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Where You Can Stream The Awesomeness That is Michael Caine

Where You Can Stream The Awesomeness That is Michael Caine:

If this week’s release of Interstellar does anything for you — beyond, of course, leaving you utterly terrified about the future of humanity — then it should leave you running back to your streaming media device of choice to remind yourself of the greatness that is Michael Caine.

Yes, Caine’s Professor Brand may not be on screen for as long as you hope, but that should merely tease the possibility of revisiting some of the actor’s classic roles in the comfort of your own home. Long before Caine became someone whose appearances in Christopher Nolan movies were the butt of many joke impressions, he proved himself to be the final name in cool. Here are some chances to remind yourself why.

ZULU
(1964) On Netflix

Caine’s first starring role came in this historical epic about the Anglo-Zulu War of the 19th century, which also featured The Avengers’ Patrick McNee and some sterling voiceover work from Richard Burton. Viewed from today’s perspective, there’s some troubling racism to be found in the movie (hell, viewed from the mid-‘60s, there was some troubling racism to be found), as well as some rewriting of history in the way things went down, but nonetheless, this is an oddly thrilling imperialist fantasy, as unsettling as that sounds.


ALFIE (1966)
On Amazon Prime

Similarly unsettling when judged by today’s standards, Caine’s performance as a callous ladies’ man who doesn’t have any idea what he wants out of life (beyond sex, of course) has moments of being disturbing both intentionally and otherwise throughout — the casual misogny! — but it remains both a time capsule of a particular era and a sign of just how wonderfully charming Caine was so early in his career.


HURRY SUNDOWN (1967)
On Amazon Prime

As if going for some kind of “Okay, it was the ‘60s, but still, this is some messed up ish” trilogy, Hurry Sundown was the great director (The Man with the Golden Arm, Anatomy of a Murder) Otto Preminger’s attempt to make his own Gone with the Wind, adapting a novel about a bigot (Caine, because of course) trying to destroy his cousin’s property because of racism and jealousy. The resulting film is a genuinely odd piece of work, but Caine and on-screen wife Jane Fonda are compelling, and Diahann Carroll is amazing.


THE ITALIAN JOB (1969)
On Amazon Prime

Arguably the quintessential Michael Caine movie, this is undoubtedly one of the greatest British movies ever made, and also one of the most stylish. It’s not simply the visuals — although, if you’ve never seen this movie before, prepare to fall in love with the Mini Cooper in a way you couldn’t have imagined — thanks to an amazing Quincy Jones score. If you only watch one movie off this list, it really has to be this one. It’s everything good about Michael Caine all at once, and that’s before we even get to Noel Coward and Benny Hill playing supporting roles.


THE ROMANTIC ENGLISHWOMAN (1971)
On Amazon Prime

Typifying both the oddness of a particular strain of 1970s cinema and Caine’s career as he grew beyond charming rogue roles, The Romantic Englishwoman sees him play an author oblivious to his wife’s needs, while she ends up in a very special elevator while on vacation in Germany. Yes, that sounds like the plot of a dull porn movie from the era, but wait until you see the movie itself. Highly recommended for kitsch factor alone, but both Caine and on-screen wife Glenda Jackson elevate the material more than you’d have thought possible.


DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS (1988)
On Netflix

Playing against type by personifying a very particular stereotype of himself, Caine’s appearance in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels demonstrated once again how easily he could laugh at himself. More surprisingly, it demonstrated that he could more than hold his own against Steve Martin in his prime, with the two playing off against each other with such glee that it’s impossible to resist.


JEKYLL & HYDE (1990)
On Amazon Prime

For some actors, taking on an iconic role like Robert Louis Stevenson’s transformative Dr. Jekyll is a chance to show off their acting chops by submerging themselves entirely in the role. For others, there’s the route that Caine takes in this TV movie. This is very much Michael Caine is Doctor Jekyll, with the actor making little effort to fit in, and the result is something very special indeed. But even this guilty pleasure is nothing compared with…


THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL (1992)
On Netflix

It makes sense that Michael Caine is actually great with the Muppets. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels showed that he played comedy villains with such joy that you couldn’t take your eyes off him, and the broadness of his performance when he’s not trying that hard — something that he’s admitted to many times, in a way that’s remarkably refreshing — actually meshes remarkably well with a bunch of felt puppets. Admittedly, by this point, “playing second fiddle to Kermit” might have seemed like his career had gone far off path, but he had less to be ashamed of here than he did with Jaws: The Revenge. Plus, redemption was around the corner.


THE CIDER HOUSE RULES (1999)
On Netflix

Caine won his second Academy Award for his role in this adaptation of the John Irving novel (Irving, who wrote the screenplay himself, also won an Oscar), and with good reason; his Wilbur Larch is magnetic, outshining lead actor Tobey Maguire in such a way that it almost seems cruel to have them both in the same movie. Even saddled with an unconvincing American accent, this is a high for Caine and a welcome sign that he was, once again, looking to actually act in movies instead of just turning up and collecting the paycheck.


SHINER (2000) On Netflix

Returning to where he started in some sense, this little-seen 2000 British thriller features Caine as a crooked boxing promoter who finally finds a chance to go legit, only to see it taken away from him by Martin Landau’s rival promoter. That his chance was also his son complicates matters, and I’m sure you can guess where things go from there. Think of it as a grown-up Alfie if he never managed to get his life together.

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