Being an Amazon Prime member isn’t just about the shipping perks. Along with access to same-day delivery, the service has a rapidly expanding library of streaming video known as Amazon Prime Instant Video.
To help subscribers sift through Amazon’s tremendous vault of films, we’ve identified some of the best movies available on the service. (Note: Some titles might not become available until later in the month.)
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Action and adventure
A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
The film that catapulted Clint Eastwood to stardom as a leading man and introduced American audiences to the Spaghetti Western genre, A Fistful of Dollars is the first installment of what came to be known as director Sergio Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy” (aka the “Man With No Name Trilogy”). The film is an unofficial remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo and casts Eastwood as a mysterious gunslinger who pits two feuding families against each other to free a small town from their brutal control. The film — and Eastwood’s portrayal of the gritty “Man With No Name” — led to both critical and commercial success for the film, and spawned two sequels: For A Few Dollars More and the acclaimed The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
Ordinary teenager Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) sets out to become a costumed vigilante in this brutally violent superhero story based on the Marvel Comics series of the same name, only to learn the hard way how unforgiving — and dangerous — costumed crime-fighting can be. Directed by Matthew Vaughn, the film has Johnson’s character get caught up with a father-daughter vigilante duo played by Nicolas Cage and Chloë Grace Moretz as they attempt to bring down a crime boss played by Mark Strong. The film generated plenty of buzz for its over-the-top, gory violence — particularly when it comes to the brilliantly choreographed brutality of Moretz’s 11-year-old vigilante, Hit-Girl — but still earned praise from critics and audiences alike, and eventually led to a 2013 sequel.
Mission: Impossible — Fallout (2018)
The sixth installment in the long-running Mission: Impossible franchise, Fallout shows that the old series can still outpace younger ones when it comes to frenetic action and jaw-dropping spectacle. The film opens with secret agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), part of the Impossible Missions Force, attempting to secure some stolen plutonium cores. When the mission goes sideways, the cores fall into the hands of a terrorist group, forcing the IMF to hunt its members down. Their failure draws the ire of CIA Director Erica Sloane (Angela Bassett), who deploys the assassin August Walker (Henry Cavill) to follow Hunt’s trail. With a gripping plot and some awe-inspiring stunts, Fallout is top-notch espionage action.
Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017)
Although it sounds like a pulpy action movie, Brawl in Cell Block 99 takes a while to build up to its titular melee, unwinding slowly as its lead character gets deeper into trouble. The film follows Bradley Thomas (Vince Vaughn), who loses his job only to come home and discover that his wife, Lauren (Jennifer Carpenter), is cheating on him. After smashing her car with his bare hands, Bradley decides to work on their marriage, the first sign that this is a film that doesn’t fit easily into any category. Bradley also turns to crime to pay the bills, and that decision leads him down a dark and violent path. Brawl in Cell Block 99 treads a narrow line between highbrow and low; Bradley is a fascinating character, and the movie explores his complicated mindset, but there is also violence aplenty for those who want to see some action.
Drama and romance
The Report (2019)
A political thriller that eschews car chases and assassination attempts for the unexpected tension of trawling through documents, The Report follows senate staffer Daniel Jones (Adam Driver), who is chosen by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening) to investigate the destruction of CIA interrogation recordings in 2005. Over the course of years, Jones and his team pore over millions of pages of documents slathered in redactions, all while dodging the efforts of government officials to squash their effort. With an all-star cast and a particularly great performance from Driver, The Report is a tense thriller.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
A classic Christmas movie with an iconic James Stewart performance, It’s a Wonderful Life follows George Bailey (Stewart), a banker in the town of Bedford Falls who is preparing to throw himself off a bridge. An angel named Clarence (Henry Travers) appears to save George, and takes him on a journey through the most important moments in George’s life, showing him all the good things he’s done for other people in spite of the costs to himself. It’s a Wonderful Life is a charming story about perseverance in the face of an often cruel universe, and the value of relationships.
Oliver Stone wrote and directed this Oscar-winning film that follows a U.S. Army soldier during the Vietnam War thrust into a battle near the Cambodian border and caught between two rival officers vying for control of his platoon. Noteworthy for being the first Hollywood feature to be written and directed by a veteran of the Vietnam War, Platoon was both a box-office success and a critical hit, earning eight Academy Award nominations and winning the coveted Best Picture and Best Director categories, as well as Best Sound and Best Film Editing. Charlie Sheen stars in the film, playing a role inspired by Stone’s own experiences in the war, with Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Keith David, Forest Whitaker, and Johnny Depp appearing in supporting roles.
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Manchester by the Sea (2016)
This bleak drama, directed by playwright Kenneth Lonergan, is set in the titular town of Manchester, a town Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) would prefer never to return to. Chandler lives out his days working as a janitor in Quincy, away from any connections to his past. Tragedy brings him home; his brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler), dies, leaving behind a teenage son, Patrick (Lucas Hedges), and a will asking Lee to take care of him. Manchester by the Sea is a deeply personal drama, examining the ways tragedy can wear away at a person’s soul, and whether it is possible to come back from the brink. Despite the premise, the movie is not gloomy from start to end; the script allows for plenty of humor and warmth throughout, making for a film that captures the complexity of life.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
In the soft shadows of The Gaslight Cafe, folk singer Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) croons that he “wouldn’t mind the hanging.” Leave it to the Coen Brothers to oblige him. Two of America’s most mercurial filmmakers, the Coens have approached both grim tragedy and madcap comedy in their films, sometimes at the same time. Inside Llewyn Davis falls on the bleaker end of the spectrum, following Davis as he attempts to get his music career on track in the wake of his musical partner’s suicide. His finances are not the only part of his life falling apart; his former lover, Jean (Carey Mulligan), pregnant with a child that is likely his, wants nothing to do with him. Davis’ struggle, set against the frost-glazed backdrop of New York, is a tragic one, but the film is not without humor, black though it may be. The characters surrounding Llewyn are as vibrant as he is cold, particularly Justin Timberlake as Jane’s new boyfriend (although Isaac’s future Star Wars nemesis also has a memorable musical cameo).
Horror and thrillers
Vincenzo Natali directed this dark, sci-fi horror tale that follows a group of strangers who wake up in a mysterious maze of cube-shaped rooms, some containing deadly traps. Tensions rise as the group attempts to navigate their prison and understand why they find themselves inside it, with each gory misstep making their escape seem that much more unlikely. Critically praised for its surreal, industrial set design, gruesome traps, and high-concept tale, Cube went on to become a cult classic after it was released in the home entertainment market and paved the way for Natali to direct more high-profile projects — including 2009’s Splice and episodes of HBO’s Westworld and Game of Thrones.
After her mother dies, Annie Graham (Toni Collette) struggles to process her feelings while maintaining some semblance of order in her household. After another tragedy strikes her family, however, Annie can barely keep herself together, and her condition worsens as strange occurrences plague her and her family. Hereditary is an exquisitely crafted horror movie, with a tightly coiled plot and skillful camerawork that sells some truly gruesome moments.
A Quiet Place (2018)
Directed, co-written, and co-starring John Krasinski, A Quiet Place follows a family trying to survive after a race of alien creatures with hypersensitive hearing have eliminated much of humanity. Their efforts to live a normal life amid the ever-present threat of terrifying predators who can hear the slightest sound ratchets up the tension to nail-biting levels, and you’re likely to find yourself stifling your own screams in keeping with the film’s theme. Krasinski’s wife, Emily Blunt, co-stars in the film and received significant acclaim for her performance, including a Screen Actors Guild Award. If you’re looking for some chilling Halloween fun, A Quiet Place will do the job, so be sure to catch up before the sequel arrives in March 2020.
Logan Lucky (2017)
After losing his job, construction worker Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) is desperate to reverse his fortune, and knows just the way to do it: Having worked on the Charlotte Motor Speedway, he knows all about the pneumatic tube system that moves money under the track. Jimmy recruits his one-armed brother Clyde (Adam Driver), sister Mellie (Riley Keough), and safe-cracker Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) for a heist. Unfortunately, a change in the construction schedule forces them to execute early, on the day of the Coca Cola 600 race. With a sharp sense of humor and memorable characters, Logan Lucky is a wild ride.
Lady Bird (2017)
Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age comedy exploded into one of 2017’s biggest hits, thanks to widespread acclaim for the performances of Saoirse Ronan (as rebellious teen Christine McPherson) and Laurie Metcalf (as her mother). Christine, who has decided that she only wants to be called “Lady Bird,” is trying to navigate the academic difficulties of high school — at a Catholic school, no less — while finding herself in various stages of love with two very different boys (rising stars Lucas Hedges and Timothée Chalamet). At the same time, Mom is working overtime to compensate for the layoff of her husband (Tracy Letts) and battling with instincts that are tanking her relationship with Christine. Gerwig draws heavily on personal experience for Lady Bird, crafting a thoughtful and relatable look at adolescence.
The Big Sick (2017)
Comedian Kumail Nanjiani and comedy writer Emily V. Gordon adapted their real-life love story for film in The Big Sick, a charming romantic comedy that was one of Digital Trends’ favorite movies of 2019 and helped score Nanjiani and Gordon their own Apple TV+ show. The movie begins with Kumail (playing a loosely fictionalized version of himself) struggling to build a stand-up career, mining his Pakistani background for material. After a run-in with a heckler named Emily (Zoe Kazan) turns into a one-night-stand and eventually a relationship, the two start to run into troubles. For starters, Kumail’s parents want him to settle down with a Pakistani woman, leading them to break up. Making things even more complicated, an infection leaves Emily in a coma. While visiting Emily in the hospital, Kumail meets her parents, Terry (Ray Romano) and Beth (Holly Hunter), learning more about them and Emily as he processes his own feelings.
The Disaster Artist (2017)
James Franco’s track record as a director is spotty at best, but The Disaster Artist is a masterful stroke of comedy, in which the Hollywood heavyweight tells about the making of The Room, an infamously bad movie from oddball auteur Tommy Wiseau. Franco plays Wiseau himself, mimicking his weird mannerisms and speech to a T, while his brother Dave plays Wiseau’s best friend, Greg Sestero (author of the memoir upon which the film is based). The odd meta-movie setup works perfectly for Franco’s performance, and he pulls in enough supporting talent — Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Josh Hutcherson, Jacki Weaver — to bring everything together in idiotic harmony.
I Am Not Your Negro (2016)
James Baldwin was one of the most influential writers of the late 20th century, penning numerous essays and acclaimed novels addressing issues of race at a time when racial friction seemed to be boiling over in America. Working from an unfinished Baldwin manuscript, director Raoul Peck has created I Am Not Your Negro, a documentary examining Baldwin’s views and how they apply not only to the tumults of the ’60s, but to modern America as well. Samuel L. Jackson narrates, infusing the material with a husky weariness. I Am Not Your Negro leaves one with the impression that Baldwin’s work has never been finished, and never been more important.
Gimme Danger (2016)
Although not as famous as many acts of the ‘60s, the Stooges proved to be a hugely influential rock band, with raw sound and avant-garde songwriting that laid the foundation for early punk and metal bands. It’s only fitting that no less a cinematic renegade than Jim Jarmusch would be the one to direct Gimme Danger, a documentary that tells the story of the Stooges through the words of its members, including Jim Osterberg (aka Iggy Pop). Fans of the band will appreciate the many anecdotes and insights into the philosophy of the band, while newcomers may quickly develop a taste for the music, which sounds as lively as anything released today.
This documentary from director Penny Lane examines the fascinating and terrifyingly prescient story of John R. Brinkley, an unlicensed doctor who, in the 1920s, became one of the most successful doctors in America, thanks to a truly bizarre operation he invented. At the behest of a man suffering from impotence, Brinkley implanted a pair of testicular glands from a goat into the patient’s scrotum. Although the procedure had no actual medical benefits (indeed, many subsequent patients would die from the operation), his patient was convinced it worked, and Brinkley soon had men and women coming to him in droves for miracle cures. Brinkley amassed a fortune, and he soon sought more power, establishing a successful radio station to broadcast his medical “wisdom,” and even running for governor of Kansas. Nuts! tells the story through interviews with historians, as well as charming animated reenactments.
A condiment perhaps more widely used than ketchup or mustard, the spicy Sriracha “rooster sauce” takes center stage in this award-winning, short documentary. To help get the flick off the ground, director Griffin Hammond took to the popular crowdfunding website Kickstarter in 2013, successfully raising over $20,000 in pledges to just a $5,000 goal. Hammond’s knack for interesting storytelling allows this 30-minute documentary to properly celebrate one of food’s most beloved and popular sidekicks.
The Invisible War (2012)
This documentary from award-winning director Kirby Dick explores the ever-increasing incidence of violent sexual assault within the U.S. military. The Invisible War features interviews with veterans from multiple branches of the United States Armed Forces, who recount the events surrounding their sexual assaults. Their stories express the lack of recourse in the justice system and the absence of emotional and physical care for the survivors. The survivors call for a change in the way military handles sexual assault and hope for a shift to a more honest conversation.
One Child Nation (2019)
The 2019 Sundance U.S. Grand Jury Prize-winning documentary, One Child Nation, explores a policy many have heard of but few outside China have ever really understood. Chinese-born filmmakers Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang go deep on the 1980 policy — which barred families from having more than one child and fined them if they did — and the devastating consequences it had on both families and the nation as a whole. With gut-wrenching personal testimony and stories from those who lived through it, the film sheds a light on a frightening government program, one widely considered to be one of the biggest human rights violations in world history.
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