4 Best Movies & Shows Released in 1987 On Kanopy

Staff & contributors
Find the best movies and show to watch from the year 1987. These handpicked recommendations are highly-rated by viewers and critics.

The last work by legendary American director John Huston is this exquisitely rendered adaptation of a James Joyce short story. The Dead is nestled inside an intimate festive dinner shared by the family and close friends of the Morkan sisters, two well-to-do elderly spinsters living in Dublin in 1904. The film is a family affair in more ways than just that, too: for Huston’s final feature, son Tony wrote the script and daughter Anjelica (as Gretta) was its star.

As with so many end-of-year gatherings, the prevailing mood of the dinner is one of sentimental nostalgia, as the hosts and their guests swap memories, toast each other, and tearily reminisce about the way things were. Anjelica Huston’s performance is also a quiet architect of that atmosphere, as Gretta slips in and out of dreamy reveries throughout the evening to the puzzlement of her husband Gabriel (Donal McCann) — something that surges to the fore in an astonishingly moving final revelation. Huston directed the film on his proverbial deathbed, which infuses it with significance — but, even if it wasn’t the capstone to his illustrious career, The Dead would still stand as one of the finest treatments of mortality and longing ever committed to the screen.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Anjelica Huston, Colm Meaney, Dan O'Herlihy, Donal Donnelly, Donal McCann, Helena Carroll, Ingrid Craigie, Kate O'Toole, Maria McDermottroe, Marie Kean, Sean McClory

Director: John Huston

In this stunning coming-of-age drama, Hou Hsiao-hsien takes us to the neon-lit streets of Taiwan and the dull beige house of the Lin family. The film is centered around the eldest daughter, Lin Hsiao-yang (portrayed by the Taiwanese pop star Lin Yang), who takes care of her whole family after her mother dies and her father gains employment in another city. Her sister is too young to work, and her older brother is a petty criminal. It’s easy to empathize with her struggles—many of them are issues children shouldn’t face. But she deals with them with a silent sort of strength, with Lin Yang’s stoic face hiding some simmering resentment. Similarly, the film’s slow pace and serene framing hide the underlying violence that affects the Lin family. Juxtaposing Taiwan’s urban and suburban life, Western and Eastern aesthetics, and the film's Egyptian mythos with the struggle of Taiwan’s youth, Hou presents a contemplative view of 1980s Taiwan.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Fu-Sheng Tsui, Grace Chen Shu-Fang, Hsin Shu-Fen, Jack Kao, Li Tian-Lu, Lin Ju, Vega Tsai, Wu Nien-Jen, Yu An-Shun

Director: Hou Hsiao-hsien

Rating: Not Rated

In this romantic drama, James Ivory adapts E.M. Forster's novel Maurice. Set in the early 20th century, Maurice Hall befriends Clive Durham while studying at Cambridge. Clive is rich, handsome, endlessly charming—and in love with Maurice. The two’s relationship blossoms quietly as they steal intimate moments in lush pastures and empty hallways. Fans of Call Me By Your Name will recognize some of the most tender and tense scenes, wherein Clive and Maurice lie together in the grass, surrounded only by weeds and flowers, as if they were the only two lovers left in the world. 

But their love story is stunted and complicated by notions of class and etiquette in an oppressive, conservative England. This is a coming-of-age story in which Maurice must ask himself not only who he is, but also who he wants to become, and how to live an earnest, honest life in the light.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Arthur Whybrow, Barry Foster, Ben Kingsley, Billie Whitelaw, Breffni McKenna, Catherine Rabett, Denholm Elliott, Harriet Thorpe, Helena Bonham Carter, Helena Michell, Hugh Grant, James Wilby, Jean-Marc Barr, John Elmes, Judy Parfitt, Julian Wadham, Kitty Aldridge, Maria Britneva, Mark Payton, Mark Tandy, Matthew Sim, Michael Jenn, Miles Richardson, Olwen Griffiths, Orlando Wells, Patrick Godfrey, Peter Eyre, Philip Fox, Phoebe Nicholls, Richard Warner, Rupert Graves, Serena Gordon, Simon Callow

Director: James Ivory

Rating: R

This quirky 1988 adventure drama is newly available on Amazon Prime. It’s the classic that never was, the story of a rundown gas station motel in the Southern US where a lonely West German lady called Jasmin Munchgstettner ends up by accident.

The owner of the operation, a short-tempered woman by the name of Brenda, doesn’t really take to Jasmin. However, the longer the West German guest stays at the motel, the more a friendship forms between the two.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alan S. Craig, Apesanahkwat, CCH Pounder, Christine Kaufmann, Darron Flagg, Gary Lee Davis, George Aguilar, Hans Stadlbauer, Jack Palance, Marianne Sägebrecht, Mark Daneri, Monica Calhoun, Ray Young, Ronald Lee Jarvis

Director: Percy Adlon

Rating: PG