Russell Crowe’s Best Movie Is Streaming For Free Right Now

It took Russell Crowe a few tries to hit it big in Hollywood, but now his best movie is streaming for free and we are here for it, see?

By Nathan Kamal | Updated

Russell Crowe A Beautiful Mind

Russell Crowe is having a bit of a comeback. The New Zealand actor first broke into Hollywood in the mid-1990s after having made a name for himself in Australian cinema, most notably with a starring role as a brutally violent, unhinged neo-Nazi in 1992’s Romper Stomper. He is currently set to star in two comic book adaptations, the Taika Waititi-directed Thor: Love and Thunder for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Sony Pictures Kraven the Hunter movie. It is fitting, considering his first starring American role was in The Quick and the Dead, a movie that basically posited Wild West gunslingers as superheroes (and supervillains), directed by the man who modernized comic book movies, Sam Raimi. But The Quick and the Dead was an enormous box office flop, and his next, No Way Back, similarly failed to find an audience. While Virtuosity, his third attempt at American stardom, has found a cult audience (Crowe plays an AI constructed of the minds of all of history’s serial killers), it did not burn up the box office at the time, and his fourth strike, Rough Magic, was barely released. A lot was riding on his next movie, and fortunately for Russell Crowe, that movie was L.A. Confidential. Fortunately for us, it is currently streaming for free on Hulu. 

Russell Crowe L.A. Confidential

Upon its release in 1997, L.A. Confidential might not have struck many as a surefire box office hit. Russell Crowe was largely an unknown in the United States, as was his co-star, Australian actor Guy Pearce. It was based on the third novel of a quarter by crime fiction novelist James Ellroy; he had only had one adaption before, 1988’s Cop, that had flopped hard. The movie was a period piece set in the 1950s, which is always a risky proposition, and its biggest asset, director Curtis Hanson had only had one hit five years prior, the trashy psychological thriller The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. In other words, this is not the movie that you would expect to turn Russell Crowe into a superstar. 

russell crowe guy pearce L.A. Confidential

But it did. As violent, antagonistic ​​Plainclothes Officer Wendell “Bud” White, Russell Crowe fully blossomed into one of the finest actors of his generation. The plot of L.A. Confidential follows Bud White and two other Los Angeles policemen in 1953: Guy Pearce as the ambitious, idealistic, and generally unliked Sergeant Edmund Exley and Kevin Spacey as Detective Sergeant Jack Vincennes, a charismatic, flashy narcotics officer with a side-gig taking bribes from gossip magazines. The story is as twisting and complicated as you would expect from a neo-noir. Deadly events are set into motion by the imprisonment of real-life mobster Mickey Cohen, which creates a power vacuum that the deeply racist and corrupt LAPD is doing its brutal best to keep empty. Add in a prostitution ring that performs plastic surgery on young women to make them look like famous movie stars, both Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce getting involved with a maybe-femme fatale played by Kim Basinger, and the murder of a closeted would-be actor played by future Mentalist Simon Baker and things get dark fast. 

kim basinger L.A. Confidential

The key to L.A. Confidential is that there are no heroes. Russell Crowe may have a white knight mentality that drives him to rescue battered women, but he’s also a brutally jealous, hair-trigger violent beast of a man. Guy Pearce may consider himself above pinning evidence on suspects like he is instructed to, but his ambition and unwillingness to consider the consequences of charging headfirst into police corruption cost lives. And Kevin Spacey is fully cast against type as a suave, Dean Martin of a cop begins the movie accepting sordid tips from Danny DeVito’s sleazy gossip columnist to make high profile arrests (that also serve as front-page material for DeVito’s magazine). Ironically, it is Spacey’s character that comes closest to seeking redemption for what he has allowed himself to get dragged into. 

kevin spacey L.A. Confidential

Surprisingly, L.A. Confidential was an enormous box office hit. It grossed $126 million against a $35 million budget, making it one of the biggest films of a year that included Titanic, Good Will Hunting, and Men in Black. Less surprisingly, it was rapturously received by critics and nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning Best Adapted Screenplay and Supporting Actress for Kim Basinger. It also kicked off a miracle run for Russell Crowe that included The Insider, Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, making him one of the biggest stars of the early 2000s. Currently, it holds a staggering 99% Critics approval rate on Rotten Tomatoes, so what are you waiting for? You can stream it right now, and you should.