The best movies on Stan December 2018

Australia's own streaming service Stan has a massive selection of movies to binge so we've picked out the best of the lot.

So Biff hopes to be a film buff? Excellent! Anybody wanting to get up to speed with the best films ever put to celluloid can get an epic leg-up in no time at all, thanks to Stan's streaming service. Be sure to check back with this article soon as we'll periodically update it as the Stanscape changes...

1. Boy

Year: 2010

Cast: James Rolleston, Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu, Taika Waititi

Heartfelt and hilarious, this coming-of-age flick centers on Boy, a huge Michael Jackson fan who lives with a bunch of cousins and his Nan. His father, Alamein, is Boy’s hero and subject of many of his fantasies. In reality though, Alamein is "in the can for robbery". When he returns home, Boy has to confront the man he thinks he remembers, while also discovering his own potential along the way.

Boy is a perfect example of happy sad cinema - the movie will make you feel a lot of things, but it manages to be uplifting and hopeful overall. James Rolleston is perfect in the lead role, so much so that would be impossible to picture anyone else taking on the challenge. If you’re in the mood for a charming movie, this is the perfect pick.

2. Arrival

Year: 2016

Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

A must-see for sci-fi fans, Arrival centres on a linguistics professor who leads a team of investigators as spaceships touch down all over the world. The team must race against time to figure out a way to communicate with the visitors before a global war will likely lead to all sorts of death and destruction. To find common ground, the professor will have to take a chance that threatens not only her life, but humanity as we know it.

Arrival was a hit upon its release and continues to stand the test of time as a gem of the genre. With a spectacular Amy Adams in the lead role, the movie will mess with your head in the best way possible. Repeat viewings are almost a guarantee.

3. I, Tonya

Year: 2017

Cast: Margot Robbie, Allison Janney, Sebastian Stan

Based on unbelievable true events, I, Tonya tells the story of Tonya Harding, a talented figure skater. In 1991, she became the first American woman to complete a triple axel during a competition, only to see her entire world crumbling down three years later, when a bad decision from her ex-husband turned into a scandal that would haunt her for the rest of her life.

Tragic, yet surprisingly humorous, I, Tonya is incredibly entertaining, mainly thanks to some exquisite acting and a delicious script. It will make you laugh and cringe; it will make you angry and confused. Most importantly, it will give you a lot to think about.

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4. The Terminator

Year: 1984

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, Paul Winfield

Alright, look, the special effects aren't going to blow your mind, but The Terminator is still an edge-of-your seat ride, even 30 years later. It's such a solid thriller concept: a nigh unstoppable, human-mimicking cyborg hunting down a defenceless young woman. It feels no pain, it cannot be reasoned or bargained with and it can ruin a fully-armed police precinct quicker than a free doughnuts promotion. The only thing standing between this assassin and the mother of humanity's future saviour? Kyle Reese, a resourceful but completely under-equipped (and pants-less) future soldier who's a fish-out-of-water in 1984.

This was the first offering from writer/director James Cameron and, quite frankly, it's a brilliant start to what became a brilliant career. Tightly directed, impeccably paced and bearing a thought-provoking tale of AI gone rogue, The Terminator is great cinema. No doubt it will be viewed as a “WTF were they thinking?” comedy by the machines that overthrow us in the next 10 to 20 years...

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5. Ghostbusters

Year: 1984

Cast: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis

If you look past the amazing special effects, at least for its time, and Bill Murray's largely improvisational pranks, Ghostbusters is less supernatural-themed love/ghost story and more propaganda for a free market. Three scientist pals of varying ability recognise there's a business niche no-one's offering. They leave college for the private sector and start a small company, even though they're not sure they have a literal ghost of a chance of turning a profit. A regulation-happy bureaucrat from the EPA does all he can to ensure they don't succeed; and he's not the only bad guy. An inter-dimensional God with a flat-top who can read your worst thoughts and manifest them at Godzilla height, is also on the loose.

Seriously though, this is a near-perfect mix of spookiness and the impeccable comedic timings of Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis. If your first foray into Bustin' was the highly-contentious 2016 remake, do yourself a favour and watch the original; it makes everybody feel good.

6. Fargo

Year: 1996

Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare, Kristin Rudrüd,

Two warnings before you get into this Coen brothers classic: it's not your usual crime thriller, and you find repetition irritating, prepare your ears for the onslaught of around 200 “yahs”. This is to be expected when the characters are a host of perpetually upbeat, salt-of-the-earth-type Minnesotans. That said, despite the overabundance of pleasantness, not everybody is a straight-shooter in this winter wonderland. Prime example: Jerry Lundegaard, a car salesman who hires some disreputable out-of-towners to kidnap his wife in order to extract a ransom from his wealthy father-in-law.

When the plan turns bloody, it attracts the attention of Margie, a cheerful, idealistic and heavily pregnant cop who basically subverts all Hollywood stereotypes. You'll see a lot of that going on here; Fargo is as unpredictable as it is engaging. It's one of the very best works of the quirky Coen brothers; a masterclass in pace, tone and dialogue.

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7. Wake in Fright

Year: 1971

Cast: Donald Pleasence, Gary Bond, Chips Rafferty, Sylvia Kay, Jack Thompson

Prepare to be disturbed by the ultimate Aussie nightmare, cobber, because Wake in Fright is an unflinching look into the dark heart of the outback. The uncompromising story centres on outsider John Grant, a civilised-to-the-point-of-snobbishness schoolteacher who becomes a five-day castaway out Woop Woop, in a mining town called Bundanyabba. In no time at all, Grant falls in step with the dead-eyed locals and tumbles down a rabbit hole of ritualistic boozing, high-stakes gambling, brutality toward nature and toxic masculinity.

Don't let the release date prevent you from viewing. This is a seminal piece of Australian film-making; a disquieting classic that deserved the remastering it received. Watching the devolution of an idealistic soul into the animal side of his own nature is just as powerful now as it was 40-odd years ago. It's a bloody pearler, mate.

8. Good Will Hunting

Year: 1971

Cast: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Stellan Skarsgard, John Mighton

Not only was this the vehicle that put a young writer/actor Matt Damon on the map, it was arguably the greatest performance that the late Robin Williams ever put to film. The titular Will Hunting is an undiscovered, world-class maths genius who's anything but good, thanks to a South Boston upbringing and a childhood fraught with foster homes and domestic violence. When his latest outburst gets him arrested, an MIT professor offers to keep him out of the clink in return for regular study sessions and weekly psych evaluations from a third-party shrink. The latter quickly becomes sport for the cocky kid, who proceeds to tear the head doctors to shreds.

Enter Sean Maguire (Williams), a fellow Southie expat who knows a thing or two about defence mechanisms and even more about book smarts and brashness versus lived experiences and the best and worst moments of love. Expect powerful performances in this emotionally rich drama.

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9. Stand By Me

Year: 1986

Cast: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O'Connell

Here's a double dose of disturbing trivia before we begin: the Stephen King novel that this film is based upon draws from King's childhood. Specifically, the “leeches downstairs” moment actually happened to him. Also, the crew-built pond in the movie ended up accidentally housing a few of the little suckers that the young actors could “use” in their scene.

Rob Reiner's pitch-perfect translation of King's novel focuses on a juncture we can all recall: where the last days of naivety begin to give way to the awful realities of impending adulthood. What starts as four misfit friends walking beyond the boundaries of their little world, to scope out a dead body, becomes a dangerous bonding experience that none of them will forget. Expertly paced and well produced, Stand By Me is still one of the most poignant coming-of-age tales you'll ever see.

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10. Taxi Driver

Year: 1976

Cast: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, Harvey Keitel

The enduring popularity of Robert De Niro's “you talkin' to me?” monologue aside, what exactly is it about this Martin Scorsese movie that makes it such an essential watch? It's gotta be Travis Bickle himself, the utterly magnetic anti-hero who, to put it lightly, had a few pre-exisiting social issues even before he's forced to adjust from Vietnam to a civvie's life in a dangerous ghetto area of New York. Basically, it's the worst environment he could be in, as the perceived decadence and sleaze fuels his urge for violent action.

A lot of time has passed since this film debuted, but bearing witness to the slow psychological descent of a man held captive by his own heroic fantasies, has lost none of its potency. Taxi Driver triggered an avalanche of me-too vigilante films back in the day, though none of those exploitation flicks could ever hope to match this original and unforgettable neo-noir thriller.

11. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Year: 1966

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef

I'm tellin' ya, pardner, they don't make westerns like this anymore. During the American Civil War, a mysterious gunslinger and a Mexican outlaw form an uneasy partnership. The plan: the gunhand turns in the bandit for the reward money, then uses his expert marksmanship to rescue him from hanging just as the trapdoor opens. When things become complicated and the noose-shoot goes awry, the foundations for a blood feud are laid. The only thing preventing a murder is that both men need to team up against a sadistic rival bounty hunter, who's also on the trail of treasure buried in the desert.

The film's runtime is considerable, but Sergio Leone's scope and vision stand the test of time. The lovely griminess of a true spaghetti western is so much more preferable to the squeaky clean Hollywood westerns of the same era. Pull out your remote trigger on this without delay.

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