The 40 Best Movies on Kanopy Right Now

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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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.

(Luke Janela)
Genre: Adventure, Drama
Actor: Antonio Bolivar, Jan Bijvoet, Nilbio Torres
Director: Ciro Guerra
Go to Kanopy
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.

(agoodmovietowatch)
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Actor: Annika Hallin, Bjorn Granath, David Dencik, Emil Almén, Ewa Fröling, Fredrik Ohlsson, Georgi Staykov, Gösta Bredefeldt, Gunnel Lindblom, Ingvar Hirdwall, Jacob Ericksson, Jan Mybrand, Julia Sporre, Lena Endre, Marika Lagercrantz, Michael Nyqvist, Michalis Koutsogiannakis, Noomi Rapace, Pale Olofsson, Peter Andersson, Peter Haber, Sofia Ledarp, Sven-Bertil Taube, Yasmine Garbi
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Rating: R
Go to Kanopy
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.

(agoodmovietowatch)
Genre: Drama
Actor: Amanda Seyfried, Cedric the Entertainer, Christopher Dylan White, Ethan Hawke, Michael Gaston, Philip Ettinger, Sue Jean Kim, Tyler Bourke, Van Hansis, Victoria Hill
Director: Paul Schrader
Go to Kanopy
Poetry (2011)

Poetry is a masterpiece from one of South Korea's most cherished movie directors, Lee Chang-dong. The simple story follows the everyday life of a grandmother, Mija, who works as a caretaker for a living. To fill her inner emptiness, she decides to join a poetry club with other grandmothers in her neighborhood. Meanwhile, as Mija deals with her own financial and health problems, she struggles to connect with her teenage grandson — only to find out that he is keeping a dark secret. If you are familiar with Lee Chang-dong works, then you know that the movie will tug at your heartstrings. But if you aren't, prepare to be moved.

(Oppie A)
Genre: Drama
Actor: Ahn Nae-sang, Chang Hyae-jin, Hee-ra Kim, Jang Hye-jin, Jeong-hie Yun, Kim Ja-young, Kwon Hyuk-soo, Lee Da-wit, Min Bok-gi, Park Myung-shin
Director: Chang-dong Lee, Lee Chang-dong
Rating: TV-PG
Go to Kanopy
The Skeleton Twins (2014)

Directed and co-written by Craig Johnson (who made The Adolescents with Mark Duplass), The Skeleton Twins is a beautiful piece of drama, dealing with some dark themes. It does so with surprising success, given that the two main actors are seasoned comedians with little to no experience in the genre. And yet, it is precisely the two leads that turn this bleak comedy-drama into a somber, haunting, but beautiful watch. Bill Hader is amazing as the depressed and suicidal gay man, Milo, who is reunited with his estranged twin Maggie (Kristen Wiig) after a series of unfortunate events. Their attempts at repairing their fractured relationship also forces them to confront the trajectory of their own lives, while they rediscover their erstwhile childhood friendship and long-lost camaraderie. Again, don't expect a traditional comedy, but an honest display of the complexities of sibling relationships, mental health, and how conflict, compassion, and understanding fit into it all.

(Jamie Rutherford)
Genre: Drama
Actor: Adriane Lenox, Bill Hader, Boyd Holbrook, Cliff Moylan, Eddie Schweighardt, Ian Hyland, Jennifer Lafleur, Joanna Gleason, Kathleen Rose Perkins, Kristen Wiig, Luke Wilson, Sydney Lucas, Ty Burrell
Director: Craig Johnson
Rating: R
Go to Kanopy
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (2006)

Not only is this multi-award-winning drama seriously star-studded, Robert Downey Jr., Rosario Dawson, Channing Tatum, and Shia LaBeouf also deliver superb performances. With two Sundance Awards and many other nominations in its pocket, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is based on the eponymous memoir by author, director, and musician, Dito Montiel, who recalls his violent childhood on the mean streets of Queens in the 1980s (LaBeouf plays the young Dito), as he visits his ailing father after 15 years away in Los Angeles (Downey Jr. plays present-day Dito). It is also real-life Dito's directorial debut, recalling the loose, improvisational style of 70s cinema a'la Scorcese. The powerful plot is told through flashbacks and fourth-wall bending monologues, while the eccentric directing style makes for a raw and immediate experience. The energy of this coming-of-age drama is off the charts!

(Amelia)
Genre: Crime, Drama
Actor: Adam Scarimbolo, Chance Kelly, Channing Tatum, Chazz Palminteri, Dianne Wiest, Eléonore Hendricks, Eric Roberts, Federico Castelluccio, Laila Liliana Garro, Martin Compston, Melonie Diaz, Olga Merediz, Robert Downey Jr., Rosario Dawson, Scott Michael Campbell, Shia LaBeouf
Director: Dito Montiel
Rating: R
Go to Kanopy
BPM
14.

Autobiographical in nature, 120 BPM is French screenwriter Robin Campillo's first feature film. It revolves around the Parisian chapter of the AIDS advocacy group ACT UP, which Campillo was a member of in the early 1990s, and the love between Nathan, the group's newest member, who is HIV negative, and Sean, one of its founding and more radical members, who is positive and suffers the consequences of contracting AIDS. Using fake blood and spectacular direct action, ACT UP advocated more and better research of treatment, prevention, and awareness. This was at a time when many, implicitly or explicitly, viewed AIDS as a gay disease, even as a punishment for the gay community's propensity to pleasure and partying. The latter is reflected by the film's title, 120 bpm being the average number of beats per minute of a house track. Arnaud Rebotini's original score echoes the ecstasy-driven house music hedonism of the time with some effective original cuts, albeit with a melancholic streak. Because, for all the love, friendship, and emotion of the ACT UP crew that BPM so passionately portrays, anger and sadness pervade the lives of these young people as the lack of effective treatment threatens to claim the lives of their loved ones.

(agoodmovietowatch)
Genre: Drama
Actor: Adèle Haenel, Aloïse Sauvage, Antoine Reinartz, Arnaud Valois, Coralie Russier, Félix Maritaud, Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Saadia Bentaïeb, Sabrina Aliane, Samuel Churin
Director: Robin Campillo
Rating: Not Rated
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Detachment (2012)

A very poetic film by Tony Kaye (American History X) about an English Literature teacher (Adrien Brody - "The Pianist") who only works as a substitute in schools which are located in very poor urban areas. The reason behind his choice is that he doesn't want to bond too much with his students and colleagues because he is trying to control his dark emotions about life and the triviality of our existences (although it sounds depressing it is absolutely not). He also takes care of his last family connection, his grandfather, to whom he is very close and who lives in an elderly home. Unsurprisingly, their relationship is very emotional and deep. Every time you think about your existence, your place in the world, your interactions with other people; watch Detachment.

(Andreas Eustathopoulos)
Genre: Drama
Actor: Adrien Brody, Betty Kaye, Blythe Danner, Bryan Cranston, Celia Au, Christina Hendricks, Isiah Whitlock Jr., James Caan, Josh Pais, Louis Zorich, Lucy Liu, Marcia Gay Harden, Ronen Rubinstein, Sami Gaye, Sami Gayle, Tim Blake Nelson, William Petersen
Director: Tony Kaye
Rating: Not Rated
Go to Kanopy
About Elly (2015)

Having only made its way to the US six long years after its initial release, this is the long-awaited film from the Oscar-winning director of A Separation—Asghar Farhadi. First off, for full disclosure, Farhadi does not miss and we here at A Good Movie to Watch are unabashed fans of his. At the heart of his fourth film lies a haunting mystery. A group of old friends and relatives reunite for vacation in Northern Iran with one of them bringing Elly to the group, intent on introducing her to her friend Ahmad, a divorcee visiting from Germany. It looks like everything would work out as planned when, suddenly, Elly has vanished. In the habitual Farhadi style, the unfolding mystery and poignant questions about gender and politics are helped along by a subtle script, delicate directing, and on-point performances, including from one of the most well-known Iranian actors of today, Golshifteh Farahani. In addition to being an enthralling watch, it will let you catch a glimpse of the delicate balance struck by middle-class, modern-day Iranians, caught between their own expectations and those of society and tradition.

(Anass Boudiga)
Genre: Drama
Actor: Ahmad Mehranfar, Golshifteh Farahani, Mani Haghighi, Marila Zare'i, Merila Zare'i, Payman Maadi, Peyman Maadi, Rana Azadivar, Saber Abar, Shahab Hosseini, Tarane Alidousti, Taraneh Alidoosti
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Rating: N/A, Unrated
Go to Kanopy
What Maisie Knew (2012)

From the producers of The Kids Are Alright comes another excellent family drama starring Juliane Moore. She plays a hot-headed rock singer who battles her divorced husband, a narcissistic art dealer, expertly played by the unlikely Steeve Coogan, for custody of her daughter Maisie. When one of them marries the girl's nanny, the other rushes into marriage as well. Based on Henry James' titular novel from 1897, it tells the story of a quiet, sensitive young girl coping with being used as a pawn by egotistical parents who spite each other. It is sometimes hard to watch the girl get caught up in all this but the young actress playing Maisie, Onata Aprile, plays the part brilliantly. The screenplay adaption of the ahead-of-its-time material of the book by Nancy Doyne and Carroll Cartwright also hits every note with passion. A harrowing but powerful film.

(agoodmovietowatch)
Genre: Drama
Actor: Alexander Skarsgård, Amelia Campbell, Breanna Lakatos, Diana García, Diana García, Emma Holzer, Jesse Stone Spadaccini, Joanna Vanderham, Julianne Moore, Maddie Corman, Onata Aprile, Paddy Croft, Sadie Rae, Steve Coogan
Director: David Siegel, Scott McGehee
Rating: R
Go to Kanopy

More lists

A quick recap

Split by genre of this selection on agoodmovietowatch.com
Comedy
42
Drama
180
Documentary
137
Romance
33
Average score
81.5%
from our staff
Average score
81.4%
from our users
There are
134
more suggestions in this category.
Find them by going back to agoodmovietowatch.com