Hidden Streams: Werner Herzog, Paul Schrader, And Other Streaming Gems

(Welcome to Hidden Streams, a column focused on the best older movies available to stream on your favorite services, including Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and more.)

The death of FilmStruck might make it harder for cinephiles to dig those older hidden gems out of the overwhelming piles of streaming titles. From lesser-known classics to cult favorites, we've put together a handy guide to some of the best older films you can stream on the various platforms. In this edition of Hidden Streams, you'll find plenty of golden (and not-so-golden) oldies to check out or revisit, including psychological terror, erotic horror, a fantastic Werner Herzog double feature, and more – and nothing that was released after 1985.


Now Streaming on Amazon Prime

Release date: 1984

Director: Martin Bell

Cast: N/A

In 1983, Life magazine published an article by Cheryl McCall titled "Streets of the Lost," featuring photography by Mary Ellen Mark. Mark subsequently convinced her husband, director Martin Bell, to travel with her to Seattle to document the teen homelessness pandemic in a city that billed itself as the most livable in the country. Mark and Bell's resulting documentary is a remarkable piece that explores the daily lives of a group of homeless teens – most notably 14-year-old Erin Blackwell, a child sex worker who goes by the name of Tiny.

For fans of: Minding the Gap, Kids, and This Is England.


Now Streaming on Amazon Prime

Release date: 1983

Director: Gerald Kargl

Cast: Erwin Leder

This 1983 Austrian psychological horror film features a fascinating turn by Erwin Leder as a psychopath who, following his release on parole, stalks and terrorizes a family. Angst was loosely based on the horrific story of real-life mass murderer Werner Kniesek, one of the most infamous killers in Austrian history. Gerald Kargl co-wrote his screenplay with famed Polish filmmaker Zbigniew Rybczynski, who also served as editor and cinematographer for the film, which was banned upon release.

For fans of: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Funny Games, and Possession.

Big Mad Mama

Now Streaming on Amazon Prime

Release date: 1974

Director: Steve Carver

Cast: Angie Dickinson, William Shatner, and Tom Skerritt

Roger Corman produced this exploitation action-comedy starring Angie Dickinson as Wilma McClatchie, a woman who goes on a wild crime spree with her two daughters, Polly and Billy Jean, in 1930s Texas. The trio team up with a handsome bank robber (Skerritt), with whom Wilma begins an affair – until she meets a smooth-talking gambler played by William Shatner. Wilma's new relationship quickly sets the gang on a collision course that ends in tragedy.

For fans of: Spring Breakers, Bonnie and Clyde, and Sugar & Spice.


Now Streaming on Amazon Prime

Release date: 1982

Director: Werner Herzog

Cast: Klaus Kinski, Claudia Cardinale, and Jose Lewgoy

The making of Fitzcarraldo is possibly more fascinating than the film itself (see Burden of Dreams, further down the list). Inspired by the true story of Peruvian rubber baron Carlos Fitzcarrald, Herzog's film follows Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald (Kinski, Herzog's longtime collaborator) as he attempts to haul a massive steamship over a steep hill in the Amazon so he can build an opera house there. Kinski delivers a tour-de-force performance as Fitzgerald (known to the Peruvians as Fitzcarraldo) in this examination of man's irrational ambition and hubris.

For fans of: Werner Herzog (but of course), Holy Mountain, and Grizzly Man.

Go Ask Alice

Now Streaming on Amazon Prime

Release date: 1973

Director: John Korty

Cast: William Shatner, Ruth Roman, and Wendell Burton

Originally released as an ABC "Movie of the Week," Go Ask Alice was based on the sensational 1971 book of the same name, which purported to be a collection of diary entries written by an anonymous teen drug addict and runaway dubbed "Alice." The movie featured a notable ensemble cast that also included Andy Griffith, Mackenzie Phillips, and Robert Carradine. In the following years, ABC made copies of the film available to churches, school counselors, and outreach programs. It didn't take long for the real author of Go Ask Alice to emerge: Editor and writer Beatrice Sparks soon sought to capitalize on the wild success of the "diary collection" by revealing herself as the sole author and attempting to promote similar falsified diaries, including one titled Jay's Journal.

In my "troubled" teen years, a counselor had me read Go Ask Alice and I became obsessed with the "true story" of a teenager who was addicted to drugs and ran away from home in '60s California. It wasn't until a decade later, when I searched for the book online, that I realized it was all a hoax – but a supremely interesting one.

For fans of: Requiem for a Dream, Girl, Interrupted, and The Basketball Diaries.


Now Streaming on Amazon Prime

Release date: 1974

Director: Bob Fosse

Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Valerie Perrine, and Jan Miner

Bob Fosse's movie about iconic comedian Lenny Bruce features some of Hoffman's finest work in one of the greatest filmed biopics of all time. Lenny vacillates between various periods in the comic's life – we watch his riveting performances as an up-and-coming comedian; his smooth-talking as he pursues his love interest, Honey; and how he struggles with his career in a time when public profanity and "obscenity" were offenses that could land you in jail (where Lenny was a frequent guest). The most profound bits feature Hoffman as an older, burnt-out Bruce, whose performances veered away from comedy and became confessional rants.

For fans of: Luke Kirby in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The King of Comedy, and The Jimmy Show.

The Changeling

Now Streaming on Shudder

Release date: 1980

Director: Peter Medak

Cast: George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, and Melvyn Douglas

Peter Medak's cult classic is easily one of the scariest – and often overlooked – haunted house flicks of all time. George C. Scott stars as a famed composer who moves to a mansion in Seattle, which he soon believes to be haunted. Screenwriter Russell Hunter has said that the film is based on the paranormal activity he experienced while living in the Henry Treat Rogers mansion in Denver.

For fans of: The Haunting of Hill House, The Uninvited, and The Innocents.

Cat People

Now Streaming on Shudder

Release date: 1982

Director: Paul Schrader

Cast: Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm McDowell, and John Heard

Loosely based on the story by DeWitt Bodeen (who wrote the 1942 film, which is not great), Cat People stars Nastassja Kinski as a young woman whose sexual awakening is intertwined with the discovery that she can transform into a black leopard. Schrader (who did not write the screenplay for this one) once described the film as having "more skin than blood" – an apt description for this erotic horror thriller. Cat People also features a score by the great Giorgio Moroder, with David Bowie providing vocals on the film's title track (memorably repurposed by Quentin Tarantino in Inglourious Basterds).

For fans of: Ginger Snaps, Raw, and Sleepwalkers (yeah, I said it).

Five Day Lover

Now Streaming on Kanopy

Release date: 1961

Director: Philippe de Broca

Cast: Jean Seberg, Jean-Pierre Cassel, and Micheline Presle

Also known by its original French title L'Amant de Cinq Jours, this sex comedy follows an Englishwoman named Claire (Seberg) who, seeking release from her monotonous marriage, strikes up an affair with her best friend's lover, the wealthy and enigmatic Antoine – with whom she can only spend a few days a week. Despite the complicated web of relationships, everything goes smoothly for a time, until Claire's best friend catches wind of the affair.

For fans of: Closer, Adore, and You Must Remember This' "Jean and Jane" series.

Burden of Dreams

Now Streaming on Kanopy

Release date: 1982

Director: Les Blank

Cast: Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski

After watching Fitzcarraldo (see above), you should immediately check out Burden of Dreams, Les Blank's exceedingly fascinating documentary about the making of Herzog's film. Echoing the plot and themes of his own film, it took Herzog nearly five years to finish Fitzcarraldo – largely because he refused to use special effects, models, or professional background extras. The most spectacular example of Herzog's relentless and seemingly irrational ambition comes when 100 native Indians attempt to drag a 320-ton steamship over a steep hill. Burden of Dreams is also an amazing document of the relationship between Herzog and Kinski, which would be further explored by the filmmaker himself in 1999's My Best Fiend.

For fans of: Herzog, F for Fake, and Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau.