Welcome to our list of the best movies on Amazon Prime Video US – a round-up of the 25 films we think you need to watch on Amazon Video – the movies and TV streaming section of Amazon Prime.
Although we’ve likely missed a newer title here and there, we’ve done our best to comb through the entire Amazon Prime Video catalog in the US in an attempt to highlight the best of the best films. We have to admit that the movie selection isn’t as good as Netflix’s, but the options here might surprise you.
There are a few gems on here that have only just come off of their cinema run and are already ready to stream. Couple this with a brilliant array of stone-cold classics and you have an impressive and varied list of films.
It’s great to see Amazon embrace movies in this way, so dive in and we hope you find something you like!
Not a cinephile? Maybe our Best Amazon TV shows list is for you.
(Editor’s note: Marc Chacksfield is the original author of this piece, and has contributed significantly to its final form.)
Speaking of classics, you should do yourself a favor and watch American Beauty if you haven’t already done so at some point in your life. In it, Kevin Spacey blackmails his boss, buys the car of his dreams and eventually tells his wife that he’s had enough of his miserable existence before setting out to re-up his lease on life. Spacey is downright fantastic in this film as he goes from the person we have all felt like at some point – morose, ill-begotten and shackled to our lot in life – to a person who goes for exactly what he wants, even if that isn’t the most moral option. That’s not even mentioning the heady bag scene.
Where would any of us be without The Matrix? A film that deserved much better sequels than what it got, The Matrix remains a tried and true masterpiece. As profound as you want to make it and still a fast-and-furious action film, The Matrix serves us exactly what we want in a sci-fi film an easily digestible pill. Now where can we sign up for those Laurence Fishburne martial arts lessons?
There will never be another Good Will Hunting. The duo of Robin Williams and Matt Damon is simply too much to beat. But Manchester by the Sea, starring Casey Affleck and produced by Damon himself, might be our best shot at it. Manchester by the Sea sees Affleck’s character, Lee Chandler, in a tough spot – his older brother passes away and Lee’s left to care for his brother’s son. The two aren’t the most compatible at first (what kind of movie would that be?) and instead sees the two grow closer over the course of the film.
Gone with the Wind is an undertaking. Clocking in at over three hours long, watching this classic requires patience but rewards you with one of the Golden Era of Film’s best movies. We remember it so fondly for a few reasons. Thematically, Gone with the Wind tackles love and loss, struggle and good fortune. You’ll breathe a sigh of relief when the characters have a stroke of good luck and nearly be broken down to tears when it all inevitably falls apart. The film’s made its way onto hundreds of best movies of all-time lists, and now it can officially add TechRadar’s name to that list.
If you’ve watched any Marvel film in the last decade or so, you have Iron Man’s massive success to thank for it. One of the first films under Marvel’s revamped movie banner, Iron Man ripped a character out of comic books and made him even more of a household name. Queue two sequels, two crossover films and a half-dozen cameos in other Marvel movies and Iron Man is now completely synonymous with the words ‘great super hero films’.
Todd Solondz is one director that doesn’t mind tackling some of the most controversial, degrading and downright embarrassing situations humans can find themselves in. He continues this theme with Wiener-Dog – a movie dipped in dysfunction that’s split into four parts – each part telling the story of the owner of a wiener-dog. It’ll make you laugh, and some characters from Welcome To The Dollhouse make a welcome return, but you’ll feel uncomfortable throughout.
Jim Jarmusch has always been eclectic in his film choices. Whether it’s meditations on death (Dead Man), Eastern philosophy (Ghost Dog) or, er, vampirism (Only Lovers Left Alive), his take on the storytelling is always unique. In Paterson he has created a heartwarming movie about a day in someone’s life. That someone happens to be called Paterson and lives in Paterson. Adam Driver is great as the central character – his slow burn acting style suits a film that’s almost laid back in its storytelling.
Brie Larson stars in this heartfelt study of human endurance. Larson is Ma. She has been imprisoned in a small shed for years, having to bring up her little boy Jack (a great Jacob Tremblay) in isolation. The film follows their story to the bittersweet end. For a film that’s mostly shot within the confines of a small room, director Lenny Abrahamson manages to eek out pathos in the mundane but it’s the acting of the two leads that’s the real reason to watch the heart-rending movie.
Apocalypse Now is a rare gem of a movie. Born out of chaos, where leading actors had to be replaced, medical problems blighted the shoot and Marlon Brando went somewhat off piste, it’s a miracle there was any film at all to show for the shoot, let alone one of the greatest movies ever made. Based loosely on Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness, the film follows a soldier’s descent into hell as he tries to track down the elusive Colonel Kurtz, a decorated war veteran who has seemingly gone mad. From the amazing visuals, to the sweeping score, to the acting chops of the main cast, Apocalypse Now is a terrifying masterclass in filmmaking.
It’s great to see Viggo Mortensen back as a leading man and Captain Fantastic suits his eclectic sensibilities down to the ground. It’s a film about a family of homeschooled children who have lived off-grid with their eccentric parents. When their mother dies, they come back to civilisation with a bump. Mortensen is superb as the grizzled patriarch and the casting of the kids is spot on. In a film full of surprises, perhaps the most surprising thing about Captain Fantastic is its writer-director Matt Ross. He plays Gavin Belson in Silicon Valley!
It might be a terrible name, but Eye in The Sky manages to bring kudos back to director Gavin Hood, after his forgettable stab at a superhero movie in Wolverine. Helen Mirren is Colonel Katherine Powell, in charge of a drone operation that has serious implications when innocents become involved in the warfare. Given the film is centred on drone warfare, it’s one of the most pertinent thrillers around at the moment.
Given the recent death of Martin McGuinness, the troubles Ireland faced in the ’70s is front page news again – which makes ‘71 even more of a must watch. Jack O’Connell stars as Gary Hook, a British soldier who is left stranded on the streets of Belfast after there’s rioting in the city. The film is as real as it gets, without being a documentary – thanks to superb direction by first-time director Yann Demange who cut his directing tooth on TV shows such as Top Boy and Dead Set.
This is a devastating film. Based on the true events of what is still a recent economic disaster in the US, 99 Homes is about Andrew Garfield’s Dennis Nash, someone whose home faces foreclosure. To make ends meet he starts working for the real estate company – and the villainous Michael Shannon – that caused him and his family to lose his home. It’s a convoluted but brazen look at what can happen to a person when they are on the brink of losing everything.
Andrea Arnold’s second movie was the one that cemented her as one of the UK’s best filmmakers. Fish Tank stars Katie Jarvis and Michael Fassbender as a teenager and the boyfriend of her mother. An uneasy relationship is struck between them both that goes from bad to worse. This is one of Fassbender’s first starring roles and watching it back, it’s easy to see why he’s such a big star now.
Richard Linklater gets back into Richard Linklater territory with Everybody Wants Some. It’s a bedfellow to Dazed and Confused but using ’80s as a backdrop instead of the ‘70s. From the soundtrack to the haircuts, to the videogames this is a love letter to the era and one big fun burst of nostalgia. It’s got to be said: Linklater is one of the most in-form directors at the moment, let’s hope his streak continues!
This is an easy double movie bill as both films are under 30 minutes each. The Gruffalo is one of the most loved characters in children’s literature and this CGI retelling of the tale is simple yet very effective. While it doesn’t have the best animation, it makes up in charm and is perfect fodder for your little ’uns.
One of the most endearing coming-of-age movies you are likely to see, Son of Rambow is about two children growing up in the ’80s who are obsessed with Rambo. So much, they decide to make their own version of the movie with the help of their friends. What ensues is a fun, inventive film about the magic of childhood friendship and imagination. Directed by music video supremo Garth Jennings, Son of Rambow is a trio of love letters: one to the Eighties, one to home videos and the other to the cartoon violence that was born out of an era where Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis ruled the box office.
Aimed squarely at younger children but packed with enough adult-orientated gags to keep adults entertained, Shaun the Sheep The Movie is a fun spin-off from the Wallace and Gromit universe. Aardman Animations have actually tried to do something inventive with the movie: although it’s not silent, there isn’t actually any dialogue. The sheep talk through bleats and baas, the voice of humans is mumbled and incoherent. This makes the movie a cut above other mediocre animations that are around.
Thank goodness we live in an era where Terrence Malick is back and making movies on a regular basis. Knight of Cups is as dreamlike and fractured as you have come to expect from the revered director. As with all his movies, it’s clear he shot way more footage and didn’t decide on what film he was making until he hit the edit suite, but that’s part of its charm. Here we see Christian Bale as Rick, a writer who flits between Vegas and LA with six different women. Vegas is perfect Territory for Malick, a desert of neon suits his filmmaking style. While the supporting cast Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman and Freida Pinto all add gravitas to the film.
The best way to tell the story of Oasis is to use the band. The group were so enigmatic, so cocksure of themselves that they come across brilliantly on camera. Their interviews are backed by some fantastic archive footage that threads a narrative about a band that solidified the idea of Britpop and proved that the UK still has some rock’n’roll swagger. It’s just a shame that the Gallagher Brothers no longer speak to each other, as they are at their best when they are together.
Jim Jarmusch uses music in his movies to fine effect, so it makes complete sense that he is the one to helm a documentary about The Stooges and their enigmatic frontman, Iggy Pop. The Stooges may not have hit the heights of, say, The Rolling Stones but they’re an important piece of the rock puzzle. This doc does well to uncover what made the band tick, complete with recent talking heads with members of the band.
The Amy documentary is a hard watch, one that will have you fighting back tears. The talent on show is blighted by the talent that is thrown away. The doc showcases Amy Winehouse in her early years, using archive footage of the star that shows just how much of a talent she was. There are talking heads with her family – including her husband – as well as good friends of hers.
Well this was unexpected. The name Hell House LLC doesn’t exactly scream ‘must watch’ but despite its rather Grindhouse-esque title, this is a brilliant slice of horror. The plot is simple: a group of friends who create haunted house experiences for Halloween find a house to convert that’s seemingly filled with real-life ghosts. The movie is their footage spliced together, with police reports and the like. The found footage genre is rather stagnant now but Hell House manages to breathe new life into it, mustering up some genuine scares that will have even the most hardened horror fans watching from behind their fingers. Its final scenes don’t quite match what went before it (or make much sense) but this is one of the best horror films to come out in years.
Director Corin Hardy has just been given the reigns of the Conjuring spin-off The Nun and it’s pretty much all down to his great low-budget thriller The Hallow. Shot and based in Ireland, the film is a great creature feature that uses Hardy’s past career as a FX monster maker to great effect. Despite the budget, the film also has a fantastic look – it’s hard to believe that this is Hardy’s first feature film.
Unless he surprises us with something truly special, The Truman Show might be Jim Carrey’s best work of all-time. Referenced by dozens of shows and films over the years, it stands the test of time as a fantastically interesting character study. The movie is, in itself, unnerving. What if we were born into this role – to be watched by the world and have our most intimate secrets revealed? It’s an interesting question, and one that has become even more relevant in today’s social media-heavy, share-everything age.
By Nick Pino
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