Over the past year or so, Netflix and Apple TV+ have been duking it out to have the most prestigious film offerings (congrats, CODA!), but that doesn’t mean some of the best movies aren’t on Amazon Prime. The streamer was one of the first to go around picking up film festival darlings and other lovable favorites, and they’re all still there in the library, so if they flew under your radar the first time, now is the perfect time to catch up.
Our picks for the 10 best films on Amazon Prime are below. All the films in our guide are included in your Prime subscription—no renting here. Once you’ve watched your fill, check out our lists for the best shows on Netflix and best movies on Disney+ if you’re looking for something else to watch. We also have a guide to the best shows on Amazon if that’s what you’re in the mood for.
Sure, nowadays Michael Jordan is a bona fide sports god, and Nike’s Air Jordan sneakers are still arguably the court trainer—but that wasn’t the case back in 1984. Jordan was a rookie, and Nike was about to close down its basketball shoe division. Enter Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon), a talent scout for the footwear maker who’s spotted a rising star in North Carolina who could turn everything around—he just needed to convince everyone else that Jordan was worth betting the company on. We all know how that panned out, so thankfully Air is more than a two-hour advert for shoes. Damon, Jason Bateman, Chris Tucker, and director Ben Affleck all deliver strong performances—only to be utterly eclipsed by Viola Davis in a magnetic and powerful, if somewhat underutilised, turn as matriarch Deloris Jordan—while Alex Convery’s script keeps the drama on the people and personalities involved, rather than the boardroom. In an age of franchises and endless blockbusters, Air is the sort of character-focused film that rarely gets made anymore, and is all the more enjoyable for it.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Kazakh” TV reporter (even if he speaks Hebrew) travels back to the US, 14 years after his latest feature-long escapade. This time Baron Cohen has brought his (Bulgarian-speaking) teenage daughter along, with the mission of giving her “as a gift” to some powerful American politicians—initially Mike Pence, then Rudy Giuliani. In classic Boratic fashion, the mockumentary follows the wacky duo on a cavalcade across Trump’s America, filming candid performances by unsuspecting characters ranging from QAnon believers, to Republican activists, to prim debutantes, all the way to Giuliani himself. Even the coronavirus pandemic, which struck America as the film was being shot, is subverted as a comedic plot point. Baron Cohen delivers, with the expected repertoire of shock gags and deadpanned verbal enormities, and he manages to land some punches at the expense of bigots, too. In contrast to its 2006 predecessor, many of the pranks and stunts here seem more aimed at eliciting the audience’s nervous laughter than at exposing America’s heart of darkness, but it remains a worthy—and funny—watch.
A raucous spin on the traditional rom-com, Shotgun Wedding lures viewers with a cliché of a set-up—a ceremony on a tropical island, with hijinks courtesy of bickering in-laws—before exploding, literally, into an action escapade as the wedding party is taken hostage by violent pirates. If we’re being honest, it’s a little hammy and self-aware in places, but leads Jennifer Lopez and Josh Duhamel are clearly having so much fun as bride and groom Darcy and Tom, whose special day turns into an often hilariously gory battle for survival, that it’s easy to be swept along for the ride. With a solid supporting cast, including the ever-entertaining Jennifer Coolidge as the mother of the groom stealing every scene she graces with her gloriously chaotic presence, this is a wedding worth RSVPing to.
Aisha (Anna Diop) is a Senegalese woman working as a nanny for a rich couple in New York City, hoping to earn enough to bring her son and cousin to join her in America. However, her future is at the mercy of her employers, who seem content to leave Aisha to raise their daughter, Rose, while often withholding her pay. As the stress of the power imbalance weighs on her, Aisha begins having strange dreams of drowning, worsened by her fears of abandoning her own child. The feature debut of director Nikyatu Jusu, Nanny contrasts the horror of the immigrant experience in modern America with something darker, while swapping the expected tropes of hope and opportunity for a palpable sadness for culture and community left behind. Nanny takes a slow-burn, psychological approach to its scares, but Diop is phenomenal throughout, and the meticulous pacing and gorgeous cinematography means every frame lingers.
Is it possible to be nostalgic for a time and place you may never have been to? Licorice Pizza—Paul Thomas Anderson’s ode to 1970s San Fernando Valley—makes a strong case for “yes.” A coming-of-age comedy drama, the film follows 15-year-old actor Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) and 25-year-old photographer Alana Kane (Alana Haim) as they strike up an unlikely friendship. It’s a film of misadventures laced with self-reflection, as the perfectly matched leads ricochet through waterbed sales, criminally mistaken identities, and violent run-ins with movie producer Jon Peters, all set to a period-perfect soundtrack and framed in the hazy light of a half-remembered California summer. Throughout, there’s all the sharp dialog and small-but-brilliant observations of human behavior that you’d expect from Anderson, but it’s the director’s ability to transport viewers back in time that cements this as a modern masterpiece.
Coming 2 America
Relying on nostalgia to carry new entries in long-dormant series can be risky business, but Eddie Murphy’s return to the role of Prince—now King—Akeem of Zamunda more than three decades after 1988’s Coming to America shows how to do it right. Drawn back to the US in search of a son he never knew he had, Akeem—and the audience—gets to reunite with familiar faces from the first film, before director Craig Brewer (Hustle and Flow) reverses the formula and tests the American characters with a trip to Zamunda. With a sharper, smarter, and more globally aware script than the original, Coming 2 America defies the odds to be a comedy sequel that stands up to the reputation of its predecessor.
Director Ron Howard’s latest gathers a top-notch cast—including Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell, and Joel Edgerton—for a dramatization of the 2018 Tham Luang cave rescue, where a Thai junior soccer team and their assistant coach were trapped in the flooded cave system. As an international effort mounts to save the children, the challenges of navigating miles of underwater caverns become ever more dangerous, and Howard masterfully captures every perilously claustrophobic moment of it. A nail-bitingly tense movie with some ingeniously shot aquatic scenes, Thirteen Lives is a testament to one of the most difficult rescues ever performed.
Jennifer Hudson delights as the Queen of Soul in this biopic charting the life and times of Aretha Franklin. Directed by Liesl Tommy, Respect follows Franklin from her youth in Michigan through her burgeoning career in gospel and jazz and finally to the mainstream breakthrough that led to her becoming one of the most successful performers in the world. This is no puff piece, though. Tommy documents Franklin’s lows as spectacularly as her highs, from family conflicts to career burnout, self-destruction, and battles with addiction. A beautifully shot film that perfectly captures each era of Franklin’s life with period-perfect costuming and designs, Respect also boasts a fantastic supporting cast, including Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Audra McDonald, Marc Maron, Tituss Burgess, and Mary J. Blige—and, naturally, a phenomenal soundtrack.
One Night in Miami …
Based on the play of same name, One Night in Miami … follows four icons of culture, music, and sports—Malcom X, Jim Brown, Sam Cooke, and Muhammad Ali—at the height of the civil rights movement, a converging and pivotal point in their lives and careers. Meeting in a motel room in the wake of Ali’s—then still Cassius Clay—heavyweight victory over Sonny Liston in 1964, the four men discuss their roles in the movement and society as a whole, all while the audience knows the weight of history is bearing down on them. The close confines of much of the film reflect its theatrical roots, but this feature directorial debut from Regina King perfectly portrays the larger-than-life personalities of its cast. Kingsley Ben-Adir is on fire as Malcom X, with Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom Jr., and Eli Goree—as Brown, Cooke, and Ali—all utterly magnetic.
Like any other offering from A24 (The Witch, Hereditary, Midsommar), Rose Glass’ directorial debut Saint Maud is an ethereally cerebral horror movie. In it, Morfydd Clark plays Katie, a sad and lonely young woman who has left her job due to unknown circumstances. When she begins to look after a terminally ill woman who is everything she is not—vivacious, free-spirited—Katie, who now goes by Maud, is enchanted. However, everything begins to spiral out of control when Maud becomes convinced she’s been sent to save the young woman’s soul.
Produced by Amazon, The Report is an engrossing depiction of the US Senate’s investigation into the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program—how it came to be, who knew about it, and how the CIA massaged the facts to support its efficacy. Adam Driver stars as Daniel Jones, the lead investigator who plowed an increasingly lonely path to the truth, battling against political resistance and CIA interference all the way. Driver is, as is his habit these days, superb, and the film’s 82 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes is well earned.
Sound of Metal
When punk-rock drummer and recovering addict Ruben starts experiencing hearing loss, it threatens to upend his entire life. Faced with an impossible choice between giving up his hearing or giving up his career, Ruben begins to spiral, until his girlfriend Lou checks him into a rehab center for the deaf, forcing him to confront his own behavior as much as the future he faces. Riz Ahmed is in spectacular form as the troubled Ruben, while Olivia Cooke’s turn as Lou, who suffers with her own demons, including self-harm, is riveting. Fittingly enough, Sound of Metal also features incredibly nuanced use of sound—and its absence—as director Darius Marder crafts one of the finest dramas in recent years.
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