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  • Sarah E. Mason

25 Great Movies to Stream for Free in Quarantine

Part 1 of the Pandemic Movie Series


Life as we know it has paused, for how long, we do not know. Everyone is on edge. This morning I saw two women physically fighting over a carton of strawberries. Many of us who work in the gig economy or as contract workers, part-time, seasonal, etc etc are terrified as we do not qualify for unemployment, have no sick pay, and have no idea how we are going to pay our rent. I get it, and I'm right there with you.


Those of us who are storytellers need to do it now more than ever--in whatever medium you can do it in. I've been writing about movies for 25 years. So here's what I offer up to lighten the load -- 25 great movies that you can stream right now for free with your Amazon Prime or Netflix account.


Let me say this, I hate list based articles. This is a thoughtfully curated list, fully vetted with explanations for why I chose the films, trivia and fun facts. Most of the films on the list are not easily found on Netflix and Amazon Prime's promotional rotations. They are hidden gems, iconic and classic films you didn't realize were streaming. There is something for everyone, in every genre, for all ages. They are in no particular order. Click the images to go directly to the films.


Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments and perhaps turn this list into a viewing club. I will be back with 25 more films in Part 2 of the Pandemic series.


Stay safe and healthy and enjoy!


Disclaimer: At the time of publication, March 20, 2020, all of these films were streaming for free on either Netflix or Amazon Prime. Take note, several of the films are leaving free streaming March 31, 2020, and are marked as such.

 

1. The Court Jester

Musical, Comedy, Classic, 1955

Amazon Prime


Director: Melvin Frank,

Norman Panama

Starring: Danny Kaye, Glynis Johns,

Basil Rathbone, Angela Lansbury,

Cecil Parker


Synopsis: Hawkins, a kind-hearted entertainer, who disguises himself as the legendary king of jesters, Giacomo, infiltrates the court of the evil villain Sir Ravenhurst but when a sorceress hypnotizes him, royal chaos ensues.


The Pitch: This classic movie is comedy gold and is the perfect respite from our over-stimulated, CGI based virtual world. Danny Kaye (White Christmas) leads an all star cast of classic actors including, Glynis Johns (Mary Poppins), a very young Angela Lansbury (Murder She Wrote), Cecil Parker (The Lady Killers) and the great Basil Rathbone who, long before Benedict Cumberbatch made Sherlock Holmes a household name appearing in over 14 films as the character. The most expensive comedy ever made, at the time ($4m), The Court Jester bombed at the box office. But over the years the film became a matinee classic with now famous exchanges: "Get it?" "Got it." "Good!" and "The pellet with the poison's in the vessel with the pestle; the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true!" Kaye's Golden Globe nominated performance is chicken soup for the weary soul.

 

2. Three Days of the Condor

Mystery, Thriller, 1975 Amazon Prime


Director: Sydney Pollack

Starring: Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Max Von Sydow, Cliff Robertson


Synopsis: A mild mannered CIA researcher paid to read books, returns from lunch to find all of his co-workers assassinated. "Condor" must find out who did this and get in from the cold before the hitmen get him.


The Pitch: Three Days of the Condor is a member of the elite class of great action/drama films produced in the 1970s. Robert Redford, in his prime flexes more than his good looks in this smart spy thriller. The opening sequence will unnerve you in 60 seconds or less after Max Von Sydow creeps into the scene. Swedish actor Max Von Sydow is extraordinary as hitman, Joubert. A methodical and charming killer, every moment he's on screen sends a chill up your spine. It's a somewhat cerebral thriller exploring the many layers of good and bad, through the inner antics of the CIA. Directed by Oscar winning director, Sydney Pollack (Tootsie, Out of Africa), Three Days of the Condor is one of seven films Pollack and Redford did together. The screenplay was written by Lorenzo Semple Jr and David Rayfiel based on the novel by James Grady. Pollack's use of long running sequences down narrow hallows and staircases is effective at rattling you, keeping you on the edge of your seat.All but one of the cast members are Oscar winners; Redford (Ordinary People), Faye Dunaway (Network), Cliff Robertson (Charly), John Houseman (The Paper Chase), Von Sydow was nominated but never won. Sadly Von Sydow died March 8 at 90.

 

3. Big Night

Comedy, Drama 1996 Amazon Prime

Director: Stanley Tucci and

Campbell Scott

Starring: Stanley Tucci, Tony Shalhoub, Ian Holm, Minnie Driver, Isabella Rossilini


Synopsis: Two brothers run an Italian restaurant. Business is not going well as a rival Italian restaurant is out-competing them. In a final effort to save the restaurant, the brothers plan to put on an evening of incredible food for singer Louis Prima who they’ve been conned into believing his coming to their restaurant by a rival restaurateur.


The Pitch: This unbelievably charming film is one of my favorites from the 90s. It made stars out of actors Stanley Tucci (who also directed the film) and Tony Shalhoub and has one of the all-time greatest funny fight scenes: Italian brothers and restaurateurs Primo (Shalhoub) and Secondo (Tucci) have lost all hope for saving their restaurant and blame each other. Screaming at each other in Italian, their verbal fight turns into a hysterical tumble on the beach. Set in New Jersey in the 1950s, there is so much to love about this film. They pulled off an A-level quality production on a very small budget ($4.1m). It has a fabulous ensemble cast with now famous actors you will be happily surprised to see, stunning costume design, production and set design, the music is...well, Louis Prima! And one of the best screenplays of the era which took home the prestigious Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the Sundance Film Festival.

 

4. Macbeth


Drama, History, War, 2015

Amazon Prime


Director: Justin Kurzel

Starrring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine, Sean Harris


Synopsis: Macbeth, the Thane of Glamis, receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders his king and takes the throne for himself.


The Pitch: This adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth is powerful and in my opinion, one of the best Shakespeare adaptations. Oscar nominated actor, Michael Fassbender's (12 Years a Slave), is captivating in the title role making it impossible to turn your attention away from the screen. What I particularly love about this film is the combo of Fassbender and Sean Harris who plays MacDuff. Harris has become a popular movie villain of late, starring opposite Tom Cruise as the villainous Solomon Lane in two of the Mission Impossible films. Watching Harris and Fassbender throw down is like watching battle acting. Marion Cotillard is equally enthralling as Lady MacBeth and Paddy Considine (In America), also getting his star on most recently in HBO’s The Outsider, delivers a powerful performance as Banquo. It’s in Shakespearean tongue yet this adaptation is far more accessible and easy to follow. Brilliant battle sequences for those who dig those.

 

5. No Way Out

Action, Suspense, 1987

Amazon Prime - Leaving 3/31/20


Director: Roger Donaldson

Starrring: Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman, Will Patton, Sean Young


Synopsis: Navy Lt. Tom Farrell meets a young woman, Susan Atwell and they share a passionate fling. Farrell then finds out that his superior, Defense Secretary David Brice is also romantically involved with Atwell. When the young woman turns up dead, Farrell is put in charge of the murder investigation. He begins to uncover shocking clues about the case, and becomes a suspect as well.


The Pitch: Kevin Costner, fresh off his success playing Elliott Ness in The Untouchables, was on the verge of becoming one of the biggest stars in Hollywood when No Way Out came out in 1987. It is a fast, exciting, edge-of-your seat thriller with twists and turns that will misdirect you until the very last scene. The film is based on the 1946 novel The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing. It was a modest hit, debuting number two at the box office (Stakeout was number one) and has often been overlooked over the years as it doesn’t frequently pop up on cable or network lineups like other similar movies of the era. Gene Hackman is, as always, the perfect foil as bad-guy Secretary of Defense, David Brice to Costner’s earnest do-the-right-thing Commander Tom Farrell. but the real star of this film is character actor Will Patton (Armageddon, The Postman) who delivers one of his career best performances. Sean Young briefly co-stars and as does model/actress, Iman, veteran character actor George Dzunda (Basic Instinct, Crimson Tide) and former US Senator Fred Thompson in the early days of his successful acting career (The Hunt for Red October, Law and Order). The music is super 80s, don't hate, part of its charm. No Way Out is one of my favorites from the era. It does not disappoint.

 

6. Train to Busan

Action, Horror, International, 2016

Netflix


Director: Sang-ho Yeon

Starrring: Yoo Gong, Yu-mi Jung, Dong-seok Ma


Synopsis: While a zombie virus breaks out in South Korea, a Dad and his daughter struggle to survive a harrowing journey on the train from Seoul to Busan, the only safe city from the outbreak.


The Pitch: All eyes on South Korean cinema after Parasite made history as the first-ever international film to win a Best Picture Oscar. But South Korea has been producing phenomenal films for years particularly in the horror and action genres. Train to Busan is a perfect example of their mastery of the horror genre and is one of the best zombie films in years. Train to Busan, which debuted at the Cannes International Film Festival in 2016, is the first live-action film for writer/director Sang-Ho Yeon who rose to prominence as an animated feature film direc