If you don’t find the 2019 summer blockbusters on the silver screen appealing, you can always browse your Amazon Prime Video library. It has improved massively over the years and now features many critically-acclaimed and entertaining flicks.
Of course, movie taste is very subjective, but we have picked films that are either classics, audience favorites or critical darlings that we think you will enjoy. There is also a variety of genres on the list, so there should be something for everyone. So, without further ado, here are the best movies you can currently watch on Amazon Prime Video.
Best movies on Amazon Prime:
Editor’s note: The list features some of the best movies on Amazon Prime Video (from the U.S. catalog) and only movies that don’t require you to pay an extra rental fee to watch. The order is arbitrary. We will be regularly updating the list as new films are added to the Prime Video library.
Based on a novel of the same name, Annihilation is one of the strangest films on our list and that’s why it’s easily one of the best movies on Amazon Prime — it stands out. This mind-bending sci-fi horror takes biology professor Lena, played by Natalie Portman, on a surreal expedition. Entering an anomalous zone called “the shimmer”, she and her companions discover an other-worldly jungle that is mutated and overgrown out of control.
Their goal is to find the source of the anomaly and stop the shimmer from expanding. The special effects and cinematography are breathtaking, and the pacing makes you just as lost and on edge as the characters. Annihilation also raises questions about nature and humanity’s place among it. It can be deeply disturbing at times, but also quite profound.
If you enjoy films which break from the traditional horror mold, Hereditary should be on the top of your list. The story begins with the death of Ellen Graham — a secretive and private woman. As her daughter Annie, played by Toni Collette, tries to deal with the grief of losing her mother, sinister secrets slowly begin to unravel.
The directorial debut of Ari Aster, Hereditary is a slow nightmarish burn. It is truly unsettling on a visceral level, so much so that’s hard to take your eyes off the screen. This is further accentuated by the masterful cinematography and exceptional performances of all involved, especially Toni Collette. It truly is one of the best horror films released in recent years.
Winner of the 2015 Best Picture Academy Award, Spotlight is a captivating newsroom drama based on a real story. It follows the team behind the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe investigation team as they uncover and expose rampant abuse in the Catholic Church. The film shows the investigative process of the journalists, but also spotlights the real stories of victims and their fight against a system determined to cover the abuse up.
The star-studded cast deliver excellent performances, with no excess dramatization of the tension in the newsroom. And although Spotlight might seem a bit slow at times to the impatient viewer, it is one of the most important films of this decade and a more than worthwhile watch.
The Act of Killing (2012)
Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer, this award-winning documentary is blood-chilling, but a compulsory watch for those who want an insight into the psyche of genocidal murderers. Oppenheimer focuses on Anwar Congo — an ex-member of the death squads, responsible for the Indonesian killings of 1965-66. A genocide in which almost one million were targeted and killed because of their communist sympathies or ethnicity.
The director invites Anwar to recount his experiences and as he often reenacts his gruesome acts for the camera, they are depicted in the style of his favorite movies: gangster, western and musicals. It is by no means glamorizing the acts, quite the contrary — it makes the film even more bizarre and uncomfortable to watch. But if you have the mental fortitude, it is one of the most important documentaries ever put on screen and one that you need to watch.
The Handmaiden (2016)
From the director of the critically acclaimed Old Boy, Park Chan-wook, comes the Handmaiden. A strange tale of deception and betrayal loosely based on Victorian crime novel Fingersmith. Set in Japanese-occupied Korea, the film sees Sook-hee become a maid to wealthy Japanese heiress Lady Hideko, who lives with her uncle Kouzuki.
As Sook-hee settles in, she and the heiress become closer, while more of Hideko’s story is revealed to us through a series of flashbacks. At the same time, the deceptions slowly begin to unravel all around the characters. As is typical of Park Chan-wook’s work, The Handmaiden is visually stunning and just as masterful in its storytelling at the same time. It is full of unexpected twists and turns that will surprise even the most intuitive viewers and keep you glued to your seat.
Dark comedy is an underappreciated genre that often goes unnoticed by both audiences and critics. That is not the case with Fargo. Directed by the Coen brothers, this 1996 film takes us to bleak wintery Minnesota, where we meet car salesman Jerry. Unsatisfied with what he has, he hires two thugs to kidnap his wife, hoping his rich father in-law will pay a hefty ransom. As can be expected, things ago awry.
Scared out of their mind, the kidnappers kill two witnesses, sending pregnant police chief Marge Gunderson on their tracks. The gruesome contrasts with the absurd and you are never really sure if you are supposed to laugh. However, this, along with Frances McDormand’s excellent acting, is what makes Fargo so great.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
We cannot exclude this classic from our list, it’s not only one of the best movies on Amazon Prime, it’s one of the best movies of its entire genre. Just as good on the tenth watch as it is on the first, The Silence of the Lambs is a critical and audience darling. It sees FBI trainee Clarice Starling, played by Jodie Foster, on the hunt for serial killer Buffalo Bill. She is “assisted” in profiling him by another maniac — Hannibal. A name so ingrained in pop culture that it needs no introduction.
Excellently portrayed by Anthony Hopkins, he plays mind games and makes demands of the young agent, keeping us on the edge of our seats. It is a thrilling and entertaining film that you can always give a watch or rewatch, even if it has been parodied to death in the last 30 years.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
If there is a movie we can call a true zombie classic, it is without a question George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Written, directed and edited by Romero, the film was shot on a measly $114,000 budget, but raked in millions. The movie begins with Barbra and her brother Johnny visiting their father’s grave, as they are suddenly attacked by a strange ghoulish man. Johnny dies, while Barbra barely escapes with her life. She is later saved by a stranger and they are forced to barricade themselves in a house.
If the plot sounds familiar, it is because it has been emulated repeatedly in the decades after Night of the Living Dead’s release. At the time the film delivered a first of its kind true apocalyptic horror, ushering in a new age for the genre and setting the standards for horror films for decades to come.
Minority Report (2002)
Although not always beloved, this cult classic has stuck around for a reason. Minority Report takes place in a dystopian future where crime can be detected before it happens. John Anderton, played by Tom Cruise, works for one of the “precrime” units which arrests supposed future murderers. Initially, Anderton is a staunch defender of the precrime system until one day he is identified as the future killer of a man he’s never met.
As he goes on the run, we are not only given plentiful action to enjoy, but a look at the technology of 2045. And much of tech is not far-fetched at all. We see iris scanning, facial recognition and constant targeted ads. Things that already exist today, albeit not in hologram form. And while the focus might be on the action, Minority Report does not make fail to make social commentary on privacy, which makes the film much more relevant today than it ever was in 2002.
Shutter Island (2010)
Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio have always been a great duo and this outing is no different. As you might have guessed from its name, the movie takes place on Shutter Island. U.S. Marshals Teddy Daniels and his partner Chuck Aule are sent there to investigate the mysterious disappearance of Rachel Solando — a patient of a hospital for the criminally insane located on the island.
As Daniels, played by DiCaprio, begins interviewing the residents and workers of the hospital, nothing seems to add up. Meanwhile, the miserable atmosphere of the asylum gives him terrible headaches and further increases his paranoia. The film is surreal and enthralling. It is reminiscent of classic murder mysteries and despite some predictable moments, is a thrilling experience.
Lady Bird (2017)
The struggles of adolescence are masterfully portrayed in Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut Lady Bird. At times a brutally honest coming-of-age tale, the film follows Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, played by Saoirse Ronan. As many of us have, Christine rebelliously dreams of escaping to a bigger, “more cultured” city after she graduates from her catholic high school.
We see her struggle with classes, have turbulent relationships with friends and family and face the fear and confusion that comes with impending adulthood. It’s what makes Lady Bird is one of the most honest and captivating teenage films put to screen that every young adult should watch. Even if you are past your teen years, you might see a lot of yourself in Lady Bird.
Millennium Actress (2001)
In the west, Satoshi Kon’s name is most commonly associated with two of his films, Perfect Blue and Paprika. However, one of the Japanese director’s masterpieces is often overlooked and underrated — Millennium Actress. As an old and acclaimed movie studio is about to be torn down, two journalists set to interview its most famous retired actress — Chiyoko.
Her story is told through marvellous animated visuals and interwoved layers of different narratives. Time periods and locations blend, as do moments from the silver screen, reality and dreams. The result is a stunning and surreal experience, typical of Satoshi Kon’s signature style. Even if you are usually drawn to animated movies, Millennium Actress is an more than that, it’s an experience.
The Secret of N.I.M.H. (1982)
Although Amazon Prime Video’s animation catalogue is not very extensive, it contains this unforgettable classic which is easily one of the best movies on Amazon Prime for kids. The Secret of N.I.M.N is Don Bluth’s directorial debut after his departure from Disney and one of his most beloved animated films. It follows the story of Mrs. Brisby — a widowed field mouse on a desperate quest to save her children and her house before the plowing season begins.
As her son Timothy falls ill, she goes on a journey to find a solution and meets colorful and nefarious characters in the process. Both the enthralling story and the captivating hand-drawn animation drawn you in instantly. There are some mildly disturbing scenes which might not be suitable for the youngest of viewers, but The Secret of N.I.M.N is a tale of courage, magic and overcoming hardships that will captivate both young and old.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
If you need a bit of cheering up after a stressful week at work, you can’t go wrong with this wholesome classic. It’s a Wonderful Life tells the story of George Bailey, a small-town man with grand ambitions that never seem to go his way. Facing overwhelming debt and possible arrest, in his desperation George wishes he was never born.
Listening to him is Clarence — an angel that trying to earn his wings. The angel takes George on a journey — showing him how different life in Bedford Falls would be without him and how many lives he has truly touched. It’s a simple but moving tale, that teaches us not to give into despair and to value what we have.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
If you want to brighten up your weekend with a fun nostalgic film, look no further than Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. One of Keanu Reeves’ first major on-screen roles, this late 80s sci-fi romp takes us on a journey through time. The reason? In the future, Bill and Ted’s band Wyld Stallyns’ music has created a peaceful utopia where everyone is excellent to each other. But for this future to be fulfilled, the two boys need to pass their upcoming history test.
Bill and Ted are aided by Rufus who takes them to different periods, as they meet with Socrates, Joan of Arc, Genghis Khan and others. It is a fun and lighthearted adventure, which is especially relevant considering Bill & Ted Face the Music — a third installment in the series is currently in the works.
That’s it for our list of best movies on Amazon Prime. For more Prime related content, check out the scrolling widget below:
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