Do the Right Thing by Spike Lee
It’s insane that Spike Lee won his first Academy Award in 2019, and not for the 1989’s iconic Do the Right Thing. The film’s impact on the black community and cinema as a whole is undeniable with Lee giving a great look into a lifestyle many actively choose to ignore. Also, any film that launches the careers of Martin Lawrence and Rosie Perez deserves your viewing!
Hard to overstate how powerful Do the Right Thing is on American culture, perfectly capturing a time in the life of many and shaping how current generations deal with the issues in the film. Now if only they’d add more of Lee’s film to the Collection.
Cléo From 5 to 7 by Agnès Varda
Sorry to anyone who hates French New Wave, but it’s an integral part of film history and has a deserved place on this list. And to make up for it, I won’t include a typical Godard film here. For this entry, the stellar Cléo From 5 to 7 is the French film featured. Crafted by the recently passed Agnes Varda, it’s hard to find a better example of why French New Wave plays such a big part in cinema history than this.
Cléo From 5 to 7 tells the story of a woman awaiting the test results that will reveal if she has cancer or not. The exploration of mortality, primarily through a female point-of-view, is a tough but essential viewing for anyone.
Dr. Strangelove by Stanley Kubrick
You’d be shocked to know only five of Stanley Kubrick’s film are in the Criterion Collection. Each film is strong with Barry Lyndon being one of his best works, but no one can deny the beauty that is Dr. Strangelove. If you’ve never seen this satirical look at the Cold War, stop reading this right now and change that. It’s unlike anything from Kubrick with the humor outweighing any of the bizarre Kubrickian things.
There are quite a few movies that every film lover should watch – the stockpile of cinephile favorites – and Dr. Strangelove is undoubtedly one of those. No matter your personal feelings on Kubrick and his work, this transcends all that and stands on its own.
Harlan County, USA by Barbra Kopple
The Criterion Channel isn’t only for fiction-based features; there’s also an extensive collection of essential documentaries in the Criterion Collection. Hoop Dreams, Grey Gardens, and Gimme Shelter all standout, but in the current state of the world, none shine quite like the harrowing tale in Harlan County, USA. Such a real depiction of humanity at its most raw, Barbra Kopple changed the landscape of documentaries with this piece.
Harlan County, USA tells the story of “Brookside Strike,” an effort by 180 coal miners and their wives against Duke Power and their treatment of the workers. Not the most accessible of material, but still inspiring to witness everything unfold.
Brazil by Terry Gilliam
Monty Python’s Life of Brian could’ve gone here, or even Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but none of Terry Gilliam’s films are as powerful as Brazil. Equal parts surreal and hilarious, Brazil is one of the strangest movies on this list – and that’s saying something with a list that includes a John Waters film. Another entry that feels more relevant today than its original release, Gilliam captured a true totalitarian nightmare.
The beauty of something like The Criterion Channel is the ability to find films like Brazil with ease. So many viewers might’ve never had a chance to see something this unique. And unique barely begins to describe the power of this film.
What movies do you want to see on The Criterion Channel? Share your thoughts in the comments below…