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George MacKay stars in the True History of the Kelly Gang
Photograph: supplied George MacKay stars in the True History of the Kelly Gang

The 13 best movies to watch on Stan

The movie vault over at Australia's very own streaming service is teeming with brilliant films to watch. To help you pop your corn, we pick our faves.

By Stephen A Russell and Time Out editors
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The advent of streaming changed everything. Sure, VHS and then DVDs/Blu-rays have been bringing all our fave movies and TV shows to our living rooms for decades, but the sheer scale of what's on offer now is bamboozling. 

That's why we're here to help you navigate the gleaming nuggets. From free stuff on our two public broadcasters to docos downloaded to your sofa, care of your local library
And for the price of two inner-city soy lattes, Stan has a huge array of awesome films, from a new look at our bushranger mythology to sexy '60s space invaders. Here are a few of our faves.

Best films on Stan

Essie Davis in The True History of the Kelly Gang
Photograph: supplied

True History of the Kelly Gang

Film

Hero to some, outlaw to others, Ned Kelly (George MacKay) casts a long shadow over Australian history. While the truth most likely lies somewhere in the middle, local filmmaker Justin Kurzel (Snowtown, Macbeth) cuts through our messy mythology to deliver a visceral, sweat-soaked nightmare of 'destiny' undone. Adapted from the Peter Carey novel, it truly justifies another go-round. While our reviewer Phil De Semlyen wasn't a fan, Stephen A Russell thinks it's a half-mad work of delirious genius. Nicholas Hoult is genuinely creepy as the wrong arm of the law with a strange fixation on Ned, with Russell Crowe also brilliant as Falstaff-like notorious bushranger Harry Power. But it's Essie Davis who steals the show as the fearsome Kelly matriarch, with the fractured love story between a mother and son the film's raw, beating heart.

Photo: Courtesy of Neon

Parasite

5 out of 5 stars
Film Drama

Upsetting the Hollywood system in spectacular fashion when it took home Best Picture at the Oscars, Bong Joon-ho's Parasite is a glorious game-changer. It’s rare for a movie to combine cinematic fireworks and social commentary in such a thrilling and mischievous way. But the director of The Host and Snowpiercer is no stranger to genre gymnastics. Here he tells a slick home-invasion drama that mirrors the masks worn by its characters: polite until they drop the pretence. The appeal is simple: inequality, class, manners and how we behave to protect what’s ours – or to gain that which we believe should be. Sit back and enjoy the exhilarating shocks. 

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The Longest War
Photograph: supplied

The Longest War

Made in collaboration with the creators of hit show Homeland – starring Claire Danes as CIA officer Carrie Mathison – this unflinching doco takes an eye-opening look at the real deal. And it’s as gripping as that fictional political thriller. Filmmaker Greg Barker threw open the doors on president Barack Obama’s foreign policy team in The Final Year and exceeds that fascinating insight here. He speaks to  an ex-operative clearly haunted by her time on the ground, and her testimony is grimly compelling. But the true heartache comes when he speaks to Afghani young folks caught up in a Taliban attack on the American University in Kabul. Inspiring interviews with determined young women who question US plans to pull out, and the threat that poses to the meagre advances in women’s rights already won, are also fantastic. A brilliant primer on the tortuous history of foreign interference in the country, it’s a zippy 80-minute doco that leaves you wanting more.

Photograph: Dogwoof

The Kingmaker

Film Documentary

One of the most abiding images from news reports on the fall of the Marcos family was the sight of matriarch Imelda’s vast shoe collection. When the curtain was pulled back on their obscene wealth/abuse of public funds, it seemed her reign was well and truly over. And yet, this twisted mirror of the Cinderella story was far from finished. Director Lauren Greenfield enjoys remarkable access to the infamous family whose once-iron grip on the Philippines appears to be constricting afresh. Filling in the backstory and illuminating Imelda’s present-day push to install her son Bongbong as vice president, it’s a jaw-dropper. Imelda papers over her indiscretions with a big smile, packaging her hard-as-immaculate nails demeanour as a mother’s tough love for her country. In an age when fake news manipulates elections, her comeback story serves as stark reminder that truth is well and truly under assault.

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A Morte de Estaline
©Ascot Elite

The Death of Stalin

5 out of 5 stars
Film Comedy

While real-life politics are crazier than any satire could ever have predicted right now, The Thick of It writer-director Armando Iannucci somehow manages to pull off instant classics of the form every time. Notwithstanding the old adage about comedy being tragedy plus time, it still feels about half a century too soon to be mining the savage tyranny of Stalinism for gags. But he manages it and then some here. Like Orwell on helium, this reimagining of Stalin’s demise and the subsequent ideological gymnastics of his scheming acolytes is daring, quick-fire and appallingly funny. Adrian McLoughlin is the not-long-for-this-world tyrant, with Steve Buscemi as the wily Khrushchev, Jeffrey Tambor’s dim-witted deputy chairman Malenkov and Simon Russell Beale as secret police chief Beria. Michael Palin (Molotov) and Paul Whitehouse (Mikoyan) round out a politburo stuffed with comedy greats. What follows is a riotous farce of doublespeak and plotting laced with moments of bitumen-black horror. 

A United Kingdom

3 out of 5 stars
Film Romance

If you like your geopolitical drama with a healthy dose of swooning romance, then David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike have your back in this gorgeous gem. Directed by Amma Assante (Belle), the film features Oyelowo as crown prince Seretse of Botswana – or Bechuanaland, as it was known in the post-war years. Pike plays Ruth, a lowly shopkeeper's daughter, and their eyebrow-raising romance, leading to wedding bells, scandalised both nations and set the tabloids ablaze. With the shadow of South Africa's new apartheid laws also in play, the scene is set for a right royal showdown. A honey-coloured story of forbidden love in the face of political intrigue, it's genuinely lovely. 

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Custódia Partilhada
©DR

Custody

Film Drama

One of the most heart-racing and rending films we've seen in a very long time, this French domestic thriller from writer/director Xavier Legrand traces a bitter, nail-biting custody battle. Léa Drucker delivers a performance for the ages, scoring Best Actress at the Césars – the French Oscars – as Miriam, a mother seeking sole custody of her son Julien (Thomas Gioria). She claims her ex-partner Antoine (Denis Ménochet) is violent. He says she's making it all up. When joint custody is awarded, Legrand keeps turning the screw as the situation escalates into an edge-of-your-seat drama that will leave your gasping for breath. 

Midnight Cowboy

Film

Taking home the big guns at the 1970 Oscars – Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay and Director – this classic queer film still packs a wallop. Jon Voight, a strapping young Texan planning on becoming a gigolo, gets a rude awakening when he rocks up dirt poor in a grim and unforgiving New York that takes no prisoners. Voight falls in with Dustin Hoffman's hustling con man Ratso, and they find unexpected succour with one another in director John Schlesinger's tragic romance, transcending the grime they're mired in together. 

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Lean on Pete

Film Drama

While we're on the subject of aching melancholy, Charlie Plummer delivers a powerhouse performance in Weekend writer/director Andrew Haigh's tender adaptation of this Willy Vlautin novel. Playing 15-year-old Charley, he finds peace from the chaotic life led by his single father, Ray (Travis Fimmel), at a race track run by Steve Buscemi's Del. Falling for retired horse Pete, seasoned jockey Bonnie (Chloë Sevigny) is more than happy to help out. But when Charley realises Pete's bound for the knacker's yard, they run off together on an odyssey across America. Experiencing adventure and heartbreak in equal measure, this beautiful movie thrums with hope. Just pack the tissues. 

Claire Danes and Charlie Cox in Stardust
Photograph: supplied

Stardust

Packing a cast like Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, Ricky Gervais and Peter O'Toole, and narrated by Sir Ian McKellen no less, it's a wonder this fabulous fairytale wasn't a bigger hit. Adapted from the Neil Gaiman comic book, it has his quirky way of looking at the wonders of the world. Daredevil star Charlie Cox plays a village lad who ventures into a magical land to win his the hand of his sweetheart (Sienna Miller) by retrieving a fallen star. The only trick is that the star turns out to be a very cranky Claire Danes (Romeo + Juliet). Rocking some major Princess Bride vibes, it's pretty darn cute and also features an underrated Take That track for the win. 

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Barbarella

Film Sci-Fi

Jane Fonda was always a legend whose star shone brighter than most could ever hope. And she certainly made a major impression with this swinging '60s sci-fi spoof. An interstellar representative of the United Earth government from the 41st century, she's dispatched to locate scientist Durand Durand (inspiring the name of a certain new wave band). The mission gets a bit derailed in a soft porn way, but that's the abundant joy of this truly barmy adventure. And Fonda looks absolutely fabulous in a magnificent array of kinky-booted outfits that would make any Bond girl blush.

Still Alice

Film Drama

Julianne Moore took home a long-overdue Oscar for her turn as a linguistics professor who receives a devastating diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's disease in this cut-onions-simulating weepy. And goodness knows she gives it her all in this BIG emotional journey. Directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland adapt it from the weepy Lisa Genova novel. As empowering as it is harrowing, Still Alice details her towering will to stay connected to her family even as their happiness together is gradually washed away. 

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Mystery Road

Film Thriller

Before the hit ABC TV series, Aaron Pedersen's surly lone ranger detective Jay Swan made his debut on the silver screen in this Australian Western by Indigenous filmmaker Ivan Sen. Called into an outback town to investigate the murder of a teenage girl, pretty soon he realises the locals know a lot more than they are letting on. Also tapping Lord of the Rings' Hugo Weaving, True Blood's Ryan Kwanten, Rake's Tasma Walton and the legendary Jack Thompson, it's gripping stuff. 

Prefer to binge some TV? Check these Stan highlights.

Will & Grace finale
Photograph: supplied

The best Stan TV shows to binge

Film

They say we’re the lucky country, and that's certainly true when it comes to top-notch TV options. Not only are we spoiled with two public broadcasters, with all the free shows that entails, but Australians also have their very own affordable streaming platform to gorge on in Stan. With so many original and exclusive shows on offer, we pick out some of our favourites to help you while away your weekends in style. 

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