The 35 Best Movies on Amazon Prime [January 2020]
There is so much to love about Amazon Prime that it’s hard to keep track. From the two-day free shipping on nearly every major item in the store, free titles on your Kindle, savings at grocery stores like Whole Foods, and access to a collection of over two million free streaming songs, there’s a ton of good you can get out of your annual $119 subscription. One of the best additions to the service, of course, is Amazon Prime Instant Video, a Netflix-esque subscription service that offers a wide range of movies and television shows, original and otherwise, for your viewing pleasure. While Netflix is the biggest streaming service on the web today, Amazon Prime offers a huge library of films, including some critically-acclaimed pieces of work that simply must be seen.
The lineup on Amazon Prime is often incredibly different and much more diverse than the library on Netflix, even if it’s smaller overall. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at what content you can expect to see from Amazon Prime for January 2020, and what films you should absolutely be watching with the streaming service. Here are thirty-five of the best films now streaming on Amazon Prime, in no particular order.
Directed by and starring James Franco, The Disaster Artist is an adaptation of the bestselling book of the same name. The film tells the story of Tommy Wiseau, a mysterious and secretive man who moves from San Francisco to Los Angeles with friend and fellow wannabe actor Greg Sestero to attempt to hit it big. When Tommy fails to pick up any major auditions, he chooses to become a director himself, writing his own film and financing it with his savings. Hiring a film crew and casting Greg as one of the main characters, the film goes off the rails immediately as Wiseau reveals himself to be completely inadequate in artistic direction and leadership, straining his friendship with Greg and leading to the creation of one of the worst films of all time: The Room. With an all-star comedic cast and a go-for-broke performance from Franco as Wiseau, The Disaster Artist is the perfect film for fans of The Room and newcomers alike.
An Amazon Studios original and one of the highest-nominated films at the 2016 Oscars, Manchester by the Sea is a heartbreaking tale of love and loss set in the town of the same name. After the death of his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights), Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) learns that Joe has made him the sole guardian of his teenage nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). After taking a leave from his job as a janitor in nearby Boston, Lee returns to his hometown of Manchester-by-the-Sea, where he’s forced to deal with a past that caused his separation from his wife Randi (Michelle Williams), and the community where he was born and raised. The film was directed by Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me, Margaret), and won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor for Casey Affleck.
A recent, critically-successful drama, Disobedience follows New York photographer Ronit Krushka (Rachel Weisz) as she returns home following the death of her father, Rabbi Krushka, who dies while speaking to his Orthodox Jewish congregation on the meaning and significance of free will. When Ronit returns home to that community, she’s forced to reckon with a world she left far behind years ago, the same community that shunned her during her childhood for her attraction to Esti (Rachel McAdams). When their reunion leads to the same passion they felt years earlier, the two women will have to reckon with their faith and their humanity as they explore each other.
The first film from acclaimed-director Steven Soderbergh following the end of his active retirement from film, Logan Lucky is a heist film in the vein of the director’s Ocean’s trilogy from the 2000s, following the Logan brothers Jimmy and Clyde (Channing Tatum and Adam Driver, respectively) as the two work to pull off a heist during the Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina after Jimmy is laid off from his construction job. The two brothers, along with their sister Mellie and demolitions expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) must work together to pull off the heist, all while keeping Joe Bang’s disappearance from prison a secret and making sure they don’t get caught during the busiest race of the year.
The highest-profile snub for Best Picture in 2017, Sean Baker’s 2017 film The Florida Project is an excellent drama, a character study looking at both childhood and adulthood alike. The Florida Project follows six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her mother Halley (Bria Vinai) over the course of the summer, as Mooney is home for vacation. The two live week to week at “The Magic Castle,” a budget hotel managed by Bobby (Willem Dafoe, at his best and most light-hearted here), whose stern exterior hides a deep reservoir of kindness and compassion. The film is episodic for much of its runtime, following Moonee as she hangs out with her friends throughout endless afternoons and grand adventures, exploring the unique world set just outside Disney World. Unbeknownst to Mooney, Haley is forced into darker ways of making money, risking her daughter while nevertheless attempting to care for her.
An Amazon Studios’ original and a must-watch for any romantic comedy fans, The Big Sick is one of the best films on Amazon Prime and a great example of using the tropes of romantic comedies to your advantage, turning them on their head as you go. Written by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, the film stars Nanjiani as himself, the son of Muslim immigrant parents and an up-and-coming comedian in Chicago. When Kumail meets Emily Gardner (Zoe Kazan) after a show, the two hit it off, quickly becoming romantic partners until a fight over Kumail’s parents and their wishes for an arranged marriage pushes them apart. Soon after, Emily falls sick and into a coma, leaving Kumail to arrive at the hospital and to meet her parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) in the process. Based on the real-life love story of Nanjiani and Gordon, the film deals with Kumail managing to reconcile his love of Emily with his need to please his parents. Directed by Michael Showalter, the film was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars, and was one of the highest-grossing independent films of 2017.
The 2013 film from the Coen Brothers, Inside Llewyn Davis is one of their best films of this decade and one of the best of their career. Set during a single week in folk singer Llewyn Davis’s (Oscar Isaac) life in 1961, the film shows the coming and goings of friends, ex-lovers, business opportunities, and the struggles that Davis faces following a career of setbacks. As he moves throughout the world with no much more to his name than a guitar, he struggles against seemingly insurmountable obstacles while attempting to make a name for himself in the music world. As he embarks on an odyssey throughout that single week of his life, he’ll have to rely on the kindness of friends and strangers alike, as he travels from Greenwich Village in New York to a Chicago club in the hopes of gaining the big break he desparately needs. The film also stars Carey Mulligan, Adam Driver, Justin Timberlake, and John Goodman.
One of 2017’s best films and a magnificent debut film from actor-turned-director Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird follows Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), a senior at a Catholic high school in 2002 who is in the process of applying to colleges. Due to her family’s financial struggles, Lady Bird is told by her mother (Laurie Metcalf) to select a state school in California, while Lady Bird pines for the freedom to attend a school on the East Coast. The film follows Lady Bird through her final year in high school, as she goes behind her mother’s back to apply for schools along the East Coast, begins to go out on dates, and attempts to build out both her extracurriculars and her friend group. The film also stars Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, and Beanie Feldstein.
Also known in other territories as The F Word, What If is a charming romantic comedy in the age-old vein of When Harry Met Sally. When medical school dropout Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) meets Chantry (Zoe Kazan), he’s immediately smitten by her, drawn to her chemistry immediately. Unfortunately, Wallace has been repeatedly burned by bad relationships, and has decided to put his love life on hiatus. Chantry lives with her boyfriend anyway, thus rendering the entire point moot. As Wallace and Chantry become closer friends, they’ll have to deal with the mixed emotions surrounding their friendship, all while watching their friend (and Wallace’s roommate) Allan fall in love with his own love of his life.
Based on the novel of the same name, Wonder is the second film from writer-turned-director Stephen Chbosky (both the book and film version of The Perks of Being a Wallflower), Wonder follows August “Auggie” Pullman (played by Jacob Tremblay, Room), a 10-year-old boy living in Manhattan with his mother Isabel (Julia Roberts), his father Nate (Owen Wilson), and his sister and dog. He has a rare facial deformity known as Treacher Collins syndrome, and therefore has been home-schooled his entire life. As he approaches fifth grade, he’s enrolled in Beecher Prep, a private school, where he’ll have to learn to socialize. Though he’s quickly ostracized by the entire student body, he soon finds friendship and support from a few select students. The film follows Auggie’s fifth grade year, through the successes and the hardships along the way.
Do you find that westerns are a bit too soft for you? Enter Bone Tomahawk, a gritty new-western horror film from S. Craig Zahler (Brawl in Cell Block 99). The film was praised by critics for its grittiness, the screenplay, and the excellent acting from its all-star cast. The film takes place in the 1890s and follows a sheriff, his deputy, a gunslinger, and a cowboy, all of which whom set out to rescue a group of three people from their cave-dwelling captives. With a cast including Kurt Russell, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins, Patrick Wilson, David Arquette, and Lili Simmons, any fans of westerns cannot afford to miss this thrilling, brutal tale.
Easily one of this author’s favorite films of 2018, You Were Never Really Here is the newest film from acclaimed director Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin), and tells the dark story of Joe (Joaquin Phoenix), an Iraq War veteran who has a violent past and remains traumatized from both his childhood and his service with the military and FBI. He now spends his days rescuing trafficked girls from their captors, using violent methods to get them back. When a young girl goes missing, Joe is hired by her father, a senator for New York State, to get her back. Along the way, he ends up finding a long line of corruption and abuse of power, leading him unsure of what actions to take next, and putting his life on the line.
Loosely based on writer-director Paul Downs Colaizzo, Brittany Runs a Marathon is the feel-good comedy of 2019. The film follows Brittany Forgler (Jillian Bell, Workaholics, 22 Jump Street) is outgoing and friendly to everyone she meets, but unfortunately, she can’t seem to grow up. Her constant partying, lack of unemployment, and bad relationships are beginning to eat away at her, and when a check-up at her doctor’s office reveals how unhealthy she actually is, she finds herself determined to lose weight. After barely being able to run one block through New York, Brittany finds the motivation she needs to get in shape: she’s going to run in the New York City Marathon.
One of the most terrifying movies of 2018 was Ari Aster’s Hereditary, the director’s critically-acclaimed feature debut that had audiences terrified. The film follows Annie Graham (Toni Collette), a miniatures artist who lives in Utah with her husband and two children, 16-year-old Peter and 13-year-old Charlie. When Annie’s mother Ellen passes away, Annie speaks at her funeral, discussing the poor relationship she had with her secretive mother. After her passing, Annie, Charlie, and Peter all begin to see terrifying imagery around their lives, as they slowly learn the truths about their family. This one isn’t for the light-hearted, and though some may be turned off by the ending, the film has one of the best horror sequences of the past decade, making it an all-time horror classic. Ari Aster returns this summer with his follow-up film, Midsommar.
Based on the first novel in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, Annihilation is the second feature directed by Ex Machina director Alex Garland, and it makes for a fascinating follow-up. With an all-star ensemble cast including Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, Oscar Isaac, and Benedict Wong. The film follows Lena, a cellular-biology professor and former soldier, whose husband Kane returns from an expedition into an electromagnetic field dubbed “the Shimmer,” the only survivor to make it out. Told in flashback, the film follows Lena as her and the other members of her crew enter the Shimmer to determine what’s inside that’s causing everyone to die. Featuring heavy themes of depression and grief, Annihilation is a must-see science-fiction film, especially for its gripping finale.
The directorial debut of comedian Bo Burnham, Eighth Grade follows Kayla, a thirteen-year-old student currently in her last week of middle school before she moves onto high school in just a few months. As Kayla attempts to make it to the end of the week without embarrassing herself, she’ll attend a pool party for a classmate only after being forced to go, have multiple awkward encounters with her school crush Aiden, and gets her first taste of high school after meeting Olivia, a twelfth-grader who is part of the shadow program for the middle school. Featuring a Golden Globe-nominated performance from Elsie Fisher and a fantastic performance from Josh Hamilton as her father, Eighth Grade is an incredible look into the life of teenagers in the late 2010s.
From director-writer Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver) comes his best film in years, First Reformed. Starring Ethan Hawke, the film follows Reverend Ernst Toller of the First Reformed Church in upstate New York. The Reverend is a serious man, watching after the church that serves more as a historical landmark and tourist attraction than an active church. Toller has his own issues, including alcholoism, and seeks a greater purpose in his life, especially following the death of his son Joseph in the Iraq War. When Toller meets Mary (Amanda Seyfried), a pregnant wife of a radical-environmentalist, he tries to help her husband Michael to come down from his visions, only to find himself going deeper and deeper into a toxic line of thinking.
Directed by Debra Granick (Winter’s Bone), Leave No Trace is the director’s first feature in eight years, and managed to become the second-most reviewed film on Rotten Tomatoes after Paddington 2 (a masterpiece in its own right). The film, based on the novel My Abandonment by Peter Rock, follows a father and daughter (Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie, respectively) who live in Forest Park by themselves. This seemingly-perfect arrangement, where the two rarely make contact with the outside world, comes crashing to a halt when a small mistake in their lives leads the authorities to know of their existence, which leads the pair on an erratic journey to find a new home.
Based on the short film of the same name, Short Term 12 is an indie drama Grace (Brie Larson) as a young counselor at a California care unit for at-risk teens. Though handling the stress of her job well, she finds it difficult to communicate openly and honestly with her long-term boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr), who also works at the unit. After finding out she’s pregnant and scheduling an abortion, Grace begins to feel stressed about her situation in life, focusing her efforts on two young residents: Marcus (Lakeith Stanfield), a resident who is about to age out of the unit when he turns 18, and Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), a recent arrival at the home who has a history of self-harm, and reminds Grace of herself. The film also feature Rami Malek as Grace and Mason’s co-worker, and was critically-acclaimed when released in 2013.
Recently nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Cinematography and Best Foreign Language Film, Cold War is the latest film from acclaimed director Paweł Pawlikowski, whose last film, Ida, received similar acclaim from critics. Cold War is an epic love story set across multiple decades throughout Poland and France, told in just 90 minutes. Following the conclusion of World War II, the film follows Wiktor and Zula, musicians forced to play into the communist propaganda machine while representing their country and their ideas. Both dream of escaping their current lives to head to the West for total creative freedom. When they have their chance to make a break for France, a split decision marks the rest of their lives, forcing the couple apart and sealing their fate for good. As an Amazon Studios film, this one will be streaming for years to come.
Set in the near-future, the Earth has been overrun and invaded by a lethal set of monsters that can kill you upon hearing a single sound. Months after the death of their son, a family—now expecting a new child—hides underground to attempt to escape the monsters. With the help of sign language known thanks to the needs of their deaf daughter, the entire Abbott family will attempt to stay strong throughout a single night as everything that can go wrong does. Directed by John Krasinski, this critically-acclaimed box office success is now streaming on Prime, and you can catch up on it before the sequel comes out next year.
Directed by the late, great Jonathan Demme, Stop Making Sense is often regarded as one of the best concerts ever put on film. The concert follows the Talking Heads as they play the Hollywood Pantages Theater in 1983, beginning when David Byrne, the band’s frontman and lead singer, appears on an empty stage holding an acoustic guitar. Slowly throughout the show, the energy increases as more and more band members begin joining the stage. Bassist Tina Weymouth, drummer Chris Frantz, keyboardist Jerry Harrison, and the band’s backup singers all appear on stage, before Byrne finally performs his most iconic performance in an enormous suit.
The almost-winner of Best Picture in 2017, La La Land is Damien Chazelle’s romantic comedy-drama ode to jazz and old-school Hollywood musicals. Critically praised for both its screenplay and its direction, along with its main stars Gosling and Stone, the latter of whom won an Oscar for her performance, La La Land follows Sebastian and Mia, who are drawn together by their common desire to do what they love. But as success mounts they are faced with decisions that begin to fray the fragile fabric of their love affair, and the dreams they worked so hard to maintain in each other threaten to rip them apart.
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The new film from the director of the critically-acclaimed It Follows, Under the Silver Lake had a rough time finding its way to viewers after a rough premiere at Sundance. After facing a mixed reception, the film was delayed from June 2018 to December 2018, and then again until arriving on VOD in April 2019. The film follows Sam, a disenchanted 33-year-old who discovers a mysterious woman, Sarah, frolicking in his apartment’s swimming pool. When she vanishes, Sam embarks on a surreal quest across Los Angeles to decode the secret behind her disappearance, leading him into the murkiest depths of mystery, scandal, and conspiracy in the City of Angels.
One of the best films of 2018, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is the sixth entry in Tom Cruise’s long-running franchise adaptation of the original 1960s television show. The first film in the series to retain a director from one sequel to the next, as Christopher McQuarrie returns from Rogue Nation, crafting a film that manages to top everything that came before while drawing heavily from the fifth film. When John Lark, the unknown leader of a group of terrorists known as the Apostles, plans to use three plutonium cores for a simultaneous nuclear attack on the Vatican, Jerusalem, and Mecca, Ethan and the IMF have only days to retrieve the cores and to prevent them from being used to destroy the world. Teamed with CIA assassin August Walker (Henry Cavill), Ethan will have to face his previous failures as he attempts to save both the world and those closest to him.
Based on Charles Portis’ 1968 novel of the same name (which was previously adapted into a John Wayne western in 1969), True Grit is a 2010 revisionist Western by the Coen Brothers, their fifteenth film since kicking off their career with Blood Simple in 1984. The film follows 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld, in a career-making performance), a feisty farm girl whose father was murdered by outlaw Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). Set on vengeance, Mattie hires an alcoholic US Marshall named Rooster Cogburn to help find Chaney and bring him to justice. While the odd couple set out to locate the outlaw, they soon find themselves joined by Texas Ranger LaBeouf (Matt Damon), who has been independently tracking Chaney as well. The film was critically-acclaimed on release, becoming the highest-grossing film directed by the Coens and scoring ten Oscar nominations.
The English-language debut of acclaimed director Claire Denis, High Life is a science-fiction horror film built for art house fans and anyone who’s become a die hard believer in indie studio A24. High Life follows a group of criminals on death row that are sent into space on a ship hurdling towards a black hole, with the aim of extracting energy. While on the ship, each of the prisoners is treated as a test subject by Dr. Dibs, who is obsessed with creating a child through artificial insemination. The film follows from the point of view of Monte (Robert Pattinson), a man who is serving a life sentence after killing a childhood friend. Violent, haunting, and a bit confusing on your first watch, High Life is one of many 2019 films you can’t miss.
A major winner at the 2019 Sundance festival, Late Night is the feature film writing debut of Mindy Kaling, who also stars. Late Night follows a late night talk show hosted by Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson), whose ratings have been declining over a decade on the air. In an attempt to revive and revamp the show, Molly Patel (Kaling) is hired to her mostly-male, mostly-white writing staff in an attempt to make the humor a bit fresher and more diverse. When Molly begins to write successful material, Newbury and Patel find themselves working closer than ever before, despite their cultural and generational differences. The film was picked up by Amazon in January for a record breaking $13 million, which means you’ll always be able to find it streaming on Prime.
Gaspar Noé is one of the most provocative and interesting filmmakers working today. His breakout film, 2002’s Irreversible, featured a 10-minute long-take of the main character being raped, while 2009’s experimental Enter the Void used first-person point-of-view throughout the duration of the film, dividing critics who couldn’t stand the way the film was shot. Climax is his most recent film, a psychological horror-music feature film that was pre-produced in just a month and shot in half of that. Unlike Void, however, Climax managed to find itself in the good graces of most critics who saw the film. Featuring largely improvised performances from its cast, the film is set during the winter of 1996, in which a French dance troupe throws an after party following a rehearsal. When someone spikes the sangria with LSD, the celebrations take a dark turn as the attendees find themselves increasingly confused and violent.
Written and directed by controversial filmmaker Troy Duffy in his debut, The Boondock Saints is a controversial, if not widely popular film. The original screenplay was considered immensely popular, one of the most-wanted in Hollywood, but following a troubled production which included Duffy’s outrageous behavior on set spiraling out of control, the film only achieved a limited release. Still, the film, which follows brothers Connor and Murphy MacManus as they attempt to rid Boston of its evil as they’re followed and chased by detective Paul Smecker, has achieved a cult following of sorts, and is considered loved by many movie audiences. With a cast including Willem Dafoe and Norman Reedus, it’s well worth a watch.
Christmas films are typically either family fare or romantic comedies and dramas, often falling somewhere between the two. It comes with the territory for the season, so it only makes sense that a black comedy following the exploits of one bad Santa would find major blockbuster status in 2003. A raunchy, dark comedy, Bad Santa follows Willie T. Stokes and his partner (Tony Cox), who get together once a year to pose as a mall Santa and elf in order to rip off shopping outlets during Christmas Eve. More than ever, Willie finds himself despondent this Christmas, depressed and addicted to alcohol. When his behavior catches the eye of a mall security guard (played by the late Bernie Mac), Willie turns to a young boy to help bring out the charm in his life.
Writer-turned-director Scott Z. Burns is no stranger to writing scripts based on real world events, including The Informant! and this year’s The Laundromat, both of which were directed by Steven Soderbergh. In his newest film, Burns turns his attention towards the untold story behind the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture in the wake of 9/11. The film follows former FBI agent Daniel Jones (Adam Driver), now a staffer for Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening), who is tasked with leading an exhaustive investigation into the CIA’s use of torture on suspected terrorists. When the Senate Intelligence Committee attempts to publish their findings, they have to contend with the CIA and the White House’s attempts to block and undermine the report.
Jodie Foster stars as Clarice Starling, a top student at the FBI’s training academy. Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) wants Clarice to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a brilliant psychiatrist who is also a violent psychopath, serving life behind bars for various acts of murder and cannibalism. Crawford believes that Lecter may have insight into a case and that Starling, as an attractive young woman, may be just the bait to draw him out. The film was the second time Lecter appeared on film, following Michael Mann’s Manhunter five years prior, though in that film, he was portrayed by Brian Cox. The film became the third film to win all five major awards at the Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay), preceded only by It Happened One Night and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. In addition, it’s still the only film considered horror to win Best Picture.
In the directorial debut of screenwriter Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Louis Bloom, a stringer who records violent events in Los Angeles at night and sells them to local news networks to make a quick buck in the process. When he catches the eye of a news director who welcomes the chance to raise her station’s ratings, Louis begins going to increasingly greater lengths to catch criminal activity on camera, going as far to instigate and provoke the very same criminal activity he’s trying to film. Acclaimed for its screenplay and for Gyllenhaal’s performance, Nightcrawler is considered one of the best films of 2014 and a must-see for anyone interested in dirty, underground journalism.
Following Jonathan Demme’s award-winning and critically-acclaimed The Silence of the Lambs, the director took on a new project with an entire new genre: a legal drama. The film was one of the first mainstream Hollywood productions to finally acknowledge the AIDS crisis in America, along with themes of homosexuality and homophobia, and for that, the film attracted a ton of positive reception. Philadelphia follows Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) a lawyer who hides his homosexuality and HIV status while working at a powerful law firm in the titular city. When a colleague spots the illness’s telltale lesions on his hand, Beckett is fired from his job, and resolves to sue for discrimination. To do this, he teams up with Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), the only lawyer willing to help Andy through his case. On his ex-employer’s side, Beckett faces one of his former company’s top litigators, Belinda Conine (Mary Steenburgen).