Film professors offer up their top 10 films for self-isolation, Part II

We’re now a few weeks into self-quarantine and e-learning, so it’s time for Part II of our list of films, courtesy of Dr. Colleen Glenn, Associate Professor of English and Film Studies. Dr. Glenn’s quarantine movie list offers a mixed bag of viewing suggestions—some drama, some suspense, but also plenty of comedy to lighten the mood during these tough times. As with last week’s list by Dr. John Bruns, you can find out where these films are streaming in the bold red text. Enjoy, and stay safe!

1. Sherlock, Jr. (dir. Buster Keaton, 1924) U.S.
Benedict Cumberbatch has nothing on Buster Keaton’s side-splitting version of the acclaimed private detective Sherlock Holmes. When heartbroken film projectionist (Keaton) falls asleep on the job, he wakes to find himself in the movie he was watching! Can he solve the mystery and win back his girl? All bets are on the indefatigable and clever Buster Keaton, in this classic silent slapstick comedy.

Where to watch: Kanopy (College of Charleston Library’s free streaming service)

2. The Road Warrior (dir. George Miller, 1981) Australia
The second installment of the Mad Max series seems particularly appropriate right now. In this Australian cult western-road movie set in the near future, a global war for fuel-topples nations and decimates the earth, leaving only an empty wasteland, where survivors compete for precious resources in a life-or-death struggle. One man, traumatized by his own personal losses and used to fending only for himself, finds redemption when he helps a community of settlers to reach safety.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime, Fandango Now, iTunes

3. Wings of Desire (dir. Wim Wenders, 1987) West Germany
Able to hear the thoughts of mortals, invisible angels comfort isolated and distressed humans in Berlin in this beautifully-shot and conceived romantic fantasy by critically-acclaimed German director Wim Wenders. Inspired by art depicting angels in Berlin, and written and shot when the wall still divided the city, the movie depicts an angel’s decision to choose the pleasures of mortality—food, touch, love—over immortality. The enchanting Bruno Ganz headlines the cast, which includes Otto Sander, Curt Bois, and Peter Falk.

Where to watch: Kanopy (College of Charleston Library’s free streaming service)

4. The More the Merrier (dir. George Stevens, 1943) U.S.
Sick of your roommates yet? Try sharing a small apartment with two strangers! When a housing shortage in Washington D.C. during WWII forces three people to share their living quarters, hilarity—and romance—ensue. Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea sizzle in this delightful and sweet romantic comedy directed by the great studio director George Stevens.

Where to watch: The Criterion Channel, Amazon Prime, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play

5. Rope (dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1948) U.S.

Shot in just 11 long takes ranging from over two minutes to just under ten, and set in a confined apartment with killers on the loose, Hitchcock’s suspense thriller Rope will make your claustrophobia feel like a walk in the park. Jimmy Stewart stars as the cynical and shrewd headmaster of two former pupils (John Dall and Farley Granger) who have gone very much awry. Hitch has two cameos in this one. Try to spot them both!

Where to watch: Starz on Amazon, Amazon Prime

6. Ball of Fire (dir. Howard Hawks, 1941) U.S.
When stodgy grammarian Professor Bertram Potts meets seductive and charismatic nightclub singer Sugarpuss O’Shea, sparks fly and shenanigans ensue as the swingin’ singer teaches the introverted professor and his colleagues a thing or two about slang, life, and love. Once her mob boss boyfriend finds out she’s been hiding at the professors’ house, the academics must use their brains to outfox the gangsters. Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper delight in this screwball comedy by director Howard Hawks and screenwriters Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, all masters of wit and comedic pacing.

Where to watch: Hoopla, The Criterion Channel

7. Lawrence of Arabia (dir. David Lean, 1962) U.K.
Now that we have extra time on our hands, it’s the perfect occasion to watch this majestic epic. A must-see for all film students, this historical drama is based on the real-life story of T.E. Lawrence and his daring exploits in Arabia during WWI. Torn between allegiances to the British army and the Arabic tribes with whom he sympathizes, Lawrence struggles to separate the personal from the political in his role as liaison and, later, as rebel leader. Vast desert landscapes caught in widescreen format and incredible performances by Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness, and Omar Sharif have secured this film’s rightful place as one of the most important films ever made

Where to watch: Vudu, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play

8. The Straight Story (dir. David Lynch, 1999) U.S.
Richard Farnsworth as Alvin Straight hits the road—on a John Deere lawnmower—to travel 240 miles to see his brother (Harry Dean Stanton) in this heart-warming true story about family, love, and the power of determination. Traveling at a rate of 5 mph, the elderly WWII veteran overcomes obstacles and meets good folks, who, like us, stand in awe of the senior’s grit and fortitude. An anomaly in the typically weird and wacky Lynch catalogue, this film delivers a sparse, Hemingway-esque brand of realism in an unforgettable and inspirational story.


Where to watch: Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, iTunes

9. Breaking Away (dir. Peter Yates, 1979) U.S.
This gem of a coming-of-age comedy about a recent graduate and his best friends navigating the uncertain terrain of life after high school may be the ultimate feel-good movie. Obsessed with cycling, and with Italian cycling in particular, Dave (Dennis Christopher) drives his parents batty, attempts to win the affection of a girl, and competes, with his buddies, against college boys in the local Little 500 race. Shot on location in Bloomington, Indiana, and based upon a real bike race that takes annually at Indiana University, this charming and genuine film is sure to lift your spirits.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play

10. Casablanca (dir. Michael Curtiz, 1942) U.S.
What better film has captured the sensations of anxiety and deferment against the backdrop of a terrifying global crisis than this studio classic? Set during WWII in Morocco, refugees wait restlessly in Casablanca, desperately hoping to secure an exit visa in order to flee to the U.S. When ex-lovers Ilsa and Rick unexpectedly reunite in Rick’s Café (“Of all the gin joints…”), old feelings are reignited as romance competes with greater global causes of freedom and human rights. Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains and Paul Henreid star in this classic romantic drama about regular people who act nobly in times of fear and uncertainty.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime, Fandango Now, YouTube, Google Play


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