The 35 Best Movies on Amazon Prime [May 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 April 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.
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.
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 last 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 desperately 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.
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.
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.
Zombieland wasn’t the first comedy to take on zombies, but it’s one of the best, even a decade after its release. Directed by Ruben Fleischer (Gangster Squad, Venom), Zombieland is nothing if not a surprise hit. Released in October of 2009 and made on a fairly-small budget of just $24 million, Zombieland impressed critics and made by more than four times its budget at the box office, all while building a massive following of people impressed with the film. The film follows a anxious college student named Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) making his way through the zombie apocalypse, meeting three strangers (Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, and Abigail Breslin) along the way and together taking an extended road trip across the Southwestern United States in an attempt to find a sanctuary free from zombies. After a failed television adaptation through Amazon, the cast reunited in 2019 to make Zombieland: Double Tap, which is available for purchase on Amazon.
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.
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.
Ari Aster burst onto the big screen in 2018 with Hereditary, a film we already listed earlier in this list. Critically-praised and a major commercial success for A24, it seemed only logical that all eyes were on Aster’s next project. Thankfully, it only took a year for that project to come to fruition. Midsommar released in the summer of 2019, meeting the same level of critical praise for a film that, if we’re being honest, is a much tougher watch. The film follows Dani (Florence Pugh), a young college student who is traumatized by the murder-suicide of her family committed by her mentally-unwell sister. Though her relationship with her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) is already strained, Christian agrees to let Dani accompany him and his friends on a trip to Sweden, in order to attend a midsummer festival that happens once every 90 years. Once there, the group fines the celebration is far from what they expected.
It’s tough to consider how much of a risk Disney took on The Avengers back in 2012. The superhero team-up movie had never been attempted before, and Marvel truly hit it out of the park with their first try. In fact, Marvel continues to be the only studio doing shared universes well, with DC moving back to focusing on a loose universe with standalone films like Joker. The Avengers begins when Thor’s brother Loki comes to Earth, gaining access to the Tesseract. Using the Tesseract, Loki sets out to conquer Earth, but when the Avengers come together for the very first time, he gets more than he bargained for. Brought together by Nick Fury, The Avengers focuses on Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye all teaming up to put an end to Loki’s plans.
Billi (Awkwafina) is an aspiring writing living in New York. Born in China, she maintains a close relationship with Nai Nai, her grandmother who still lives in Changchun, China. After receiving a rejection letter for a Guggenheim Fellowship, Billi learns from her parents that Nai Nai has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, and has been given just a few months left to live. Billi is distraught to learn that the diagnosis is being kept a secret from Nai Nai, based on Chinese customs, and that her doctor has informed her that her recent visits have revealed benign findings. Despite being told to remain in New York City, Billi travels to China where her family has gather under the guise of her cousin’s wedding, in order to spend one last time with Nai Nai. The Farewell was critically acclaimed upon its release in 2019. The film is based on director-writer Lulu Wang’s own life experiences, which first aired as an episode of This American Life.
Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) works for a Human Resources firm that specializes in termination assistance, traveling around the country to help downsizing companies let go of employees while giving motivational speeches. He enjoys his job and the no-strings-attached life it allows him to lead, but when Ryan’s summoned back to his home office in Nebraska, he learns Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), a young new hire for the company, has pitched a program that would cut company costs by forcing Ryan to use video conferencing tools to conduct his job. When Ryan tells Natalie she has no idea how important the human touch is to his job, she agrees to travel with him on a tour around the country to view Ryan’s job through his eyes. Along the way, Ryan will be forced to reconsider his life’s priorities. Up in the Air was written and directed by Jason Reitman (Juno), and received six Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture.
Though Captain America was just the fifth film in the MCU, and a direct lead-in into The Avengers, it holds up today as one of the best films in the entire universe, a period piece set in 1941 as the United States enters World War II. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) wants to do his part and join America’s armed forces, but the military rejects him because of his small stature. Steve finally gets his chance when he is accepted into an experimental program that turns him into a super soldier known as Captain America. Joining forces with Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), Captain America leads the fight against the Nazi-backed HYDRA organization. Though it doesn’t have the same fanbase as the later Captain America movies, Joe Johnston uses his experience working on The Rocketeer to make this a truly phenomenal film.
After impressing with his 2015 film The Witch, all eyes were on director Robert Eggers to see what his twisted mind would craft in his next film. Even so, few people expected he would release a film as haunting as The Lighthouse. Set in the 19th century, the film follows two lighthouse keepers, contracted to spend four weeks on an isolated island in New England. However, when a massive storm hits the island, both men will start to lose their sanity as they’re stranded together. The film is gorgeously shot, utilizing a nearly square aspect ratio to create the feeling of complete claustrophobia as you’re watching. Egger’s script, which he wrote with his brother Max, is equally sharp and hilarious, and the performances from Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson are nothing short of incredible. This kind of movie isn’t for everyone, but if you’re in the mood for a dark, dense psychological horror film, it’s truly hard to beat The Lighthouse.