The 40 Best Movies on Kanopy Right Now

The 40 Best Movies on Kanopy Right Now

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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.

40. Monsieur Lazhar (2012)

6.9

Country

Canada

Director

Philippe Falardeau

Actors

André Robitaille, Brigitte Poupart, Daniel Gadouas, Danielle Proulx

Moods

Depressing, Dramatic

After the sudden death of a teacher, 55-year-old Algerian immigrant Bachir Lazhar is hired at an elementary school in Montreal. Struggling with a cultural gap between himself and his students at first, he helps them to deal with the situation, revealing his own tragic past. A strong portrait without any weird sentimentality. 11-year-old actress Sophie Nélisse makes her brilliant debut.

39. Trouble the Water (2008)

6.9

Country

United States of America

Director

Carl Deal, Female director

Actors

George W. Bush, Julie Chen, Julie Chen Moonves, Michael Brown

Moods

Inspiring, Instructive, Thrilling

Nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary feature. On the day before Hurricane Katrina, a young aspiring rap singer in the 9th Ward turns her new video camera on herself and her neighbors. She keeps shooting as the water rises, neighbors struggle to rescue each other, people panic and flee. Weeks later she returns to her neighborhood and records the death and decay left behind. Raw and real, worth watching.

38. Escape from Mogadishu (2021)

6.9

Country

South Korea

Director

Ryoo Seung-wan

Actors

Heo Joon-ho, Jeong Man-sik, Jo In-sung, Joo Bo-bi

Moods

Action-packed, Dramatic, Suspenseful

Escape from Mogadishu follows diplomats from the North and South Korean embassies as they put aside their differences and work together to escape from an outbreak of civil war in Mogadishu, Somalia. Director Ryoo Seung-wan provides thrilling, high-budget action, especially intense car chases and suspenseful escape scenes that pump you with adrenaline and leave you on the edge of your seat. However, the Somali side of the story leaves much to be desired. Only existing to kill or be killed, the depiction of the Somalians is distasteful, and the country it’s set in seen as nothing more than a senseless warzone.

It’s in crafting a political thriller where Ryoo strikes a chord, following the tradition of South Korean films and dramas that question the current South/North relations. It’s also the aspect that pushed this film to win awards, given that it’s based on a true story from the 1991 civil war in Somalia, albeit with blockbuster flair. Sure, it’s a highly fictionalized story, but the political tensions and heightened atmosphere make good entertainment. And, as with all Korean thrillers, you’ll have to get on a certain wavelength of melodrama to be fully on board with the bonkers yet emotional escape.

37. I Killed My Mother (2009)

7.0

Country

Canada

Director

Xavier Dolan

Actors

Anne Dorval, François Arnaud, Johanne-Marie Tremblay, Laurent-Christophe De Ruelle

Moods

Dramatic, Intense, Raw

Xavier Dolan’s emotionally charged directorial debut centers on the complex relationship between 16-year-old Hubert and his mother, brought to life by Dolan himself and Anne Dorval, respectively. The film paints an authentic and all-too-familiar picture of two people who love each other yet clash in similarly self-centered and stubborn ways.

The mother-and-son duo vacillate between love and hate in a screenplay full of drama. The cinematography, relying much on negative space, perfectly evokes a sense of disconnect and animosity. However, there is little subtlety to be found here, much like Hubert’s sexuality being embodied by a poster of River Phoenix displayed in his bedroom. The rawness and heightened telling of events indicate that this story is as fresh and unpolished as then 19-year-old Dolan’s own feelings about family dysfunction, particularly mommy issues. The heavy-handedness and moments of exaggeration in his quasi-autobiography are obvious, a fault of execution that one can attribute to lack of experience.

Still, the powerful visuals and dialogue hint at a vision of what more to expect in Dolan’s now-celebrated career. I Killed My Mother, by all accounts, fulfills its role as his promising directorial debut.

36. Sound of Noise (2010)

7.0

Country

France, Sweden

Director

Johannes Stjärne Nilsson, Ola Simonsson

Actors

Anders Jansson, Irene Lindh, Iwar Wiklander, Paula McManus

Moods

Easy, Funny, Quirky

When a group of percussionists illegally carry out a city-wide performance act, it’s up to policeman Amadeus Warnebring to stop them. The musical fugitives perform on stolen objects and disrupt public spaces, but Warnebring has his own reasons to pursue them so determinedly: he’s tone-deaf for one and born into a family of snobby musical geniuses for another, making this case all the more meaningful and consequential to him.

Sound of Noise is more than reminiscent of Stomp, what with its playful symphonies subsisting on random borrowed objects, but it is livened up with the suspense of a caper, the dry wit of a Swedish comedy, and the abundant charms of a light romance.

35. Retablo (2017)

7.0

Country

Germany, Norway, Peru

Director

Álvaro Delgado-Aparicio L., Alvaro Delgado-Aparicio

Actors

Amiel Cayo, Claudia Solís, Coco Chiarella, Hermelinda Luján

Moods

Dark, Depressing, Discussion-sparking

Fourteen-year-old Segundo dreams of being just like his father Noé, a revered tableau artist in their small Peruvian town. The teenage apprentice follows Noé’s every move and instruction, that is until one day, he discovers a shocking truth about Noé’s identity. Hurt, angered, and incredibly confused, Segundo starts detaching from his family, as well as from the life he thought he’d wanted to live. 

Retablo is a slow but vibrant film, set in Peruvian locales and spoken in the country’s indigenous tongue, Quechua. Its limited dialogue smartly reflects the people’s own silence when it comes to sex and gender ideas, although the movements themselves—from traditional parties to teenage fights—have a lot to say about masculinity, conservatism, and the dangers of their excess. Retablo might be a difficult watch for some, but it’s just as necessary and enlightening.

34. In the Fade (2017)

7.0

Country

France, Germany, Italy

Director

Fatih Akin

Actors

Adam Bousdoukos, Aysel Iscan, Denis Moschitto, Diane Kruger

Moods

A-list actors, Action-packed, Character-driven

In Fatih Akin’s In the Fade, Katja is seeking justice after the killings of her Turkish husband and their young son in a terrorist bomb attack. Diane Kruger in the role of Katja delivers a powerful and rather grueling performance, for which she was awarded Best Actress at Cannes Film Festival. Her grief is vivid and forces viewers to bear witness to her inescapable pain. In the Fade also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film, beating astonishing films such as Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless. This moving story about a fearless woman determined to take justice into her own hands to fight the cruelty of others delivers a message that needs to be heard.

33. Nobody’s Fool (1994)

7.1

Country

United States of America

Director

Robert Benton

Actors

Alice Drummond, Angela Pietropinto, Angelica Page, Bruce Willis

Moods

A-list actors, Lighthearted, Slice-of-Life

One of those long-lost mid-budget dramas that’s content with observing the rich yet uneventful lives of average folk, Nobody’s Fool reminds us that nothing exciting or shocking needs to happen to make a good story. The late, eternally charismatic Paul Newman leads an ensemble of character actors in relaxed, memorable roles—Bruce Willis, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Margo Martindale, and Jessica Tandy, among others. It’s the authentic, neither-love-nor-hate relationship among all these characters that drives all their individual drama forward and keeps the film from stagnating into anything less than endearing. Here, the idea of things never really changing in this small community is meant to be a comfort, not a lament.

32. Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom (2019)

7.1

Country

Bhutan, China

Director

Pawo Choyning Dorji

Actors

Kelden Lhamo Gurung, Kunzang Wangdi, Sherab Dorji, Ugyen Norbu Lhendup

Moods

Character-driven, Discussion-sparking, Dramatic

On his first day of class in the remote village of Lunana, the city teacher Ugyen asks his students what they want to be when they grow up. One of the children, a young boy named Sangay, answers that he aspires to be a teacher “because a teacher touches the future.” Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom, however, subverts this thematic by spending most of its runtime showing how the villagers touch Ugyen’s heart through genuine acts of kindness, forcing him to rethink his long-term dream of becoming a singer in Australia.

Not only does Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom succeed in its heartfelt dramatization of a Gen Z finding his place in the highlands, it also serves as a propagandistic validation of Bhutan’s “happiest country in the world” epithet. In doing so, the film presents the Bhutanese mountains in as breathtakingly picturesque a manner as possible, limning a paradise through the grassy meadows and children’s faces.

31. The Nightingale (2018)

7.1

Country

Australia

Director

Female director, Jennifer Kent

Actors

Aisling Franciosi, Anthony Phelan, Baykali Ganambarr, Ben McIvor

Moods

Challenging, Dark, Depressing

From The Babadook director Jennifer Kent comes another horror, although this one is more about the horrors of humanity. Set in 1825 Tasmania, The Nightingale follows Irish settler Clare as she seeks bloody revenge on the monsters who wronged her and her family. She teams up with an Aboriginal guide named Billy to accomplish her goal.

Because of its often violent and disturbing tone (the film is rated R for its potentially triggering scenes), The Nightingale understandably polarized audiences upon its release. But it’s also an excellent conversation piece, best watched with friends or anyone up for a discussion-filled movie night.

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