Make the most of your Amazon Prime membership.
As with all of the major streaming services, Amazon has its pros and cons. Among the pros are the TV library and access to new movies. Digging into the movie catalog shows that the streaming service still has a ways to go, especially if you compare Amazon vs. Netflix or Hulu. But fear not, there are still enough movies available for free (if you have an Amazon Prime account) to whip up a list of recommendations.
The best movies on Amazon Prime in February 2018
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.
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.
4) Apocalypse Now
1970s Marlon Brando and Francis Ford Coppola is like Jordan in his prime. The excellence of their collaborations is second to none. While Apocalypse Now will always play little brother to The Godfather and The Godfather Part ll, it’s still a masterpiece. Coppola’s adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is brimming with madness, just like Brando’s performance as Colonel Kurtz. The film’s vision of Vietnam is horrifying, thrilling, and essential.
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
6) The Machinist
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.
7) Inside Llewyn Davis
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 awhile, it’s time to rectify that.
8) Manchester by the Sea
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.
9) Reservoir Dogs
Quentin Tarantino has made better films in his career, but none are tighter than Reservoir Dogs. The robbers with the colorfdul 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 makes you stand and take notice, something that still happens on repeat viewings 25 years later.
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.
11) Requiem for a Dream
Darren Aronofsky’s nightmare about drug addiction will never lose its potency. That’s a testament to both Aronofsky’s skill and the power of the story. Ellen Burstyn, Jennifer Connelly, Jared Leto, and Marlon Wayans all do career-best work as each of their characters chase their addictions further down the rabbit hole. Requiem is one of the ultimate one-timer movies. Everybody should see it at some point.
12) The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
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
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. —C.O.
14) Swiss Army Man
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.
15) The VVitch
Writer-director Robert Eggers spent years meticulously researching 17th-century New England and getting his debut film made, then a year showing it at film festivals before its proper release in 2016. The patience and dedication to authenticity comes through in the final product. Eggers’ film is patient, atmospheric as hell, and deeply unsettling. It’s about a Puritan family expelled from their community and the trouble they encounter living on their own. The vision is uncompromising and distinct, qualities that have drawn excited comparisons to no less that Stanley Kubrick and Paul Thomas Anderson. That puts an unenviable amount of pressure on Eggers’ follow up, whenever that comes out, but his craft is undeniable and worth getting worked up over.
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16) The Monster
Writer-director Bryan Bertino made a strong impression on horror fans with his 2008 home invasion film The Strangers. The Monster is a different kind of horror film. It’s about a mother and daughter on a road trip forced to confront a monster, both literal and metaphorical. The movie packs an emotional punch to go along with the scares and the result is a visceral viewing experience. It’s a solid showcase for the film’s star, Zoe Kazan, but an even more impressive display of Bertino’s talent.
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.
18) 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
19) The Lobster
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.
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.
Not The Room, just Room. Drop the “The” and trade Tommy Wiseau for the infinitely more charming Brie Larson. Room is based on the bestselling Emma Donahue novel of the same name, and it’s about a woman who was kidnapped and has spent five years living in a room with her son. It’s unquestionably harrowing, but the film opens up in the second half when mom and son (Jacob Tremblay, doing some strong kid acting) regain their freedom. It’s an emotional gauntlet, but one that is worth going through for Larson’s Oscar-winning work.
22) What We Do in the Shadows
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.
23) The Fits
The Fits is an evocative coming-of-age story. Newcomer Royalty Hightower enters the pantheon of great child performances with her work as Toni, a girl on the cusp of puberty and trying to make it onto a dance team filled with older, more (apparently) self-assured girls. Making matters worse is the titular affliction that befalls members of the team. The atmosphere is intoxicating, and at a lean 75-minute runtime, The Fits is an ideal choice for someone looking for something new. First-time director Anna Rose Holmer makes a strong impression and establishes herself as one of American cinema’s exciting new voices.
24) Son of Rambow
If you’re in the mood for a movie that will slap a smile on your face and keep in there for two hours, then Son of Rambow is the only choice. It’s about two boys, Will and Lee, who aim to make their own version of Rambo. The boys find something they’ve been missing in both their unlikely friendship and their filmmaking. The film may fall victim to formula occasionally, but the film’s charm and sincerity elevate it to a level where any shortcomings are easy to forgive.
25) 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.
26) Black Hawk Down
Ridley Scott’s Black Hack Down is one of his more underrated films, coming out in the shadow of Gladiator. It’s an incredible war movie, and it does a great job throwing the audience into the middle of the action and is relentless. It’s muscular, potent filmmaking from a guy who has gotten out of shape.
Alejandro González Iñárritu has never been a subtle director. Nowhere is this more evident than in Babel, his Best Picture-nominee from 2006. Spanning multiple continents and languages, the sprawling drama connects the lives of a couple vacationing in Morocco (Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett), with different sets of characters around the world. Rinko Kikuchi and Adriana Barraza both received Oscar nods for their revelatory supporting performances in this narrative of interlocking stories (think of a global Crash, with all the loaded connotations that carries with it). Iñárritu haters, beware: Babel is similar to many of his other films and just as polarizing. But perhaps even more than the rest of Iñárritu’s catalog, Babel is really trying to leave you emotionally wrecked. —Chris Osterndorf
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.
29) 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.
Screenwriter Will Reiser tells the story of his own battle with cancer in 50/50. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Adam, a 27-year-old with nothing but opportunity in front of him when he falls ill. The movie follows a traditional path, with Will battling the disease and the emotional and existential reckoning that comes with it. Gordon-Levitt is tremendous, and Seth Rogen does some of his best work as Adam’s best friend Kyle (echoing his real-life friendship with Reiser), and Anjelica Huston is devastating as Will’s mother. The movie finds plenty of humor in Adam’s situation, but don’t forget to have a box of tissues close by.
31) 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.
32) Green Room
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.
We’ve all seen enough “family comes together for a holiday and their problems get aired out” movies to know what to expect, but Krisha overcomes expectations to be a worthy entry to the genre. First-time filmmaker Trey Edward Shults focuses his story on the grandmother, Krisha (Krisha Fairchild), a woman whose substance-abuse issues keeps the whole family on edge. The power of the movie comes primarily from Fairchild, who plays Krisha with a ferocity that is hard to look away from.
34) 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.
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35) The Love Witch
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.
36) The Girl With All the Gifts
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.
37) Brawl in Cell Block 99
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.
38) The Blackcoat’s Daughter
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.
Charlie Kaufman is arguably the best American filmmaker going right not. Or the most important. At the very least, he’s the best screenwriter. Anomalisa marks his second directorial effort after the much-praised Synecdoche, New York, and it’s full of the pathos and introspection that have marked much of his work to date. It’s about a lonely man living a pedestrian life who meets someone who breaks up the monotony. But it’s about so much more than just that. Kaufman has written some of the absolute best films of the last 20 years (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), but he doesn’t get the chance to direct very often, so we have to savor the films we do get from him.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.