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The 100 Best Movies on Amazon Prime (January 2022)


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Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard in Annette.
Photo: Amazon Studios

This post is updated twice a month to reflect the latest movies to leave and enter Amazon Prime. *New additions are indicated by an asterisk.

You really should be using your Amazon Prime subscription for more than just shipping discounts and Whole Foods sales. The people at Amazon have amassed a truly impressive library of films that can be accessed with your Prime account, and in many ways, it’s equal to and arguably even superior to Netflix’s library. But how do you know where to begin? As we have done with Netflix, allow us to present a regularly-updated guide to 100 movies to watch on Amazon Prime. A collection of classics, blockbusters, and under-the-radar flicks, you really should watch all 100. Get back to us after you do.

One of the best performances of Kirk Douglas’s career came in a 1951 noir that has earned its reputation as a classic in the six decades since its release. The amazing Billy Wilder broke through with his direction of this story of a disgraced reporter who will do whatever it takes to get his job back. A lot of movies are credited with being ahead of their time, but Ace in the Hole one undeniably was.

Tom Harper directed this film that just landed in theaters at the end of 2019 and was quickly shuffled off to Amazon. It’s a shame because this is a film that deserved more attention. It’s got cross-demographic appeal for kids and adults in its story of the first people to really break through the clouds in a hot air balloon. The Theory of Everything stars Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones reunite and deliver in a well-made action film that uses a lot more practical effects and stunts than most modern flicks like this and the result is some tension for anyone with even a moderate fear of heights.

Michael Mann directed this 2001 biopic of one of the most important figures of the twentieth century, Muhammad Ali. Will Smith does possibly the best film work of his career as the legendary boxer, civil rights icon, and all-around role model, and Mann approaches the life of Ali with his own unique craftsmanship. This appears to be the original theatrical edition and not one of the alternate versions later released, FYI.

Movies changed forever with the 1979 release of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi/horror classic. Sigourney Weaver leads the crew of the Nostromo, answering a distress call in the far of reaches of space that puts them in contact with the ultimate killing machine. Not only did Alien launch a franchise, it created a template for horror set in outer space, rewriting the rulebook in a way that’s still incredibly powerful over four decades later.

J.C. Chandor wrote and directed this dramatic vehicle for Robert Redford and ended up giving him the platform for one of the best performances of his legendary career. Redford is the only cast member in a nearly dialogue-less film about a man who gets stranded in the middle of the Indian Ocean and has to battle the elements to survive.

Cameron Crowe’s 2000 masterpiece about a young man (Patrick Fugit) who ends up on tour with a rock band known as Stillwater. With incredible supporting performances from Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, Almost Famous is one of the richest and most timeless films of its era, a rare movie that gets better every time you see it.

Incredibly controversial when it was released, Alan Parker’s 1987 thriller has aged very well thanks in large part to great performances from Mickey Rourke and Robert De Niro. Rourke plays Harry Angel, a private investigator who is hired to solve a disappearance that leads him to New Orleans at the behest of a devilish man named Louis Cypher (Get it!?!?). Explicitly sexual and violent, it’s the kind of movie for adults that truly doesn’t get made anymore.

Leos Carax’s first film in years drops on Amazon Prime only a couple weeks after its theatrical premiere, and only about a month after it wowed audiences at Cannes. Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard star in the ambitious musical (with original songs by Sparks) about a couple who have a magical child named Annette. That only captures a fraction of what this incredibly unique film is about — you have to see it to believe it. (Premieres on Amazon Prime on 8/20.)

Jia Zhangke is one of the world’s best filmmakers. If you can track down copies of the Chinese director’s Still Life, A Touch of Sin, and Mountains May Depart, you really should do so. Until then, check out his latest work, an epic gangster flick with a mesmerizing performance from Jia’s wife, Zhao Tao. Like a lot of great crime movies, it becomes a commentary on the state of the country in which it’s set as much as anything else.

Joe Wright adapted the masterful novel of the same name by Ian McEwan in a way that’s lyrical and devastating. James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, Saoirse Ronan, and Vanessa Redgrave star in this story that unfolds across generations in a manner that is both poetic and deeply human. It’s one of the best films of the ‘00s, an Oscar nominee for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.

It’s not common for a breakthrough comedy to be so acclaimed and popular that it actually becomes an Oscar nominee for Best Screenplay, but The Big Sick is not a typical comedy (and Holly Hunter was robbed of a nomination too, by the way). Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon loosely adapt their story, with Nanjiani starring alongside Zoe Kazan. It’s really as crowdpleasing as comedies get. You kind of have to be an asshole not to like it.

One of the best films of James L. Brooks’s career is this 1987 romantic dramedy that was so acclaimed that it was nominated for Best Picture and included a couple years ago in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. Holly Hunter, William Hurt, and Albert Brooks are fantastic in this smart movie about the people who bring viewers the news. Some of it is a little dated now, but the acting and writing will always be brilliant.

Lee Chang-dong’s 2018 Cannes darling is one of the best Korean films of the last decade. Based loosely on a short story by Haruki Murakami, it stars Yoo Ah-in as an aimless young man who reunites with an old childhood friend, played by Jeon Jong-seo. When she brings home a mysterious young man named Ben (a transcendent Steven Yeun), things get weird.

Paul Newman and Robert Redford redefined cool in this 1969 Western, playing the title characters in an instant classic. Based loosely on a true story, this is the tale of two outlaws on the run after committing a string of train robberies. They flee to Bolivia to try and escape the U.S. law, but it tracks them down. Newman and Redford’s star power is simply blinding.

The legendary Mike Nichols directed this incredibly successful 1971 comedy/drama that shook the cinematic world at a time when American cinema was only just starting to explore adult themes like the ones here. Art Garfunkel and Jack Nicholson star as college roommates who work their way through relationships and into middle-age. They’re matched by great turns from Candice Bergen and Ann-Margret.

As No Time to Die has finally been released after multiple delays, Amazon Prime is here to satisfy your 007 needs with the first outing for Daniel Craig as the most famous movie spy of all time. This is easily one of the best Bond movies, a flick that redefined the character with more intense stakes and realistic action sequences. It’s a legitimately great movie, not just for what it did for its genre and the future of its legendary super spy.

This wonderful 1963 film is part romantic comedy and part Hitchockian mystery, courtesy of master director Stanley Donen and the blinding charisma of Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. A lot of movies try to be a little bit of everything but few in history have blended genres as diverse as screwball comedy and suspense thriller as seamlessly as this clever classic, which also has great supporting turns from Walter Matthau and James Coburn.

Stephen King has arguably never been more popular than in the era of blockbuster adaptations It, Doctor Sleep, and the Pet Sematary remake, but this is nothing new. Hollywood has been adapting the work of the master of horror for decades. Take, for example, this 1984 adaptation of a short story that King wrote over four decades ago. It may not be a great movie, but it’s becoming a cultural touchstone — every time there’s a creepy kid in a flick, audiences think of the little monsters that give this movie its name.

There was a time when whimsical European rom-coms were all the rage. One of the most successful was Chocolat, the 2000 dramedy based on the 1999 novel of the same name by Joanne Harris. Lasse Hallstrom directs the story of Vianne Rocher (Juliette Binoche), who opens a chocolaterie in a small village in France. Co-starring Judi Dench, Alfred Molina, Lena Olin, and Johnny Depp, it was so successful that it was nominated for Best Picture.

Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet directed a stunning follow-up to their breakthrough with Delicatessen, delivering an even better film (and then would go on to follow this one up with Amelie). The City of Lost Children is an impossible movie to describe in a capsule, a crazy vision of a fantasy world that’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Beautiful and unforgettable.

Kevin Smith rocked the indie filmmaking world with his comedy that was shot for almost nothing and became a worldwide hit. Films at the convenience and video stores at which Smith worked in real life with his buddies, no one could have expected that Clerks would still be influencing writers a quarter-century later.

One of the cool things about Amazon’s increased theatrical output is that they’re putting their films on Amazon Prime very quickly after playing at the multiplex or arthouse. Take this 2018 Oscar nominee from Pawel Pawlikowski (Ida), a Polish drama about star-crossed lovers over decades after the end of World War II. It’s a luscious, emotional drama that demands your attention and rewards it.

Fernando Meirelles’ adaptation of John le Carre’s novel won Rachel Weisz an Oscar as an activist murdered in Northern Kenya. Ralph Fiennes plays her husband, a man who learns more about his wife after her death than he did while she was alive and gets to the bottom of a deep political conspiracy.

David Cronenberg delivered one of his best films in 1988’s Dead Ringers, a twisted thriller starring Jeremy Irons as twin gynecologists who share flings with their clients without them knowing. Creepy and masterful, the movie contains arguably Irons’ best performance.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet directed this pitch-black comedy with his partner Marc Caro way back in 1991, before he would make a bigger splash with Amelie. In an apartment building in France in the future, food is hard to come by, leading to the butcher on the first floor going to cannibalistic extremes to feed his tenants. Visually striking in a way that instantly announced Jeunet & Caro as artists that needed to be watched, it’s a tasty treat.

One of the best noirs ever made is just sitting there on Amazon Prime waiting for you to discover it. Based on the 1939 novel of the same name, Detour stars Tom Neal and Ann Savage and it just oozes style in the way it uses the classic genre structure of a man who keeps digging himself into a deeper and deeper hole. Considered a lesser B-movie for years, it has only recently been reappraised as a noir classic.

Tim Burton followed the biggest hit of his career (Batman) with one of his most personal films, this gorgeous 1990 fable starring Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder. Depp plays the title character, a riff on the Frankenstein myth of an outcast who really has a heart of gold. With a giant heart to balance out its darker themes, this is one of the movies that really defined the Burton aesthetic (and the kind of movie his fans wish he’d make again).

Lulu Wang wrote and directed this beautiful award-winner “based on a true lie.” Awkwafina won a Golden Globe for the role of a New York woman who is forced to go along with her family when they decide not to tell her beloved Nai Nai that she has cancer. It’s a nuanced, tender piece of filmmaking that really announces Wang as a major new talent, and a film that will be passed down from generation to generation for years to come.

Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1996 masterpiece is only one of the best films ever made, a story of violence and redemption in the great American North. The Coens won Best Original Screenplay and Frances McDormand took her first Oscar home for playing the unforgettable Marge Gunderson, a Minnesotan cop who gets entangled in a car salesman’s deeply inept foray into the criminal world.

David Fincher’s adaptation of the book by Chuck Palahniuk has been so dissected and memed that it’s hard to take it seriously in 2021, but it’s worth the effort, especially given how much what it has to say about toxic masculinity remains so relevant. It’s also just a stunning technical exercise with Fincher playing with his visual style in ways he doesn’t really do anymore.

Sydney Pollack directed an adaptation of the hit 1991 novel by John Grisham and delivered one of the most beloved legal dramas of all time. Tom Cruise plays Mitch McDeere, a Harvard Law School grad who gets offered a job at an exclusive law firm, discovering the toxic culture of evil that it not only protects but engages in. The Firm has held up much better than most mid-‘90s blockbusters, in part because of the way it confronts a corruption that has only flourished in the time since its release.

Bruce Lee really landed on the international map with two Hong Kong films directed by Lo Wei, 1971’s The Big Boss and then this film the next year, a movie about a student who seeks to avenge the murder of his master. After some disappointment in the Hollywood system, Lee went back to Hong Kong and redefined martial arts cinema forever. This is an essential piece of work in the genre.

The late Bill Paxton directed and co-stars in an stunning psychological thriller that didn’t get a lot of attention in 2001 but has developed a following over the years. Matthew McConaughey stars as a young man who tells the FBI that his brother is the man behind a string of serial killings, inspired by their upbringing at the hands of a man (Paxton) who told them he had been visited by God and told to destroy demons in human form on Earth.

Look at me. Barry Sonnenfeld directed one of the best adaptations of an Elmore Leonard novel in the history of the great author and anchored it with one of John Travolta’s best performances. Everyone remembers the comeback with Pulp Fiction, but this one really allows Travolta’s incredible ‘90s charisma to shine. It’s a perfectly calibrated comedy with phenomenal performances all around, including Rene Russo, Danny DeVito, Delroy Lindo, and Gene Hackman too.

Sebastián Lelio co-writes and directs this adaptation of his own 2013 film Gloria that’s essentially the same film beat for beat with one major difference: Julianne Moore. The Oscar-winning legend plays the title role, a divorced woman with two adult children. There’s no high concept or strange hook here — just a beautiful character study with one of the best performances of 2019.

Few films have impacted the culture as much as Mike Nichols’s 1967 dramedy based on the Charles Webb novel of the same name. It really was one of the first films in a wave of artistic expression that would make the late ‘60s and ‘70s the richest time in American film history. Dustin Hoffman stars as a recent college graduate looking for direction in his life in this sharp, clever comedy that spoke to an entire generation of young people looking for how to change the world.

Werner Herzog tells the tragic story of Timothy Treadwell in a manner that only he could pull off. Both empathetic to Treadwell’s death from a grizzly bear he lived among as a diehard nature enthusiast and fascinated by what this story says about the relationship between man and nature overall, Herzog delivers one of his best films.

The stage musical may be a little thin but it’s the cast that makes Joseph Mankiewicz’s 1955 Oscar nominee into such a timeless charmer. Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando were at the peak of their charm when they stepped into these roles. Sure, Brando’s singing is a little dodgy, but who cares? And Jean Simmons and Vivian Blaine are pretty fantastic too.

None of the streaming services have a truly deep selection of international cinema but Amazon Prime is better than most. Take for example Park Chan-wook’s masterful period drama about betrayal, sex, and more betrayal. It’s one of the most technically gorgeous films you could possibly watch tonight. Make sure the kids are in bed first though.

Long before Paul Thomas Anderson was a legendary writer-director came this excellent 1996 drama-noir also known as Sydney. Philip Baker Hall plays a gambler who meets a young man played John C. Reilly and takes him under his wing. A few years later, they meet a woman named Clementine, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, and, well, things get complicated. PTA’s craftsmanship was top-notch right from the very beginning.

Christian Slater kinda does a Jack Nicholson impression and Winona Ryder is at the peak of her ’80s emo charm in this clever satire of high-school life. Ryder plays the high-school outcast and Slater plays the guy who teaches her that revenge is a dish best served with an attitude.

When people think of the most influential Hollywood comedies of all time, this 1940 Howard Hawks hit often makes the list. Watch it to see why. You’ll witness Cary Grant at his most charismatic as Walter Burns, an editor who is watching his best reporter and ex-wife walk out the door. He suggests they cover one last story, and Hollywood magic ensues. American movies don’t get much more classic than this.

Shia LaBeouf wrote and co-stars in a film that’s deeply autobiographical regarding his abusive father and the troubles the actor went through in his younger years. A screenplay that he started writing in rehab is one of the most daring in a long time, purely confessional and moving in ways that dramas are rarely allowed to be. Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges co-star, and both do excellent work.

One of the best things about Bong Joon-ho winning multiple Oscar for his brilliant Parasite is the exposure likely led more people to his other works, including the wonderful monster movie The Host. In fact, this story of a creature in the Han River also stars the leading man from Parasite, the great Song Kang-ho. It’s a gorgeous piece of work that really put Bong on the map worldwide.

Director Thomas Vinterberg and star Mads Mikkelsen earned raves and an Academy Award for their collaboration on 2020’s Another Round, but it wasn’t the first time they worked together (and arguably wasn’t even the best). Check out their 2012 drama, now on Amazon Prime, about a man who becomes the target of a witch hunt after being falsely accused of sexually abusing a child.

John McTiernan directed the first Jack Ryan film way back in 1990 and the character is still influenced by it over three decades later on an Amazon Prime original series hit. This time, he was played by Alec Baldwin, who challenges a rogue Soviet naval captain, perfectly captured by Sean Connery. Despite the sequels and series, this remains arguably the best adaptation of Tom Clancy’s breakneck plotting.

The brilliant Julia Hart co-wrote and directed this very different thriller, a crime movie told only from the POV of one character, the wife of a criminal. Rachel Brosnahan of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel gives her best film performance to date as Jean, a woman who is forced to go on the run with her young child after her criminal husband goes missing. It’s a finely calibrated piece of work that reshapes an overdone genre in a way that makes it feel fresh again.

Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War earned him raves, but his previous drama is arguably even stronger, and it too is now on Amazon Prime. Set in Poland in 1962, this mesmerizing film tells the story of a young woman on the verge of taking her vows to become a nun. Before she can do that, she wans to fill in some holes in her personal history, including exactly what happened when she was orphaned during World War II.

Nicholas Ray gave Humphrey Bogart one of the richest roles in his career in this 1950 noir based on the Dorothy B. Hughes novel of the same name. When it was released, this story of a screenwriter suspected of murder didn’t connect the same way that Bogart generally did at the time, but history has been very kind to it, and it’s now widely considered one of the best film noirs of all time.

There’s a reason that this story of pod people has been remade pretty much for every generation. It taps into something timeless about the fear of distrusting our fellow man (and seems pretty ready for a 2020 update). The ‘70s version by Philip Kaufman is arguably the best, anchored by one of Donald Sutherland’s best performances and that creepy sense that the sense of community fostered by the late ‘60s was being dismantled from within.

Frank Capra’s classic often gets a ton of replay around the holidays, but it’s the kind of heartwarmer that works all year long. This is no mere Christmas movie but a story about the impact that one man can have on an entire community. It really defined the on-screen persona of Jimmy Stewart and has become a beloved film around the world, even in warm weather.

Cary Fukunaga gets a lot of attention for True Detective and No Time to Die, but don’t forget to check out his work on this 2011 adaptation of the famous novel of the same name by Charlotte Bronte too. Fukunaga delivers in the romantic longing department, directing Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender to two of the best performances of their careers.

It’s hard to overstate what a juggernaut the Ju-On franchise has become over the last two decades. There are over a dozen films in this franchise and three American versions, including one earlier this year. There’s also a Netflix prequel series (that’s pretty good!). But this is still the tentpole of them all, the 2002 flick that really defined the style of these vicious ghost movies. It still works as well today as when it came out.

Pretty much every Robert Altman film on streaming is going to make a list like this one, especially his truly underrated 1996 crime flick set in the jazz scene of Kansas City in the 1930s. Jennifer Jason Leigh, Miranda Richardson, Harry Belafonte, and Steve Buscemi star in a film that opens with a kidnapping in 1934 when Leigh’s husband is held prisoner by a notorious gangster. It’s talky in that Altman way and never boring.

Orson Welles may get more attention for unqualified masterpieces like Citizen Kane, but this has always been a fan favorite for people who love him, a stunning example of his incredible visual sense. This is a gorgeous noir starring Rita Hayworth and Everett Sloane based on the novel If I Die Before I Wake that was only modestly received in 1947 but has been recognized as a masterpiece over the decades since it was released.

Amazon Prime has arguably the best mix of legitimate classics and recent hits like this 2019 Sundance darling from director Joe Talbot. It’s the story of a young man who hopes to reclaim his childhood home in a now-overpriced section of San Francisco. Lyrical and poignant, it also features a stunning supporting performance from Jonathan Majors, who is about to blow up in HBO’s Lovecraft Country.

Do you think the people at Amazon have a sense of humor? Or is just a coincidence that they dropped a film about two people going crazy in a confined space together during the pandemic? Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe are fearless in Robert Eggers’ black-and-white nightmare about two people who learn that nothing is scarier than being trapped with someone unbearable.

The brilliant Paul Schrader directed Willem Dafoe to one of his best performances in an underrated 1992 neo-noir. The Oscar nominee plays a drug dealer in the middle of a mid-life crisis, co-starring with Susan Sarandon and Dana Delany. Largely ignored when it was released, Light Sleeper that has gained a critical following over the last three decades as Schrader and Dafoe continue to artistically excel.

Steven Soderbergh directs a searing performance by Terence Stamp in this 1999 thriller about a Brit who comes to California trying to find his missing daughter, and those who may be responsible for hurting her. Soderbergh rarely missteps and this is one of his most underrated films, a perfectly paced angry shout of a movie that matches its captivating leading man.

Oscar winner Jodie Foster made her directorial debut with this 1991 drama with a script by the great Scott Frank (Out of Sight). It stars Adam Hann-Byrd as a seven-year-old child prodigy and Foster herself as her mother. How we deal with gifted children is a complex subject, and Foster handles it with nuance and empathy.

Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ Sundance comedy is one of the most notable breakthroughs in the history of the Park City event. It went all the way from its premiere in Utah to a multiple Oscar nominee and brought in over $100 million along the way. People were drawn to a story that encourages them to just be who they want to be, along with an incredibly likable supporting cast that includes Steve Carell, Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Abigail Breslin, and Alan Arkin, who won the Oscar.

The Greta Gerwig version of the Louisa May Alcott classic drama earned raves and Oscar nominations back in 2019, but there was a quality version of the tale just a quarter-century earlier, and that’s the one that’s now on Amazon Prime. It stars Winona Ryder, Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes, and Susan Sarandon, and it too found Oscar success, landing three nominations, including Best Actress for Ryder.

James Gray may be the most underrated American filmmaker, what with The Immigrant, Two Lovers, and this period piece about obsession starring Charlie Hunnam and Robert Pattinson. This is not your typical explorer movie as Gray seeks to present something more challenging about why men seek the unexplored and commit themselves long past the point of sanity to seemingly impossible tasks.

One of the best films of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology, this piece is set in 1980s West London at a killer house party. Micheal Ward and Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn star as two lovers who meet at the party in this gloriously joyful ode to youth and passion. A lot of Small Axe is really intense stuff, but this one will make you smile.

Casey Affleck won an Oscar for his heartbreaking performance in Kenneth Lonergan’s drama about a broken man finally put back together when he’s forced to take care of his nephew. Lonergan’s film is an unforgettable character study, full of complex emotions and beats. And it has two scenes that are almost guaranteed to make you cry.

Letitia Wright (Black Panther) stars in one of the best films in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology, a collection of works about life in West London in the ‘70s and ‘80s. This one is the true story of the Mangrove Nine, a group of people arrested after a protest march ended in violence in August 1970. It was one of the first major cases about systemic racism in the country.

Amazon’s horror selection is a little lacking if you don’t have the Shudder add-on, but they do have exclusive streaming rights to Ari Aster and A24’s excellent Midsommar, the story of a vacation gone horribly awry. Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor play a couple who go to Sweden for a festival. A comedy of cultures gives way to something much darker when the true purpose of the festival is revealed in a series of final scenes that you’ll never forget.

All you need is love in Baz Luhrmann’s addictive and delightful jukebox musical, which turns twenty this year. It’s the story of Christian (Ewan McGregor), a young poet/writer who falls in love with a mesmerizing cabaret dancer played by Nicole Kidman. Using beloved pop music, Luhrmann crafts an unapologetically romantic piece, a delight for the senses that also touches the heart.

Amazon Prime doesn’t have the Kenneth Branagh remake that impressed audiences in 2017, choosing instead to stock the 1974 thriller directed by the legendary Sidney Lumet. Like the Branagh, this Agatha Christie adaptation contained a powerhouse cast of stars of its day that includes Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, and many more. It’s just a great mystery, well-told.

No one makes movies quite like Nicolas Winding Refn. The director of Drive delivered one of his most unforgettable flicks in this horror film about the fashion industry, featuring a fearless performance by Elle Fanning. And Keanu Reeves is in it too!

Sidney Lumet is one of the top American filmmakers in history, starting his career with 12 Angry Men and moving through modern classics like Dog Day Afternoon, The Verdict, and Prince of the City. This 1996 crime drama is one of his most underrated, starring Andy Garcia as a New York District Attorney who is trying to confront corruption in the NYPD.

One of Sergio Leone’s best films, this Western stars Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, Claudia Cardinale, and Charles Bronson. It’s an epic film that casts Fonda against type as the bad guy and contains some of the best imagery in Leone’s career, anchored by one of the best scores ever written by Ennio Morricone.

Regina King really can do everything. The Oscar and Emmy winner directs this adaptation of the 2013 play about four legendary Black icons coming to a hotel room in Miami in 1964. Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) knew a lot about fame and expectation in 1964, and King’s acclaimed film about them is smart, funny, and moving.

Alan J. Pakula directed this incredible thriller from 1974 that examines the power structures that rule the world in a way that feels oddly timely a half-century later. Warren Beatty does some of the best work of his career as a journalist who discovers a powerful organization known as the Parallax Corporation, who not only pull the strings but organize political assassinations. It’s a piece of work that’s still riveting today.

From the brilliant writer and director John Sayles, 1992’s Passion Fish is a drama about a soap opera star (Mary McDonnell) who has been paralyzed after being hit by a cab. She returns to her family home, where she crosses paths with a nurse (Alfre Woodard) who refuses to give up on her. It’s moving in a way that feels genuine, never manipulative.

Most people have seen Alfred Hitchcock’s voyeurism masterpiece about Mr. Norman Bates, but there’s a film from that era about a similar kind of madman that’s nearly as good. Directed by Michael Powell, 1960’s Peeping Tom is about a photographer who has a habit of shooting the people he’s killing, recording their final moments. So controversial at the time that it derailed Powell’s notable career, it’s a landmark piece of art that was a generation ahead of its time.

David Gordon Green directed Seth Rogen and James Franco to two of the best performances of their career in a film about an average guy and his dealer who find themselves in criminal crosshairs after they witness a murder. More than just an average stoner comedy, Green imbues Pineapple Express with a wonderful action movie pace too, recalling buddy flicks of the ‘80s while still feeling fresh at the same time.

Amazon Prime added dozens of acknowledged classics in July 2020 and this is one of the standouts, George Stevens’s adaptation of the Theodore Dreiser novel An American Tragedy. It’s a great example of a masterful filmmaker catching stars at just the right time in their careers. Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, and Shelley Winters are phenomenal in a film that won six Oscars, including Best Director and Best Screenplay.

Oliver Stone’s deeply personal and powerful film about the Vietnam War remains his best work, winning the filmmaker an Oscar for Best Director and nabbed Best Picture too. It stars Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, and Willem Dafoe in a story that cast a light on morality in wartime in a way that hadn’t really been seen before. It’s still incredibly moving stuff, and it always will be.

Long before they won Oscars, Joel and Ethan Coen made one of the best comedies of the ‘80s about a babynapping. Of course, this Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter vehicle is about way more than the stealing of one of the Arizona children. It’s about redemption, maturity, partnership, and, of course, the advice to not put a panty on your head. It’s also somehow even funnier now than it was when it was released.

Late in his career, Akira Kurosawa delivered one of his most epic films in this adaptation of William Shakespeare’s King Lear, blending that story with legends and history of Japan. The most expensive Japanese film ever made at the time, this 1985 war epic was a worldwide hit, bringing new viewers into the career of one of the best filmmakers of all time.

One of the best films of 2019 is right there on Amazon for you to watch. Picked up at Sundance for a small fortune, Amazon quietly released it in major cities, but have done little to promote this sturdy, smart thriller about the torture report that revealed the extent our government went to cover up its behavior after 9/11. Adam Driver, Annette Bening, Tim Blake Nelson, Jon Hamm, Corey Stoll, and many more star in a film reminiscent in tone and accomplishment to Spotlight.

One of Wes Anderson’s best films remains his 2001 comedy about three gifted siblings who learn that adult life may not be all that they were promised when they were young. Gene Hackman is great as Royal Tenenbaum, the irascible patriarch of the clan, but The Royal Tenenbaums is really Anderson’s show, and it contains one of his smartest screenplays, which was nominated for the Oscar.

Corruption and abuse of power from organizations like the NYPD is timely again in 2020, but this Sidney Lumet classic illustrates just how long we’ve been having this conversation. Al Pacino was Oscar-nominated for his turn as NYPD Officer Frank Serpico, a real New York cop who went undercover within his own force to expose corruption. It actually led to Pacino’s first Golden Globe for acting.

One of the best horror films of all time is Jonathan Demme’s classic The Silence of the Lambs, a winner of Best Picture, Director, Actor, and Actress Oscars. Demme’s adaptation of the Thomas Harris novels created a legend in Hannibal Lecter, a character instantly put on the Mount Rushmore of movie villains.

One of the best movies of the 2010s has returned to Amazon Prime after a brief hiatus. With a razor-sharp screenplay by Aaron Sorkin and some of the best direction of David Fincher’s career, The Social Network resonates even more now in the era of constant internet than it did a decade ago.

Darius Marder co-wrote and directed this phenomenal character study about a heavy metal drummer (Riz Ahmed) who loses his hearing. Dealing with the loss of one of his senses takes him to a community of deaf people, where he learns how to communicate and finds himself again. Touching and brilliantly directed, it also features one of the best performances of 2020 from Ahmed (and one that nearly matches him from Paul Raci).

Actor/Director Sarah Polley discovered that she was the product of an extramarital affair by her mother and turned that revelation into one of the decade’s best documentaries. Far more than just a biopic about a fascinating family, Polley turns her story into a discussion about why we tell stories and make movies in the first place.

Noah Baumbach’s personal 2005 drama dissects the impact of divorce on an average family and offers the suggestion that the flaws of parents will only be amplified in their children. Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, and Jesse Eisenberg all give excellent performances in a film that feels both specifically revealing and universal in its themes.

This might be the best concert movie ever made. Jonathan Demme doesn’t just film a Talking Heads performance, he makes a film that truly conveys how special they were as musicians and onstage. Opening up more with each song, this film becomes a joyous expression of creativity.

Billy Wilder’s 1950 dissection of Hollywood excess has become so iconic that most people probably feel like they’ve seen it even if they never actually have. William Holden plays the doomed Joe Gillis, but the film belongs to Gloria Swanson, who turned the faded star of Norma Desmond into an instant classic.

Terrence Malick wrote and directed one of his most acclaimed films with The Thin Red Line, his 1998 World War II film based on the 1962 novel of the same name by James Jones. Lyrical and harrowing in equal measure, it’s a stunning ensemble piece about the Battle of Mount Austen in the Pacific Theater of WWII featuring strong work from Sean Penn, Jim Caviezel, Nick Nolte, Ben Chaplin, and many more.

Documentarian Garrett Bradley followed the story of Sibil Fox Richardson for years as the woman sought to get her husband Rob released from prison, where he was serving a six-decade sentence for bank robbery. Bradley’s approach is both deeply empathetic and visually striking — the film unfolds in gorgeous black and white. You won’t soon forget one of the best documentaries of 2020.

A legitimate phenomenon that has grossed almost $100 million worldwide, this 2016 South Korean movie is one of the best zombie flicks of its era. It’s simple – zombies on a train – but that’s one of the reasons it works so well. It has a propulsive, non-stop energy and it feels like its legacy is just getting started.

The wonderful Steve Buscemi wrote, directed, and starred in this 1996 drama about a cast of characters at an average watering hole. Hanging out at the titular bar, Buscemi’s gift with character and nuance shows through in every scene, and reportedly influenced David Chase’s The Sopranos and Buscemi’s eventual directing of that show and later supporting role.

A sharp spoof of Hollywood blockbusters, Ben Stiller’s hit comedy has become divisive over the years in terms of how comedy has changed since its release. Yes, some of it hits differently now, but there’s no denying the fearless performances that carry it, including Stiller, Jack Black, and, most of all, Robert Downey Jr., doing anything to get the laugh.

Peter Weir directed Jim Carrey to one of the strongest performances of his career in this 1998 dramedy that now seems far ahead of its time in the way it foretold people living lives online. Carrey plays Truman Burbank, a man who has grown up on a TV show but has no idea that his entire life has been watched by millions. Ed Harris and Laura Linney are also just phenomenal in this modern classic.

One of the greatest twists of all time made Bryan Singer’s 1995 noir into a worldwide smash, winning star Kevin Spacey an Oscar for his work. Sadly, Singer and Spacey’s choices have made the film hit differently than it did a quarter-century ago, but it’s still a taut, tight piece of work. Watch it for Benicio del Toro, Gabriel Byrne, and Chris McQuarrie’s great script and ignore the other two guys.

One of the best small-movie success stories of the last few years, this gem premiered at Slamdance, Sundance’s little cousin up the mountain in Park City, in 2019. After a small drive-in run, it’s already on Prime, where you can appreciate this lo-fi take on aliens in the heartland of America. Smart, funny, and daring, this is one of the best movies of 2020.

Angela Bassett should have won every acting award, including the Oscar, for her searing performance as the legendary Tina Turner. Released in 1993 and based on Turner’s autobiography, Brian Gibson’s film charts Tina’s time with Ike, played by a vicious Laurence Fishburne. It’s a moving, unforgettable biopic.

When Robert Zemeckis directed a live-action/animated noir in which cartoons and people lived and worked alongside each other, no one expected it to be one of the best movies of the late ‘80s. The movie is just perfect: funny, smart, thrilling, and inventive in ways that not a lot of blockbusters were in this era. The technology would need an upgrade, but the same basic film could be released today and be a hit all over again. You can’t say that about many 30-year-old films.

Joaquin Phoenix stars in Lynne Ramsay’s technically masterful deconstruction of the life of a hitman. Ramsay’s amazing skill with editing and sound design is balanced by Phoenix’s instinctual, almost primal performance. When he’s asked to save the daughter of a prominent politician from sex trafficking, his life comes apart. Well, what little life he had left. This is riveting filmmaking and Phoenix’s work is one of the best performances of 2018.

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