Brilliant online film archives for cinema lovers

By Sarah Gamard


Excitement often abounds at the start of a new year, but usually not for film. With the Oscars and Golden Globes wrapping up 2014’s cinematic success, the film industry tends to hit a low point in the late winter. The most laudable films of the year have come and gone, and so has Blockbuster Video, so film lovers are left to scavenge for both famous and little-known classics on the Internet.

But while Netflix and Hulu offer great films, the choices extend only so far and require payment. Where are other places to find some great pieces of artwork from all genres?

If you are at a loss for what to watch, Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has a list of the Top 250 Films of All Time. It is a fair list to start with. Film lovers are sure to find some classics that they may have passed up in their previous searches.

The Criterion Collection is a personal favorite of mine because it introduced movies that changed my perspective on film. For example, you can find a 1964 Japanese drama titled “Onibaba,” which translates to “demon hag,” about two women living alone in the wild marshes and stealing from corpses to survive. The complete list of Criterion’s films includes silent and non-silent, foreign and American. One can find the bread and butter of great cinema, like Alfred Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps” and Sidney Lumet’s “12 Angry Men.”

The Warner Archive offers a one-month free trial for users. Warner Bros., not surprisingly, is one of the most powerful film studios in the world, therefore the most bountiful in products. Many Warner Bros. pictures are readily available anywhere, like “Casablanca” and “Singin’ in the Rain,” while this website offers a continuously changing collection of the lesser known and lesser-available movies and TV series. Movies now available include “Across the Pacific” and “It Happened on Fifth Avenue.”

Television selections include “The Bad Seed,” “Aquaman” and “D

eath Among Friends.” Full membership and access is only $10 per month, not far from the reasonable price of Netflix. Even a free one-month trial can open viewers up to films and series they may have never found otherwise.

A gold mine for film with plans at just $7.50 per month is Fandor Channel. Almost all genres are available, from LGBTQ to Western, science fiction and film noir. One readily available classic is “A Trip to the Moon” (better known as “Le Voyage Dans la Lun”), a 1902 French film that includes all the joys and gems of premature cinema. Other classics include “And Then There Were None,” adapted from the Agatha Christie novel, and “Night of the Living Dead,” which the website captions as “[o]ne of the most influential horror movies ever made.” The list goes on.

SnagFilms offers a large selection of foreign movies that are otherwise not easily accessible for those of us in the United States. You will not find all the well-known classics available Netflix or Hulu, but access is free. That’s right, free. There are also American-made classics like some of “The Three Stooges.” Other genres include Korean Drama, Bollywood, Animated Film, Latino, African and over 1,400 documentaries. There are plenty to choose from and viewing requires no fee.

The final online archive worth mentioning is MUBI, which starts at just $4.99 per month and offers a free trial. The website claims to offer “cult, classic, independent and award-winning films from around the world.” Judging by the website’s page, which shows screenshots of well-known and relatively recent releases like “Magic Mike” and “Slumdog Millionaire,” the website is not limited strictly to classics like Criterion and Warner Archive. The website introduces a new film every day, and it is available for one month until they replace it with another. Like Warner Archive, it is a continuous, ever-changing stream of about 30 different films.

All of these websites and archives should be useful in helping the eager film lovers of any genre find new, challenging and entertaining films that spark love and interest. Just because current cinema is taking a break from releasing masterpieces does not mean that we should struggle to find some on our own.

Sarah Gamard can be reached at [email protected]