Arthouse cinema has its own niche following. Often considered intellectually stirring and pretentious, it has seen a spike in its popularity in the 1960s and ’70s with the likes of Ingmar Bergman, Jean-Luc Goddard, Federico Fellini and more gaining mainstream attention besides critical appreciation.
With the advent of blockbuster films, arthouse cinema lost the huge landscape of audience and began to garner its own following. But now, streaming platforms are starting to wake up to the potential of such titles.
Arthouse films do not pay attention to the value of entertainment but focus on the style and substance in general. It might often seem intimidating and is way above the modern (cheaper) forms of entertainment. Compelling and beautiful, the narrative seems intimate and universal at the same time.
With the advent of streaming platforms, arthouse cinema has become more accessible as they are often available on such streamers. Modern-day directors often resort to the same school to create intriguing pieces of art that subscribe to the same style.
We, at Best of Netflix, decided to compile a list of 6 such arthouse films currently streaming on Netflix:
The 6 best arthouse films on Netflix:
Roma (Alfonso Cuaron, 2018)
The first Mexican entry to win Best Foreign Language Film, as well as the Best Cinematography and Best Director awards at the 91st Academy Awards, Alfonso Cuaron’s slow, artistic and emotionally resonating masterpiece, employs intimacy and clever use of shadow and light to affect the viewers deeply. Set in 1970-71 Mexico, ridden with the horrors and hardships of a student massacre, the film chronicles the life of an indigenous housekeeper, Cleo, who lives a simple life, caught between her duties as a devoted nanny and anxieties of impending motherhood.
Roma is an intricate combination of slapstick comedy and personal hardships. A poignant commentary on the class and power dynamics that existed in the society, the film focuses on the humble acceptance of fate and disempowerment by the indigenous people. Shot in a stunning monochrome, it reflects on the artistic mood, memory and monotone of a 1970s Roma.
Available: All regions
Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach, 2019)
Baumbach’s film is a stinging tale of rocky marriages that end in divorces and how it affects the life of the couple as well as the child. Theatre director Charlie Barber is in an estranged marital relationship with his wife, Nicole. Following disagreements and heartbreaks, the couple decides to part ways, sharing custody of their son Henry. The legal world of divorce and separation is, however, extremely filthy, and threatens the sanctity of their friendship.
In what is supposedly one of the most realistic films to date, Baumbach elaborates on how the process of going through a divorce is an isolated experience. It is a tender commentary on the uncoupling of a marital union; its calm, composed pace and heart-rending narrative will make the viewers want to re-evaluate themselves as well as their relationships.
Available: All regions
The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)
Like Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, The Florida Project is human, heartbreaking and beautiful to watch. The narrative focuses on poverty and the desire to move up the social ladder. It is realistic and individualistic; Baker’s docudrama-like-filmmaking adds a hint of realism to the film. Tender and raw, it deftly captures lost innocence quite vividly. The setting is simplistic but the anxiety and terror rooted in the lives of the people in the film make it an astonishing indie masterpiece.
The protagonist is the six-year-old Moonee, a resident of a motel in Kissimmee, Florida, whose days are filled with action and adventure with her crude and reckless single mother. Via the lens of the motel manager Bobby, the viewers get a sneak peek into the lives of abject poverty being led by the tenants along with the innate thirst to step into a better tomorrow despite the financial stagnance in their lives.
Available: Netflix US
I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Charlie Kaufman, 2020)
I’m Thinking of Ending Things abounds in stream-of-consciousness monologues and ominously surreal aesthetics where various events unfold in the life of Lucy when she takes a road trip with her boyfriend Jake to his parent’s farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. After she arrives at his parent’s secluded house, his parents turn out to be socially inept and her boyfriend’s nature starts spiralling while Lucy keeps receiving anonymous phone calls.
Kaufman defies any kind of genre categorisation. His film narrative is fiendishly idiosyncratic and lacks coherence. It is difficult to comprehend the narrative as the atmospheric horror is heightened by the existential anxiety projected by the characters that are well-portrayed by a brilliant ensemble. The film gradually tends to lose track of identity, time, memories and emotions as it weaves a menacingly poignant dreamlike sequence with a powerful climax.
Available: All regions
Malcolm & Marie (Sam Levinson, 2021)
Being one of its kind, its secretive production and filming have taken place during this pandemic and features a filmmaker and his girlfriend who wait at home for the critical response to his newly released film. Soon the evening of conversation turns out to be a test of love when Malcolm and Marie’s feelings emerge as they confront each other with tumultuous issues and anguished questions.
A film that is more disturbing than psychological thrillers, posing visceral and emotionally scarring questions. The fate of their relationship remains unknown which adds to the general claustrophobic nature of the film. They are paranoid and insecure, flawed and relentless, trying to reach out to each other while continuously refusing to budge to feed their own ego.
Available: All regions
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2017)
Cold and distant acting performances as well as the overall claustrophobic atmosphere galore, Lanthimos’ creation is quite like his film Dogtooth where the overall aura of the film screams substance. With unbelievably surreal cinematography, this idiosyncratic work of Lanthimos sends chills down one’s spine. Engaging and interesting, the story is somewhat inspired by Euripedes’ Greek tragedy Iphigenia at Aulis.
Steven is a cardiologist who leads a somewhat normal life with his wife Anna and his children Kim and Bob. Martin, who lost his father, copes with his grief by talking to Steven; Martin’s enigma leaves an impression upon the family, especially Kim who is smitten by him. Soon, Steven’s children start falling ill with weird unexplainable illnesses and Martin reveals a shocking fact. Steven can save only one child but as a father can he ever choose between his children?