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What We’re Watching: The Films of William Friedkin

Legendary director William Friedkin died of heart failure on Monday at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 87.

He leaves behind a storied legacy and twenty narrative features, along with a handful of documentaries in his wildly eclectic filmography.

Many of his greatest films are available digitally and physically, but only a handful are streaming on subscription services right now. All films below can be rented or purchased from the usual suspects (Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, etc.). Streaming sites noted where applicable.

William Friedkin on the set of ‘The Exorcist’

The Heavy Hitters

  • The Exorcist – Warner Bros. is currently prepping a 4K Ultra HD release of this 1973 horror classic that includes the original theatrical version as well as the extended director’s cut. That will be released physically and digitally on September 19. Right now, both versions of the film are available to rent or buy from all digital services in high definition. If you have Shudder or AMC+, you can supplement it by streaming the excellent documentary ‘Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on the Exorcist.’
  • The French Connection – Friedkin won the Academy Award for Best Director for this 1971 police drama with one of the greatest car chases in cinematic history. There was a recent controversy over digital versions of the film editing out racially insensitive language. It can still be found in its original version on dvd and Blu-ray. For now.
  • Cruising – Al Pacino stars in this 1980 thriller about a serial killer who is targeting gay men in New York’s leather underground. Activists targeted the production in the West Village at the time of the shoot and it remains a controversial film to this day. Arrow’s recent blu-ray release features a gorgeous restoration approved by William Friedkin and contains a fascinating audio commentary from the man himself. (available on Cinemax)
  • The Boys in the Band – By adapting Mart Crowley’s off-Broadway play for the big screen in 1970, Friedkin released one of the first American films to focus on the lives of gay men. The original cast reprised their roles in the movie as friends gathering in an Upper East Side apartment for a birthday party.

Deeper Cuts

  • To Live and Die in L.A. – This one is not currently available on any digital services. Kino Lorber just released a gorgeous 4K Ultra HD disc that highlights the noir film’s incredible cinematography. It stars Willem Dafoe as a counterfeiter who becomes the target of a secret service agent (William Petersen).
  • Bug – Based on a play by Tracy Letts, this batshit crazy 2006 paranoid thriller stars Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon. Wildly misunderstood and underappreciated upon release, it has developed more of a cult following over the years. (available on Amazon Prime)
  • Sorcerer – Released up against ‘Star Wars,’ this 1977 thriller was considered a bomb upon its original release. Rights to the movie were tied up for years. A 2013 restoration and subsequent reissue of the film brought it to new audiences. No less than Stephen King himself has called it his favorite film of all time.

Also streaming

  • Blue Chips (Prime Video, Showtime)
  • Deal of the Century (Tubi)
  • The Devil and Father Amorth (Tubi, Crackle)
  • Friedkin Uncut (Kanopy)
  • The Hunted (Max)
  • Jade (Showtime)
  • Killer Joe (Pluto TV)
  • The Night They Raided Minsky’s (Pluto TV)
  • Rules of Engagement (Showtime)

Looking for more viewing recommendations? Check out our August 2023 streaming preview!

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