Last Updated: March 22nd
Amazon Prime is way more than just a way to get your electronics and books in two days or less. There’s a wide breadth of programming available to stream, and it’s not just recycled titles from Netflix or straight-to-DVD rejects. Although it’s not the easiest streaming service to navigate, there are some surprisingly good movies and TV shows out there to choose from if you know what you’re looking for.
To help you out, we’ve put together the 20 best movies on Amazon Prime right now, all of them unavailable on Netflix. From new Oscar winners to classic titles, you might be surprised as to what the service has available.
On the surface, director Lenny Abrahamson’s adaptation of an Emma Donoghue novel is the story of a kidnapped young woman and the child she bore in captivity as they make their break for long-desired freedom. Room opts to tackle so much more, however. At its heart, the film is about the prides and pangs of parenthood at the dawn of a child’s entry into the great wide world. Abrahamson tempers his usual quirky cinematic style, allowing the film to thrive on the individual and combined energies of Brie Larson and young Jacob Tremblay. And boy, does it ever. Larson earned an Academy Award for her heartrending performance as the imprisoned Joy, and Tremblay — just seven years old at the time of filming — made his acting debut with a haunting performance.
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
Adapted by David Mamet from his own play, Glengarry Glen Ross offers up one memorable line after another in a drama filled with screen legends playing desperate men working to survive at a real estate office. Alec Baldwin’s famous monologue gets most of the attention, but it’s the rest of the tense, commanding performances — particularly Al Pacino’s and Jack Lemmon’s — that really seal this as a classic. The plot is seemingly simple, which just makes it more gripping. Glengarry Glen Ross‘ accuracy in capturing this slice of life has made it a how-to for training salesman for decades (although it seems like it would deter most people considering the field).
Indiana Jones And The Raider of the Lost Ark (1981)
In 1977, George Lucas released a movie that drew on the sci-fi serials of his youth for inspiration and we got Star Wars. A few years later, while on vacation with his pal Steven Spielberg, Lucas looked to the same era’s adventure serials. And so Indiana Jones was born. The series has had its ups and downs over the years, but this first outing from 1981 both introduces the gruff, unflappable archeologist hero played by Harrison Ford and gives him his greatest adventure as he squares off against Nazis as both seek the Ark of the Covenant, a sacred artifact that could change the course of WWII.
Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight will always be remembered for winning the Academy Award for Best Picture after a mix-up that initially named La La Land as the winner. But that’s just as asterisk attached to a momentous coming-of-age story set over three eras in a young man’s life as he grows up in Miami, grappling with the sexuality he feels will make him even more of an outcast while searching for guidance his drug-addicted mother (Naomie Harris) can’t provide. The film is both lyrical and moving, and won justifiable acclaim for its talented cast, including a Best Supporting Actor award for Mahershala Ali as a sympathetic drug dealer.
The Big Sick (2017)
Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon drew from their own unusual love story for their script about a Chicago comic named Kumail (Nanjiani) who falls in love with Emily, a woman (Zoe Kazan) who falls into a coma while in the midst of a rift in their relationship created by the expectations of Kumail’s traditional parents. The funny, moving romantic comedy also features strong supporting work from Ray Romano and Holly Hunter as Emily’s parents, who form an awkward bond with Kumail as they wait for Emily’s recovery.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
The 1970s saw the introduction of previously unseen amounts of gore. But despite its reputation, Tobe Hooper’s 1974 classic mostly holds back on the bloodletting, letting its unsettling setting and disturbed characters — and Hooper’s right direction — do a lot of the work. Which isn’t to the horror doesn’t turn visceral, at times literally, over the course of the movie. But it’s a subtler, and better-crafted film than its title suggests, and one very much aware of what it means to pit a bunch of drifting, hippie kids against redneck cannibals in the heart of a country still very much divided by the cultural divisions of the 1960s.
The Witch (2016)
Robert Eggers’ Sundance hit attracted some of the oddest complaints directed at any film in recent years when some disgruntled audience members suggested it wasn’t scary enough. Maybe they were watching a different movie? Set in colonial New England, the austere film follows a family outcast from their strict religious community and trying to make it on their own at the edge of some deep, dark woods. It essentially takes the witch-fearing folklore of the era at face value, watching the family disintegrate under the insidious influence of a nearby witch. It’s a slow-burn horror movie, light on shocks, heavy on unease, and thematically rich in ways that only become apparent later.
Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008)
When filmmaker Kurt Kuenne’s childhood friend Andrew Bagby is killed and his suspected killer/ex-girlfriend reveals she’s pregnant, Kurt decides to make a documentary chronicling Andrew’s life. While largely a love letter to a man who touched the lives of many for Zachary, the son he never met, Dear Zachary also tells the starkly bitter side of a broken Canadian legal system that directly endangered a baby. We follow the drawn-out custody battle between Andrew’s parents and Zachary’s mother, interspersed with loving snapshots into the Bagby family. The story sucks you in, but it’s also the at times comedic, fast-paced, and downright enraging documentary style of the film that breaks up the emotional tale.
The Machinist (2004)
Way more than “that movie where Christian Bale looks like a skeleton,” The Machinist is a psychological thriller about Trevor Reznik, a man at his wit’s end. Which is understandable since he hasn’t slept in a year and may or may not be caught up in a murderous nightmare. While it has a mysterious and intriguing plot, this film is largely carried by a visceral performance from Bale as he pulls the audience down his character’s rabbit hole of unraveling sanity. The grittiness and bleakness of Reznik’s deteriorating state and the world he lives in are almost palpable…which is meant to sound like a selling point of this dark tale.
Jack Gyllenhaal brings an unparalleled level of creepiness to Louis Bloom, the titular character in Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler. The film follows Bloom’s budding interest and cold practicality to the world of crime news. He can’t even be called an “anti-hero,” just a sociopath willing to do whatever it takes and cut down whoever it takes to make it to the top, which is a journey that would have made a much funnier movie had he gotten involved in, say, miming or aggressive stamp collecting instead of journalism. Nightcrawler also boasts many watcher’s first glimpses into the talents of Riz Ahmed, who manages to not get swallowed up by Gyllenhaal’s presence.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
A portrait of a particular moment in music history, when the folk revival found young musicians discovering their voices in old styles and old songs, Inside Llewyn Davis stars Oscar Isaac as a singer/songwriter who can never quite translate his talent into professional success. Joel and Ethan Coen both exactingly recreate early ‘60s New York and use it as the site of one of an affecting tale of the clash between artistic impulses and the needs of the material world, a theme they’d previously explored with Barton Fink and would pick up again with Hail, Caesar!.
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
From the first melancholic notes of its score, Million Dollar Baby promises a one-two punch to the gut. And boy does it deliver. Clint Eastwood gives us a story of two fighters: one who’d do anything to protect himself (Eastwood) and one who’s just as stubborn but still keeps putting herself in harm’s way (Hillary Swank). As the latter learns how to box professionally from the former, it’s nearly impossible not to root for and empathize with the flawed pair. Morgan Freeman completes the main cast as his standard “old man with sage advice,” but the chemistry between him and Eastwood as bickering best friends is almost enough to warrant its own movie. Baby raked in the Oscar wins and noms in ’05, powered by the heart-wrenching turn in the third act and the powerful relationship between the two leads.
A years-later sequel to Rocky focusing on the illegitimate son of Rocky’s one-time foe Apollo Creed doesn’t sound like a great idea, but director Ryan Coogler and star Michael B. Jordan make it work and then some. Jordan’s a marvel, playing the young Adonis Creed as a man who has to learn not to be controlled by his anger with the help of an aging, lonely Rocky (Sylvester Stallone, in a thoughtful take on one of his most famous roles). It shouldn’t work. But it works in virtually every moment.
Green Room (2016)
When a punk rock group accidentally witnesses the aftermath of a murder, they are forced to fight for their lives by the owner of a Nazi bar (Patrick Stewart) and his team. It’s an extremely brutal and violent story, much like the first two features from director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin and Murder Party), but this one is made even tenser by its claustrophobic cat-and-cornered-mouse nature. Once the impending danger kicks in, it doesn’t let up until the very end, driven heavily by Stewart playing against type as a harsh, unforgiving, violent character.
Blue Velvet (1987)
David Lynch’s Blue Velvet is more grounded in realism than some of his other abstract, dream-like works, but that only makes it more strange and offputting. After a college student (Kyle MacLachlan) finds a severed ear in a field, he gets involved with an emotionally damaged woman (Isabella Rossellini) and her deranged tormenter (Dennis Hopper), shaking up his seemingly idyllic hometown. It’s a raw and bleak tale, with plenty of Lynch’s trademark dark humor. Rossellini and Hopper are especially compelling every time they’re on screen, and the film earned Lynch his second Oscar nomination for direction.
We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)
Eva Khatchadourian (Tilda Swinton), who’s unwilling and unable to properly care for her troubled son Kevin, watches her life unravel as her husband (John C. Reilly) ignores their problems and Kevin grows more and more sociopathic and violent. The story jumps around in time, showing Swinton’s character as both a new mother who blames her son for ruining her life and as a woman who eventually blames herself for what becomes of her son. Swinton proves once again that she’s the actress that indie movies need for complex characters that live their lives in grey areas. At its core, We Need To Talk is about the importance of proper parenting, communication, and probably therapy. And it’s not for the faint of heart.
Chalie Kaufman spent working as a TV and movie writer before he took a turn in the director’s seat with Synecdoche, New York. He waited another seven years before helming his second feature, Anomalisa, which narrowed the scope from Synecdoche to focus on a man too caught up in himself and his past to appreciate the world around him. Michael Stone (David Thewlis), a famous customer service author, is sparked out of boredom by Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a woman who finally stands out in the sea of people and monotony. It’s a surreal, human tale that could only be told through its unique stop-motion animation.
Requiem For A Dream (2000)
There are sad movies, and then there’s Requiem For A Dream. Hubert Selby Jr.’s tale about addiction comes to life in the hands of director and co-writer Darren Aronofsky. The film focuses on a group of addicts, Harry, Marion, and Tyrone, and Harry’s mother, who sink to their lowest levels in the hopes of finding their little slice of happiness. While it provides a cautionary tale against heroin better than any DARE program, Aronofsky has stated that it goes beyond that, diving into the highs that people find everywhere and how people face the withdrawal when they try to quit them. While the devolving story is frightening enough, it’s Aronofsky’s imagery and the relentlessly paced editing that drives the movie’s message home, complete with its haunting score (that may be recognizable from plenty of other film’s trailers). As beautiful and powerful as the film is, it can definitely only be watched once in a blue moon to avoid one’s own fall into insanity.
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
The crime thriller that made Quentin Tarantino a name, Reservoir Dogs started off as a $30,000 project to be made by Tarantino and his buddies. It wasn’t until Harvey Keitel stepped in to co-star and produce that Dogs got off the ground, but it still maintained a low budget that works for its gritty aesthetic. After a diamond heist gets botched, the criminals involved work to sniff out a potential mole, with mysterious pasts and bruised egos getting in the way. The solid cast – Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and more – sells sharp dialogue just as much as stressed Mexican stand-offs. Sticking to his soon-to-be-famous non-linear storytelling, Tarantino proves from the get-go that he knows cruel violence and notable soundtracks.
With Seven and Fight Club, David Fincher and his direction became synonymous with the thriller in the ’90s. It’s that dark tone and colors that just makes you feel uneasy no matter the context. He brings that style to the true story of one of the most notorious serial killers in recent history, the Zodiac Killer. But instead of constant brawling or a lot of chase scenes in the rain, Zodiac conveys intensity throughout conversations and people watching the news. When grizzly murders start plaguing California, a cartoonist, a reporter, and a detective fall down the career- and life-consuming rabbit hole of trying to put the pieces together and find the killer. It’s a sad tale, but it needs to be, as Fincher went to great lengths to present the story accurately.
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