In the last year or so, Netflix and Apple TV+ have been the ones duking it out to have the most prestigious film offerings (congrats, CODA!), but that doesn’t mean other streaming services don’t have excellent offerings. Like, for example, Amazon Prime. The streamer was one of the first to go around picking up film festival darlings and other lovable favorites, and they’re all still there in the library, so if they flew under your radar the first time, now is the perfect time to catch up.
Our picks for the 10 best films on Amazon Prime are below. Also, before you ask, all the films in our guide are included in your Prime subscription—no renting here. Once you’ve watched your fill, check out our lists for the best films on Netflix and best movies on Disney+ if you’re looking for something else to watch. We also have a guide to the best shows on Amazon, too, if that’s what you’re in the mood for.
Is it possible to be nostalgic for a time and place you may never have been to? Licorice Pizza—Paul Thomas Anderson’s ode to 1970s San Fernando Valley—makes a strong case for “yes.” A coming-of-age comedy drama, the film follows 15-year-old actor Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) and 25-year-old photographer Alana Kane (Alana Haim) as they strike up an unlikely friendship. It’s a film of misadventures laced with self-reflection, as the perfectly matched leads ricochet through waterbed sales, criminally mistaken identities, and violent run-ins with movie producer Jon Peters, all set to a period-perfect soundtrack and framed in the hazy light of a half-remembered California summer. Throughout, there’s all the sharp dialogue and small-but-brilliant observations of human behavior that you’d expect from Anderson, but it’s the director’s ability to transport viewers back in time that cements this as a modern masterpiece.
Struggling for inspiration, artist Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) finds himself drawn to the urban legend of the Candyman. Captivated by chilling rumors of summoning the malevolent spirit by saying his name five times in a mirror, Anthony is soon producing a horrific collection of work, distressing his curator girlfriend Brianna (Teyonah Parris), all while falling deeper into a cycle of trauma, murder, and horror that spans centuries. Accessible to newcomers and long-time fans alike—with plenty of nods to the cult classic, including original Candyman Tony Todd sort of reprising his iconic role with a clever twist—this revamped Candyman sees director Nia DaCosta update the themes of gentrification, social exclusion, and racism that the 1992 original was rooted in, delivering a smart, relevant, modern horror for a new generation.
Coming 2 America
Relying on nostalgia to carry new entries in long-dormant series can be risky business, but Eddie Murphy’s return to the role of Prince—now King—Akeem of Zamunda more than three decades after 1988’s Coming to America shows how to do it right. Drawn back to the US in search of a son he never knew he had, Akeem—and the audience—gets to reunite with familiar faces from the first film, before director Craig Brewer (Hustle and Flow) reverses the formula and tests the American characters with a trip to Zamunda. With a sharper, smarter, and more globally aware script than the original, Coming 2 America defies the odds to be a comedy sequel that stands up to the reputation of its predecessor.
Director Ron Howard’s latest gathers a top-notch cast—including Viggo Mortensen, Colin
Farrell, and Joel Edgerton—for a dramatization of the 2018 Tham Luang cave rescue, where a Thai junior soccer team and their assistant coach were trapped in the flooded cave system. As an international effort mounts to save the children, the challenges of navigating miles of underwater caverns become ever more dangerous, and Howard masterfully captures every perilously claustrophobic moment of it. A nail-bitingly tense movie with some ingeniously shot aquatic scenes, Thirteen Lives is a testament to one of the most difficult rescues ever performed.
Jennifer Hudson delights as the Queen of Soul in this biopic charting the life and times of Aretha Franklin. Directed by Liesl Tommy, Respect follows Franklin from her youth in Michigan, through her burgeoning career in gospel and jazz, and finally to the mainstream breakthrough that lead to her becoming one of the most successful performers in the world. This is no puff-piece, though. Tommy documents Franklin’s lows as spectacularly as her highs, from family conflicts to career burnout to self-destruction and battles with addiction. A beautifully shot film that perfectly captures each era of Franklin’s life with period-perfect costuming and designs, Respect also boasts a fantastic supporting cast, including Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Audra McDonald, Marc Maron, Tituss Burgess, and Mary J. Blige—and, naturally, a phenomenal soundtrack.
One Night in Miami…
Based on the play of same name, One Night in Miami… follows four icons of culture, music, and sports—Malcom X, Jim Brown, Sam Cooke, and Muhammad Ali—at the height of the Civil Rights movement, a converging and pivotal point in their lives and careers. Meeting in a motel room in the wake of Ali’s—then still Cassius Clay—heavyweight victory over Sonny Liston in 1964, the four men discuss their roles in the movement and society as a whole, all while the audience knows the weight of history is bearing down on them. The close confines of much of the film reflect its theatrical roots, but this feature directorial debut from Regina King perfectly portrays the larger-than-life personalities of its cast. Kingsley Ben-Adir is on fire as Malcom X, with Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom Jr, and Eli Goree—as Brown, Cooke, and Ali—all utterly magnetic.
Like any other offering from A24 (The Witch, Hereditary, Midsommar), Rose Glass’ directorial debut Saint Maud is an ethereally cerebral horror movie. In it, Morfydd Clark plays Katie, a sad and lonely young woman who has left her job due to unknown circumstances. When she begins to look after a terminally ill woman who is everything she is not—vivacious, free-spirited—Katie, who now goes by Maud, is enchanted. However, everything begins to spiral out of control when Maud becomes convinced she’s been sent to save the young woman’s soul.
Produced by Amazon, The Report is an engrossing depiction of the US Senate’s investigation into the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program—how it came to be, who knew about it, and how the CIA massaged the facts to support its efficacy. Adam Driver stars as Daniel Jones, the lead investigator who plowed an increasingly lonely path to the truth, battling against political resistance and CIA interference all the way. Driver is, as is his habit these days, superb, and the film’s 82 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes is well-earned.
Brittany Runs a Marathon
When Brittany is told to lose weight by her doctor, she uses it as a reason to take control of her life. She starts by putting on a pair of trainers and challenging herself to run one block, which quickly escalates into deciding to run the New York City Marathon. First-time director Paul Downs Colaizzo based the story on the experiences of his friend, and highlights not only the benefits of running but also the pain. This film shows that no matter how bad things get, you can still get back up.
Sound of Metal
When punk-rock drummer and recovering addict Ruben starts experiencing hearing loss, it threatens to upend his entire life. Faced with an impossible choice between giving up his hearing or giving up his career, Ruben begins to spiral, until his girlfriend Lou checks him into a rehab center for the deaf, forcing him to confront his own behavior as much as the future he faces. Riz Ahmed is in spectacular form as the troubled Ruben, while Olivia Cooke’s turn as Lou, who suffers with her own demons, including self-harm, is riveting. Fittingly enough, Sound of Metal also features incredibly nuanced use of sound—and its absence—as director Darius Marder crafts one of the finest dramas in recent years.