Films in the time of Coronavirus

Twenty-ish films you can watch online that aren’t crap and most of them don’t involve rental fees.

MUBI – you can sign up for a 30-day free trial here:


  1. Touch Me Not, Adina Pintilie (MUBI, £2.49 to rent): +

This film is none of the things that Peter Bradshaw calls it in his review from the Berlinale – “shallow, silly, a calamity for the festival”. It’s a really smart and emotionally inquisitive film about touch, filmmaking, and humanity. We need films like this that ask us to step outside our comfort zones and that question the process of filmmaking, the act of looking, touching, and the importance of embodied experiences. There are loads of great movies available to rent, but I’ve only included one on this list because this list is primarily for friends of mine who might not want/be able to spend money right now. It’s also because this is, in part, an alternative list to Peter Bradshaw’s supremely crap one in the Guardian, so I had to start it with this film. Here’s something I wrote about it after the director, Adina Pintilie (an incredibly smart and eloquent filmmaker) came to Watershed for a screening + Q&A:

  1. High Life, Claire Denis:

This is one of the richest, smartest, most densely packed science-fiction films I’ve ever seen. Sure, it’s got some violent moments – that silent scream set to Stuart Staples’ (Tindersticks) score is forever burnt into my brain – not to mention the fuckbox… but even if those things are bracing for you, I implore you to stick with it and let it percolate. It’s cinematic stuff of the highest order but if you can crank the volume and watch it in the dark then it will suture you in, and maybe spit you out again, let’s see. Plus, R-Patz.

  1. Existenz, David Cronenberg:

Wanted to programme this for our sci-fi season of Sunday Brunch films at Watershed but couldn’t because we couldn’t clear theatrical screening rights. This is what the season looked like without it: Such a great sci-fi, super fun and squishy.

  1. Mustang, Deniz Gamze Ergüven

This is film has everything you need; a righteous fight against gendered oppression, sisters being amazing, a score composed by Warren Ellis and the beautiful backdrop of Northern Turkey. The spirit of this film is punk, and its aesthetic is all arthouse.

Netflix– because most of my friends already have Netflix, soz if you don’t.


  1. Shirkers, Sandi Tan, trailer:

I wish more documentaries were like this; a perfect storm of personal reflection and structured storytelling. It’s intimate in a way I want cinema to be and Tan’s story is filled with heart, nostalgia and sincerity.

  1. Taylor Swift: Miss Americana, Lana Wilson

It doesn’t matter if you don’t love Tay-Tay already, because this doc is also about the systemic infantilizing of women, and we all know its tune. It’s never easy for celebrities to transition through adolescence in the public eye but what the world expects from women, and an All-American sweetheart, is another thing entirely.

  1. Catfight, Onur Tukel

Sandra Oh and Anne Heche are both absolutely brilliant as women enraged; about their years-long rivalry, of course, but that’s all just a fun metaphor for the world, innit. Political and feisty.

  1. The Endless, Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead

Low-fi sci-fi at its best. I know I’ll get an egg or two thrown at me for saying this, but I liked it more than Primer.

BBC iPlayer


  1. After the Storm, Hirokazu Koreeda:

If we’ve ever met, then you know how much I love Kore-eda. This is an unofficial sequel of sorts to Still Walking. I wrote about it for Desist, here: To watch as a double bill, you can rent Still Walking from iTunes or BFI Player.

  1. Night of the Living Dead, George A. Romero:

One of the original six midnight movies. It’s amazing.

BFI Player – sign up for 14-day free trial: 


  1. Explore archive films:

Fall down an afternoon archive wormhole with amazing slices of (film) history like Cheese Making at Home. My recommendation: make a cuppa first.

  1. Appropriate Behaviour, Desiree Akhavan, BFI Player, subscription:

Even if you’ve already seen this, it’s so great it’s worth another watch. Akhavan is my jam. This film is what I wish the TV show Girls had been like. If you love this and want to pay money to rent a title, then you can also catch up with her second feature for £3.50, The Miseducation of Cameron Post:

  1. Aniara, Pella Kågerman:

This is definitely one of those films that didn’t get a lot of love on release but is actually really good.

  1. Taxi Tehran, Jafar Panahi:

One of those rare beasts that is as fun as it is clever. I wrote about it for Desist:

  1. Bait, Mark Jenkin:

The film that got all the praise in 2019, and for good reason. Mark is such a talented filmmaker; he works with hand-processed 16mm and his work is very expressive. If you like this, or have already seen it, then check out Mark’s lengthy-short, Bronco’s House (which you can rent for £3), and is imho even better:

I’ve also written about Bronco’s House for S&S:

  1. Evolution, Lucile Hadzihalilovic:

Eerie and wet.



  1. The Green Fog, Guy Maddin

Thanks, Guy Maddin, for putting your fever dream online for free during this difficult time! Like a wander through cinema history, but a bit drunk. Here’s my interview with Maddin for Desist when the film screened (at the IMAX!) for LFF:

  1. Beyond Clueless, Charlie Shackleton (formerly Charlie Lyne) use promo code “idlehands”

All the fun of teen movies rolled into one bumper edition by the always clever and entertaining Charlie Shackleton who has, kindly, made this free to watch with promo code during the current crisis. Perfect self-isolation viewing, it’s a quality genre breakdown and a reminder about how cruel cool teens can be.

  1. Whale Rider, Niki Caro, free on Amazon Prime:

I love this film so hard. I programmed it as part of the very first Girls on Film Fest in Melbourne (2014) and it’s so beautiful. About a young Maori girl determined to fight gender bias whilst upholding and respecting her family’s (patrilineal) traditions. Would make great double-bill viewing with Mustang.

  1. My Darling Quarantine:

A bunch of super talented folk in the short film world got together and created this. It’s a platform for watching quality short films while many short film festivals are postponed or cancelled and, if you have any funds you wish to contribute, they are splitting the crowdfunder between two really great causes.


  1. Mythory of the Kelly Gang, Tara Judah and Peter Walsh, de Filmkrant, vimeo:

And so, Pete and I made this video essay and presented it at IFFR last year. Thanks to the fine folk over at de Filmkrant, now you can watch it online via vimeo. Explanatory text in the link. Thanks for watching!

22. The Pain of Others, Penny Lane:

A late addition to this list because I wrote this post and only then saw Lane’s tweet. I saw this at IFFR and it’s fantastic. It’s like squeezing a pimple; engrossing but also uncomfortable. And, once you’ve watched it, you also need to check out Chloé Galibert-Laîne’s video essay, Watching the Pain of Others, which is also brilliant:


Published by Tara Judah

Tara Judah is a writer, programmer and broadcaster living in Bristol, UK.

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