A Flickchart Guide to Your Own TCM Film Festival at Home
This weekend marks the seventh annual TCM Classic Film Festival, and classic film fans are already pouring into Hollywood in anticipation of the four-day classic film cornucopia. The festival runs the gamut from celebrated films with big name guests to obscurities recently restored from disrepair to thoughtful panels and in-depth conversations with famous actors and directors. And through it all are some of the most wonderful theatre-going companions you’ll ever find. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – there is no better place to see a film than TCM Fest.
But what if you’re not able to go to Hollywood to attend the fest in person this year? First off, start saving your shekels for next year – it’s well worth it despite its not insignificant cost. In the meantime, the cool thing with a festival of older films is that many of the films are easily available to watch at home. Of course, it’s not QUITE the same as watching it in one of the world’s finest movie palaces with a crowd of 1100 appreciative fans (okay, that’s only if you’re seeing a film in the TCL Chinese – the other theatres used for the fest are decidedly more pedestrian), or hearing the reminiscences of stars and directors like Rita Moreno, Elliott Gould, Faye Dunaway, Carl Reiner, Francis Ford Coppola, Anna Karina and Gina Lollobrigida, but it does provide some small comfort for those somewhere other than Hollywood & Highland this year.
Eleven Films You Can Watch Streaming RIGHT NOW*
These films are streaming on Netflix, Amazon, or HuluPlus, so if you have a subscription to those services, you can fire these up right now*! Many can also be rented from iTunes or Amazon for $3-4.
*Disclaimer: Streaming services change their selections regularly. These were available on the streaming services listed as of the date this posted. They may not be available in the future.
1. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
This silent classic is playing at the festival with a live performance of the Voices of Light soundtrack, widely considered the best score for the film. Featuring a mesmerizing central performance by Maria Falconetti (who never made another film) as Joan of Arc, who may be a saint or may be delusional. Globally ranked #94 by 1160 users.
2. All the President’s Men (1974)
One of the most famous examples of investigative political journalism becomes one of the 1970s most engrossing dramas, as Washington Post journalists Woodward and Bernstein, with the help of informant Deep Throat, bust open the Watergate scandal, leading to President Nixon’s resignation from office. Oh, sorry, I guess spoilers if you didn’t live through the 1970s. This film was timely, made within a year or two of the events it depicts, and remains riveting today. Globally ranked #167 by 7544 users
Watch on Amazon Prime (also on iTunes/Amazon for $2.99)
3. The Kid (1921)
Charlie Chaplin’s first feature also solidifies the combination of slapstick humor and pathos that would be his trademark throughout his career. An abandoned boy latches onto The Little Tramp and they bond both practically (setting a broken window con – the kid breaks ’em and the Tramp fixes ’em) and emotionally, setting them up for an emotional climax when Social Services tries to take the boy away. Globally ranked #181 by 1243 users
4. Cinema Paradiso (1989)
A lot of films are described as “a love letter to cinema,” but this is perhaps the supreme example of a film that earns that title. A successful film director returns to his small Italian hometown and flashes back to his time as a boy there, when he was fascinated by the town’s one movie theatre (really the cultural center of the community) and its projectionist, who became a father figure to him. It’s sweepingly romantic both about film and first love, but blends joy and melancholy, love and loss into an experience that few other films have come close to matching. Globally ranked #413 by 5039 users.
Watch on Netflix Instant (also available on Amazon for $2.99)
5. Intolerance (1916)
Director D.W. Griffith is known as the Father of American Cinema, but that reputation is always tempered the rampant racism in his magnum opus The Birth of a Nation (1915). Intolerance was his defense against those charges, though not in the way you’d hope – he felt victimized by the reaction to BoaN, not repentant. Still, Intolerance is a much better and much less offensive film, with a truly impressive scale and an intricate narrative structure that sets it far and away above what anyone else was doing in 1916. If you want to see why Griffith earns his reputation as a foundational filmmaker, watch this one, not Birth. Globally ranked #760 by 583 users.
6. Batman: The Movie (1966)
I feel no shame in admitting that this is my top-ranked Batman movie. I love it to bits – the colorful campiness, the tongue-in-cheek jokes in the script, plus Joker, Penguin AND Catwoman all together in the same story? Yeah, it’s goofy, but it knows exactly what it is and embraces it. This is playing poolside at the festival, and I’m sorely tempted to indulge myself. Thankfully, it’s easily available at home, too. Globally ranked #1959 by 5274 users.
Watch on Amazon Prime (also available on iTunes/Amazon for $2.99)
7. The Freshman (1925)
Harold Lloyd is the eager, clean-cut all-American among the big three silent comedians (against Chaplin’s socially conscious Little Tramp and Keaton’s resilient but stoic Great Stone Face), and what’s more eager, clean-cut and all-American than college football? If Lloyd doesn’t seem built for football, you’re not wrong, but where there’s a will there’s a way. Globally ranked #2036 by 247 users.
Watch on HuluPlus (also available on Amazon for $2.99)
8. The Endless Summer (1966)
Hardcore surfers chase “the endless summer” in this 1966 documentary, following summer waves around the world so they never have to stop surfing. The culmination of several documentaries by Bruce Brown, this one struck a chord in the mid-’60s, with crowds lining up to see it again and again, capturing not just a few guys and their sport, but the zeitgeist of an entire culture. Globally ranked #4397 by 175 users.
9. The Keys of the Kingdom (1944)
A somewhat unorthodox British priest (Gregory Peck in an Oscar-nominated film debut) is assigned to a mission in China, and this somewhat episodic film follows his experiences there, interacting with the local Chinese lords, surviving civil war, learning to work with some initially standoffish nuns, handling the unhelpful advice of more avarice-led Catholic superiors, and generally showing the life of a passionate, thoughtful, and good man of the cloth. I know that sounds boring, but it isn’t, and it’s relatively rare to see a priest depicted with such warmth in cinema. Globally ranked #8727 by 33 users.
Watch on Netflix Instant (also available on iTunes for $2.99)
10. Gog (1954)
This is one of the midnight movies at TCM Fest, an obscure sci-fi film about a supercomputer, robot minions, space travel hibernation, and I don’t know what all. I hadn’t even heard of this one before reading the fest program, but I’m intrigued now for sure. Globally ranked #16476 by 62 users.
Watch on Amazon Prime (also available on Amazon for $2.99)
11. I’ve Always Loved You (1946)
If you’re looking for obscurities, here you go. ONE user has ranked this on Flickchart. Get in there and make your mark! Frank Borzage was well-known for lush romances, and tiny Republic Pictures (home of many many many low-budget westerns) hoped to move into the majors by hiring him for this one. I guess it didn’t work out, but that leaves this anomalous film as a prime candidate for rediscovery. Globally ranked #20395 by 1 user.
Films You Can Rent Digitally
These films aren’t available on subscription streaming services right now, but you can still watch them instantly from the comfort of your own home for a small rental fee. There are a lot more films available for digital rental than there are on streaming services, so I won’t run down all of these – just let the Flickchart ranking be your guide!
Network (1976; ranked #89 by 6550 users – Amazon/iTunes $2.99)
Rocky (1976; ranked #97 by 65879 users – Amazon/iTunes $2.99)
The Conversation (1973; ranked #98 by 5059 users – iTunes $2.99)
The Big Sleep (1946; ranked #105 by 4024 users – Amazon/iTunes $2.99)
The Long Goodbye (1973; ranked #204 by 1210 users – iTunes/Amazon $2.99)
Brief Encounter (1945; ranked #212 by 872 users – Amazon/iTunes $2.99)
Forbidden Planet (1956; ranked #485 by 2401 users – Amazon/iTunes $2.99)
M*A*S*H (1970; ranked #510 by 7330 users – Amazon/iTunes $2.99)
A Face in the Crowd (1957; ranked #562 by 357 users – Amazon $3.99/iTunes $2.99)
Field of Dreams (1989; ranked #817 by 24812 users – Amazon/iTunes $2.99)
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967; ranked #823 by 1451 users – Amazon /iTunes $2.99)
Boyz N the Hood (1991; ranked #925 by 7224 users – Amazon/iTunes $2.99)
The Pride of the Yankees (1942; ranked #1013 by 718 users – iTunes $2.99)
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1948; ranked #1318 by 500 users – Amazon/iTunes $2.99)
The Longest Yard (1974; ranked #1447 by 1186 users – iTunes $2.99)
The Band Wagon (1953; ranked #1613 by 337 users – Amazon/iTunes $2.99)
The Fallen Idol (1947; ranked #1755 by 181 users – iTunes $2.99)
Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982; ranked #1967 by 1143 users – iTunes/Amazon $2.99)
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943; ranked #2258 by 479 users – iTunes/Amazon $2.99)
Old Yeller (1957; ranked #2417 by 2072 users – iTunes/Amazon $2.99)
Brian’s Song (1971; ranked #2488 by 456 users – iTunes/Amazon $2.99)
Dark Victory (1939; ranked #2501 by 241 users – iTunes/Amazon $2.99)
Children of a Lesser God (1986; ranked #2570 by 553 users – iTunes/Amazon $2.99)
The Way We Were (1973; ranked #2850 by 512 users – Amazon/iTunes $2.99)
The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming! (1966; ranked #3283 by 336 users – Amazon $2.99)
Fat City (1972; ranked #3684 by 158 users – Amazon/iTunes $2.99)
The Song of Bernadette (1943; ranked #4230 by 156 users – Amazon/iTunes $2.99)
The More the Merrier (1943; ranked #5027 by 68 users – Amazon/iTunes $2.99)
The Yearling (1946; ranked #5878 by 140 users – Amazon/iTunes $2.99)
Lassie Come Home (1943; ranked #6710 by 123 – iTunes $2.99, Amazon $3.99)
King of Kings – (1961; ranked #6908 by 179 users – Amazon/iTunes $2.99)
Love Me or Leave Me (1955; ranked #7638 by 96 users – Amazon/iTunes $2.99)
Carry On…Up the Khyber (1968; ranked #8273 by 70 users – Amazon $2.99)
My Sister Eileen (1955; ranked #11335 by 27 users – iTunes/Amazon $2.99)
On TCM, Of Course!
Of course, many of these films play regularly on TCM, so keep an eye on my monthly programming guides for that. The full schedule for the festival, along with many films more obscure and harder to find than these, can be found here. Since I’ve already looked through the TCM schedule for May, I can say to look out for two Pre-Code obscurities playing at the festival, One Man’s Journey (with Lionel Barrymore!) and Pleasure Cruise, playing on TCM on May 27th. Oftentimes it’s several months before the lesser-known films from the festival play on the channel, but they do usually show up eventually.
If you’re interested in what I’m personally planning to watch at the festival, check out the post on my personal blog – it’s mostly obscurities that aren’t available digitally, so it’s a pretty different list than this one!