Big List

20 Essential Films You Can Stream on MUBI’s Library

With the streaming service's library now available on iOS and Android devices, we highlight some of the best films on the platform

Last month, MUBI unexpectedly launched its Library section, which features some of the streaming site’s previously accessible films for subscribers at no additional cost. With the Library now also available across MUBI’s iOS and Android apps, film fans can more easily access classic and modern cinema from the likes of Celine Sciamma, Jim Jarmusch, Vittorio De Sica, and more.

The selection doesn’t include everything MUBI has ever included within its thirty-strong headline cadre – Persona recently expired from the Library, and you’ll have to rent Moonlight for an additional £2.49 – but it’s an impressive new platform with a promising – and frequently updated – line-up. Here are some essential picks from across the years to get you started…

 

Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)

Watch it on MUBI

This elliptical, experimental early-1940s short from Maya Deren revolutionised the use of editing, slow motion and unconventional camerawork to present a surreal dream sequence – one of Hollywood’s first. Cinema would be far more predictable without Meshes of the Afternoon.

 

I Vitelloni (1953)

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One hundred years after his birth, the films of Federico Fellini are scarcely less relevant than they were upon release. With his 1953 comedy-drama centred around five unemployed brothers, Fellini dipped his toe into the neo-realist style that characterised Italian cinema at the time, resulting in a film of poise and character we would come to expect from the legendary director.

 

Umberto D (1952)

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Vittorio De Sica’s neorealist masterpiece, which follows a pensioner and his dog as they navigate deprived postwar Italy, is a beautiful portrait of an unusual duo. A favourite of Martin Scorsese and Ingmar Bergman, Umberto D features a seminal lead performance by the linguist Carlo Battisti, his only acting role. If only it wasn’t.

 

The Battle of Algiers (1966)

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A hyper-realistic visual style and an early Ennio Morricone score enflame this highly political war film, which was initially banned in France and lambasted even by the avant-garde editors of Cahiers du cinéma. But after ageing all too well, it’s now respected as one of the twentieth-century’s greats.

 

The Structure of a Crystal (1988)

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An understated quality of MUBI’s Library is its comprehensive choice of classic Polish films. In Zanussi’s 1969 moral drama, two physicists with vastly different outlooks on the world face similarly intense philosophical challenges for which they are not prepared. Typically austere for the country’s economic filmmaking tradition, The Structure of a Crystal nonetheless contains endless riches.

 

A Short Film About Killing (1988)

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A feature-length extension of the remarkable fifth episode of Krzysztof Kieślowski’s’ Dekalog, this brutal crime drama was instrumental in Poland suspending the death penalty just one year later, and a useful window into how Kieślowski would later reshape European arthouse cinema in the form of the Three Colours trilogy.

 

Hoop Dreams (1994)

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Steve James’s epic documentary tracks two Chicago boys as they pursue coveted careers as professional basketball players. Hoop Dreams caused critical and commercial shockwaves when it was first released in 1994 and inspired countless documentarians as well as Spike Lee. Its infamous snubbing at the Oscars, however, has thankfully long been forgotten.

 

Fireworks (1997)

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The actor-director is perhaps not the staple of mainstream filmmaking that he once was, but Takeshi Kitano’s sleaze-filled 1997 crime film brilliantly utilised his aptitude on both sides of the camera. He also garnered Venice’s Golden Lion for his efforts.

 

Almayer's Folly (2012)

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The final narrative work from the late French auteur Chantal Akerman before her premature death in 2015, Almayer’s Folly is a characteristically cerebral film, and a rejigged adaptation of the Joseph Conrad novel about an over-ambitious merchant seeking riches for his daughter. Akerman’s seminal aesthetic is keenly apparent, as is her emotional awareness and attention to detail.

 

Ida (2012)

Watch it on MUBI

Before gaining international acclaim for 2018’s Cold War, director Paweł Pawlikowski was best known for this staggeringly intimate drama about a young woman torn between life in a convent and the world around her. Ida combines a wonderful central performance from Agata Kulesza and an austere sensibility (extending to its 82 minute runtime) to winning, haunting results.

Clouds of Sils Maria (2012)

Watch it on MUBI

Most notably the arrival of Kristen Stewart as a serious member of the arthouse scene, this Swiss-based romantic drama from Olivier Assayas also heralded a new era for the director, who gained a Palme D’Or nomination in the process. Come for Stewart and Juliette Binoche, stay for an intriguing story that will quickly rope you in.

 

The Lunchbox (2012)

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Few films have a premise as dramatic as The Lunchbox: a mistaken delivery via Mumbai’s unique carrier service propels a couple into a plot they could not have foreseen. The directorial debut from Ritesh Batra, The Lunchbox stars the late, great Irrfan Khan in one of his best roles.

 

Our Little Sister (2015)

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No one does family tragedy quite like Hirokazu Koreeda, whose 2015 drama focused on three sisters who come together after the death of their father. The director’s follow-up to his 2013 box office smash Like Father Like Son, Our Little Sister returned the filmmaker to his characteristically intimate setting of choice.

 

Toni Erdmann (2016)

Watch it on MUBI

A rare German comedy to achieve worldwide recognition and even (briefly) plans for a remake starring Jack Nicholson, Maren Ade’s father-daughter comedy-drama is one of the funniest films of recent years – and one of the most poignant. Satirising family bonds while it skewers contemporary society, Toni Erdmann is a uniquely fleshed-out image of a sometimes perplexing, but always rewarding, relationship.

 

Things to Come (2016)

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The young French director Mia Hansen-Løve is unique for her tranquil, emotionally intelligent dramas, and Things to Come is no different. Her semi-autobiographical 2016 feature, widely thought to mark Hansen-Løve’s creative peak so far, follows Isabelle Huppert’s philosophy teacher on a journey of self-discovery motivated by a new-found, perhaps excessive freedom. Quintessentially French in the best possible way.

 

Paterson (2016)

Watch it on MUBI

A late-career masterpiece from Jim Jarmusch, Paterson is remarkable for its sheer simplicity: Adam Driver’s titular bus driver and amateur poet, over the course of a week, reflects on his life and dreams. There are scant plot points of note, but in his exploration of loneliness and monotony, Jarmusch tells a tale of quiet inspiration.

 

High Life (2018)

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Clare Denis is thought by some to be the most talented filmmaker alive; High Life is solid evidence in her favour. The bizarre space-set drama with existential proportions stars Robert Pattinson and marks Denis’ first foray into English-language cinema, and what a welcome – and weird – one it is.

 

Madeline's Madeline (2018)

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A striking and frequently uncomfortable film from American ingénue Josephine Decker, Madeline’s Madeline is centred around a girl whose dramatic ambitions become dangerously similar to her real-life experiences. A Sundance smash with a breakout performance by Helena Howard, this experimental drama also marked Decker’s arrival as a leading indie filmmaker.

 

The Souvenir (2019)

Watch it on MUBI

An immensely promising new voice on the indie filmmaking scene, Joanna Hogg’s burst to fame with 2019’s The Souvenir had been coming. A semi-autobiographical coming-of-age drama starring Honor Swinton Byrne and her mother Tilda Swinton in the same role, The Souvenir is a searing analysis of high society and an all-too-tragic portrait of the lonesome figures who populate it.

 

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

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A heartbreaking romantic drama set on a remote French island in the 19th century, Portrait of a Lady on Fire focuses on the fiery relationship between a lonely socialite and the woman hired to paint her. With arrestingly beautiful cinematography matched only by Sciamma’s entrapping depiction of the women at its centre, this already feels like a modern classic.

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