My knowledge of recent pop culture does not go much beyond being excited about this Bob Bailey guy who recently took over from John Lund in the lead part of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. Most of my film recommendations can thus sometimes be hard to find. When I was writing for Washington Monthly magazine, some people would write me and ask for suggestions about where to find older movies. Let me offer a few ideas.
First, although I do not myself watch television, I am given to understand that there are channels that regularly feature older films. One of them is Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which also has a website packed with reviews and commentary on the films the channel shows. Another, American Movie Classics, has broken away from exclusive reliance on showing old films but still includes hours a days of classic film programming. A third possibility is IFC, which shows a mix of classic films as well as arty, offbeat and independent productions, including a number I have recommended.
Second, a number of fine films have had their copyrights lapse and are available for free viewing. One place to find most of them is The Internet Archive. I have recommended many public domain films, including Railroaded!, Nanook of the North, And Then There Were None and He Walked by Night.
Third, there are services on line that show films either in exchange for watching a few ads, or, charge an annual entry free that gives you unlimited access to their library. Examples include Hulu.com, Imdb.com, and Crackle.com. I personally sign up each year for Amazon Prime, which has let me discover or re-watch many films that I have recommended or plan to recommend here. Netflix doesn’t seem to carry as many older films, as far as I can tell.
Fourth, consider buying DVD amalgamations of old movies. Here is one of many examples: 100 mystery movies for twelve bucks! Sure, some of them are stinkers, but if even only a third of them are good you are gaining fine movie viewing for less than a buck a film.
When sifting through old films that you purchase in this way or see scheduled on TV or a pay for service website, how do you pick the ones you will like? Rotten Tomatoes is one of many sites that provides useful guidance at no charge, as can a used movie guidebook (e.g., by Leonard Maltin or Roger Ebert) which you can usually find in bookstores for a couple bucks. Also of course, you can go through this site’s list of recommendations for ideas.