Hop to It: 11 Classic and Eclectic Films You Can Stream This Easter Long Weekend
Some feature bunnies. Some include eggs or chocolate. Some have provocative takes on religion.
April 14, 2022
Whenever a public holiday with a religious history rolls around, it means different things to different people. Easter is one of them — a four-day period filled with bunnies for some, oh-so-many chocolate eggs for most, and a relaxing break from work for many.
That makes finding the perfect Easter viewing a bit trickier than most occasions. Unlike Christmas movies, paschal flicks haven't become their own category. Unlike Halloween and horror films, there's not an existing genre to tap into, either. And, when a movie has clearly been made with Easter in mind, it tends to fall into one of two camps: religious-themed epics and rabbit-filled, kid-focused family fare.
If you're keen to mark the occasion through cinema — and eager to find something to watch while you're binge-eating all those hot cross buns — don't worry. No, you don't have to settle for the obvious. Instead, fill your long weekend with everything from Keanu as humanity's saviour to Jordan Peele's take on bunnies thanks to our 11 classic and eclectic Easter streaming options,
The creepiest rabbit in cinema belongs to one movie: Richard Kelly's 2001 sci-fi thriller Donnie Darko. Once you've met Frank, as the eponymous teenager (Jake Gyllenhaal, Ambulance) does while he's sleepwalking one night, then you can be forgiven for feeling more than a little unnerved.
Making quite the bold, striking and memorable filmmaking debut, Kelly's film saddles Donnie with plenty of other worries, too. Doomsday visions, wormholes and time loops; hosting a Halloween party; general adolescent angst — they're all included. So is Patrick Swayze as an unsettling motivational speaker, Maggie Gyllenhaal playing her real-life brother's on-screen sister, and a mind-bending movie that proves both ominous and dreamy all at once (and boasts a great 80s-themed soundtrack).
WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT
It's the part live-action, part animated film that's really not for kids, and it's still a delight more than three decades later. Who Framed Roger Rabbit steps back to 1947, plays with both neo-noir and comedy, and creates a world where humans and cartoons — or Toons as they're called — co-exist.
A who's who of Hollywood's late-80s best and brightest were all considered for the part of private detective Eddie Valiant (Harrison Ford, Bill Murray and Eddie Murphy among them), but Bob Hoskins is pitch-perfect in the role. Also working a charm is the film's dark but funny tone, its exceptional special effects, and the reteaming of Robert Zemeckis and Christopher Lloyd after Back to the Future. Oh, and the fact that this always-entertaining PI tale is basically an oddball take on all-time classic Chinatown.
THE MATRIX FRANCHISE
In one of the biggest sci-fi franchises of the past two decades, one man is chosen to save humanity, with the anointed hero navigating difficult trials and tribulations in the process. While the original trilogy of The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions are all jam-packed with futuristic imagery and dystopian drama, writer/director siblings Lana and Lilly Wachowski spin a story that's also laden with spiritual symbolism — so much so that a religion called Matrixism even popped up.
Obviously, who wouldn't want to worship Keanu Reeves as Neo? These movies did the first time around, and repeated the feat with Lana Wachowski's solo effort The Matrix Resurrections as well. The middle two flicks are nowhere near as impressive and entertaining as the first or latest, but The Matrix franchise always makes for thrilling piece of science fiction.
As a director using genre to lay bare society's oppressive ills — and to entertain audiences with audacious and ambitious horror stories in the process — Jordan Peele is two for two on the big screen. Just a couple of short years ago, Get Out felt like a breath of fresh air with its smart and savage tale of racial alienation. That feeling remains with his second feature Us, which simultaneously splashes in the same thematic pool and rides its own narrative wave.
Focusing on a family of four, a summer vacation to Santa Cruz and sinister lookalikes who start stalking their every move, Peele finds a new way to ponder America's divisive reality both historically and at present, all while making an immensely unnerving addition to an already unsettling genre: the doppelgänger movie. Playing dual roles, Lupita Nyong'o puts in a phenomenal performance as the matriarch doing whatever it takes to fight for both her family and her freedom, while many of the film's meticulously crafted visuals — and plethora of rabbits — are pure nightmare fodder.
COOL HAND LUKE
"Nobody can eat 50 eggs", Lucas Jackson (Paul Newman) is told in 1967 prison drama Cool Hand Luke. If that sounds like a challenge you're willing to take up, you're in good company. Naturally, you're currently thinking about chocolate eggs; however, Newman's famous character endeavours to eat 50 of the real deal. Even locked up in a Florida chain gang for vandalising parking metres, that's the kind of rule-breaking, authority-defying guy he is.
Nominated for four Oscars and winning one (for Best Supporting Actor for George Kennedy), this is one of cinema's anti-establishment standouts, tracking the penal system's repeated attempts to put Luke in his place, and his continued determination to flout every restriction that's thrown at him. Cool Hand Luke is also layered with religious symbolism in its narrative and in its imagery — as you'd expect in a tale of a man repeatedly persecuted for remaining faithful to his true nature.
WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
Sometime in 2023, the world will get gifted a movie that's bound to break the internet — for a few days, at least. Casting Call Me By Your Name and Dune favourite Timothée Chalamet as a young Willy Wonka in a film directed by Paddington and Paddington 2's Paul King (and also starring the always-wonderful Olivia Colman, too) was always going to have the film-loving world eagerly wanting to eat it up.
For now, though, the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is still a delight. It always will be, of course. It's a magical ticket of a book-to-screen adaptation, thanks in no small part to the inimitable Gene Wilder. We all know the tale by now, which follows a poverty-stricken child who wins a chocolate contest and gets a super-exclusive tour of the eponymous figure's sweets-making outfit, and it keeps standing the test of time for great reason.
Whatever occasion happens to be upon us, there's a Nicolas Cage movie for it. The Family Man and Trapped in Paradise are set around Christmas, for example; Moonstruck and Wild at Heart are pitch-perfect Valentine's Day viewing; and you can choose from the likes of Mandy, Vampire's Kiss and Color Out of Space at Halloween.
For Easter, Con Air fits the bill. It is the movie that has Cage exclaim "put the bunny back in the box," after all. Here, he plays a former army ranger-turned-paroled convict who's trying to head home when his prison flight is hijacked by fellow criminals. And it's particularly apt viewing right now given that Cage plays Cage in meta comedy The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, which hits cinemas Down Under this month — and Con Air plays a pivotal part in it.
Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Easter, and a dazzling array of singing and dancing? Blend them all together, and that's Easter Parade. A huge box-office hit upon its initial 1948 release, this lively musical understandably makes the most of its stars — who act, croon and show off their fancy footwork opposite each other in their only cinematic collaboration.
Astaire plays Broadway hotshot Don Hewes, who's far from happy when his dance partner breaks off their pairing. Emotionally wounded, he vows he'll catapult the next dancer he meets to fame. That'd be Garland's Hannah Brown, although the path to success (and to romance) is hardly straightforward. As Easter Parade charts the ups and downs of Don and Hannah's new arrangement, though, it's obviously absolutely overflowing with show-stopping song-and-dance numbers.
WALLACE & GROMIT: THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT
Aardman has enjoyed an enviable track record over the stop-motion animation studio's 50-year career, as well as its two-plus decades making movies. But while Chicken Run is great and the delightful Shaun the Sheep flicks aren't just for kids, Wallace and Gromit hold a soft spot in everyone's hearts.
That makes their only big-screen outing to date, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, extra special. Parodying monster movies, including old-school Hammer horror films, it tasks a certain cheese fiend and his canine sidekick with trying to rid a village suddenly plagued by bunnies. An Oscar-winner for Best Animated Feature, the result is an amusing, offbeat and energetic adventure with clever sight gags, an eccentric vibe, an array of intelligently used pop culture references, and guest voice work from Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes.
THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST
If you're going to watch one serious film about the obvious religious figure this Easter, make it Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ. Faith is one of the great veteran filmmaker's favourite themes (see also: his Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver-starring Silence) and, here, he tackles it with his trademark smarts and depth, all while presenting Jesus not as a revered icon but as a person.
Willem Dafoe plays the Judean carpenter in the spotlight, turning in one of his reliably fantastic performances. Also popping up among the cast: Harvey Keitel, Barbara Hershey, Harry Dean Stanton and David Bowie. Like many a movie that's dared to take a provocative approach to this tale, the 1988 film earned protests, censorship and bans when it originally hit cinemas — and nabbed Scorsese an Academy Award nomination for Best Director as well.
The Last Temptation of Christ is available to stream via iTunes.
MONTY PYTHON'S LIFE OF BRIAN
When famed comedy troupe Monty Python turned their attention to religion, they didn't take the obvious route. Instead, their satirical comedy follows Brian Cohen (Graham Chapman), a Jewish man who happens to be born on Christmas right next door to Jesus, and gets mistaken for his neighbour as a result.
As one well-known line of dialogue has told us all for decades, "he's not the Messiah — he's a very naughty boy". Eventually, he'll be trying to look on the bright side of life as well. Written by the whole group, and starring not just Chapman but John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin as well, Monty Python's Life of Brian is the silliest, most irreverent biblical-related flick you're ever likely to see. Unsurprisingly, when it was released back in 1979, it was accused of blasphemy.
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