From earning four Oscar nominations to playing Batman, Christian Bale has put out a ton of very popular and very acclaimed movies. From The Dark Knight to The Fighter to The Prestige, most people could rattle off several favorites, but the popular actor has also made more than his share of under the radar movies during his career. Never one to shy away from difficult or complicated subject matter, he’s gone to some really interesting places and has a ton of worthwhile movies not a lot of people have seen.
One of these movies, Out of the Furnace, is currently streaming for free on Plex which makes now the perfect time to watch it. So, in honor of CinemaBlend’s partnership with Plex, we’ve put together a list of five Christian Bale movies you may not have seen and why you should give them a shot. Let’s get this show on the road…
Out Of The Furnace (2013)
Scott Cooper’s 2013 crime drama Out of the Furnace centers on Russell Baze (Christian Bale), an ex-convict who returns to his Pennsylvania steel town after serving time for being involved in a deadly drunk driving accident only to find his brother, Rodney (Casey Affleck) is in debt with the wrong people. When a fixed bare-knuckle boxing match leads to tragedy, Russell is forced to take on Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson), a sociopathic drug dealer who has taken everything from him and his community.
It’s a shame Out of the Furnace didn’t become a well-known Christian Bale movie in the years since its release. I mean, it has just about everything you want from a movie like this: a stacked cast (Willem Dafoe, Zoë Saldana, and Forest Whitaker all co-star), a riveting story, and some great fight scenes. And then there is Bale, whose character comes off less of a trope and more of a real person thanks to Bale’s ability to change his body, mind, and soul for a role. You can stream it right here.
Swing Kids (1993)
One of the most fascinating stories to come out of Nazi Germany in the 1930s was the emergence of a youth movement led by German youth obsessed with American and British culture, specifically music, who hung out and danced at underground dance clubs as a form of rebellion. Thomas Carter’s 1993 historical drama Swing Kids follows two characters in the middle of the movement — Thomas Berger (Christian Bale) and Peter Müller (Robert Sean Leonard) — whose loyalty to their country, and one another, is tested on the eve of World War II.
Released between Newsies and Little Women (two celebrated films featuring a young Christian Bale), Swing Kids is a movie that is often forgotten. I didn’t know about it myself until conducting research on the “Swing Kids” movement. And that’s a shame because it shows just how dynamic Bale was at such a young age while also featuring some well-choreographed dance sequences.
Kurt Wimmer’s 2002 dystopian action thriller Equilibrium follows John Preston (Christian Bale) a high-ranking member of a futuristic police force in the city of Libria known as the Grammaton Clerics whose purpose is to find and destroy anything that evokes emotion whether it be art, literature, or music, all of which are illegal. But when his family ends up on the receiving end of the “justice” he had carried out for so many years, Preston’s allegiances turn and his worldview changes.
Released alongside dozens of other movies like The Matrix had in the years following the ground breaking action film’s release, Equilibrium got lost in the shuffle then and continues to do so, though it has garnered a cult following. Sure, it’s not as grand or memorable as some of Christian Bale’s other action films, like Batman Begins, but it is stylish and a nice reminder of those early 2000s futuristic action flicks that have a certain quality about them that is appreciated 20 years later.
The New World (2005)
In 2005, visionary director Terrence Malick released his fourth film (and first since 1998) with The New World, a stylized reinterpretation of the founding of the Jamestown colony with a major focus on John Smith (Colin Farrell), Pocahontas (Q’orianka Kilcher), and John Rolfe (Christian Bale). But unlike other versions of this classic story, specifically Disney’s Pocahontas, Malick’s drama is a two-and-a-half-hour meditative epic that plays on the emotion, drama, and anguish brought on by the arrival of an English Expedition who discovered the “new world” as well as how Pocahontas reacts to being taken to England alongside Rolfe.
Like just about every Terrence Malick film, The New World is visually stunning and each and every shot is a work of art that could be on display in art museums around the world. But on the flip side, the filmmaker’s work isn’t for everyone due to unconventional storytelling techniques and sometimes arduous narratives. Despite the sometimes hard-to-follow nature of the film, The New World features one of those understated Christian Bale performances that have made the actor one of the best of the modern era.
I’m Not There (2007)
Released in 2007, Todd Haynes’ musical drama I’m Not There features six actors — Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, and Ben Whishaw — playing characters inspired by Bob Dylan, his music, and the various stages in his career told in a non-linear format. Bale’s character, Jack Rollins is based on Dylan’s early folk days, the stage of his career that turned him into one of the most popular and prolific folk artists of all time. Deeply affected by the Vietnam War, not to mention a drunken acceptance speech that ends in disaster, Rollins leaves the limelight only to reappear more than a decade later as an evangelical named Father John.
Although I’m Not There was well-received and nominated for several awards upon its release, all that praise was mostly for Cate Blanchett’s scene-stealing portrayal of Jude Quinn, inspired by Bob Dylan’s controversial shift to electric guitar, and rightfully so. Christian Bale’s performance, however, never seems to get mentioned when the film is brought up, but it certainly should. The actor, like so many times before, loses himself in the role, and his dedication is beyond captivating.
The Flowers Of War (2011)
Released in 2011, Zhang Yimou’s historical drama The Flowers of War takes place during the 1937 Nanking Massacre during the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War. Centering on a mortician named John Miller (Christian Bale) as he pretends to be a priest at a Roman Catholic cathedral in China, the film follows the reluctant hero as he works with a group of prostitutes to protect a group of young schoolgirls seeking shelter from the invading Japanese forces. With determination, a repaired truck, and an act of sacrifice, the group makes a run for a better life.
Despite rarely being brought up when discussing the great Christian Bale movies, The Flowers of War is a remarkably stunning drama that should be watched at least once. Bale’s character experiences a dynamic shift over the course of the movie and his portrayal of a man who is willing to go to great lengths to save complete strangers is something to behold. The Flowers of War is available to stream on Plex.
Hopefully all of this helps shed some light on some of the Christian Bale movies you may have not seen over the years. And even though not all of these titles are available on the platform right now, you can definitely check out Out of the Furnace for free on Plex.
Plex also has a wide variety of movies and TV shows available to stream right now that don’t star Christian Bale. You can head over to Plex to check out what’s available streaming right now, or you can watch the video below, which outlines the service.
Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.
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