The days are getting shorter, which means there's never been a better time to get snuggled under the duvet with one of the best movies on Amazon Prime. There's a lot to choose from on the streaming service, which features classics, indie-gams, and more than a fistful of great blockbusters. The question, though, is what's actually worth watching – and what should you avoid at all costs.
Well, we would argue that there's very little you shouldn't watch. And we're not here to be negative; we're here to help shine a light on the flicks that you need to get in your eyeballs right this second. Our team of experts and searched high and low on the streaming service to bring you a varied selection of the best movies on Amazon Prime. Let's get streaming!
Gangs of New York
*Deep breath* Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz, Jim Broadbent, John C. Reilly, Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson, Stephen Graham, and Eddie Marsan *and out* all-star in this crime epic from the filmmaker Martin Scorsese. The cast – as you can see – is loaded with heavy hitters who portray the awful violence that erupted in the 1860s between the Catholic and Protestants in New York.
There's a lot going on here, as the two factions battle over land and unfair labour. Tying everything together is DiCaprio's Amsterdam Vallon, who witnessed his father being murdered. Gangs of New York is a brutal tale masterfully told by Scorsese.
Available: UK, US
Midsommar marks the sophomore feature from writer/director Ari Aster, coming after his disturbing horror Hereditary. That movie wasn’t just an arresting and confident debut, it was also one of the best (and scariest) horror films of the decade. Tense and stylish, with rounded performances and a tragic twist, Midsommar delivers a confident follow-up that's just as terrifying and unnerving.
Aster showcases a unique visual style, that feels like a distinct and fully formed trademark after just two features. From striking cuts, formal compositions, and carefully etched background clues, he’s a devil when it comes to detail. It’s a bold move to set a horror film mostly in daylight, and green fields and flower garlands are made to seem impressively ominous. And once again, there are a couple of shockingly gruesome moments that puncture the pastoral idyll.
Available: UK, US
Suspiria doesn't so much nail the Bechdel test as set fire to it and then do a naked victory dance around the flames. This is a film entirely about women and their bodies and their relationships – but that's not why you should get streaming this immediately.
You should see Suspiria because it's one of the most shocking horror movies in recent memory. Every second is calibrated to keep you rigid with suspense, tugging you further and further into its world of dance and the occult so skillfully that you reach the spectacular climax in what feels like mere minutes, despite the two hours and 30 minutes running time. Dakota Johnson and Tilda Swinton are excellent in this timely remake.
Inception is not only a high-concept movie with an ambiguous ending – something test audiences famously hate – but it’s packed to the rafters with some outrageous acting talent. Leonardo DiCaprio is joined by Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, and Michael Caine for an incredibly entertaining two hours that effortlessly marries Bond-level action sequences with a mind-melter of a premise.
If this is your first rodeo around Nolan’s dreamscape, then here’s what to expect: Dom Cobb (DiCaprio) and (Gordon-Levitt) are able to extract classified info out of people’s dreams but the deeper you go into the subconscious, the less clear things become and less time passes in the ‘real world.’ What follows is a heist caper that flits between the surreal and the cinematic – all while leaving us pondering what’s real and what isn’t. A Nolan classic.
Take Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Captain America, throw them together and what do you get? Not just The Avengers, but a mammoth blockbuster that established Marvel Studios as a true powerhouse. While team-ups had been happening in the comics for years, cinema finally caught up in 2012. And, while nobody expected The Avengers to work, Joss Whedon proved critics wrong, bringing together the superheroes in seemingly effortless style.
No Avenger feels clunky or unnecessary to the story and the action sequences fly by. The Avengers fuse together into a slick machine ready to dispense justice like no other onscreen team before, and the result is thrilling.
Tom Cruise leads this '80s action classic, playing rebellious fighter pilot, Maverick, who goes up against the oppression of... err... those pilots who don't like really, really fast planes? There are shirtless volleyball and plenty of homoerotic undertones in this star-making movie. Once you've watched Top Gun – with its superb flight choreography – if you don't feel the need, the need for speed, then there's little hope for you. And now's the perfect time for a rewatch with the sequel coming soon.
A Serious Man
This is a Coen brothers film made for Coen fans, featuring the auteurs’ rich movie language, a one-good-man-against-the-whole-world story, and a mysterious shtetl-based (bygone Eastern European Jewish village) prologue that had Coenheads blogging with the same reverence afforded to The Dude’s rug. It features black comedy and a peculiar script in a familiar setting. It's spectacular.
The story is set in the Minneapolis suburb of St Louis Park in 1967 – a place and time straight out of the creators’ upbringing. The serious man is a good man: Larry Gopnik (the excellent Michael Stuhlbarg), father to highly-strung Danny (Aaron Wolff) and mouthy Sarah (Jessica McManus), brother to the useless Arthur (Richard Kind), professor at a local university where a student first tries to bribe him then subsequently sue him and, above all, complacent husband to adulterous wife Judith (Sari Lennick). Things are not going his way, and the story takes some twists and turns as his lie unfurls.
"I ain't no queer," mumbles Heath Ledger's taciturn cowpoke as he buttons his pants. "Me neither!" replies Jake Gyllenhaal's wiry ranch hand as he dons his stetson. The night before, though, tells a different story in Ang Lee's masterly adaptation of Annie Proulx's 1997 novella – a heartbreaking tale of forbidden love between two men's men who can scarcely understand the emotions they're feeling, let alone articulate them.
Gay cowboys were rarely seen outside of the Village People before Brokeback Mountain came along with its ground-breaking up-front depiction of homosexuals on the range. Yet the beauty of Lee's drama is how little that really matters once we get caught up in its characters' poignant saga, played out against vistas as stunning as any John Ford or Howard Hawks could muster.
Region: US, UK
There's foul play afoot! On the morning after his 85th birthday party, mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey is found dead in his study. For Lieutenant Elliot this is an open and shut case of suicide – that is until Private Eye Benoit Blanc arrives on the scene. Suspects? The entire Thrombey family. And what a horrible bunch of backstabbers they are... or are they? You never know in Knives Out.
Rian Johnson’s whip-smart who-dunnit is spectacular fun. Knives Out takes on tricky subjects such as privilege, class, and immigration with bounds of wit and perfect precision. Johnson’s movie is filled with a fantastic ensemble cast and so many twists and turns it will leave your head spinning. Knives Out is a must-see.
Cameron Crowe's younger years as a music journalist are brought to life on screen. Patrick Fugit plays a young writer who wants to capture the spirit of a band for a Rolling Stone profile, but gets carried away with the rock 'n roll lifestyle and falls head over flared trousers for Kate Hudson. As guitarist Russell Hammond is Billy Crudup, while Frances McDormand and Philip Seymour Hoffman also appear.
A love story for both characters and director, Almost Famous hits just about every right note. It's not merely for those after a dose of nostalgia as the movie looks back on the wild years when rock ruled the music scene, and has the right balance of laughs, tension, and drama to make it a now iconic coming-of-ager. An unmissable feel-good movie.
The master of the crime genre – Martin Scorsese – directs this absurdly deadly thriller, which features an incredible cast led by Leonardo DiCaprio. The story concerns an Irish mob boss who employs a plant within the police force, while, at the same time, the police have their own mole infiltrate the gang. Soon enough, both sides find out, and the search is on to discover which member of each gang is the traitor first.
Other than the fact this modern-day classic has one of the greatest casts of all time (DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga, Alec Baldwin... the list goes on), The Departed is Scorsese at his most intense. There are twists and turns at every corner. If you've avoided spoilers for this one so far, then get on and watch it now.
The Big Sick
Region: UK, US
Silicon Valley’s Kumail Nanjiani writes and stars in this comedy based on his own marriage. The trials of cross-cultural romance come under scrutiny as stand-up comic Kumail falls for an American student at one of his shows. Not exactly the life his Muslim parents had in mind for him, but that’s the least of his concerns; shortly after they start dating, Emily falls into a coma, leaving Kumail to have to deal with her parents.
Billed as a traditional romantic comedy, The Big Sick has a lot more heart and edge than the posters and trailers would have you believe. The chemistry between Nanjiani and Holly Hunter and Ray Romano - as Emily’s parents - provides most of the real grit. Realistic, and proof that there is still a lot of originality left in the genre, The Big Sick is one of the best movies on Amazon Prime Video.
After first mastering the serial killer landscape in 1995’s Seven, David Fincher tackles the real-life world with a lengthy delve into the hunt for the Zodiac Killer. The dark, gloomy newsroom of the San Francisco Chronicle is the perfect backdrop for such a macabre tale, that starts all the way back at the Zodiac’s first victims, and his subsequent correspondence – and ciphers – with the Chronicle. His indecipherable notes snag the interest of Jake Gyllenhaal’s Robert Graysmith, a cartoonist whose intrigue in the case swells into obsession, alongside cop David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and journalist Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr).
The world of thrillers is typically populated by characters whose arcs come to a nice, rounded conclusion: the bad guys are carted away and locked up, and those tensions simmering throughout? They simply melt away, letting the audience breathe a sigh of relief. Zodiac does away with all of that. It simply doesn’t obey the traditional rules. Mainly because screenwriter James Vanderbilt refused to wrap up the ending, and because well, the Zodiac has never been found, the movie ends on a note that’s entirely its own. What makes it so powerful is that the film is easily Fincher’s best work, in spite of that ending which offers no closure, you will find yourself looking through your fingers at the screen, and jumping when you least expect it.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Where the fourth entry in the Mission: Impossible series hit the ground running following a five-year break, it seemed… uhhh, impossible, for another sequel to somehow better that kinetic frenzy. Somehow, Rogue Nation did. Now, director Christopher McQuarrie does it yet again with Fallout, finding that sweet spot of plot, action, and making Tom Cruise risk his life to deliver another pulse-pounding piece of cinema. Ethan Hunt returns to scale heights and throw caution to the wind, typically at the same time, with his IMF crew in tow. This time the gang are in pursuit of a terrorist group planning to detonate three plutonium cores simultaneously across the globe.
Let’s get this out of the way now – no-one watches the Mission: Impossible franchise for its strict adherence to reality. No. We watch for the bombastic stunts and seemingly nonsensical feats of action bravura and Henry Cavill’s ability to grow a moustache by recharging his fists. Cruise and co. crank things up to 11 and re-establish the series as arguably the best ongoing action franchise. Roll on MI7.
Region: US, UK
Written by Shia LaBeouf himself, Honey Boy tackles the actors own relationship with his father and growing up in the spotlight. Directed by Alma Har’el in her narrative feature debut, the movie stars LaBeouf as his own father, Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe, and FKA Twigs. It’s a heart-wrenching exploration of forgiveness, as LaBeouf wrote the script as a form of therapy whilst in rehab. At a tight 90 minutes, it’s well worth your time this weekend to watch this moving portrayal of adolescence and a career-making performance from, well, everyone.
Region: UK, US (with HBO trial)
Another ‘90s Fincher flick that aims to disrupt what you think you know is happening on screen. Based on Chuck Palahniuk’s neo-noir tome, Fight Club takes the behaviours of angry young men and spins them into a story that deviates into ever more nihilistic turns. Edward Norton’s unnamed narrator meets Brad Pitt’s effortlessly cool Tyler Durden on a plane, where the two become acquaintances of a sort, bonding over their desire to feel something. That need swells into a movement that unites men from all over to join them in a series of underground fight clubs.
The story is more relevant now perhaps than at the time of release, with its emphasis on young white men struggling to handle their future. Cinematically, this is all about the gorgeous visuals, the at-times kaleidoscopic cinematography, and of course, that mind-boggling twist. Keep your eyes peeled for the outstanding opening credits sequence that is *chef’s kiss*.
First-time director Olivia Wilde insisted on a “no asshole” and “lots of fun” policy on the set, a tactic that gifts her debut with heart and soul that doesn’t lessen the impact of its sharp humour. Booksmart is less interested in one-sided characters and crass sight gags: it’s a good-natured and witty dive into the last high school night for two self-admitted nerds, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein). Having studied to get into top-notch colleges, it’s only on the day before graduation that they discover their slovenly classmates ALSO got into Ivy Leagues. The girls’ plan? Party hard. Once.
Forget the lazy comparisons to Superbad. Sure, on the surface Booksmart totters a similar premise (two unhip teens trying to get to a cool party) yet it’s worlds apart. Dever and Feldstein’s on-screen chemistry is dynamite, as two friends who genuinely care about each other. Their relationship, frequently tested over the course of one night, gives both actors the chance to flex their comedic chops (the hallucination scene) and dramatic (Dever’s post-pool heartbreak wander through the house is *chef’s kiss*) flair. Oh, and Billie Lourd swoops in to steal the show in every single scene. Don’t miss this.
Leave No Trace
With a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s no surprise that director Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace is one of the best movies on Amazon Prime. Living off the grid is normal for Iraq war veteran Will (Ben Foster) and his 13-year-old daughter, Tom (Thomasin McKenzie), having cultivated a beautiful, simple lifestyle in a sprawling urban park outside of Portland, Oregon. Their idyllic existence is sent off-kilter when a tiny slip in judgement puts them on the authorities radar, who, yank them from their dwelling and provide them with housing on a Christmas tree farm.
Imagine Captain Fantastic without the overt quirkiness and Into the Wild without the earnestness and you’re somewhere in the realm of Leave No Trace. A low-key dive into similar territory, it steers away from obvious sentimentalism and instead hones in on the relationship between a father and daughter and their shared experience living in a way that’s alien to most of the world. Beautiful, tender, and shot with an eye for the small moments in life. One of the 2019’s major Oscar snubs.
Very loosely based on the Sarah Waters novel Fingersmith, Park Chan-wook relocates the story from Victorian England to Korea under Japanese colonial rule. That is but one of the many unique choices made by Chan-wook that propels this movie from good to great, as its three parts chart the dubious plottings of a conman, the self-dubbed Count Fujiwara, who aims to marry wealthy heiress Lady Hideko then steal her riches and dump her. He can’t carry out his plan alone, so Fujiwara hires a pickpocket to work as the Lady’s handmaiden with the hopes the young woman will convince Hideko to wed Fujiwara.
This is worth a watch for so. Many. Reasons. Is it the operatic feeling of the plot? The sensuous visuals that mesmerize? You’ll be at a loss for words once the credits roll. This is lavish and decadent filmmaking, with thrills galore that unravel through sublime character development. Basically, it’s brilliant.
Region: UK, US (with HBO channel)
The willingness to do anything for your child is a common theme in movies. What’s less common is when the child in question has supernatural abilities. I know what you’re thinking: Is this is the superhero origin tale you’ve been waiting for? Well, hold on a second. Midnight Special does have certain superheroic echoes, but it’s more of an indie road movie spiked with sci-fi elements. The story follows Roy (Michael Shannon) and his son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) as they try to evade capture from law enforcement and a religious cult. Why? Because Alton’s a very special boy.
Director Jeff Nichols borrows from every major genre director, uniting elements of John Carpenter and Steven Spielberg to tell a truly unique story. It’s not often that homage works without seeming like an obvious rip-off, but in this case Nichols hits a home run.
The one where Ethan Hawke somehow wasn’t nominated for an Oscar. Taxi Driver writer Paul Schrader writes and directs this story about a small-town pastor, Ernst Toller (Hawke) whose entire life revolves around his parish. Dedicating time each day to pen a brutally-honest diary, Toller finds truth at the bottom of the bottle and a lack of belief steering him towards an ultimatum of faith. Enter newlyweds, Mary and Michael Messana, who shake up Toller’s existing beliefs.
A real slow-burn that champions the big moments in life that come to define us, First Reformed features twists and turns that you just cannot anticipate because they feel so at odds with the tone of the movie. It’s these risky story decisions that, in places, echo Taxi Driver.
You Were Never Really Here
Probably not one to watch when you need a pick-me-up, this 2017 thriller from Lynne Ramsay focuses on the life of a New York City hitman played by Joaquin Phoenix. A contract killer, Joe dispenses with his targets for crummy wages and with a hammer, adding a dose of up-close brutality to his work that contrasts massively with his downtime which he typically spends with his ageing mother. When a Senator’s teenage daughter is believed to have been kidnapped, Joe is summoned to track her down and to bring her captors to justice.
Aside from its captivating central performance by Joaquin Phoenix, you should be checking this out for the stellar work of Ramsay, who continues to deliver unusual takes on darker topics. You might have seen similar issues dealt with on-screen, but none with such a unique and unflinching approach. Oh, and did I mention it’s only 90 minutes?
At last, a movie that approaches early adolescence with a certain degree of seriousness. That’s not to say Eighth Grade isn’t funny, because it is packed with humour and charm, most of which hails from newcomer Elsie Fisher who unveils her mastery of awkwardness as Kayla Day. Even whilst suffering through her own social anxieties, Kayla attempts to better herself and her peers by offering advice through her vlog, and even taking her own pointers in order to get more friends and make it through the school year.
Writer-director Bo Burnham taps into the reality of what it means to be a 13-year old today in the current culture of sharing every detail of our lives on social media. Really, it’s Fisher’s performance that makes Eighth Grade such a winning watch. She truly illuminates the struggle of adolescence, from the very first scene through to the last, letting us witness up-close those battles that seem life-or-death when you’re a kid.
The most critically-praised horror movie of recent years is also one of the best movies on Amazon Prime. Ari Aster’s directorial debut is a compelling concoction of family battles, claustrophobic crafting, and some of the best acting you’ll never see on an Oscar ballot. Toni Collette leads the stellar cast as Annie Graham, a woman racked with grief following the death of her mother. Will grief bring her closer to her husband, her son, or her daughter? One thing’s for certain, there’s plenty of domestic drama to come, but you won’t expect any of it.
It takes a lot for esteemed horror experts to throw up their hands and say they’re scared witless. That’s exactly what happened with Hereditary, which has proven to be a highly effective method of incurring lifelong insomnia. Aster is a skilled curator of mood, which, when tied together with the horrific events burning through the centre of Hereditary, will shake your very soul.
What do you get when you unite two of cinema’s most iconic actors in the same film? Michael Mann’s Heat. Of course, to say this is essential for any film fan purely because of that would be to discount everything else that makes this one of the best action films ever made. It’s also a heist flick, that finds Robert De Niro cast in the role of criminal mastermind Neil McCauley, who’s out to do “one last job” with his crew before calling it a day. On the other side of the law, is Al Pacino’s Lieutenant, who is eager to bring down McCauley and his team.
Two names: De Niro. Pacino. They’ve since appeared together onscreen, in the lacklustre Righteous Kill and tremendous The Irishman, but it’s always a riot to revisit this duo in the mid-90s, especially when they work their magic for that one particular scene. Oh, and the shoot-outs? Epic.
One of 2015's award darlings deserves all the praise it can get. Adapted from the Patricia Highsmith novel The Price of Salt, the film stars Cate Blanchett as an exotic, affluent housewife who takes a trip to a department store to pick up something for her son, and in the process, completely charms Rooney Mara's shopgirl. From thereon, the pair become friends, quickly realising there is something deeper to their kinship. It's a 1950s piece, through and through, thanks to the costumes and production, but told through a distinct modern lens. Gorgeous and utterly compelling.
Far From Heaven director Todd Haynes knows how to do period pieces. Every tiny detail of the production is given its time in the spotlight, adding to the love story between the two leads. That in itself is a breath of fresh air, as LGBTQ relationships in cinema are rarely represented this way.
What’s amazing about Terry Gilliam’s slapstick homage to George Orwell’s 1984 is that, at time of release, it didn’t scrape back its $15 million dollar budget. That’s the sign of true genius, though, right? Brazil gives a righteous two fingers to The Man over and over while telling one of the wackiest stories ever committed to celluloid. Jonathan Price plays Sam Lowry, a miserable worker at the Ministry of Education desperate to break free from the shackles of a totalitarian regime. Daydreaming of rescuing the same woman over and over, as he tries to locate a terrorist, Sam encounters his fictional woman and tries to aid her quest.
A surreal, batty takedown of bureaucracy might sound at odds with itself, and to be honest, that’s exactly Gilliam’s point. The dreary dystopian city in which it takes place is driven by automated technological systems that are seldom monitored by humans. In fact, it’s an error caused by one that leads to the movie’s first major plot point. Even today, Brazil is eerily prescient about today’s “smart” living.