Jeff Bezos & Co. simply wanted to give their loyal customers a chance to save some money on shipping costs when Amazon Prime debuted more than a decade ago. The service gained a massive subscription base, and the company continued adding a slew of incredible perks, including access to Prime Pantry, same-day delivery, and Amazon Prime Instant Video.
Now, anyone with an Amazon Prime subscription has access to an impressive library of popular movies and TV shows, all with the simple click of a mouse. To help subscribers sift through Amazon’s vault of entertainment offerings, we’ve taken up the task of finding the best movies currently available on the service. (Note: Some titles might not be available until later in the month.)
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Action and adventure
The Boondock Saints (2000)
Director Troy Duffy’s cult classic follows two Irish Catholic brothers who become vigilantes on a mission to wipe out Boston’s criminal underworld in the name of God. Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery star as the pair, whose relationship with God could be considered “controversial” at best. Willem Defoe is endlessly entertaining as the detective assigned to catch these rogue murderers, one who experiences crime scenes as symphonies and reconstructs murders as a composer guides a concerto. The Boondock Saints doesn’t have the nuance of The Departed or the flash of The Town, sure, but it’s a classic game of cat and mouse.
Escape From Alcatraz (1979)
The final collaboration between Clint Eastwood and director Don Siegel (Dirty Harry), this thriller is based on J. Campbell Bruce’s novel of the same name and chronicles the 1962 escape from the infamous maximum-security prison on Alcatraz Island by a trio of prisoners. Eastwood leads a cast that also includes Patrick McGoohan, Fred Ward, and the big-screen debut of Danny Glover. Widely regarded as one of the best escape movies ever made, the film was a critical and commercial success when it premiered in 1979.
Total Recall (1990)
A loose adaptation of acclaimed sci-fi author Philip K. Dick’s short story We Can Remember it For You Wholesale, this 1990 film from director Paul Verhoeven casts Arnold Schwarzenegger as a construction worker who finds himself questioning reality and caught up in an interplanetary revolution that brings him all the way to Mars. One of the most expensive movies ever made when it was first released, Total Recall was a box-office hit and even won an Academy Award for its innovative visual effects. Brutally violent and jam-packed with over-the-top, stylized action, the film also featured Sharon Stone and Michael Ironside in supporting roles.
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
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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A Ghost Story (2017)
David Lowery’s A Ghost Story takes a simple — some might even say silly — premise as its foundation and builds atop it a beautiful, mournful film about death and the passage of time. The film begins with a man, C (Casey Affleck), and a woman, M (Rooney Mara). C dies in a car crash early on, but his soul continues to wander, draped in a hospital sheet under which he spends the rest of the film. C returns to the house he shared with M, watching as she grieves and eventually moves on. He remains, watching as the house changes hands, and the world changes entirely. A Ghost Story is light on plot and even dialogue, with Lowery using thoughtful shots and beautiful scene compositions to convey emotion.
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
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.
It Comes at Night (2017)
It Comes at Night begins with a familiar horror premise: An outbreak has ravaged humanity, and the survivors must scavenge for supplies among the ruins of society. Paul (Joel Edgerton), Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and their son, Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), live in a house in the woods, cut off from the world at large. The world intrudes on their lives in the form of Will (Christopher Abbott), who stumbles upon their house and offers food in exchange for shelter for himself and his family. Will, his wife, Kim (Riley Keough), and their young son, Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner), move in, and the two families maintain a cautious peace. As the nights pass and strange occurrences plague the house, problems arise. It Comes at Night is a tense film in which the ordinary humans are as scary as whatever lurks outside their door.
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 $20k in pledges to just a $5k 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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