Last update: February 22, 2020.
An Amazon Prime membership comes with more than just cheap shipping prices. The service also offers a rapidly expanding library of streaming movies and TV series through its Amazon Prime Video feature.
To help subscribers sift through Amazon’s 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.)
The Avengers (2012)
It might seem strange given the current state of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but there was a time when no one thought a movie like The Avengers was possible. In 2012, Marvel Studios brought together the stars and supporting cast of multiple solo superhero films for a massive team-up that broke just about every box-office record possible and redefined “cinematic universe” for Hollywood. After Asgardian trickster Loki primes Earth for an invasion by an alien armada, it’s up to Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye to save the day. More than just an early installment of the MCU, The Avengers was a game-changer for the entire superhero genre.
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.
True Grit (2010)
This Coen Brothers remake of the Western classic introduced the world to Hailee Steinfeld, who plays 14-year-old farm irl Mattie Ross. After her father is murdered by hired hand Tom Chaney, Ross sets out to catch the killer and bring him to justice. However, to catch Chaney, it’s going to take somebody with “true grit,” so Ross hires the toughest lawman she can find, U.S. Marshal Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn (Jeff Bridges). As the two pursue justice together, a bond forms that melts Cogburn’s icy heart and helps Ross find some closure and peace after her father’s death.
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.
High Life (2019)
From award-winning French filmmaker Claire Denis, High Life is described as an erotic sci-fi horror film, but it really defies classification. It’s difficult to explain High Life in just a few words but we’ll try. Juliette Binoche stars as Dr. Dibs, overseer of a damned space mission that is sending criminals to attempt to extract energy from a black hole. Along the way, Dibs performs sexual experiments on the criminals that lead to their deaths. Ultimately, murderer Monte (Robert Pattison) is left alone with his daughter, trying to survive and thrive as they hurtle toward certain death.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
One of the most beloved films of the original Admiral Kirk Star Trek era, The Wrath of Khan finds the famous commander in the midst of a midlife crisis. However, the return of an old enemy looking for revenge and the threat of a doomsday device shake Kirk from his stupor and into action. A sci-fi classic, The Wrath of Khan sees two paragons of good and evil squaring off as the fate of multiple worlds hangs in the balance.
The Lost City of Z (2017)
Based on the 2009 book of the same name, The Lost City of Z tells the true story of British explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), who enters the Amazon at the dawn of the 20th century. In his travels, he unexpectedly discovers evidence of a previously unknown and advanced civilization that once existed in the region. Unsurprisingly, he is ridiculed and belittled by the British scientific and historical establishment, who consider the entire Amazon region a savage one. Undaunted, Fawcett returns to the jungle, determined to prove his case and discover the Lost City of Z.
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.
The Goonies (1985)
Even if you’ve already seen it, it’s probably a good idea to check out this classic again. With a cast of youths that includes Sean Astin (Mikey), Josh Brolin (Brand), Jeff Cohen (Chunk) and others, The Goonies follows a treasure hunt that the kids hope will save their homes from foreclosure. Based on a story from executive producer Steven Spielberg, the journey after the fortune of One-Eyed Willy takes a number of thrilling twists, and features several unforgettable scenes.
The Great Escape (1963)
Directed by John Sturges and based on the 1950 nonfiction book by Paul Brickhill, The Great Escape stands the test of time as an epic war film. It’s loosely based on real events — the escape of Allied prisoners from a German prisoner of war camp in World War II — and features a star-studded cast that includes Steve McQueen, James Garner, and Richard Attenborough. In this version of the story, the prisoners plan a mass breakout of a nearly inescapable camp, which involves an escape tunnel and a series of planes, trains, and boats to try and escape German-occupied Europe.
Cold War (2018)
Paweł Pawlikowski’s gorgeous historical drama Cold War follows Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) and Zula (Joanna Kulig), a music director and singer respectively, who meet and fall in love in Poland after the end of World War II. As the years drag on and the Soviet grip over Eastern Europe tightens, the two drift across borders, in and out of each other’s lives. Their turbulent romance, set against a backdrop of paranoia and repression, is messy but moving. Filmed in stark black and white, Cold War is a beautiful film full of masterfully composed shots.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019)
Facing displacement from the home his grandfather built as a result gentrification in his San Francisco neighborhood, Jimmie and his best friend, Mort, set out on a mission to reclaim the house before it is irreversibly changed. Their odyssey tests their friendship and forces them to question where they belong in the place they’ve always called home. A poignant, often intense journey, this film was nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards.
First Reformed (2018)
In a lonely corner of New York state stands the historical First Reformed Church, where Reverend Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke) gives tours and preaches to the few remaining parishioners. Racked with guilt over the death of his son, Toller turns to alcohol and spiritual writings. One of the churchgoers, a pregnant woman named Mary (Amanda Seyfried), asks Toller to counsel her husband, an environmental activist whose outlook has taken a dark turn. The task initially gives Toller a renewed sense of purpose, but as he learns more about the situation, he is faced with the callousness of mankind, and God’s indifference to it all. First Reformed is an intense character study, one that delves into questions for which there are no easy answers.
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.
Raging Bull (1980)
Considered one of Martin Scorsese’s early masterpieces, Raging Bull was nominated for eight Oscars, earning a Best Actor win for Robert De Niro’s portrayal of the controversial prizefighter Jake LaMotta. As LaMotta rises through the boxing ranks to earn his first shot at the middleweight crown, the brutality he shows in the ring begins to overflow into the rest of his life. Amid a constant balancing act of suppressing his rage out of the ring and releasing it in the ring, lines soon begin to blur and LaMotta enters into a self-destructive spiral, the collateral damage of which knows no bounds.
Up in the Air (2009)
Nominated for six Oscars, Up in the Air hits close to home for any family with a frequent business traveler. Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is a corporate downsizing expert who relishes life on the road — so much so that he is on the cusp of reaching 10 million frequent flyer miles. When that traveling life is threatened just when he’s met the frequent-traveling woman of his dreams (Vera Farmiga), Bingham experiences something of a crisis. His womanizing and unaccountable life suddenly seems a bit more meaningless and he’ll do whatever it takes to make a change with his newly discovered love. It’s never that simple, though.
Oliver Stone wrote and directed this Oscar-winning film that follows a U.S. Army soldier during the Vietnam War who is 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.
The Florida Project (2017)
Widely considered one of the more significant snubs of the 2017 Oscar season, The Florida Project is about as cinema verite as Hollywood gets these days, with much of the cast making their feature film debut. Set in a budget motel on a stretch of highway in Kissimmee, Florida, the story follows 5-year-old Moonee, who lives with her free-spirited single mother, Halley. While they desperately fight to avoid homelessness by scraping together a squalid living, aided by the compassionate motel manager, Bobby (Willem Dafoe in a Best Supporting Actor-nominated performance), the walls never cease closing in. The film actively juxtaposes the struggling family with the idyllic utopia of Disney World, which is just down the road.
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).
The Handmaiden (2016)
From Korean director Park Chan-wook, award-winning director of Oldboy, The Handmaiden is an intense, pulse-pounding crime drama set in the early 1900s during Japanese occupation of Korea. The film follows two women — a young Japanese lady on a secluded estate, and the Korean woman who is hired as her new handmaiden. Little does the former know, though, that the latter is conspiring with a con man to defraud the woman out of her inheritance.
If there was a role that Matthew McConaughey was born for, other than a Lincoln spokesperson, this might have been it. Playing a fugitive named Mud taking refuge on an island on the Mississippi River, McConaughey enlists the help of two 14-year-old boys to try and repair both a boat and a relationship in this intense drama. The story was based on the original screenplay written by director Jeff Nichols, and McConaughey delivers an incredible performance as the film’s lead.
Kidnapped after a night of drinking, businessman Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) spends 15 years locked in a hotel room, never seeing his captor nor hearing a reason for his imprisonment. Oh Dae-su spends the years practicing boxing, and when he one day wakes up on a rooftop, finally free, he’s ready to put his skills to use, hunting down the person who kidnapped him and destroying whoever tries to get in his way (and many people try). Oldboy is a strange revenge thriller, with a plot that takes some striking, disturbing turns. The action is great too: See the iconic hallway fight, famous for its brutality and camera movement.
You Were Never Really Here (2019)
This Amazon Original was nominated for four 2019 Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Feature and Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix). Phoenix stars as a traumatized veteran who harnesses his trauma into hunting down missing girls for a living. However, as his nightmares begin to overtake him and he continues to get in over his head, he begins to uncover a conspiracy that threatens to destroy or save him, depending on the paths he takes.
Good Time (2017)
After robbing a bank, brothers Connie (Robert Pattinson) and Nick Nikas (Benny Safdie) get split up while on the run, with the latter caught by the police. Short of the $10,000 he needs to pay Nick’s bail, Connie hatches a desperate rescue attempt that spirals into a hellish journey through New York. A breakneck thriller about a man who can’t help but screw up at every opportunity, Good Time is stylish, intense, and often grotesque. Slick cinematography and a pulsing score only add to the flavor.
A group of female scientists is tasked with exploring the mysterious region known as “The Shimmer” — a quarantined zone along the southern coast of the U.S. filled with mutating plants and animals — in this adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s bestselling novel of the same name. Directed by Alex Garland (The Beach, Ex Machina), the film casts Natalie Portman as the team’s biologist, whose interest in the region became personal after her husband (Oscar Isaac) previously ventured into the quarantined zone and emerged in a rapidly deteriorating condition, without any memory of his experiences there. Widely regarded as one of the year’s best films, Annihilation also includes features Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, and Tessa Thompson in supporting roles.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
One of the only films to sweep the top five categories at the Academy Awards and the only “Best Picture” winner to come out of the horror genre (so far), The Silence of the Lambs cast Jodi Foster as young FBI agent Clarice Starling, who enlists the aid of the imprisoned cannibal and psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter to catch the vicious serial killer known as “Buffalo Bill.” Anthony Hopkins earned an Oscar for his iconic portrayal of the brutal, brilliant Hannibal Lecter, while Foster also took home an equally well-deserved Oscar for her performance. A landmark film for both actors and the horror genre, The Silence of the Lambs is based on Thomas Harris’s 1988 novel of the same name.
The Cabin In the Woods (2012)
The Cabin In the Woods sets itself up like any teen-centric horror movie (especially Evil Dead) and then proceeds to completely turn the genre on its head. Five friends go into the woods, ready to party the weekend away at an isolated country cabin, but what they don’t know is that they’ve been chosen to go there to participate in a ritualistic sacrifice. As the greater conspiracy at play becomes clearer, The Cabin In the Woods throws twists and turns that subvert your expectations while satisfying all of your scary movie needs. Plus, Chris Hemsworth before Thor!
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.
Bone Tomahawk (2015)
Bone Tomahawk is something of an unusual horror/thriller in the sense that it’s set in the American West in the 1890s. It looks and feels like a Western and yet it’s something significantly more sinister entirely. Following a small-town sheriff (Kurt Russell) who leads a motley crew into the desert to rescue some pioneers from a clan of cannibalistic, cave-dwelling Native Americans, it has the conceits of a Western but things get considerably darker and more grotesque as the heroes drift further and further from home. This Western meets Heart of Darkness gives you a thrill ride you won’t regret.
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.
Called an “operatic breakup movie” by director Ari Aster, Midsommar proves to be exactly that and more in this suspenseful film. It centers around an American couple with serious relationship issues who travel with friends to a midsummer festival. It gets significantly more violent and unsettling from there, with the setting of a remote Swedish village serving as the backdrop for a cult with less-than-admirable intentions, to put it lightly. It was a hit in summer 2019 and, if you’re up for a nearly 2.5-hour movie where the scares consistently and constantly creep up on you, it won’t take long to understand why.
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.
Eighth Grade (2018)
As delightfully awkward as it is heartfelt and earnest, Eighth Grade is one of the more honest and true-to-life coming-of-age stories you’ll see. The directorial debut of comedian and actor Bo Burnham, Eighth Grade treats the terrors of growing up with a subtler touch, centering on 13-year-old Kayla (the revelatory Elsie Fisher) as she makes her way through the last week of middle school. Eighth Grade is a movie about middle school that stars real middle schoolers, which makes it funnier, more interesting, and vastly more cringe-inducing. If you ever went to a middle school pool party, Eighth Grade is for you.
Under the Silver Lake (2019)
We’ll keep it in comedy but this one could also go in the thriller section. Andrew Garfield stars as a loner in love with the girl next door (Riley Keough). When she mysteriously disappears, however, he sets off to find the parties responsible, unintentionally unraveling a string of crimes, murders, and strange coincidences in his East L.A. neighborhood. With set pieces designed to glorify the hilly side of Tinseltown, this fun, suspenseful thrill ride will keep you guessing with a tilted head.
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.
Almost Famous (2000)
Cameron Crowe’s semiautobiographical film about rock music, the kids who love it, and the parents who fear it helped launch Kate Hudson to stardom and won Crowe an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. The film follows William, a teenage journalist (Patrick Fugit) touring with the fictitious rock band Stillwater in the early 1970s and trying to get his first cover story published for Rolling Stone. His single mother (Frances McDormand), however, could not be more disapproving of William’s or his sister Anita’s taste in music and life choices. Despite her best intentions, her concerns threaten to drive a wedge between herself and her children as they discover themselves in the chaos and free love spirit of the ’70s.
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.
Johnny Depp stars as a former pet chameleon thrust into the harsh environment of the Mohave Desert in this hilarious animated adventure. It’s a uniquely fresh take on the Wild West concept, packed with plenty of comedic lines delivered by prominent actors like Isla Fisher, Alfred Molina, Timothy Olyphant, Bill Nighy, and more. Depp’s Rango finds himself in the town of Dirt and inherits the role of sheriff in a search for the town’s missing water. Directed by Gore Verbinski, he of Pirates of the Caribbean fame, Rango delivers the same sense of off-brand action that Depp has proven to thrive in.
Fighting with My Family (2019)
A comedy based on the true story of WWE wrestler Paige, Fighting with my Family delivers on the story of a real-life wrestling family. Written and directed by Stephen Merchant, the film stars Florence Pugh alongside a strong cast that includes Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Lena Headey, Vince Vaughn and others. Pugh and her brother (played by Jack Lowden) try out for the WWE and, when only one of them make the cut, Pugh is forced to face the world of professional wrestling alone. It may have a bit of an underdog storyline that’s often used in sports, but there’s a sincerity and truth behind this story that makes it special.
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.
The Last Waltz (1978)
Considered one of the greatest rockumentaries of all time, Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz intertwines footage from “The Band’s” farewell concert with backstage interviews. The star-studded tribute features performances by Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Ringo Starr, and other music luminaries. It’s peak Scorsese, with captivating performance cinematography and probing, personal interviews that reach into the inner psyche of one of rock’s greatest groups.
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