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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 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
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.
Jake Gyllenhaal might not be the best living actor, but he is certainly the hardest working. Since 2011’s Source Code, it would be difficult to find someone with a more diverse array of challenging roles—from the explosive boxing drama Southpaw (for which Gyllenhaal famously hulked up) to more sinuous work in Prisoners and Nightcrawler. In the latter, the 35-year-old actor particularly gets under the skin as Louis Bloom, a self-taught cameraman determined to make it in the news entertainment business. Louis gets a job working as a stringer for a producer, Nina (Rene Russo), working the graveyard shift of the lowest-rated network in Los Angeles. Bloom is willing to do anything to get the story, and desperate for ratings, Nina doesn’t realize the monster she’s creating to get it. Directed by Dan Gilroy (The Bourne Legacy), Nightcrawler is a satire of our news media culture so spot-on you may need to shower after. —Nico Lang
Barry Jenkins’ Best Picture-winning film tells the story of Chiron in three parts as he grows up and comes to terms with his sexuality and learning to be comfortable in his own skin. Chiron may be black and gay, and the movie’s focus may be narrow, but its themes are universal. There are moments so empathetic that I’m welling up a little just thinking about it. The cast is remarkable, from the three actors who play Chiron to Naomie Harris, Janelle Monae, and Oscar winner Mahershala Ali. Its status as one of the lowest grossing Best Picture winners means a ton of people need to catch up with it.
Finally, a film the whole family can watch. Tobe Hooper’s classic haunted house tale was co-written by Steven Spielberg and features the scariest clown in cinema history. There are plenty of films about families that move into homes only to discover something evil already lives there. Where Poltergeist shines is its execution. At first the ghosts almost seem playful—stacking chairs and sliding children across floors. It’s all good fun, at least until the tree tries to eat your son and a portal sucks your daughter into another dimension. Utilizing brilliant practical special effects, Poltergeist delivers a funhouse of horrific PG set pieces from the era where PG meant someone’s face could melt off. Horror films rarely feature a family this believable or tightly knit. Their problems are easy to relate to, so when hell breaks loose you’re invested far beyond the standard group of hot teens. All-ages horror exists, but none of it comes close to Poltergeist.
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.
Zodiac is the great crime movie of our time. David Fincher’s masterpiece about the hunt for the notorious Bay Area killer is not only his best film—it’s perhaps the best film ever made on the nature of obsession. Dark, enigmatic, and unforgettable, this is the kind of movie that gets better with each viewing. Finally receiving some of the recognition it deserves as one of the best films of the past decade if you’ve only seen Zodiac once, the time to revisit it is now. And if you’ve never seen it, the same holds true. —Chris Osterndorf
The first time I watched Superbad I laughed as often and as hard as I have laughed at any movie in theaters. A decade and numerous viewings later, the comedy is showing its age, but it’s still funny if you’re into Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s work. But the aspect of the film that endures is the friendship between Evan and Seth (Michael Cera and Jonah Hill). That’s the key ingredient to the success of these kinds of movies. If you buy the friendship, then everything else is gravy. It’s crazy to think that ten years after its release the core cast of Superbad would have a three Academy Awards nominations for acting under its belt (and one win courtesy of Emma Stone), but Superbad has more going for it than most high school comedies.
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.
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
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
Bryan Bertino’s breakthrough horror hit is a brutal and brutally efficient home invasion thriller. The premise is simple: A married couple (played by Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman) are terrorized at their semi-secluded home by a group of mask-wearing assailants. Bertino slow plays a lot of the scares, which builds tension to an almost unbearable level.
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.
Aliens randomly show up and strategically place themselves across the globe, with humans falling into a complete panic in response. Most movies would take this set up and deliver a city-destroying action-fest. Director Denis Villeneuve and writer Eric Heisserer aim for something more thoughtful and empathetic. It’s a movie about understanding and listening. This sci-fi thinker is one of the best movies of the decade.
Several Paul Thomas Anderson films from this century (There Will Be Blood, The Master) are so routinely referred to as masterpieces that one can almost forget he had a career before the year 2000. But not only was Anderson as a much a product of the ‘90s indie explosion as fellow auteurs Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson, he debatably made the best film out of all of them with 1997’s Boogie Nights. It’s a sprawling, multifaceted depiction of the porn industry in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. The rise and fall (and sort of rise?) of Dirk Diggler proved to be a coming-out moment for star Mark Wahlberg too, not to mention a brief redemption for Oscar-nominated supporting actor Burt Reynolds, working alongside many of Anderson’s usual players, who all give career highlight performances. The music, the setting, the acting, the story: Boogie Nights is an American story unlike any other. —Chris Osterndorf
Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos tells his satirical stories in such a deadpan way that it’s easy to (wrongfully) write his work off as detached nihilism. His style is an acquired taste, but if you’re willing to take the chance, his films are worth the investment. The Lobster is about a single man (a schlubby, sad-sack, terrific Colin Farrell) who is forced by the government to check into a hotel, wherein he’ll have 45 days to find a mate or be turned into an animal of his choosing. The first half of the film takes down every aspect of modern-day courtship, while the second half shifts into something more optimistic and, dare I say, romantic. Farrell does some of his best work to date, and the rest of the cast (Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly, Olivia Colman, and Lea Seydoux, among others) is uniformly excellent.
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.
The spaghetti western to end all spaghetti westerns. The third and final film in director Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood’s Dollars Trilogy follows three lawless gunslingers in their own personal gold rush during the American Civil War. Between the tense duels and dramatic long shots, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly has everything you’re looking for, including another iconic score from Ennio Morricone. —Austin Powell
This is one of the funniest movies of the last few years and it deserves a much larger fanbase than the small and passionate one it has now. Co-written and co-directed by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, this New Zealand set romp follows the daily lives of a quartet of vampires. Shot mockumentary style, the movie is packed to the fangs with so many jokes that it makes repeat viewings a necessity. Whether hunting for prey, fighting with werewolves, or reuniting with old loves, Waititi and Clement have crafted a pitch-perfect comedy that riffs on well-known mythology and newly created lore with an equal cleverness.
Here’s the thing about Election: You need to watch it at least twice, preferably several years apart. How you feel about the sad sack high school teacher played by Matthew Broderick, the ambitious overachiever student played by Reese Witherspoon, and their escalating feud might change depending on how old you are. But even if you find out you are always Team Broderick or always Team Witherspoon, it’s worth re-watching just for the laughs—which, in classic Alexander Payne style, are born from familiar humiliation and recognizable human folly.
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
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.
The Usual Suspects is always essential viewing, whether it’s your first time seeing it or the 20th. Christopher McQuarrie’s script is an all-timer, and a gift that keeps on giving. There’s something new to appreciate each time, and that’s a credit to the writing, Bryan Singer’s direction, and the immaculate work by the cast. What else is there to say? Seriously, what else? If you’ve already seen it, you don’t need me to tell you to watch it. If you haven’t seen it, I can’t give away the plot here because you should have the most pristine experience possible. Let’s all watch it tonight, OK?
Matt Reeves’s remake of the excellent Let the Right One In is better than it’s initial critical and audience reception. Reeves has a sharp eye for compelling visuals, including a car crash sequence that is breathtaking, but it’s the cast that makes Let Me In worth seeing. Chloe Grace Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee are excellent as vampire Abby and the lonely and bullied Owen. The reliably great Richard Jenkins plays Abby’s caretaker. The unlikely friendship between Owen and Abby is aching, comforting, and, ultimately, doomed. Let Me In is an overlooked and underrated gem.
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.
David Lynch’s 2001 film is about Hollywood dreams, but it also exists in its own dream space, bringing us under covers and through doors into an alternate reality. Mulholland Drive was supposed to be a continuation of Twin Peaks, and it took a long road to become a feature. But the hallmarks of the series are there: the blonde (Naomi Watts) and brunette Rita (Laura Harring) dynamic, ominous figures, and subconscious imagery. Billy Ray Cyrus makes a cameo, and it features a scene that will make you never want to go near a dumpster again. —Audra Schroeder
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. —Chris Osterndorf
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.
If you like your comedies on the dirty side, then you need to add The Little Hours to the top of your queue. From writer-director Jeff Baena, The Little Hours follows a man on the run who takes refuge in a convent and sets the nuns a tizzy. He must maintain his cover as a deaf man while also managing the nuns’ sexual advances. The cast is packed with all your favorites and recognizable faces from TV (Alison Brie, Dave Franco, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, and Adam Pally). Basically, if you like any of the 2010’s best TV comedies, The Little Hours is almost custom made for you.
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.
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. —Chris Osterndorf
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. —Chris Osterndorf
For everyone who made it through the first four movies in the Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn – Part 2 is the reward. Not only is this the best one of the series, it’s also the only one that new viewers should bother with. The battle for the baby of Bella Swan and vampire Edward Cullen brings the entire supernatural world to the Pacific Northwest for a final showdown. This movie, along with Part 1, fully embraces the campiness of the story and things get delightfully bonkers. It all culminates in a supremely satisfying rumble that features more decapitations than you can shake a stick at.
Richard Kelly’s genre- and mind-bending debut about a troubled boy who may or may not travel through time holds up better than you think. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers an early signature performance as Donnie. He captures fear and false confidence in a way that instantly takes viewers back to their own high school days. Kelly fills the movie with memorable characters and narrative threads to keep you coming back to Donnie Darko.
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.
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.
The hyper-prolific brothers Jay and Mark Duplass delivered one of their best films with this 2011 dramedy. Jeff (Jason Segel) is a slacker who spends a day with his brother Pat (Ed Helms). What starts out as a simple errand turns into the brothers sneaking around to see if Pat’s wife is having an affair. Along the way, the day turns out to be a major turning point in Jeff’s life. It’s not surprising that the Duplass brothers would find great, success in a movie centered on brothers.
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.
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.
Cameron Crowe is stuck in his fall from grace period, but it’s worthwhile to dig back to when Crowe was still consistently great. It’ll help restore your faith in the man after his recent run of movies has just about burned up all his good will. This is a quintessential ‘90s movie that still holds up 20 years later.
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.
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.
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.
If you liked Blue Ruin, you should check out writer-director Jeremy Saulnier’s followup, Green Room. A punk band, led by the late Anton Yelchin, stumbles across something they shouldn’t see and end up trapped in a venue in the middle of nowhere. Did I mention that the club is run by neo-Nazis? Well, it is, and the Nazis are led by Patrick Stewart. The band has to fight its way out, and that’s about it for plot summary. The movie is violent and incredibly tense, and the filmmaking and storytelling is as lean, muscular, and vicious as an attack dog.
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.
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.
The Love Witch is the kind of movie that many people will dismiss as an homage to an era and genre of film long gone, but it’s more than that. Beyond the bright colors, intentionally stilted line readings, and incredible set decoration lies a movie that engages with thorny ideas about gender roles and relationship dynamics. Written and directed by Anna Biller (who also handled producing, scoring, editing and art design duties), The Love Witch is about a woman using spells and magic to make men fall in love with her, with deadly consequences.
This zombie movie has a clever twist. The main character, Melanie (Sennia Nanua), is a middle school-aged student who is a second-generation zombie. That means her and her classmates have zombie instincts but also the ability to think and function like a normal human. It’s the best of both worlds. Or the worst, depending on your approach to life. After a bit of calamity, Melanie ends up on the run with her teacher (Gemma Arterton), overlord doctor (Glenn Close), and some military guys. If you’re a zombie aficionado, Girl is must-see stuff. If you’re understandably tired of the genre, I still encourage you to give this one a shot.
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.
Writer-director Osgood Perkins descends from horror royalty (he’s the son of Psycho star Anthony Perkins), so it’s not a shock that he makes good horror films. The Blackcoat’s Daughter is a slow-burn story about two girls stuck at their boarding school during winter break. The students, Kat (Kiernan Shipka) and Rose (Lucy Boyton), find the lonely campus becoming increasingly creepy. I’m trying to be vague here because the story isn’t complex, but I think knowing as little as possible going in enhances the experience. The movie is Perkins’ debut, and it establishes a new, exciting voice in horror filmmaking.
It feels wrong to recommend a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie where he doesn’t just shred reams of bad guys, but here we are. Here JCVD plays a fictional version of himself that feels like it’s not far off from reality. This JCVD is down on his luck actor stuck in a custody battle. He ends up stuck in a bank robbery where he’s the main suspect and that’s all good and exciting, but the reason to watch this is for Van Damme’s performance. At one point he gives a six-minute monologue that feels like a man baring his soul, and it packs more punch than anything he’s done before or since.
You know how when people look back at older movies, they sometimes shrug them off or say, “I’m sure it worked better when it first came out?” Well, this one retains its creepiness and has sacrificed none of its effectiveness even four decades after its release. Brian De Palma was the first to adapt a work by Stephen King, and he set a bar few have matched with Carrie, the still-horrifying story of a bullied teen girl with telekinesis. If you only know this cult classic from the prom scene, it’s worth experiencing in its entirety.
It’s a damn shame that so few people saw this movie in theaters. The premise is kitschy enough that most people dismissed it outright, but now that Swiss Army Man is streaming, hopefully it will find the audience it deserves. It’s about a man (Paul Dano) and the dead body he befriends (Daniel Radcliffe). The friendship that blossoms between the two is hilarious, charming, and far more emotionally involving than you expect. The story is laced with enough juvenile humor to appeal to the inner kid in everyone, but the ace in the hole is its highly affecting emotional drama. The movie is a celebration of life anchored by truly great performances from Dano and Radcliffe.
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.
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 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.