow pulls it off. It tells two stories parallel in time, based on the real-life diaries of two European scientists who traveled through the Amazon in the early and mid-twentieth century. Their stories are some of the only of accounts of Amazonian tribes in written history. The main character and guide in the movie is a shaman who met them both. At times delicate to the point of almost being able to feel the water, at times utterly apocalyptic and grand... to watch this movie is to take a journey through belief systems, through film... and to be brought along by cinematography that is at times unbelievably and absurdly beautiful. Meditative, violent, jarring, peaceful, luminous, ambitious, artful, heavy handed, graceful... it's really an incredible film.

Our staff rating: 8.7/10
Genre: Adventure, Drama
Actor: Antonio Bolivar, Brionne Davis, Jan Bijvoet, Nilbio Torres, Yauenkü Miguee
Director: Ciro Guerra
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32.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

The original Swedish mystery thriller that was later remade by David Fincher. It's the same story of a wealthy man hiring a journalist and scrappy hacker to solver a murder, but told better. This version is slower, has more attention to detail and pace. In casting, authenticity triumphs over good looks. In staging, aesthetics are given as much importance as thrills. And in the story, intelligence wins over plot. This gives the main character of Lisbeth Salander (played by Noomi Rapace) better space to deploy her full mysticism and enigmatic nature. Danish director Niels Arden Oplev masterfully brings everything together to make for a movie that will forever be remembered.

Our staff rating: 8.8/10
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Actor: Alexandra Pascalidou, Annika Hallin, Bjorn Granath, Christian Fiedler, Daniel Abreu, David Dencik, Emil Almén, Ewa Fröling, Fredrik Ohlsson, Georgi Staykov, Gösta Bredefeldt, Gunnel Lindblom, Henrik Kvarnlöt, Ingvar Hirdwall, Jacob Ericksson, Jan Mybrand, Julia Sporre, Kalled Mustonen, Lena Endre, Louise Ryme, Marika Lagercrantz, Michael Nyqvist, Michalis Koutsogiannakis, Mikael Rahm, Nina Norén, Noomi Rapace, Pale Olofsson, Peter Andersson, Peter Haber, Reuben Sallmander, Sofia Ledarp, Stefan Sauk, Sven-Bertil Taube, Tehilla Blad, Tomas Köhler, Willie Andréason, Yasmine Garbi
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Rating: R
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31.

First Reformed (2018)

When asked about starring in First Reformed, Ethan Hawke said it’s the kind of role he would have never dared to audition for 10 years ago. This is coming from the same goatee icon who did Gattaca 22 years ago, and Training Day 18 years ago. 

Needless to say that his performance in this movie is exceptional, and we hope that it will be rewarded with an Oscar. The film centers around his character, a reverend of a church in New York, who is trying to help a couple with marital issues (deciding the fate of a pregnancy). Instead, he uncovers a deeper story and becomes unexpectedly involved. 

Religion intersects with ethical questions on activism, abortion, and environmental issues. I know that sounds like a lot, but First Reformed delivers on everything. The writing by Paul Schrader is delicate yet ensures that the movie keeps a gripping pace.

Our staff rating: 8.8/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Amanda Seyfried, Bill Hoag, Cedric the Entertainer, Christopher Dylan White, Elanna White, Erica Fae, Ethan Hawke, Frank Rodriguez, Gary Lee Mahmoud, Ingrid Kullberg-Bendz, Jon Rua, Kristin Villanueva, Michael Gaston, Philip Ettinger, Prudence Wright Holmes, Ronald Peet, Sue Jean Kim, Tyler Bourke, Van Hansis, Victoria Hill
Director: Paul Schrader
Go to Kanopy

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