Local streaming sites like Youku and Tudou have you more than covered, offering a bevy of both domestic and foreign films for free, and you only have to sit through the occasional annoying ad. We’ve picked out the best of the best, or at least the best as determined by a group of self-important Hollywood insiders. The following all won the Academy Award Best Picture gong and are available for free on Youku.
Dir Alejandro G Iñárritu; USA 2014
Okay, this might not be the absolute best Oscar winner of all time, but it’s the newest, and already available online. Plus, we never would have guessed that Iñárritu, normally such a sombre director, could make something so quick and entertaining. Not to mention the fact that it’s a technical marvel with an outstanding soundtrack.
Dir Joseph L Mankiewicz; USA 1950
The Academy’s obsession with dramas set inside the biz goes a lot further back then Birdman. As the best example, witness this droll, wonderful 1950 drama. Bette Davis stars as an older Broadway star who takes a young fan under her wing and soon finds herself in competition with her.
Dir Billy Wilder; USA 1960
Speaking of droll, wonderful dramas, they don’t get much wittier or more heartfelt than this simultaneously cynical and hopeful film from classic Hollywood great Billy Wilder. The film features Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine as two possible lovers navigating the uncaring world of mid-century office culture. If this doesn’t make you want to quit your desk job, we don’t know what will.
Dir Frank Capra; US 1934
It Happened One Night is an example of a truly lost phenomenon that we never see in this day and age. No, not a romantic comedy that’s actually charming, although it is also that. We mean a straight-up comedy that’s also a Best Picture winner. The award was well deserved for this film about a rich socialite (Claudette Colbert) who goes on the run among the hoi polloi and meets a streetwise reporter (Clark Gable, significantly more handsome than the rest of us hoi polloi).
Dir Bernardo Bertolucci; Mainland/UK/Italy 1987
How could we resist throwing in the only China-centric Best Picture winner on the list? Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci took advantage of the opening up of China to shoot this grand historical epic on location in the Forbidden City – the only film ever given permission to be shot there. There’s no better way to drive home the unique nature of this English-language Chinese chamber drama than by watching it on a laptop via Youku with obligatory digital Chinese subtitles.