17 great movies that are inexplicably not available for streaming anywhere

17 great movies that are inexplicably not available for streaming anywhere

From James Cameron and George A. Romero classics to hidden indie gems, these films are only available on physical media

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Image collage with stills from The Abyss, Dawn Of The Dead, and Pump Up The Volume
The Abyss (Courtesy of 20th Century Fox), Dawn Of The Dead (Courtesy of United Film Distribution Company), Pump Up The Volume (Courtesy of New Line Media)
Graphic: The A.V. Club

For all you digital disciples: do you ever wonder why some friends still collect physical media? After all, why have any clutter when everything’s available on streaming? Maybe it’s because not every movie you want to watch is actually available via streaming services. While some titles come and go from those platforms, others still haven’t gotten there yet. We’re not sure why this happens. Is it a bitter rights war? A purposeful lag to rebuild interest? Spiteful negligence? We’re often in the dark about these things.

Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but when that hiatus feels permanent it just leads to frustration. Here’s a collection of mainstream hits, respected indies, and cult curios from esteemed directors like James Cameron, David Lynch, George A. Romero, and Alan Rudolph that somehow have fallen off the streaming radar. Hopefully someone will pay attention and they’ll be back soon.

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The Abyss (1989)

The Abyss (1989)

THE ABYSS Clip - Water Tentacle (1989) James Cameron

James Cameron’s dazzling underwater adventure—which pioneered the digital visual effects that made Terminator 2 possible and also launched the water-based trajectory dominating his post-’80s career—has oddly been submerged in streaming purgatory. Also unavailable is The Abyss’ extended special edition with the proper ending that actually makes sense. A new generation deserves to check out this sci-fi epic, 40 percent of which was actually shot underwater. No one can accuse Cameron of cutting corners, or cost.


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3 / 19

Sleuth (1972)

Sleuth (1972)

Sleuth (1972) Theatrical trailer

In this devious thriller, a successful crime novelist (Laurence Olivier) is coming to terms with the fact that a younger businessman (Michael Caine) has seduced his wife away from him. But what appears to be an unexpectedly amicable agreement over a mutually beneficial insurance scam soon twists into a nasty game of cat and mouse that might prove fatal. How can you pass up the chance to watch two master thespians trying to outdo each other?

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4 / 19

Pink Floyd: The Wall (1982)

Pink Floyd: The Wall (1982)

Pink Floyd - The Wall (Original 1982 Film Trailer Taken From Laserdisc)

Alan Parker’s trippy cinematic rendition of the famed Pink Floyd album, featuring both live-action and animated sequences, quickly became a stoner movie for obvious reasons. Bob Geldof stars as Pink, the disaffected rock star who goes through a bizarre odyssey of loneliness and alienation despite his massive success. Featuring a minimal amount of dialogue but plenty of Pink Floyd tunes, this surreal production has attained growing cult status over the years, and its powerful social and political imagery is ready to be unleashed on the masses again.

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Haunted (1995)

Haunted (1995)

Haunted Trailer 1995

This little-known but fantastic haunted house tale stars Aidan Quinn, Kate Beckinsale, and the iconic Sir John Gielgud. In Haunted, Quinn plays a paranormal debunker in 1920s England who is summoned to a country house by an elderly lady who says she’s being tormented by spirits. Three adult siblings caring for her (she was their nanny) think she’s just going senile. Circumstances soon prove otherwise, and things get creepier from there. A more recent film echoing this story is The Awakening (2011) with Rebecca Hall, another fine fear flick.

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Chicago Joe And The Showgirl (1990)

Chicago Joe And The Showgirl (1990)

Chicago Joe And The Showgirl Trailer 1990

After directing Paperhouse but before he made the original Candyman (both creepy classics), director Bernard Rose crafted Chicago Joe And The Showgirl, a tale of a 1940s couple in London caught up in a deluded fantasy world that turns dangerous. Betty (Emily Lloyd) is a British stripper obsessed with film noir and crime movies. She meets and convinces a G.I. deserter (Kiefer Sutherland), who falsely claims to be a gangster, to go on an increasingly risky crime spree that culminates when she goads him into committing murder. While not as powerful as the other two Rose films mentioned herein, this quirky indie deserves another look.

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Choose Me (1984)

Choose Me (1984)

Choose Me | Lesley Ann Warren and Keith Carradine (1984)

Echoing his famed mentor Robert Altman, underrated writer-director Alan Rudolph loves to make movies with interweaving storylines and multiple characters with amorous entanglements. Perhaps his greatest statement on the nature of love and its complexities, Choose Me features great performances from Keith Carradine, Geneviève Bujold, Rae Dawn Chong, and Lesley Ann Warren. It takes place in ’80s L.A. with the characters interconnected through the Eve’s Lounge bar. It’s mirthful and memorable and includes three songs from R&B icon Teddy Pendergrass amid its soul soundtrack.

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The Moderns (1988)

The Moderns (1988)

The Moderns [Collector’s Edition] - Official Trailer

We have to double down on the Alan Rudolph love here. His best and most magical movie, a period piece that follows artists around 1926 Paris, is inexplicably not on streaming and out-of-print on home video. Keith Carradine plays Nick Hart, an artist who makes more money from forgeries of famous works than he does from his own originals. When he discovers that the wife who left him in America (Linda Fiorentino) is now married in Paris to a conniving business magnate (John Lone), romantic rivalry ensues, along with send-ups of famous historical figures like Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway. The Moderns is a cheeky and sincere look into the nature and value of art and love. Classic line: “If it weren’t for me, these people would think surreal was a breakfast food!”

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Wild At Heart (1990)

Wild At Heart (1990)

Wild at Heart Trailer

Here’s Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern in a completely bonkers story about a couple on the run from the hit man that her mother hired to take him out. Diane Ladd was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar and Golden Globe for her role in this David Lynch road movie which, as one would expect, revels in the surreal and sinister. Wild At Heart was divisive among critics and fans, but it’s Lynch so you’ve gotta check it out. Willem Dafoe plays the sleazy Bobby Peru, who could easily chew more than the scenery. This came near the end of Cage’s wild indie period (remember the batty Vampire’s Kiss?) and just before his turn into mainstream popularity.

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10 / 19

Scandal (1989)

Scandal (1989)

Scandal (1989) ORIGINAL TRAILER [HD 1080p]

Directed by Michael Caton-Jones (Doc Hollywood, The Jackal), Scandal stars Joanne Whalley as an exotic dancer in early ’60s London who befriends a bon vivant doctor (John Hurt), and through his personal connections becomes involved in the scandalous Profumo Affair. This was back in the day when improper sexual liaisons could more easily topple a British government figure. These days it seems par for the course. Scandal is a well-directed and insightful period piece with strong performances all around.

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11 / 19

Dawn Of The Dead (1978)

Dawn Of The Dead (1978)

Dawn of the Dead (1978) | Original Trailer [HD] | Coolidge Corner Theatre

The second of George Romero’s iconic zombie movies, Dawn Of The Dead is the biggest undead statement about mass consumption. Survivors of a zombie plague barricade themselves in a mall which is naturally the place where many of the living dead congregate because it meant so much to them in life. And for those who remain living, being able to “shop” freely in their mall prison home adds an extra layer of consumer commentary. Then there’s that glorious gore, a Romero and genre staple.

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12 / 19

Cocoon (1985)

Cocoon (1985)

Cocoon | #TBT Trailer | 20th Century FOX

An Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actor (Don Ameche) and Best Visual Effects, Ron Howard’s sci-fi movie Cocoon is a magical tale that twists the idea of a second childhood in your golden years into something fresh. Members of a retirement home swim in a pool containing alien pods that give them rejuvenating effects and make them feel youthful again. Sure, it’s Spielberg-influenced fantasy in many ways, but it’s also very endearing and a rare example of an optimistic and poignant film about aging and facing death that can appeal to multiple generations.

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13 / 19

Ghost Brigade (1983) aka The Killing Box, Grey Knight, and The Lost Brigade

Ghost Brigade (1983) aka The Killing Box, Grey Knight, and The Lost Brigade

Grey Knight trailer

Inexplicably released under multiple titles over the years, George Hickenlooper’s surreal Civil War zombie movie Ghost Brigade is certainly an original tale, even if the movie is a slow burn. The idea of a living dead collective disrupting the battle between North and South is interesting, and the movie pays homage to Apocalypse Now with a somber voiceover from co-star Adrian Pasdar. (Appropriately enough, Martin Sheen has a cameo early on.) This is an unusual little entry in the horror world that features early cinematic appearances from Billy Bob Thornton, David Arquette, Matt LeBlanc, and future Broadway star Jefferson Mays.

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14 / 19

Gotcha! (1985)

Gotcha! (1985)

Gotcha! - Trailer

We’ll be honest—Gotcha! is ’80s cheese whiz. But pairing young Anthony Edwards (Top Gun, ER) and Linda Fiorentino (Vision Quest, The Last Seduction) on a rollicking adventure into Eastern Europe is a tasty match. Simple set-up: His horny young college student gets entangled with her devious foreign spy who manipulates and falls for him. This silly comedy was actually inspired by a popular fake assassination game on high school and college campuses played with everything from paintball guns to water pistols. The twist here is that the real-life version understandably freaks out our hero, even if his faux assassin experience comes in handy.

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15 / 19

Silent Movie (1986)

Silent Movie (1986)

Silent Movie (1976) Original Trailer [FHD]

This was one of Mel Brooks’ bolder moves—making a silent movie in the mid-1970s about a director who wants to revive the defunct format after 40 years as a moneymaking gimmick. Silent Movie follows filmmakers Mel Funn, Marty Eggs, and Dom Bell as they pitch the idea of a big-name silent movie to revive Mel’s career and bring his troubled studio a hit picture. It’s a good thing that Brooks brought highly expressive comedians like Dom DeLuise and Marty Feldman along for the ride, not to mention a plethora of A-list cameos like Bernadette Peters, Burt Reynolds, Liza Minnelli, and famed French mime Marcel Marceau, who utters the movie’s one spoken word: “Non!”

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16 / 19

To Live And Die In L.A. (1985)

To Live And Die In L.A. (1985)

To Live and Die in L.A. Official Trailer #1 - Willem Dafoe Movie (1985) HD

William Friedkin’s visually dynamic thriller finds Secret Service agent William Petersen (a year out from his Manhunter role and years away from CSI) chasing down the counterfeiter (Willem Dafoe) who killed his partner. While To Live And Die In L.A. got mixed reviews from critics, many fans defend the way it upends some genre tropes and presents flawed, believable characters. This is quintessentially slick ’80s fare that’s a cut above, from the cinematography to the action scenes to the score by Wang Chung. You can also catch a glimpse of a young Jane Leeves nearly a decade before her major breakthrough on TV’s Frasier.

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17 / 19

Mask (1985)

Mask (1985)

Mask - Original Trailer & TV Spot (1985)

Following her acclaimed, award-winning turn in Silkwood (another good film not streaming), Cher scored her second Golden Globe nomination as the biker mother to a young man (fellow Golden Globe nominee Eric Stoltz) who suffers from craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, a rare recessive bone disorder which causes cranial disfigurement. Mask is a poignant and hopeful story about a teenager coping with prejudice and winning over his peers with humor and confidence, and how his mother fights for a normal life and education for her son. The 2004 director’s cut restored the Bruce Springsteen songs that had been intended for use back then, but were replaced with Bob Seger tunes.

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Pump Up The Volume (1990)

Pump Up The Volume (1990)

Trailer HD | Pump Up The Volume | Warner Archive

A year after playing the jaded teen rebel who wanted to blow up his school in the darkly comic gem Heathers, Christian Slater portrayed another young outsider in Pump Up The Volume. Here he’s the son of a school superintendent who has moved his family to a new town and school system. The alienated young man decides to voice his frustrations and anger with the system through a ham radio persona he calls Hard Harry or Happy Harry Hard-On, connecting with peers anonymously in a way he cannot in real life. Only his crush (Samantha Mathis) knows his secret, and adult authorities try to clamp down on and locate him. What Allan Moyle’s film lacks in total realism, it makes up for in addressing teen issues of the day (many still relevant now). Those who connected with this smaller film appreciated that.

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