Over the years, Amazon Prime Video‘s library has grown massively and now includes many critically-acclaimed and entertaining flicks. So, if you are planning a Prime Video movie night, we have selected some of the best films currently available on the platform for your consideration.
Of course, movie taste can be very subjective, but we have picked films that are either classics, audience favorites or critical darlings that we think you will enjoy. And with a variety of genres on the list there is something for everyone! So, without further ado, here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video you can currently watch.
Best movies on Amazon Prime Video:
Editor’s note: The list features 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 films are added and removed from the Prime Video catalogue.
1. 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 Lady 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. It is full of unexpected twists and turns that will surprise even the most intuitive viewers and keep you glued to your seat.
2. Spotlight (2015)
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.
3. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Requiem for a Dream is a not an easy film to stomach, but it is a work of art that everyone should sit through at least once. Directed by Darren Aronofsky, the movie follows four addicts as their lives and drug habits spiral out of control. Harry, Tyrone and Marion are the main trio who enable each other’s heroin addictions and escapist dreams. Harry’s mother (Sara) also battles her own demons as she unknowingly becomes addicted to amphetamines.
The cinematography is at times surreal, like a drug trip, and at other times brutally true to life, snapping us back to reality. All of the actors deliver amazing performances, but Ellen Burstyn as Sara gives the most heart-wrenching and haunting of them all. There are scenes which will be etched into your mind for a long time to come. But overall, Requiem for a Dream is a cautionary tale of how quickly we can be led down the path of self-destruction in the name of making it big, being on our favorite TV show or even fitting in that pretty red dress.
4. We Need to Talk About Kevin (2012)
Tilda Swinton is excellent in almost any role, and We Need to Talk About Kevin is one of her best performances. In this psychological thriller she plays Eva — a struggling mother who is trying to understand and deal with her difficult son Kevin. As we see him grow up, he becomes more and more detached and disinterested, while she begins to resent and fear him.
The movie poses the familiar nature vs nurture question, but it also dives deeper into more uncomfortable territory. We often see Eva’s concerns being dismissed by those around her. It’s not hard to sympathize with her thanks to Tilda Swinton’s stunning performance. But we also see her struggle to bond with Kevin and get frustrated easily. Ezra Miller, playing teenage Kevin, is often chillingly emotionless. And this leaves us with the question of whether he is a product of Eva’s behavior. The film allows you to reach your own conclusions, but it will stick with you long after you have watched it.
5. 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.
Related: The best documentaries on Netflix
The director invites Anwar to recount his experiences. He often reenacts his gruesome acts for the camera, and they are depicted in the style of his favorite movie genres: 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.
6. True Grit (2010)
Modern westerns are few and far between and great ones are even harder to find. But True Grit is the best movie of its genre on Amazon Prime Video. Written and directed by the Coen brothers, True Grit is the second adaptation of a 1968 Charles Portis novel of the same name. The Academy Award-nominated film tells the story of Mattie — a feisty but determined young girl who hires US Marshal Cogburn to pursue the outlaw who killed her father.
She wants to accompany Cogburn on his quest, but she is left behind due to her age and gender. Meanwhile Cogburn teams up with Texas Ranger LaBoeuf to split the reward. Stubborn and single-minded, Mattie catches up to them and refuses to turn back. Hailee Steinfield is excellent as Mattie, and Jeff Bridges (Cogman) and Matt Damon (LaBoeuf) complete the unlikely trio with their great performances. It is not only a great western but a great movie overall. It’s worth watching True Grit even if you are not a fan of the genre.
7. Annihilation (2018)
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.
Related: The 10 best sci-fi movies on Netflix
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.
8. The Machinist (2004)
If psychological thrillers like Memento and Shutter Island are among your favorite films, you shouldn’t skip The Machinist. Directed by Brad Anderson, the movie tells the story of Trevor Reznik — an industrial worker struggling with insomnia. Trevor, played by Christian Bale, claims he hasn’t slept in years. He is rapidly losing weight, becoming almost skeletal. Fascinatingly, there were no special effects involved. Bale lost an enormous amount of weight for the role. But his physical transformation is just as impressive as his performance.
Bale masterfully portrays the disturbed machinist, as Trevor wastes away both physically and mentally. After a workplace accident, he becomes increasingly paranoid. His coworkers distrust him, and the machinist is constantly on edge, believing someone is out to get him. The atmosphere is both tense and gloomy at all times and it will keep you at the edge of your seat.
9. Hereditary (2018)
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.
10. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
While many modern horrors films rely on cheap jump scares or shocking gore, this late 60s classic is horror realism at its finest. Rosemary’s Baby begins when the titular Rosemary and her husband Guy move to the big city — New York. Rosemary has trouble adjusting to the noise, the prying neighbors and chaos of city living. Bizarre and disturbing things happen around her and she has a strange vision on the night she falls pregnant.
Rosemary’s Baby taps into real fears of its era — urban living and the occult, but also universal ones like loss of control, loss of agency over one’s body and pregnancy itself. Mia Farrow masterfully portrays Rosemary’s descent into paranoia, as her concerns are dismissed, and she is pushed around and bullied by everyone in her life. The excellent direction and the claustrophobic close ups make the film unnerving, without overreliance on supernatural elements. It is one of the best classic horror films on Prime Video, so if you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and watch it today.
11. 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.
12. Sleepy Hollow (1999)
With Halloween approaching fast, what better movie to watch than a spooky Tim Burton classic! Sleepy Hollow is a loose adaptation of the Headless Horseman tale and one of the most entertaining movies you can currently watch on Prime Video. Starring Johnny Deep as Ichabod Crane and imbued with the typical Burton dark fairy tale aesthetic, this film is both quirky and thrilling.
In this version Ichabod is a skeptical detective who arrives in the town of Sleepy Hollow to investigate the gruesome decapitations of three townspeople. While there, he meets with the peculiar and superstitious residents. They all seem to believe the murders were caused by the mythical headless horseman. As usual, Depp is great in his role as the geeky detective, but the cast features other notable names like Christopher Walken, Christopher Lee and Christina Ricci. So, if you haven’t given Sleepy Hollow a chance yet, there is no better time to watch it than now.
13. The Terminator (1984)
The original Terminator is the quintessential 80s sci-fi action flick and one of the best movies you can watch on Amazon Prime. It is arguably Arnold Swarzenegger’s most iconic role, as well as James Cameron’s first blockbuster. Swarzenegger plays a time-traveling cyborg on a mission to destroy John Connor — resistance leader against the machines — before he is even born. But the Terminator is not the only time traveler. Kyle Reese is there to warn John’s mother Sarah Connor, as they desperately try to outrun the relentless killing machine.
Read more: The 10 best action movies on Amazon Prime
As can be expected, The Terminator is packed with thrilling action scenes and, for the time, ground-breaking special effects. If you still haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it today. It is entertaining, full of quotable one-liners and it spawned the massive Terminator franchise that continues to this day. But nothing can beat the original… expect Terminator 2: Judgement Day probably.
14. Thelma and Louise (1991)
Ridley Scott is probably best known for Alien, but he has another film with strong female protagonists under his belt — Thelma and Louise. This 90s classic sees the titular protagonists go a weekend road trip meant as a getaway from their monotonous home and work lives. However, things go awry when the two friends stop at a bar for a rest. Suddenly, Thelma and Louise are no longer road trip buddies, they are outlaws on the run.
Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon both deliver probably the best performances of their careers, making it hard not to sympathize with their characters and their desire for freedom. But a lot of credit goes to Callie Khouri too. This was her screenwriting debut, which instantly netted her an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. It’s been almost thirty years since then, but Thelma and Louise remains culturally significant and relevant, making it one of the best movies in the current Prime Video catalog.
15. 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.
16. 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. Its story beings 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 marvelous animated visuals and interwoven 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 not usually drawn to animated movies, Millennium Actress is more than that, it’s an experience.
17. Hugo (2011)
Martin Scorsese is not a name you would associate with fantasy or children’s movies, but his Oscar-winning film Hugo is both. The movie is an adaptation of the best-selling book The Invention of Hugo Cabret and it’s a lively and fantastical adventure. Set in 1930s Paris, the movie tells the story of Hugo — a boy who is left orphaned after his father tragically dies in a fire.
Yet, Hugo is determined to finish the project he and his father were working on — repairing a strange mechanical man who can write with a pen. Hugo is missing one part, however. A hearth-shaped key. As he embarks on his quest to find it, he meets with a cast of colorful characters. The visuals are dazzling and despite the dark beginning, the story of Hugo is quite optimistic and whimsical. The film is also a love letter to early cinema — a tribute to the magic of the silver screen. It is not only one of the best children’s movies on Amazon Prime Video but one of the best overall.
18. 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 plowing season begins.
As her son Timothy falls ill, she goes on a journey and meets colorful and nefarious characters in the process. Both the enthralling story and the captivating hand-drawn animation draw 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.
19. 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.
20. The Disaster Artist (2017)
If there is a film that is synonymous with “so bad it’s good”, it would be Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. Dug up from obscurity by Internet reviewers in recent years, it was panned as one of the worst movies ever made. The Disaster Artist unveils the story of the now infamous film and the bizarre personality behind it.
James Franco transforms himself into Tommy, nailing his unique accent and mannerisms. The film is funny, ridiculous, but sometimes brutally honest. Yet, it shows a vulnerable and relatable side to someone who was mercilessly mocked. It masterfully portrays Tommy’s misguided but passionate attitude towards film, as well as the genuine friendships he makes in the process of fulfilling his ambition. The star-studded cast, including Seth Rogan and Dave Franco, all do a great job in bringing the story to life. Of course, watching The Room first will give you a better understanding, but it is not necessary to enjoy The Disaster Artist.
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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