Amazon Prime Instant Video is pretty darned good. What began as an incentive service to reward customer loyalty has developed into a wide-ranging and lucrative service offering from Amazon. It is also a good way to watch some good movies without leaving your sofa. With that in mind, here are what we think are the best Amazon Prime movies available now.
Also see our article The 50 Best Shows on Netflix Right Now
In no particular order:
Mentioning this odd, dark, bloody comedy will still get people putting on exaggerated Midwestern accents, 20 years after the movie hit theaters. Frances McDormand plays a level-headed and very pregnant police chief unraveling a string of murders around the titular North Dakota city. At the heart of the crimes is a schlubby car salesman’s half-baked scheme to have his wife kidnapped for ransom, and a pair of criminals who aren’t quite up to the plan.
The war on drugs provides the backdrop for this intense and brilliantly acted thriller. The set pieces and cinematography here are especially striking, but what sticks with viewers is the film’s thoughtful pace and moral ambiguity that wouldn’t be out of place in a classic film noir.
23. Star Trek Beyond
This return to the new Stat Trek movieverse is either the best or the second best of the movies starring Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock. When a mysterious enemy trashes the Enterprise, Kirk and company end up marooned on a hostile planet. Separated, they use their skills to launch an ambitious rescue mission and (of course) save the Federation. Director Justin Lin hits just the right balance between Star Trek’s silliness, awesome sci-fi scenery, and rollicking adventure.
Mel Gibson stars in and directs this historical war movie, depicting the Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace and his pivotal role in the First War of Scottish Independence. You can find lots of historical inaccuracies, but it’s hard to fault Gibson’s instincts for a rip-roaring and bloody medieval epic.
21. Iron Man
Whether you’re already in line for the next Marvel superhero movie, or you feel like they got stale after The Avengers, maybe it’s time to go back to the movie that convinced everyone that Marvel movies were a good idea. Robert Downey Jr.’s first turn as Iron Man genuinely fresh and clever, and it may still be the best movie to come out of Marvel Studios.
20. The Untouchables
This fun crime movie is a thoroughly Hollywood-ified version of the true story of Elliot Ness, the federal agent who put together a team to take down Al Capone. Among other things, The Untouchables features Sean Connery and Robert DeNiro doing what they’re best at, as a rule-bending cop and the arch-gangster himself, respectively.
19. Lars and the Real Girl
Lars (Ryan Gosling) is a lonely guy, so his brother and sister-in-law want to support him when he brings his internet girlfriend to visit. That’s easier said than done when it turns out said girlfriend is an inflatable doll–one who Lars calls “Bianca” and treats as if she’s a real person. It’s a weird emotional journey for all involved, maybe even Bianca.
18. The Hunt for Red October
Heroic CIA analyst Jack Ryan (played this time by Alec Baldwin) has his first adventure when a Russian nuclear submarine goes rogue, and the Americans decide to capture it, and its crew, at any cost. Can the CIA pull it off without the Russians catching on? And is the submarine crew defecting, or getting in position for a nuclear first strike? It’s a tense thrill ride, with a strong performance by Sean Connery as the Soviet captain Marko Ramius.
17. Green Room
Patrick Stewart is best known for his fatherly roles, but he can be terrifying when he wants to. In this clever thriller, Steward plays an evil nightclub manager who traps an unsuspecting punk band in his lair. The band struggling to escape his clutches includes the late Anton Yelchin (from the recent Star Wars movies) and Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development‘s Maeby).
Superbad is a highschool comedy for the 21st Century–raunchy, clever, and quotable (or at least meme-able). Michael Cera and Jonah Hill play a pair of nerds on a quest to buy alcohol for a party, to fuel one last redemptive fling before going to separate colleges breaks up their friendship.
15. Tommy Boy
Tommy Callahan (Chris Farley) is a bonafide party animal a few cans short of a six-pack, who is sent out on the road as a salesman when his family business takes a nosedive. His partner for this journey is his dad’s right-hand man Richard (David Spade). What ensues is a rollicking road comedy starring two of the funniest Saturday Night Live alumni.
14. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark / Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade
This one is a tie. I could have made the tough choice of which of these two classic adventure movies deserved more to be on the list–but in the end, you deserve to know that they’re both on Prime! If you’ve somehow missed either of Harrison Ford’s best adventures in archaeology and Nazi-fighting, there’s no better time than the present to catch yourself up.
13. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
This goofy comedy adventure is a late-80s classic, starring an appallingly young Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter as a couple of good-natured high-school slackers. It turns out that the course of human history will turn on the righteous rock music Bill and Ted will make one day with their band, Wyld Stallyns–but that will only happen if they pass their history final so Bill doesn’t get sent to military school. To save the timeline, a future-dweller (George Carlin) lends Bill and Ted a time machine to help them cram.
12. Searching for Bobby Fischer
A child chess prodigy is driven to excellence by different teachers, each trying to shape him to fit their own ideas. It’s a fascinating and insightful story, based on the real-life journey of chess master Josh Waitzkin.
11. There Will Be Blood
Daniel Day-Lewis gives a powerhouse performance as a poor miner at the end of the 19th Century who will stop at nothing to rise to the top of the oil industry. There is triumph, betrayal, and, yes, there is blood.
Bryan Cranston, who you probably recognize from Breaking Bad, stars here as Dalton Trumbo, a brilliant Hollywood screenwriter who found himself blacklisted during the Red Scares of the 1940s and 50s. It’s a powerful story of courage and of the dangers of mass hysteria in a democracy.
Arguably, Hollywood and Sly Stallone have been trying to recapture the magic of the original Rocky ever since the rematch that wasn’t supposed to happen in Rocky II. Creed comes closest to doing that, following the son Apollo Creed as he rises in the world of boxing and finds a mentor in Rocky Balboa. With Creed, the Rocky franchise finally found a high note to go out on.
This is a gorgeous and wonderfully entertaining fantasy story from the mind of Neil Gaiman. In what amounts to a latter-day The Princess Bride, a young hero sets out to rescue a woman (who is also a fallen star), facing pirates, witches, and other dangers.
7. Trouble the Water
This unexpected documentary began as a young aspiring rapper filming herself and her neighborhood in New Orleans. But she ends up witnessing the destruction of Hurricane Katrina as it sweeps through the area. This raw movie captures both the natural and man-made catastrophes of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath in 2005.
6. Benny and Joon
This quirky romantic comedy pushes the quirk as far as it can go, and ends up with a surprisingly sincere story fueled by amazing performances. Juniper (Mary Stuart Masterson) is a mentally ill woman who has to rely on her brother Benny’s (Aidan Quinn) support. Sam (Johnny Depp) is a strange outsider who can only express himself by recreating Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton routines–something Johnny Depp accomplishes impressively. It’s a bizarre courtship, and it’s worth a look.
5. The Truman Show
After almost 20 years, this movie deserves more attention. Jim Carrey stars a man who discovers his entire life is actually a television show, his hometown is a set, and everyone he knows is an actor. It’s hard to believe that this movie came out before “reality television” was a thing–two years before the first season of Survivor. And though Truman’s a bit of a goofball, Jim Carrey surprised everyone at the time with his dramatic performance.
4. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
The first seven Star Trek films come to Amazon Prime this month, from The Motion Picture to the torch-passing Generations and First Contact. Get your Kirk on! Remember the even-odd rule for Trek movies: the good ones are II, IV, VI, and VIII, while the odd-numbered Treks get kind of goofy. The most fun of the lot is probably IV: The Voyage Home, which sees the Enterprise crew thrown back to the “present” of the 1980s.
3. Ex Machina
This mind-bending thriller starts out about testing out a new artificial intelligence. Before long, though, it turns into a brilliant psychodrama held up by the spectacular performances: Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, and Alicia Vikander. For some added weirdness, the first two of those actors also worked together in Star Wars: The Force Awakens in very different roles.
2. Apocalypse Now
This tremendous, haunting war epic took the novel Heart of Darkness and transported it into the jungle of Cambodia. An American Army captain (Martin Sheen) witnesses the brutal insanity of the war as he searches for the renegade Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), who has turned a group of soldiers into a cult worshiping him as a demigod.
1. Almost Famous
A 15-year-old boy talks his way into writing for Rolling Stone magazine, with an assignment that puts him on the tour bus with an up-and-coming rock band. He ends up with a close-up look at the people behind “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll.” Almost Famous is funny, touching, and full of nostalgia that can get to you even if the 70s rock scene wasn’t part of growing up for you.
If you find you’re in the mood for some bingeable television instead of a movie, check out our list of the best shows on Prime, or the best shows on Netflix.