The best movies on Lightbox in 2020
New Zealand's local streaming service Lightbox shines a light on some of the greatest movies ever made.
In February of 2018 Lightbox added movies on-demand – a welcome addition to its service. In an effort to steer you to the absolute creme de la crème of cinema on Lightbox, we’ve compiled the following list.
1. The Bridge on the River Kwai
Let’s start with a timeless Sir Alec Guinness flick that is genuine class. The year is 1943 and a ragtag detachment of British POWs are being ordered by their Japanese captors to construct a bridge of strategic importance. To begin with the general goal of the prisoners is to walk a delicate line of sabotaging and delaying the job just enough to avoid punishment or summary execution. This all changes when a new senior British officer, Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson, becomes wrapped up in the engineering challenge of the task.
2. Stand By Me
Behold, one of the few Stephen King adaptations that the original author gushingly approves of. Stand By Me is the coming-of-age tale of Gordie, Chris, Teddy and Vern, four pals who are determined to make a cross-county trek to see a dead body. As you can imagine, hijinks aplenty ensue. Most notably: playing chicken with trains, fording through leech-infested swamps, and the odd run-in with a junkyard dog who, allegedly, has a taste for testicles. Throw in some intense drama brought on by the encroaching pressures of the adult world, and Stand By Me is a classic.
3. Taxi Driver
If you were to call the “hero” of this neo-noir psychological thriller, Travis Bickle, a disturbed young man it’d be an understatement. Suffering from insomnia, this Vietnam vet takes a job as a New York City cabbie and begins roaming the streets nightly, growing increasingly detached from reality as he fantasies about cleaning up this filthy city. Enter: a new mohican hairdo, guns and one of the most quoted tough guy rhetorical questions in cinema history. Hard-hitting and compelling, 40 years has done nothing to diminish the power of Taxi Driver.
4. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
One of Steven Spielberg’s finest, Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a sci-fi tale that centres on a group of people who attempt to contact alien intelligence. Some of these individuals are dedicated professionals who are at the top of their respective fields, others are common, everyday folk who seem to have been specifically chosen for UFO interactions. Family man Roy Neary is one such observer and the strange experience subconsciously compels him to abandon his comfortable suburban life. Instead, he embarks upon a quest to discover the truth, no matter the cost.
A modern masterpiece, Moonlight is a coming-of-age drama that follows Chiron, a young black man moving from childhood to adulthood. He’s struggling to find his feet while trying to navigate the challenges of sexual self-discovery, a drug-addled mother, and having to grow up in one of the dodgiest parts of Miami sure isn’t helping things either. This is a compelling meditation on the moments, people and unknowable forces that shape our lives and forge us into the individuals we are. Moonlight is a must-watch, a unique hybrid that mixes art film with hood film.
6. The Social Network
Welcome to the story of Facebook – that peacock-centric, time-wasting vampire we all love to hate. The Social Network takes us right back to the 2003 beginning of it all, when talented Harvard undergrad Mark Zuckerberg started to code a new concept that eventually becomes a global phenomenon for narcissists everywhere. Unfortunately, becoming one of the youngest billionaires in history comes with some new challenges. Key of which: complications stemming from jilted former friends and jealous associates who are determined to sue their way to their own success.
We found this to be one of the most delightfully mind-bending sci-fi dramas in decades. When a fleet of monolithic alien vessels arrive on Earth – and proceeds to do very little – the international community scrambles to understand the intentions of these visitors. Hoping to break new ground in terms of communication, the government recruits linguist Louise Banks from the private sector. Shadowed by a dark past and partnered with physicist Ian Donnelly, Banks finally manages to articulate a question: why are you here? The poorly translated answer that comes back triggers a global crisis.
8. The Hurt Locker
War is a drug and Explosive Ordinance Specialist (EOS) William James is an addict. This is incredibly unfortunate news for the short-timer Specialists Sanborn and Eldridge who are tasked with keeping him safe as he disarms the most troublesome IEDs in Iraq. As the crew members’ respective rotation dates dwindle down to a handful left, the tension in the team rises to the point where Sanborn openly considers “fragging” their risk-taking superior to avoid getting blown to kingdom come himself. Well-acted and intensely shot, The Hurt Locker is absolutely riveting cinema.
Great film, but if you’ve known abusive relationships in your life, this is going to be a tough watch. Whiplash chronicles the relationship between Miles Teller, a fledgling jazz drumming phenom, and his borderline sadistic instructor, Terence Fletcher. What follows is a brutal campaign of mockery and violence predicated upon an impressionable hopeful who’s pushing himself closer and closer to his mental and physical limits. Even if you aren’t into music, or jazz as a genre, the transcendent themes of spiralling into obsession and chasing unobtainable perfection will keep you locked on. Do yourself a favour and put Whiplash on your set-list.
10. The Silver Linings Playbook
When bipolar sufferer Patrizio “Pat” Solitano is released from a psych ward he promptly moves back in with his parents and sets about winning his estranged wife back. Admittedly, it’s not the best living arrangement for a rageaholic to make a comeback from. Fortunately, Pat finds an ally in Tiffany Maxwell, a widowed fellow depress-ee who agrees to help with the spouse retrieval if Pat agrees to attend her dance therapy lessons. Side bonus: Pat figures a good competition performance might show his soon-to-be ex that he’s turned a corner. Complication: as the weeks whittle down to showtime, some unexpected chemistry becomes apparent.