all of these are available on netflix.
1. the battle of algiers
phenomenal movie about the struggle between algerian revolutionaries and french colonists in the city of algiers in 1957. many of the actors were veterans of the revolutionary fight. the movie is a good strategic study of anti-colonial struggle. i found it very helpful to read eqbal ahmad's writings about algeria right before watching the movie.
2. sima the witch (hebrew title: sima vaknin machshefa)
this recent israeli film is not very well-known, but it's very funny. lots of crass humor but well-executed. it's about a widow who just wants love discovering that she has the powers of a witch, causing everyone around her to get greedy. it's a commentary on the degeneration of morals, and also has lots of ashkenazi-mizrahi stuff.
3. the dinner game
pretty good french movie about a group of wealthy friends who invite unwitting stupid/boring people to dinner parties and compete over who can bring the "best" guests. predictably, it ends up that the wealthy hosts are the real stupid ones; but the execution is good, and so is the acting.
4. catch a fire
the tim robbins movie about a south african anti-apartheid militant and the anti-terrorism official trying to catch him. interesting subject matter and pretty good acting.
5. stranger than fiction
y'all know about this will ferrell movie. it's surprisingly crisp and clever.
6. upstairs, downstairs
not a movie, but a very good british TV show from the early 70's. it's about a patrician family and its servants in the early 1900. the acting is fantastic and the writing is very good. no melodrama, no cheap attempts at humor. very theater-like.
7. the sweet hereafter
a 1997 film by atom egoyan about a community in western canada that's torn apart by litigation after a deadly schoolbus accident. to be honest, i thought this film was good but not great; but it's worth seeing just for sarah polley. yeah, i have a bit of a celebrity crush.