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Make the most of your Amazon Prime membership.
Whether you’re looking for comedies, thrillers, or just the highest-rated movies, here are the best movies on Amazon Prime. From Amazon original movies like Manchester By the Sea and The Big Sick to classic movies like Night of the Living Dead, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
The best movies on Amazon Prime in May 2019
1) 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—his family more than hers—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. An Amazon original movie, The Big Sick is one of 2017’s best films.
Most filmmakers would kill to make a film as accomplished as Hereditary, writer-director Ari Aster’s debut. It’s atmospheric as hell, features outstanding acting, and is full of terrifying imagery. The film centers on a family dealing with the loss of their grandmother. The family’s grief is amplified by disturbing visions and more tragedy. Anchored by great performances by Toni Collette (who, in a just world, would get an Oscar for her work) and Alex Wolff, Hereditary the kind of horror movie that burrows itself into your head and sticks with you long after you finish watching it.
Quentin Tarantino has made better films in his career, but none are tighter than Reservoir Dogs. The robbers with the colorful names are still wickedly entertaining, and Tarantino’s script retains much of its shine. Watching Reservoir Dogs now immediately transports you to a time before the poster image became a groomsmen picture staple, to a time when many of our favorite filmmakers were just getting started. Reservoir Dogs is the kind of movie that still makes you stand and take notice 25 years after its release.
4) Eighth Grade
2018 was a great year for horror films, and yet few induced as many squirms as this story of Kayla navigating her last week of eighth grade. Watching Kayla go through one awkward encounter after another is almost guaranteed to trigger traumatic middle school flashbacks (are there any other kind?) in viewers, which is a testament to the film’s authenticity. Critics heaped praise on writer-director Bo Burnham for capturing the mindset of a 13-year-old girl, and rightfully so. But the key to the movie’s success is that Burnham recognizes that awkwardness does not end when you move on to high school, or as you get older. Burnham and lead actress Elsie Fisher have captured the mundanities of life in a way that is extraordinary.
5) Lady Bird
Greta Gerwig’s rise through the indie film world reached its peak with Lady Bird. Gerwig wrote and directed this coming-of-age story set in early 2000s Sacramento. It follows Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) through her senior year of high school as she navigates friendship, romance, and prepares for life after high school. Most importantly, it’s about her relationship with her mother, played by Laurie Metcalf. Gerwig and Lady Bird nail the period details and the more universal truths about growing up that you can’t help but see some of yourself in the film.
This mid-aughts indie from director Brad Anderson began the run of Christian Bale, Shape-Shifting Method Actor. Bale famously dropped down to 120 pounds by following a diet of water, an apple, and a cup of coffee per day in order to play an insomniac machinist. After an accident on the job, Trevor Reznik (Bale) goes on a quest for answers. The film is weird, paranoid, and tense, and it only gets weirder and even more intense as it goes on.
If you’re following these recommendations in order, then this is the capper to a Coen Brothers evening. Llewyn Davis plays like one of the title character’s songs: haunting, sorrowful, and ultimately wonderful. Oscar Isaac gives a lived-in performance that rings so true you’ll be disappointed that he doesn’t have a blues side project going. The movie takes place over the course of a week, with Llewyn playing his songs and trying to grab his big break—if he could just get out of his own way long enough to let it happen. We’re getting to the point where we’ll start seeing “best of the decade” lists coming together, and this film is sure to appear on many lists. Many people skipped it during its 2013 release, and if you’re one of those people, or if you haven’t seen it in a while, it’s time to rectify that.
Manchester by the Sea is a tough watch, what with it revolving 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 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.
It doesn’t feel right to call this movie overlooked, but it’s rarely the first movie anyone brings up when talking about John Hughes. Still, this movie is every bit the equal of Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and the rest of his filmography. Steve Martin and John Candy are a perfect pairing as Neal Page and Del Griffith, two completely opposite strangers who get stuck on a calamitous three-day road trip to get Neal home in time for Thanksgiving. The duo should have yielded more collaborations, but at least we have this all-timer.
10) First Reformed
Ethan Hawke does career best work in Paul Schrader’s First Reformed. Hawke plays Toller, a minister in upstate New York. Toller’s faith in humanity is put to the test by what he perceives to be growing indifference to global warming. His growing despair, issues from his past, and deteriorating health lead Toller down a dark and potentially dangerous path. First Reformed is an intense film, as is Schrader’s specialty, but also a deeply rewarding one.
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Martin Scorsese’s movie about a mentally unstable man, Rupert Pupkin (Robert DeNiro), who dreams of being a famous comedian. Pupkin goes as far as kidnapping his idol Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis). The King of Comedy is still relevant today for its fame-obsessed protagonist’s at-all-costs mentality. There’s a sense of danger and sadness to Pupkin, and DeNiro threads the needle to make him a sympathetic character without sugarcoating anything. The King of Comedy isn’t as well-known as other Scorsese-DeNiro collaborations, but it is on par with Raging Bull and Goodfellas.
For a movie that could’ve gone wrong in so many ways, The Disaster Artist avoids pratfalls to deliver a kind-hearted take on a trainwreck. James Franco’s performance as human enigma Tommy Wiseau is good enough to make you wish he was the main character instead of generically likable Greg (Dave Franco). The Disaster Artist is an ode to movie-making that doesn’t require any inside baseball knowledge to appreciate. There is a potentially darker, more compelling story waiting to be unearthed, but that’s beside the point. The movie was clearly made with affection for its subject, and it proves infectious. Even if you haven’t seen The Room, the cult classic the film is based on, you’ll still be entertained by The Disaster Artist.
13) Last Flag Flying
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
14) His Girl Friday
This pitch-perfect screwball comedy captures the classic Hollywood era at its finest. Cary Grant stars as a hard-nosed New York City newspaper editor trying to win back his ex-wife and star investigative reporter, played by Rosalind Russell, and still get the paper out the door. Based on the Ben Hecht/Charles MacArthur play The Front Page, 1940’s His Girl Friday takes place almost entirely in a newsroom, which gives the movie a certain intensity, while Howard Hawks (the titan behind The Big Sleep, Red River, and Bringing Up Baby, another Grant essential) ensures the dialogue and laughs come faster than print deadlines. —Austin Powell
15) The Bank Job
The Bank Job is one of the most underrated films in Jason Statham’s filmography. He gives his fists and menacing scowl a break in favor of honest-to-goodness acting, and the result is better than you’d think. Statham leads a team of robbers who take a job that should be a sure thing. But the deposit boxes the crew is after turn out to be more of a Pandora’s Box than a treasure trove. Secrets are revealed that threaten the job as much as any law enforcement, if not more so. The Bank Job is fun, smart, and has enough surprises to stay one step ahead of viewers.
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The Florida Project is one of the best movies of 2017 and not enough people know about it. Writer-director Sean Baker follows up his iPhone-filmed Tangerine with this traditionally shot movie set at a Florida motel. It follows 6-year-old Moonee and her mother Halley, played by newcomers Brooklyn Prince and Bria Vinaite, respectively. The movie is told primarily from Moonee’s perspective, meaning there are many scenes of carefree kids finding fun wherever they can. Moonee and Halley both wreak havoc in their own ways, and their put-upon building manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe) often looks out for both of them, in addition to his other long-term tenants. The movie balances the joy of childhood and the ever-encroaching realities of adulthood in a way that is so true to life it can be hard to watch at times. The Florida Project challenges you to find sympathy for people you may normally look down on. It’s one of the best movies on Amazon Prime, and it deserves a larger audience.
Fargo is arguably the pinnacle of the Coen Brothers’ oeuvre. But that’s a matter of opinion. What isn’t up for debate is the greatness of Frances McDormand’s iconic performance as Marge Gunderson. This tale of a crime committed by a bunch of idiots and the pregnant police chief smarter than everyone else is everything that is great about the Coens. It’s darkly funny, sharply written, unflinching, and impeccably acted. Fargo is a classic that is as fresh today as it was 20 years ago.
After a mutated strain of mad cow disease runs rampant across the United States and turns most of the population into flesh-eating zombies, college student Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) treks from his Austin, Texas dorm to Columbus, Ohio in search of his parents. Along the way he picks up Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a bloodthirsty survivor with an affinity for Twinkies who’s mourning the loss of his puppy. The two unlikely partners encounter sisters Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), adding some romantic tension to the quartet’s survival mission. Combining a killer (literally) cast, heaps of gore, and a brilliant Bill Murray cameo, Zombieland is a gut-busting zom-com with a sweet, undead heart at its core. —Bryan Rolli
19) Leave No Trace
Tom (Thomasin Mackenzie) and Will (Ben Foster) are a daughter and father who live off the grid in the forests of Portland, Oregon. One mistake interrupts their quiet existence, forcing them into housing and a “normal” life. This incursion in their routines forces the two to reckon with themselves and what they what out of life, and if those things are compatible with their relationship. With Leave No Trace, Mackenzie, Foster, and director Debra Granik have crafted an intimate film about parenting, modern society, and self-discovery.
20) 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 is 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.
21) The Apartment
The holidays aren’t always the most wonderful time of the year, which is spelled out in Billy Wilder’s 1960 film. But The Apartment is still one of the best NYC Christmas films, and it parallels the feeling of loneliness that accompanies the holidays with hopefulness. Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine are charming in this Mad Men-era rom-com about the slog of the corporate ladder and finding love. —Audra Schroeder
22) Shutter Island
Martin Scorsese gets to play around in the B-movie sandbox with this twisty thriller. Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo play U.S. Marshals sent to the titular island to investigate the escape of a murderer. Every bit of new information creates more confusion for the marshals and the audience. Shutter Island is the kind of movie that is one step ahead of the audience at every turn, but even astute viewers who figure out what’s coming will still be entertained watching the pieces fit into place.
23) A Quiet Place
Not for the faint-hearted, A Quiet Place is one of the scariest films of 2018. The concept is simple: In post-apocalyptic America, John Krasinski and Emily Blunt play the parents of a young family, hiding from deadly aliens who attack based on sound. This family has carved out a surprisingly idyllic existence in the countryside, but they must live in complete silence, communicating only in sign language. Obviously, this is a great idea for a horror movie, but the execution is what really elevates it to greatness. A Quiet Place is warm, thoughtful, and visually beautiful, while also being a muscle-clenching watch. —Gavia Baker-Whitelaw
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
25) What If
Daniel Radcliffe’s post-Harry Potter movies have been all over the map in terms of quality, but they’ve all been interesting. What If stands out for being a low-key anti-rom-com. Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan star as the central duo. They’re happy being friends but have too much chemistry to stay that way forever. Radcliffe and Kazan make for an adorable pair, and their chemistry drives What If’s success.
It takes a village to raise a child in 20th Century Women, writer-director Mike Mills’ excellent exploration of a not-quite-family’s dynamic. Dorothea’s relationship with her teenage son Jamie is stuck in a rut, so she enlists the help of her tenants and one of Jamie’s friends to help her out. The result is an insightful, frequently funny story about interdependent people finding themselves. The writing and directing are sharp and observant, and the cast—including Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, Elle Fanning, and Lucas Jade Zumann—is great across the board.
Few experiences are more joyous than watching a smart sci-fi mind-bender that actually holds up and doesn’t collapse under the weight of its contrivances as it reaches the third-act climax. Coherence takes a simple high concept (parallel realities) and runs with it, keeping its characters (and its audience) intrigued and confused but never fully disoriented. The thrills persist all the way through a fulfilling ending that doesn’t cheat.
I know what you’re thinking: school shooting movie, pretty tough sell. Well, you’re not wrong. But We Need to Talk About Kevin is worth watching for how it subverts the genre. From the always bold Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher), the film tracks the relationship between Eva (Tilda Swinton) and her son, Kevin (Ezra Miller), from his birth to the incident in question. We Need to Talk About Kevin doesn’t pull its punches: Kevin is naturally disturbing and unsympathetic, and Eva is wary of him from a young age. Was Kevin always the way he was, or was it is mother’s inability to love him that made him that way? And more importantly, should Eva have been a mother to begin with? Some people aren’t meant to be parents. Those are the probing questions Ramsey asks in We Need to Talk About Kevin, ones made all the more haunting by a final scene where mother and son are forced to finally come together, having no one else left to turn to. —Chris Osterndorf
Richard Linklater’s account of an East Texas murder is a curio, even by his standards. He mixes real interviews with locals of Carthage, Texas, into his fictionalized account of Marjorie Nugent’s murder at the hands of her assistant, Bernie Tiede. Jack Black’s vocal and physical affectations walk the line of caricature, but he never crosses it. He does the best work of his acting career here. Shirley Maclaine matches, and even surpasses, Black’s work as Marjorie. The film is darkly funny and a fascinating look at a relationship gone horribly wrong.
30) Short Term 12
As Grace (Brie Larson), a counselor at a group home for teens, says early on in Short Term 12: “You have to be an asshole before you can be their friend.” The film spends much of its time exploring the inner lives of these kids as well as the counselors. The Newsroom’s John Gallagher Jr. plays Grace’s boyfriend and co-worker, and their relationship provides some emotional resonance. Lakeith Stanfield (Atlanta) is a standout as Marcus, a young man about to turn 18 and leave the home. All these lives collide, and unexpected friendships form from shared pain. —Audra Schroeder
31) My Man Godfrey
This Depression-era comedy about a socialite (Carole Lombard) who hires a tramp named Godfrey (William Powell) to be her butler is still considered one of the funniest classic films ever. Powell, who began is run as the drunken detective Nick Charles in the Thin Man franchise two years earlier, already had plenty of experience flexing his funny bone by this point, but it was Godfrey that cemented his legacy as a comedic genius. —C.O.
After a successful run on Broadway, Denzel Washington brings this August Wilson play to the silver screen. Washington directs and stars alongside his stage costar Viola Davis in this 1950s-set drama about a man grappling with the life choices he made and the repercussions they have on his family. It’s a powerful film, and you’ll want to keep tissues nearby.
In Alex Garland’s adaptation of Annihilation, we still get to explore Area X, a quarantined area of land besieged by mysterious environmental changes. That’s about where the similarities to the book end. The film uses author Jeff VanderMeer’s spectral setting to get in its characters’ heads. Natalie Portman plays Lena, a biologist and former soldier who is grieving the loss of her husband, Kane (Oscar Isaac). He was sent into Area X on a secret mission and feared dead, but he suddenly returns home—altered. Lena’s mission there is one of truth and redemption, but Portman plays her with appropriate detachment. We don’t really know her true motives, and fellow travelers Anya (Gina Rodriguez), Cass (Tuva Novotny), Josie (Tessa Thompson), and Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) have their own reasons for going on an apparent suicide mission. —Audra Schroeder
Luc Besson’s 2017 space odyssey is best experienced as a sensory event. Much like its spiritual precursor The Fifth Element, the film, helmed by Dane DeHaan (Valerian) and Cara Delevingne (Laureline), swoops into colorful, otherworldly vistas and introduces us to impossible characters (like a shape-shifting Rihanna). Yes, there’s some clunky dialogue from DeHaan, who appears to be channeling Keanu, and you desperately want Laureline to dump that chump. But if you can let go of plot and structure and hold on to its rushes of planet-jumping, alien menace, and elaborate set pieces, Valerian is mindless fun. —Audra Schroeder
Get your hanky ready, because Wonder will do a number on your emotions. Based on the popular book, Wonder is about Auggie (Jacob Tremblay), a young boy with a medical condition that causes a facial deformity. After years of homeschooling, Auggie’s parents (Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson) send him off to school for fifth grade, where not everyone is so quick to accept Auggie as he is. The movie is a treatise on kindness, and it will resonate with kids and adults alike. Wonder is an uplifting movie that wants to put good into the world.
36) The Conversation
Released in 1974, Francis Ford Coppola was in the middle of an epic run when The Conversation arrived. The Godfather: Part II was just months away from coming out, after the release of the first installment two years earlier. He would follow these titles up with Apocalypse Now in 1979, completing a decades-worth of masterpieces the likes of which he nor few other Hollywood directors would never come close to replicating. Yet for as much success as Coppola had during this time period, it often feels like The Conversation gets left out of, well, the conversation. Despite winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes and receiving three Oscar nominations, it’s a movie that’s overshadowed today by Coppola’s other ‘70s classics. It shouldn’t be, though, as this Gene Hackman-led drama about a surveillance expert plagued by guilt is not only an excellent encapsulation of the paranoia of its time but an increasingly relevant exploration of privacy and conspiracy. —C.O.
Because of copyright issues that put the film in the public domain, Night of the Living Dead has long been one of the easiest classic horror films to get your hands on. But that doesn’t make it any less worth seeking out. A movie that invented a genre, spawned numerous sequels and remakes, and eventually grossed 250 times its production budget (which was just a little over $100,000), Night of the Living Dead really is as great and as important as you’ve heard. George A. Romero’s accidental tackling of race gives the film added subtext, and the way it approached violence in a year like 1968 makes Night of the Living Dead a key snapshot of its time. Reviled upon its release, it would go on to be a cult classic, before receiving a critical re-appreciation and even being selected by the Library of Congress to be a part of the National Film Registry. —C.O.
From concept to execution, Cloverfield is a blast. Say what you will about J.J. Abrams, but the man knows how to make an event movie. For Cloverfield, he roped in longtime collaborators Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) and Drew Goddard (Cabin in the Woods), both masters of genre. Cloverfield is much scarier than you’d think for a monster romp, and with a Cloverfield Cinematic Universe taking shape (2016’s 10 Cloverfield Lane and 2018’s The Cloverfield Paradox), now’s a great time for a refresher on how it all began.
39) Thunder Road
Writer, director, and star Jim Cummings walks a tight line in this story about a police officer struggling with his emotions. Officer Jim Arnaud (Cummings) is having a rough go of it, between his divorce and the death of his mother. This character study balances intense personal drama with bone-dry humor. If nothing else, you should check out the film’s opening scene in which Arnaud hilariously struggles to eulogize his mother. Arnaud is the kind of guy who just can’t get out of his own way. You’ll laugh, you’ll cringe, and you may even cry.
40) Logan Lucky
Steven Soderbergh returned to feature films after his four-year hiatus with this NASCAR heist film. Toplined by a great cast (including Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Katie Holmes, Riley Keough, and Katherine Waterston), Logan Lucky channels the easy energy and breezy fun of Soderbergh’s Ocean’s films. The movie won’t blow you away with its originality, but when everyone is operating at this level, the joy becomes infectious.
41) Young Adult
Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody rekindled their Juno magic with the acerbic and darker Young Adult. Charlize Theron stars as Mavis, an author, who returns home after her divorce and sets out to win back her married ex. Mavis is a tough, compelling character, and Theron gives one of her best performances. Movies about characters struggling to grow up have become a cliché at this point, but Young Adult is sharp enough to offer an insightful and pretty funny approach.
42) The Gift
Sick of slashers and ghosts? The Gift is a chilling horror movie with a small body count to boot. After moving to California with his wife Robyn, Simon runs into his old high school pal Gordo at the store. The two men catch up, and slowly start to rebuild their friendship. But there’s something unsettling about Gordo—something Simon forgot from their past, a grudge that’s been brewing for years. It’s OK if Simon can’t remember. When Gordo is done, he’ll never be able to forget. —John-Michael Bond
43) Good Time
Robert Pattinson is electrifying as Connie, a slick-talking schemer who always has a plan and penchant for making problems worse. After a bank robbery gone wrong lands his brother in Rikers, Connie spends all night trying to hustle up the money to post bond. Up-and-coming writer-directors Josh and Benny Safdie keep the action tight and the pace snappy, never allowing Connie or the audience to take a breath. As Connie hits new lows, Pattinson does some of his best work to date. The characters may be having a rough night, but it’s one the audience won’t soon forget.
44) Big Fan
To anyone who thinks they or someone they know has an unhealthy obsession with sports, I humbly submit Robert Siegel’s Big Fan. Siegel, who wrote The Wrestler, made his directorial debut with this story about a lonely guy and his toxic fandom. That guy is played by Patton Oswalt, who excels as a dramatic actor. Big Fan is the kind of movie where you might think you’re better than the characters, but by the end, you’re completely sucked into their world. You’ll either realize you have a problem or be thankful that you’re not like Oswalt’s character, but either way you’ll be glad you watched Big Fan.
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This is an old-school romance about pop star and a stoic police officer who cross paths at just the right time. Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays Noni, a woman pushed toward the limelight her whole life by her mother. Nate Parker plays Kaz, a police officer now with an eye toward politics, per his parents’ plan. The movie draws a lot of comparisons to The Bodyguard, not unfairly, but Gina Prince-Bythewood’s film stands on its own due to the chemistry between Mbatha-Raw and Parker. This is a rock-solid drama about two people figuring out how to live for themselves and not for other people.
David Gordon Green’s film tells the story of Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing. Jake Gyllenhaal turns in a reliably good performance of Bauman, capturing his isolation and struggle as he adapts to his new life. Green does a nice job mixing in the personal story with the larger narrative of the bombing aftermath. While this is Gyllenhaal’s movie, Tatiana Maslany matches him beat for beat as Jeff’s girlfriend. Stronger embraces the struggle of people, and a city, temporarily broken but not beaten.
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.
48) A Ghost Story
Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck play a couple whose happy life is upended when the husband dies. He returns in ghost form, a sheet with black eyes, to stay in the house for eternity while his wife moves on. Writer-director David Lowery has constructed a movie about time, space, and grief that’s intimate in its setting and expansive in its ideas. A Ghost Story is a distinct vision anchored by bold creative choices.
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.
50) Knight of Cups
Terence Malick’s films used to have legendary gestation periods, but since Tree of Life came out in 2011, the renowned reclusive director has been churning out movies, with three features and a documentary through 2017. Knight of Cups received an unusually negative reaction despite having its notable champions. Regardless, Malick movies are essential viewing for cinephiles and are worth reckoning with, whether you like them or not. The meandering plot, about a writer doing some soul searching, is a total cliché, but plot is not important in Malick movies. What is important is the experience and being provoked and engaged.
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51) Julie & Julia
As talented as Amy Adams is, she can’t quite save the half of this movie devoted to Julie Powell and her quest to complete all the recipes in Julia Child’s first cookbook. Yet it hardly matters when you have Meryl Streep giving one of her best performances in recent years as Child herself. From her intelligence, to her love for the kitchen, to her inability to be anything other than herself, Streep brings way more humanity to Child’s outsize personality than anyone should be able to. This was was the legendary Nora Ephron’s last film before she died, and as sad as it was to lose her, we can at least take comfort in the fact that she gave us one more great rom-com before she left. Come to Julie & Julia for the food, stay because Julia Child and Stanley Tucci are relationship goals. —C.O.
The Foot Fist Way is the rawest, purest form of Danny McBride. He plays a brash tae kwon do instructor, Ben Simmons, who shares his considerable lack of skills with kids. Fists and foul-mouthed barbs fly as Simmons trains the kids for a tournament. Simmons is a rough draft version of Kenny Powers, and it’s worth watching to see McBride and co-writer and director Jody Hill before they blew up. If you’re a fan of McBride’s style, you owe it to yourself to catch up with The Foot Fist Way.
53) The Neon Demon
Nicolas Winding Refn’s movies are not for everyone. He makes aggressive, confrontational films that practically dare you to turn them off. But he’s too skilled a craftsman to completely dismiss outright. The Neon Demon is about a young woman (Elle Fanning) breaking into and ascending the ranks in the L.A. modeling world. The movie is a treatise on the male gaze, the perceived vapidity of models, and the dog-eat-dog nature of the industry—or at least the version of the industry depicted here. The good thing about Refn and The Neon Demon is that you’ll know within the first few minutes of the movie if it’s something you want to see.
Tucked away in the prolific Nicolas Cage’s filmography is this 2013 gem from director David Gordon Green. It’s a southern-fried drama about the cyclical nature of violence. Cage plays Joe, an ex-con trying to get his life on track and keep it that way. Joe takes a teenager, Gary (Tye Sheridan), under his wing, but Gary’s alcoholic father, Wade (Gary Poulter), poses an obstacle to both. Cage and Sheridan are both good, but it’s Poulter who steals the show. Poulter was homeless when Green cast him, and he gives a truly great and terrifying performance.
No one asked for remakes of Carrie or The Wicker Man, but in this rare case, Dario Argento’s Suspiria makes a surprisingly good choice for a reboot. Dakota Johnson stars as Susie Bannion, a naive, self-trained dancer fleeing a strict Mennonite upbringing by way of a German dance school. Instead of trying to make a clumsy statement about female empowerment, Suspiria’s femininity feels like a natural addition to the witch movie canon. Best viewed while wearing a ballgown and a fur stole, preferably while drinking something expensive in a crystal goblet, and smiling faintly at the memory of your recently murdered husband. —G.B.W.
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Vince Vaughn has never been better on screen. He plays a man who gets himself mixed up with the wrong people and finds himself in prison. In order to keep his wife safe, he must brawl (there it is) his way through to the jailhouse kingpin. Anyone familiar with S. Craig Zahler’s Bone Tomahawk knows that means plenty of skull-cracking violence will ensue. Brawl is a brutal, somewhat stunning B-movie. Oh, and there’s a scene where Vaughn pummels and tears apart a car with his bare hands.
After spawning five sequels and spinoffs, as well as two parodies courtesy of Marlon and Keenan Ivory Wayans, it’s easy to forget that Paranormal Activity started out as a low-budget movie that used a stunt release strategy to generate buzz. But the movie is still legitimately freaky. Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat play a married couple whose home is taken over by a demonic force. The movie is an exercise in patience, with its static shots and claustrophobic setting creating a steady simmer of tension. The scares work like gangbusters, although they do lose a little punch on repeat viewings. Similar to The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity is a low-fi classic, turning its budgetary and production limitations into strengths. —Eddie Strait
58) The Ruins
This is a nasty B-movie done right. A group of American vacationers run into trouble on a hike. They, along with a couple of new friends, end up trapped at Mayan ruins. The hitch is that the locals will not help the fun-seekers off the ruins at any cost, and the plants on the ruins are attacking. If you’re onboard with the premise, then the film is quite a ride. It leans into the story’s inherently silliness and conjures up some scenes that will definitely make you squirm.
I can’t fault anyone for passing on another dude-bro comedy, but for those so inclined, Hot Tub Time Machine is a strong option. John Cusack, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, and Clark Duke star as four guys whose night of heavy partying and hot tubbing causes them to slip back in time to 1986. The movie has a lot of fun playing with time travel paradoxes, lending even the less sophisticated jokes an air of wit. Hot Tub combines a likable cast with clever writing. If you’re in the mood, hop in the hot tub.
In 1986, a South Korean woman was found raped and murdered in a ditch. Several more similar cases soon follow. Memories of Murder tracks South Korea’s first serial killer and the police squad’s woeful inexperience with such crimes. Local detective Park Doo-man takes it upon himself to get to the bottom of the crimes, even if he has to do so by unsavory means. Park quickly learns that stopping a killer of this capacity won’t come without its own sacrifices.
Still not sure what to watch on Amazon? Here are the best Amazon originals, the best documentaries on Amazon Prime, what’s new on Amazon, the best 4K movies, thrillers on Amazon Prime, alien movies, and the sexiest movies you can stream right now. Looking for something more specific? Here are the best comedies on Amazon Prime when you need a laugh, sad movies to make you cry, kids movies for the whole family, the best thrillers to get your heart racing, and the classic movies on Amazon Prime everyone should see.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
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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.