For film fans looking to catch up with the latest movies, but also trying to be more frugal, Rakuten TV is something of a godsend.
The streaming service – which we picked as one our best alternatives to Netflix – works best for catching up with recent releases you might have just missed during their initial run.
Rakuten doesn't work on a monthly fee model; instead, it's more like a virtual Blockbuster (remember those?) and charges per movie, with most films available to rent for around £4.99. That said, the service also has a selection of films that can be watched for free, albeit with adverts.
There are tonnes of great films on the site, from Ridley Scott's Napoleon (which is, granted, a bit more expensive) to Mission: Impossible, Dead Reckoning, to the Celine Song's Oscar-nominated Past Lives.
These are our picks of the 25 best movies to watch on Rakuten TV right now.
Anatomy of a Fall
Justine Triet's Anatomy of a Fall, which is in the running for five Oscars, is an excellent legal drama about a woman who falls under suspicion when her husband falls to his death from a window of their home. Sandra Hüller is extraordinary as accused novelist Sandra Voyter whose human flaws are seen as evidence for her guilt.
Barbie and Oppenheimer were the big hitters last year, so it's great that both award-winning films can now be rented for a fiver. Although Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer is better experienced on the big screen, it's still worth a watch, or re-watch, at home. Cillian Murphy plays J. Robert Oppenheimer, the man widely credited with inventing the atomic bomb. He acts alongside a cast of stars including Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr, Florence Pugh, Josh Hartnett and Casey Affleck.
Last year belonged to Barbie. The film not only made $1.4 billion worldwide, delighted a legion of fans and won a number of awards, but it made Greta Gerwig the highest-grossing female director of all-time (working solo on a project). While bringing us a bleached, tanned and ripped Ryan Gosling, who masterfully played a devious Ken alongside Margot Robbie’s Barbie, the film successfully managed to communicate ideas about capitalism, feminism and existentialism to the mass market.
Everything Everywhere All At Once
Everything Everywhere All At Once won absolutely everything last year, including a Best Picture Academy Award. The A24 film, which stars Michelle Yeoh as tired laundromat owner Evelyn, has a mad premise: Evelyn joins forces with parallel versions of herself to battle a universe-threatening baddie. But the film was celebrated for drawing out themes related to family, immigrant ambition and intergenerational trauma. So even if multi-verse stuff isn’t usually for you, this film from Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert might be the outlier.
Anyone who has ever dined at a high-end restaurant knows that there is something a little psychotic about the whole experience, as tiny plates come from kitchens full of fastidious, muted chefs and their underlings, all in crisp whites. Mark Mylod (Succession) plays on this in The Menu, which stars Ralph Fiennes as a sinister chef who has designs on a group of guests he has invited to an exclusive dining experience on an island. Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult are a hoot as a couple who come and mess up his plans.
Triangle of Sadness
It’s no coincidence that as the number of billionaires continues to rise, despite a cost of living crisis for everyone else, the ultra-rich are taking a bashing in TV shows and films (such as Succession and The White Lotus). Triangle of Sadness is part of this pack, but is arguably even more explicit. The scorcher from The Square director Ruben Östlund pulls no punches as it follows a group of wealthy passengers on a luxury ship. Things get repellently messy in the dark comedy: The Standard called one of the scenes one of “the most audacious gross-out sequences committed to film”.
Bones and All
Who would have guessed that a romance between two cannibals could be so touching and enthralling? But if anyone could manage this near-impossible feat, it would be Call Me By Your Name’s Luca Guadagnino. In Bones and All, an adaption of Camille DeAngelis’ book of the same name, Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet star as two young outcasts who end up on a road trip together and start to fall in love.
Jordan Peele’s comedy-horror Get Out has gained legendary status. The brilliant commentary on black people in America earned dozens of awards and nominations, and won Peele a legion of dedicated fans. Now his latest film is a sci-fi cowboy extravaganza. This time Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer are a brother and sister who live on a Californian ranch that’s under financial strain. They set out to capture an extraterrestrial on camera in the hope of saving their ailing property. The Standard said: “Peele’s latest film is the most original event movie of the year, if not the decade.”
This mad story about five assassins and a snake on a bullet train didn’t reach its barmy potential, but it still makes for a fun watch. It’s all go: there’s a poisoning, a briefcase full of cash, wise-cracking assassins and, as you might imagine, lashings of action. The film has a packed cast of stars too, including Brad Pitt, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bad Bunny, Sandra Bullock and Michael Shannon.
Ticket to Paradise
It’s been years since a proper screwball-esque rom-com was on our screens which is why it was such a delight to have George Clooney and Julia Roberts reunite (after playing an estranged couple in the Ocean’s franchise) on screen, this time as a divorced couple in Ticket to Paradise. The duo are brought together when their daughter announces her plans to marry a man she’s only just met swap her promising career in America for a life in Bali with her new beau. They travel to the idyllic Indonesian island to try and stop her.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
This moving and frequently funny look at love and abortion from director Eliza Hittman picked up rave reviews when it was released. The Standard’s five-star write-up said that“[Hittman] knows audiences don’t want to be lectured. Her film, in its own way, is as romantic and laugh-out-loud funny as Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise.”
Taika Waititi’s oddball World War Two comedy tells the story of a young German boy and his imaginary friend, Hitler. Together, they discover his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl in their home. It’s full of Waititi's signature eccentric direction, and picked up six Oscar nominations in 2019, despite dividing critics on its release.
South Korean director Bong Joon-ho, known for his work on Okja and Snowpiercer, created one of the most remarkable pieces of filmmaking of recent times with Parasite. The gripping satire follows the lives of two vastly different families whose lives entwine in increasingly sinister ways. It transcended genre and language to winBest Picture at the Oscars in 2020.
The Personal History of David Copperfield
Armando Ianucci’s take on Dickens’ classic coming-of-age tale ramps up the comedy, while keeping all the heart and sensitivity of the novel. Ben Whishaw delivers one of the performances of his career as the odious Uria Heep in a brilliant ensemble cast, while Dev Patel in the title role adds charisma and humanity. A wonderful, life-affirming work.
A Hidden Life
Terrence Malick returned in 2019 with A Hidden Life – a document of courage in the face of tyranny, telling the true story of an Austrian conscientious objector in the Second World War. The Standard’s review described it as “a work of genius, at last a justification of Malick’s late style.”
Greta Gerwig’s fresh take on one of the most significant feminist novels of the 19th century turned out to be one of the most critically lauded literary adaptations of recent times. The director got the very best from a fantastic cast, with Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen bringing the four March sisters from Civil War-era Boston to life.
Just Mercy is a heart-wrenching, powerful movie that went under the radar and missed out on awards season glory entirely, despite the well-constructed legal drama boasting moving performances from Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx. It’s the kind of film you meant to get round to watching in the cinema, but probably didn’t – the perfect example of the kind of movie that Rakuten TV works well for.
This indie thriller starring Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots follows a couple who become trapped in a strange, labyrinthine neighbourhood, being forced to raise a child against their will. If creepy dystopian dramas are your thing, this comes highly recommended.
The Invisible Man
Incredibly, this #MeToo inflected thriller marked the first ever headline film for Elizabeth Moss – hard to believe after excellent performances in so many TV and film projects over the years. She stars as a woman in an emotionally abusive relationship, who seems to be haunted by the ghost of her late tech billionaire partner in this smart movie from filmmaker Leigh Whannell.
One of Chadwick Boseman’s best performances can be found in this 2019 crime drama, in which the actor plays an NYPD detective who shuts down the 21 connections to Manhattan (yes we know some of them aren’t technically “bridges”, please don’t write in) to launch the manhunt for a pair of cop killers.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco
This feature debut from director Joe Talbot follows a young black protagonist who attempts to reclaim his childhood home, which has gone up in value dramatically due to gentrification in San Francisco. The Standard called it “at once self-conscious, politically engaged, sci-fi weird and accessible” in its four-star review.
A visceral, elemental experience from start to finish, this extraordinary film from Colombian director Alejandro Landes follows a child army living in brutal conditions, both in the exposed mountains of South America and depths of the jungle. Truly one of the most immersive and unforgettable movies of recent times, with a scale that’s seen it compared to epics like Apocalypse Now.
12 Angry Men
When a Puerto Rican teenager is accused of murdering his abusive father, a lone juror attempts to convince his 11 companions that their case isn’t as clear cut as it seems. This classic legal drama from director Sidney Lumet explores the dangers of group mentality, the shortcoming with the democratic legal system and the strength it takes to stand up and deliver change.
Poland’s leading filmmaker Agnieszka Holland’s film follows the true story of Welsh journalist Gareth Jones, who ventured into the Soviet Union in 1933. There, he learned of the sinister truths hidden by the communist regime and uncovered details of the Holodomor famine that killed millions of Ukrainians during that decade. The film stars James Norton in the title role, alongside Vanessa Kirby, Peter Sarsgaard and Game of Thrones’s Joseph Mawle, who plays George Orwell.
In many ways, this Billy Wilder classic is the perfect movie: there are tears and laughter in equal measure, with a tenderness that never tips over into sentimentality. Jack Lemmon is perfect as the insurance clerk Bud, who falls for Shirley MacLaine’s elevator operator Fran Kubelik in unfortunate circumstances. An ineffably beautiful film.