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Amazon original movies took a giant leap forward with Manchester by the Sea. The 2016 drama won 2 Academy Awards for best actor (Casey Affleck) and original screenplay (Kenneth Lonergan), and it put Amazon Studios, the entertainment division of the company, on the map. With nearly 30 movies under its belt, co-distributed with prominent production companies like Magnolia Pictures, Lionsgate, IFC Films, and Roadside Attractions, Amazon can compete with Netflix and Hulu when it comes to original content—and it has more than a dozen films in the works.
Here are the best Amazon original movies you can stream right now.
The best Amazon original movies
1) Manchester by the Sea
Manchester by the Sea is a tough watch. It revolves around a handyman, Lee (Casey Affleck, who won an Oscar for his performance), dealing with his brother’s (Kyle Chandler) death. Lee has to take in his nephew, Patrick (Academy Award-nominated Lucas Hedges) and grapple with his past failings. Despite the gloomy setting and even gloomier subject matter, Manchester has a wicked funny bone. Writer-director Kenneth Lonergan specializes in crafting sincere characters and dialogue so authentic you’ll want to start a GoFundMe to help Lee and Lucas stay afloat while they figure things out. —Eddie Strait
2) The Big Sick
The real-life relationship between Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon provides the basis for this charming romantic comedy. The movie deals with the dynamic of the couple’s interracial relationship and how it affects their families, as well as Gordon’s hospital stay and medically induced coma. Nanjiani and Gordon wrote the script, with Nanjiani playing himself and Zoe Kazan playing Gordon. The movie is an honest, hilarious reminder that our differences are the best things about us. The Big Sick is one of 2017’s best films. —E.S.
Every day for bus driver Paterson (Adam Driver) is exactly the same, and every day is also sublimely unique. Making wonderful use of repetition and recurring imagery, indie legend Jim Jarmusch’s latest shows how beauty can be found everywhere, if only you bother to look. Anchored by Driver’s understated performance, Paterson is a celebration of the creative impulse, and its ability to impart mystery and import to even the most innocuous of things. —David Wharton
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Richard Linklater finally has his road trip movie. Set in December 2003, Last Flag Flying opens with Steve Carell’s soft-spoken Larry “Doc” Shepherd tracking down his old friend Sal Nealon, played with foul-mouthed vigor by Bryan Cranston. The two were in Vietnam together, and Larry enlists him to help transport the body of his son, who was killed in Iraq. They pick up fellow vet Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne), who is now a man of God. And with that collection of personalities, the film sets off on an emotional journey that paints early aughts patriotism in dreary strokes.
While his past films often focus on youth and romance, Last Flag Flying is more somber: 9/11 is still fresh; America’s less than a year into the Iraq War; we see footage of Saddam Hussein being captured and George W. Bush on TV. But the film is also a portrait of damaged men in middle age, which doesn’t always make for the most entertaining content. —Audra Schroeder
Spike Lee channels the provocateur of his early days with this fire-breathing musical about gang violence in Chicago. It’s based the Greek play Lysistrata by Apostrophe, and it’s set in a world where women withhold sex in an attempt to stop men from their violence. The first Amazon original movie, Chi-raq is not quite on par with Lee’s best, but it’s not far off. Lee is a vital voice, and Chi-raq proves he’s still got it. —E.S.
6) The Handmaiden
If you haven’t seen it yet, stop everything you’re doing and spend the next two-and-a-half hours in Park Chan-wook’s exhilarating The Handmaiden. The movie is chock full of twists and role-reversals, and it’s so much fun that mentioning any story specifics would be unfair. Chan-wook is one of the world’s most entertaining directors, and The Handmaiden is arguably one of his best. Everything that makes him great is on display here, from the dizzying tonal shifts to the luscious photography and idiosyncratic indulgences. —E.S.
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Jenny Slate and Gillian Robespierre, star and director of the acclaimed Obvious Child, respectively, reteam on Landline, a ‘90s-set family drama. It’s about sisters who uncover their father’s affair and the effects of that news coming to light. It’s a plotline straight out of the indie movie starter pack, but it’s elevated by strong work from the cast. Abby Quinn makes a noteworthy debut playing Slate’s sister, and Edie Falco, John Turturro, Finn Wittrock, and Mark Duplass are all terrific. —E.S.
8) The Salesman
Iranian director Asghar Farhadi is one of the world’s best directors. His films are observant and wise in the way they depict the contradictions of humanity. The Salesman is a story within a story: It follows a husband and wife who put on a performance of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman when the wife is assaulted at a friend’s apartment. The film deals with the emotional fallout. It’s the kind of intimate drama Farhadi specializes in. —E.S.
9) Love & Friendship
Whit Stillman’s adaptation of Jane Eyre’s Lady stars Kate Beckinsale as a widow on a mission to find husbands who offer the most financial stability for her daughters. Love & Friendship is hilarious and refreshingly self-aware. The film earned a great deal of acclaim, with Beckinsale and Tom Bennett singled out amongst a strong cast. If you’re new to Stillman’s work, this is a great introduction. —E.S.
This documentary tells the story of former NFL player Steve Gleason, who played for the New Orleans Saints, among other teams, before retiring in 2008. Gleason was diagnosed with ALS (more commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 2011. The documentary charts Gleason’s battle and his advocacy while also showing how his family has adapted to their circumstance. It’s an incredibly touching film, one that is inspirational and full of hope even in its darkest moments. —E.S.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
Eddie Strait is a member of the Austin Film Critic Association. His reviews focus primarily on streaming entertainment, with an emphasis on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and other on-demand services.