100 Best Movies on Kanopy Right Now

100 Best Movies on Kanopy Right Now

February 29, 2024

Share:

twitter
facebook
reddit
pinterest
link

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.

31. Skate Kitchen (2018)

best

8.1

Country

United States of America

Director

Crystal Moselle, Female director

Actors

Ajani Russell, Darlene Violette, Dede Lovelace, Elizabeth Rodriguez

Moods

Easy, Feel-Good, Heart-warming

Director Crystal Moselle based Skate Kitchen on NYC’s eponymous crew of young female skateboarders, who actually play fictionalized versions of themselves here. That real-life casting lends the film a documentary-esque quality: the girls’ bantering chemistry and die-hard loyalty feel warmly authentic, and the movie would be well worth a watch just to bask in this vibe alone.

The Skate Kitchen girls are an eclectic bunch, but what’s so refreshing — and therapeutic — about the film is that they’re also deeply, instinctively empathetic. These misfits don’t just tolerate but celebrate one another’s uniqueness and respect their differing boundaries (the way the girls and the movie treat shyness as a feature rather than a flaw to be resolved is particularly moving). What’s more, in its own low-key way, Skate Kitchen is an inspirational watch for its portrait of young women building the sanctuary they need themselves — not just in a largely male subculture but on a broader canvas, too. Rather than skulk anxiously on the sidelines, the girls use skating to carve out a space of their own in New York, a way to make the big, scary city feel warm and intimate. Amidst all the steezy ollies and clean rail grinds, these might just be the greatest tricks they pull off.

32. Denial (2016)

best

8.1

Country

UK, United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Mick Jackson

Actors

Abigail Cruttenden, Alex Jennings, Amanda Lawrence, Andrea Deck

Moods

A-list actors, Challenging, Emotional

Here’s a based-on-a-true-story courtroom drama that transcends the limits of its genre by virtue of an incisive and unexpectedly prescient script. Twenty years before 2016 sent us hurtling through the looking glass and into a post-truth era, the idea that you could deny the facts as you pleased teetered terrifyingly on the brink of legitimacy when author David Irving (a suitably odious Timothy Spall) brought a UK libel suit against Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz), an academic whom he claimed had defamed him for calling him exactly what he was: a Holocaust denier.

The case was complicated by the fact that, at the time, the UK placed the burden of proof on the defendant — in other words, Lipstadt’s hotshot legal team needed to prove that the Holocaust happened and that Irving had wilfully misrepresented evidence demonstrating this. Denial captures that terrifying farcicality and the defense’s cleverly counterintuitive strategy: not allowing Lipstadt or Holocaust survivors to speak. If that sounds unsatisfying — this is the rare courtroom drama with no grandstanding speech from the protagonist — that’s the point, something the film’s title cleverly alludes to. Perhaps unexpectedly, Denial’s relevance has ballooned since its release, a fact that might hobble its hopeful ending but that only makes the rest all the more powerful.

33. I Am Not a Witch (2017)

best

8.1

Country

France, Germany, United Kingdom

Director

Female director, Rungano Nyoni

Actors

Dyna Mufuni, Gloria Huwiler, Henry B.J. Phiri, Maggie Mulubwa

Moods

Dark, Funny, Original

Remarkably for a movie about women being shunned and exploited by those more powerful than them, I Am Not A Witch is often wryly funny. That’s because this satire about Zambia’s labor camps for “witches” is told with a matter-of-fact-ness that brings out both the heartbreak and absurdity of the film’s events. The bitter gravity of the predicament nine-year-old Shula (Maggie Mulubwa) finds herself in — she’s been accused of witchcraft on the back of some very flimsy evidence — is never glossed over, but neither is its farcicality. Appropriately for its subject, there are also touches of magical realism here, notes that elevate the film into something even more complex than a wry commentary on this morbidly fascinating form of misogyny. This hybrid tonal approach is executed with the kind of fluidity filmmakers might hope to one day master late on in their career — which makes the fact that this is director Rungano Nyoni’s debut all the more extraordinary.

34. Dogtooth (2009)

best

8.0

Country

Greece

Director

Yorgos Lanthimos

Actors

Alexander Voulgaris, Angeliki Papoulia, Anna Kalaitzidou, Christos Stergioglou

Moods

Challenging, Dark, Mind-blowing

Dogtooth is a bonkers tale about three teenagers who live an isolated life on their family’s estate due to strict rules set by totalitarian parents. Their vocabulary is limited and their perception of the world is strange. They’re taught that cats are bloodthirsty monsters, that disobedience is grounds for horrific punishment, and that the world outside the house will kill them.

Equal parts bizarrely funny and disturbingly terrifying, director Yorgos Lanthimos pulls no punches with this fascinating examination of authoritarianism. As usual with his actors, they are directed to deliver lines in a matter-of-fact, often even deadpan manner, making the escalating lies and deceptions more and more unsettling as the film goes on. Thimios Bakatakis’ cinematography also places the twisted tale in a home that has a somewhat dreamlike beauty.

Those who enjoy dark, comical situations told with dry humor will be amused by Dogtooth. Those who enjoy stories that quietly build up to gruesome conclusions will also be amused by Dogtooth. It takes a unique mind to depict nameless children being subjugated and stripped of the fundamentals of conceptualization in an isolated world, and treat it as an absurdist comedy rather than a flat-out horror film. Lanthimos does it.

35. Blue (1993)

best

8.0

Country

United Kingdom

Director

Derek Jarman

Actors

Derek Jarman, John Quentin, Nigel Terry, Tilda Swinton

Moods

Depressing, Emotional, Intense

Part documentary yet part surreal daydream, director Derek Jarman’s final film is one last rallying cry into a blue void. Against an unchanging screen of International Klein Blue, most of the film is Jarman’s voice, drifting through various subjects, from day-to-day complications of AIDS to contemplations about the color blue. Some of his frequent collaborators chime in. Choirs singing about damnation occasionally pop up too. While essentially a radio drama, the combination of voices, foley, and scores all merge together into an ethereal, haunting soundscape, that sticks in your head long after the film ends. Mirroring his partial blindness, Jarman’s last experiment leaves an impression of his own experience. It’s absolutely devastating.

36. All In This Tea (2007)

best

8.0

Director

Gina Leibrecht, Les Blank

Actors

Werner Herzog

Moods

Easy, Instructive, Lovely

You don’t have to be a tea drinker to enjoy this warm film from documentary legend Les Blank. The passion and eloquence with which the tea connoisseurs interviewed here talk about the beverage is a delight in itself, a soul-nourishing reminder of what worlds of meaning and experience open up when you really love something. Though a few of these enthusiasts are featured — among them, filmmaker Werner Herzog —  it’s mainly centered around David Lee Hoffman, an American importer who swims against the tide of capitalism, mass production, and environmental damage to champion the hand-crafted teas he’s so passionate about. As the film chronicles, however, his insistence on buying directly from the boutique farmers — sometimes traveling hours into the remote Chinese countryside to do so — often puts him at odds with the economic interests of the big-time exporters he must work with.

Hoffman isn’t persistent in the face of all these hurdles for the sake of a buck, though: the film follows his linked efforts to encourage organic farming practices and a direct-from-the-source marketplace that will give the farmers a fair price for their hard work. That his love for the drink also encompasses the artisans who make it and the ground that grows it makes this an inspiring watch.

37. 12 Angry Men (1997)

best

8.0

Country

United States of America

Director

William Friedkin

Actors

Armin Mueller-Stahl, Courtney B. Vance, Dorian Harewood, Douglas Spain

Moods

A-list actors, Character-driven, Discussion-sparking

Even a director of William Friedkin’s caliber had his work cut out for him with this remake of the towering 1957 drama tracking a jury’s fraught deliberations in an apparently open-and-shut murder trial. Wisely, he changes little: most of the incisive dialogue remains the same, and the film still only takes place in one sweltering room on New York’s hottest day.

There are some key differences, though: namely, in a few of the characters (most notably Mykelti Williamson’s ex-Nation of Islam member Juror #10, who helps update the story to the ’90s) and the intensification of the ensemble’s star power. The all-star quality of the cast is never wielded to call attention to itself, though; everyone, from James Gandolfini and William Petersen to Tony Danza and Edward James Olmos is on fine character acting form here. Replacing the unforgettable Henry Fonda is Jack Lemmon (exuding warmth and good sense) as the principled lone dissenter who calmly wages a war of words with George C. Scott’s bigoted Juror #3 to give real justice a chance. The 1957 version is admittedly a timeless classic, but Friedkin’s version isn’t very far off from reaching its predecessor’s dazzling heft plus, this stands as a compelling argument that every era should have its own 12 Angry Men.

38. Our Children (2012)

best

8.0

Country

Belgium, France, Luxembourg

Director

Joachim Lafosse

Actors

Baya Belal, Claire Bodson, Émilie Dequenne, Mounia Raoui

Moods

Challenging, Dark, Depressing

Our Children opens at the harrowing end of the true story it’s based on: with the image of a distraught mother (Émilie Dequenne) in a hospital bed, begging a police officer to ensure that her children — who have just predeceased her — are buried in Morocco. From this ominous beginning, the film rewinds into a jarringly sunny flashback of lovebirds Murielle (Dequenne) and Mounir (Tahar Rahim) to tell this horrifying story from the start.

What follows is much less obviously dramatic: Our Children shifts into slow-burn psychological thriller territory as we watch the gradual breaking down of Murielle at the hands of Mounir’s adoptive father André (Niels Arestrup), a wealthy white doctor who has used his status to insinuate himself into the lives of Mounir and his family back home in Morocco. This is a very subtle study of manipulation, one that hinges entirely on the performances of the trio, who fill with nuance roles that could easily have been tabloid caricatures. Above all, though, this is Dequenne’s film, and it’s the devastating ways she shows the life gradually being sucked out of Murielle that makes Our Children so difficult to shake off.

39. Yeelen (1987)

best

8.0

Country

Burkina Faso, France, Germany

Director

Souleymane Cissé

Actors

Aoua Sangare, Balla Moussa Keita, Ismaila Sarr, Issiaka Kane

Moods

Original, Slow, Thought-provoking

Celebrated Malian filmmaker Souleyman Cissé crafted Yeelen (which means ‘brightness’) as an explicit antidote to the “ethnographic” lens through which Western directors often told Africa-set stories. That intention is certainly felt, because Yeelen doesn’t trouble itself to translate its folklore-drawn premise for audiences unfamiliar with 13th-century Malian myths. Rejecting Western storytelling conventions, it instead uses those of the culture it depicts — a looping approach to time and matter-of-fact magical realism — to present the tale of Nianankoro (Issiaka Kane), a supernaturally gifted young man whose sorcerer father (Niamanto Sanogo) plots to kill him because of the threats he poses to the elder man’s power. 

 A basic primer to the customs central to Yeelen is provided in the opening titles, but knowledge of the culture it communicates through isn’t a prerequisite to watching and enjoying the film because its epic conflicts — both Oedipal (father versus son) and religious (flesh versus spirit) — and otherworldly sensibilities make it both instinctively familiar and mesmerizing. A deserved winner of the Cannes Jury Prize, though the fact that it was the first African film to win one of the festival’s awards — 40 years into its existence — makes this an unjustly belated milestone.

40. Luzzu (2021)

best

8.0

Country

Malta

Director

Alex Camilleri

Actors

David Scicluna, Frida Cauchi, Jesmark Scicluna, Michela Farrugia

Moods

Character-driven, Gripping, Intense

In Luzzu, tradition and modernity — plus principles and necessity — come crashing up against each other like waves in a raging storm. Trying to navigate his way through the tempest is Jesmark (Jesmark Scicluna), a Maltese fisherman proudly descended from a long family line of the profession. But Jesmark’s work — and his identity, which is tightly bound up with it — is reaching a crisis point, as fishing’s dwindling returns can no longer provide his family with a living. His baby son needs expensive medical care, and his wife (Michela Farrugia) sees little choice but to abandon their independence and lean on her family (who have been hostile to her choice of spouse) to get by.

And so Jesmark finds himself pricing his principles: does he struggle on in vain, or give in to the pull of the lucrative black market, which respects neither EU fishing laws nor the sanctity of the seabed? With the weight of his family legacy on his back, Jesmark’s crisis feels like a crushing existential one. As visually stunning as the titular brightly painted wooden boat passed down by Jesmark’s great-grandfather, Luzzu also feels as preciously crafted, with its raw look at the realities of economic survival recalling the acutely painful dilemmas of classic neorealist cinema.

Comments

Add a comment

Curated by humans, not algorithms.

agmtw

© 2024 A Good Movie to Watch. Altona Studio, LLC, all rights reserved.