New Movies – 20 best Amazon Prime Video movies to watch now (May 2021)
We’ve all been there: Flipping through Amazon Prime Video’s movie offerings, but stuck wondering uh, what’s good. The commercial giant’s streaming service has quietly collected a giant archive of films, and since 2006, has released a number of acclaimed films like Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester By the Sea, Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson, and Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria remake under the Amazon Studios banner.
Prime Video is a great service, but there’s a ton of content to sift through. Don’t worry, we’re here to help. We’ve looked through the service and cherry-picked 10 of our favorite films currently on the platform to try out. From David Cronenberg’s 1988 psychological thriller Dead Ringers, Jonathan Demme’s classic concert film Stop Making Sense, and William Peter Blatty’s bonkers existential dark comedy The Ninth Configuration— we’ve got you covered with the good stuff.
Without further ado, here are the top 10 best films to stream on Prime Video right now.
When you decide to stream Aliens — and you should, this evening, even if you’ve seen it multiple times — do it on the biggest screen available to you. That way, you can marvel all over again at how James Cameron’s blockbuster sequel still looks so good, nearly 30 years later. Better, even, than a lot of modern sci-fi cinema. But looks aren’t everything, and Aliens is such a top-to-bottom rock solid film, the definitive sequel that takes the first movie and runs in an entirely different direction without disrespecting what came before. What’s more, Aliens still has the best setup/title one-two punch in cinema: Remember how the first movie was named after one scary creature? Well, what if there were more? And while Cameron’s film trades the horror of the first film for white knuckle action, the movie stays squarely focused on hero Ellen Ripley, who, by the time the finale comes around, will once again face off against a single Xenomorph. Plus, it’s done so much for the culture. Game over man, game over. —Joshua Rivera
As we wrote back in 2020, “Jonathan Lynn’s dark comedy Clue, inspired by the mystery-solving board game, is easily one of the best whodunits of the 20th century. Lynn and co-writer John Landis (director of The Blues Brothers and An American Werewolf in London) fool the audience with subtle tricks and twists, as six guests are invited to a New England mansion to get to the bottom of a nasty blackmail conspiracy.” Packed with terrific comedic performances courtesy of a cast including Tim Curry, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Lesley Ann Warren and four hilarious alternate endings, Clue is one of the great comedic cult classics of the ’80s. —TE
Director David Cronenberg earned a reputation throughout the mid-’80s and ’90s for his body horror sci-fi thrillers and dramas rife with psychosexual allegory, over-the-top violence, and existential paranoia. His 1988 psychological thriller Dead Ringers is a staple of this era, a film as essential in understanding his work as either 1981’s Scanners or 1983’s Videodrome. Jeremy Irons stars as Beverly and Elliot Mantle, identical twins who run a successful gynecology practice in Toronto treating wealthy women for fertility problems … as well occasionally sleeping with them. The pair lead a charmed life of success until the arrival of Claire Niveau (Geneviève Bujold), an actress with a substance abuse problem whose love affair with the gentle-hearted Beverly drives an irreconocible wedge between him and the more cynical Elliot. Irons is phenomenal here, creating an on-screen dynamic between the twins that feels both convincing and nuanced through subtle variances in their speech, posture, and even philosophical outlook on life and love. What begins as a thriller gradually morphs into a horrific, enthralling, and tragic portrait of the dangers of codependency, as both Beverly and Elliot resort to acts of emotional (and physical) self-destruction when faced with the prospect of a life without the other. If that isn’t enough to get you to pop this one on, it’s Oldboy and The Handmaiden director Park Chan-wook’s favorite of Cronenberg’s films. —TE
If you’ve spent an inordinate amount of time online and you’ve never seen Downfall, Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Oscar-nominated 2004 historical war drama of the final days of Adolf Hitler’s life amid the Battle of Berlin, this is the film that spawned the infamous “Hitler finds out…” meme. As memorably (and hilarious) as those memes might be, they don’t hold a candle to the magnitude of the scene within the context of the film itself. The late great Bruno Gaz, renowned for a lifetime of remarkable performances in such films as Nosferatu the Vampyre and Wings of Desire, delivers one of his most affecting through his portrait of Adolf Hitler as a simpering, paranoid, and vainglorious demagogue clinging to the last waning vestiges of power as his empire crumbles and the world descends upon him. —TE
If you love Gareth Evans’ 2011 Idonesian action-thriller The Raid and somehow haven’t seen 2012’s Dredd … holy shit, are you in for a great time. Starring Karl Urban (The Boys) as the gravel-voiced authoritarian super-cop, the film follows Dredd and his apprentice partner, Judge Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), as they are forced to bring law and order to a 200-story high-rise block ensnared in the vice grip of resident drug lord, Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). Penned by screenwriter-turned-cerebral-sci-fi-director Alex Garland (and who according to Karl Urban might have had more of a hand in the film’s production than was previously known), Dredd is an explosive action experience packed with dazzling slo-mo action sequences and charged with a biting satirical undercurrent of dark humor. —TE
Ben Wheatley’s 2015 adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s novel High-Rise takes aim at the legacy of austerity politics and the history of class warfare throughout Great Britain. The Avengers and Thor: Ragnarok’s Tom Hiddleston plays Robert Laing, a doctor who moves into a new high-rise apartment building built for the wealthy and elite. The tower is a universe unto itself, complete with any amenity or desire one could ask for. Tensions across the fault lines of class and lifestyle soon become stressed however, as drugs, drink, and debauchery devolve into sectarian tribalism, wanton misogyny, and a literal class war waged by wealthy upper-floor residents. It’s a morosely fascinating watch, even if you’re not up on your 1970s British history. —TE
Let The Right One In
A 12-year-old Swedish boy finds a friend in a vampire who looks roughly his age, but is actually an old vampire permanently trapped in the body of a young child. The film is kaleidoscopic, each viewing revealing something different than the last. The first time I saw the film, I was a pessimistic college student, and I read the central relationship as a warning about the parasitic nature of love. After college, the children’s bond reminded me of the impermanence of youth, and why growing up is a mixed blessing. This past year, I was far more focused on the girl’s relationship with her caretaker, an older man who sacrifices everything for her existence.
The film was adapted from John Ajvide Lindqvist’s 2004 novel of the same name, which inspired not just this Swedish film, but a 2010 American adaptation, a comic-book prequel, and two stage plays. The latter has its own legacy — it was adapted by the magnificent National Theater of Scotland, and it eventually had a run at St. Ann’s Warehouse in 2015. Few books inspire so much additional great art. So I suppose I’m recommending the book just as much as the film. —Chris Plante
Director Robert Eggers and his brother Max conceived of The Lighthouse as a ghost movie, but for me, it plays like an abstract vampire film. In the two-hander, Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe play the attendants of a lighthouse on a diminutive island off the coast of New England in the 1890s. The two men — both named Thomas — have no companionship but each other and the light of the lighthouse. The Fresnel lens that casts light across the sea becomes a point of fixation, an immortal beacon that saps the men of their very will.
Eggers and his film are part of the recent push of critically lauded horror films. If you enjoy The Lighthouse, you should also try Eggers’ debut, The Witch. You might also like any of A24’s “high” horror films, like Midsommar, Under the Skin, Enemy, Hereditary, Saint Maud, It Comes at Night, Green Room, and Climax. And no collection of award-worthy horror would be complete without Jordan Peele’s Get Out and Us. —CP
Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World
Peter Weir’s 2003 epic nautical war-drama Master And Commander: The Far Side of the World is, as the film’s star Russel Crowe said earlier this year in what some might describe as “the world’s loudest subtweet,” an adult’s movie. The film follows Captain John “Jack” Aubrey, the brash and fearless captain of H.M.S. Surprise and Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany) are ordered to hunt down and capture the rogue French privateer ship Acheron. An odyssey spanning over two year and set amidst the height of the Napoleonic War, Weir delivers a welcome alternative to Pirates of the Caribbean and more fantastical seafaring adventures. —TE
Millennium Actress is the second of four features produced by late Japanese director Satoshi Kon, and arguably his greatest work. A love letter to cinema, the film is a magical realist odyssey experienced from the perspective of Chiyoko Fujiwara, an actress reflecting on career at the behest of a passionate documentarian working to create a tribute to her life. From references to 1954’s Godzilla to Kurosawa’s 1957 classic Throne of Blood, to achingly beautiful and surreal sequences of Chiyoko and co. jumping back and forth through as she recollects over her past, Millennium Actress is an anime classic and one of the most beautiful and unique animated films ever produced. —TE
The Ninth Configuration
After winning the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1973 for William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, William Peter Blatty channeled that momentum into his directorial debut The Ninth Configuration. Based on Blatty’s own novel, the 1980 psychological dark comedy drama stars Stacy Keach as Col. Kane, a psychologist who arrives at a remote asylum located in a large castle in the Pacific Northwest.
The asylum’s patients are an eclectic bunch: All highly intelligent former military personnel, including Captain Billy Cutshaw (Scott Wilson), an astronaut who was dragged from an aborted moon launch after suffering an apparent psychotic break. Cutshaw suspects that something is off about Kane, and the two engage in a heated contest of wills that spans not only the confines of the castle but the expanse of human existence itself. To describe it through comparison, The Ninth Configuration is like if Mel Brooks went on to direct a mash-up of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Altered States after working on Blazing Saddles. It’s a film that poses big questions: What use is sanity in a world of madness? What purpose does faith serve in a world (seemingly) bereft of any hope for salvation? I guarantee that it’ll be the strangest film you’ll watch from this list. Also, content warning: there’s blackface here, but it doesn’t interfere with the quality of the film as a whole. — TE
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Is Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol the best Mission Impossible movie? That’s debatable. But is it the funniest Mission Impossible movie? No question. The 2011 entry from director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles) finds Tom Cruise’s super spy Ethan Hunt and his IMF colleagues disavowed in the wake of a horrific attack on the Kremlin. Tasked with clearing their names and bringing the true culprits to justice, Hunt and IMF technician-turned-field operative Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) are joined by intelligence analyst William Brandt (Avengers star Jeremy Renner) and handler Jane Carter (Paula Patton) as they globetrot from Moscow to Dubai and Mumbai on the trail of a rogue nuclear terrorist known only as “Cobalt.” The big set-piece scene of Ethan scaling the side of a skyscraper is an exquisitely nail-biting performance of mounting tension and hilarious comedic timing. —TE
Academy-Award nominee Adam Driver shines in Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson, a magical realist ode to the quotidian pleasure and defeats of ordinary life and a stirring drama about the animating powers of written poetry. The film chronicles a week in the life of the eponymous protagonist, a modest and soft spoken bus driver living in Paterson, New Jersey who moonlights as a poet. Paterson is a small-scale, meditative movie; a lovely pocket-sized tone poem of a film that relishes in the simple joys, frustrations, and necessity of relationships, routine, and openness to change. —TE
Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s 2001 Japanese horror classic Pulse is one of the most terrifying films I’ve ever watched. Set near the turn of the century, Kurosawa’s follows a group of Japanese teenagers who, in the wake of their friend’s inexplicable suicide, begin to experience strange visions and unsettling encounters linked to a mysterious floppy disk their friend was investigating prior to his death. Pulse is widely championed as one of the definitive works in the canon of Japanese horror, with several critics and fans citing it as the definitive internet horror film of the 21st century. Be sure to have all the lights off for this one … and something to cover your eyes when you get too freaked out (trust me— you will). —TE
So I Married An Axe Murderer
Mike Myers stars in Thomas Schlamme’s 1993 black comedy as Charlie MacKenzie, a popular San Francisco beat poet with commitment issues who nonetheless falls in love with with a local meat butcher with a heart of gold named Harriet (Harriet! Sweet Harriet!). After the two wed, Charlie’s paranoia quickly begins to settle in when, you guessed it, begins to suspect that he’s new beau is a vicious serial killer with a penchant for marrying her victims before brutally murdering them when they least suspect it. Chock full of hilarious performances, including Mike Myers playing Charlie’s own father Stuart, So I Married An Axe Murderer is a terrific comedy that’s as charmingly cheesy as it is thoroughly entertaining to watch. —TE
Stop Making Sense
Unfortunately for all other movies, but they don’t get better than Stop Making Sense. Take it from me, a man who has never listened to a single Talking Heads album from front to back, when I say that Jonathan Demme’s 1984 concert film is one of the most electrifying, unique, and essential cinematic experiences of the late twentieth century. Where else are you going to see David Byrne noodle-dancing in a gigantic oversized suit before belting out infectiously euphoric rock anthems guaranteed to get you out of your seat? Eat your heart out, James Murphy. —TE
Akira Kurosawa’s action drama Ran (the Japanese word for “chaos”) is considered by many to be one of the greatest films ever produced by inarguably the most iconic and critically acclaimed Japanese director in the history of cinema. Inspired by William Shakespeare’s King Lear and the apocryphal legends of the 16th-century daimyo Mōri Motonari, the 1985 epic stars the legendary Tatsuya Nakadai (Harakiri, The Sword of Doom) as an elderly warlord in Medieval Japan who, upon his retirement, bequeaths his kingdom to the care of his three sons. Order soon subsumes chaos however, as Nakadai’s Lord Ichimonji is forced to watch helplessly as the harmonious accomplishments of his reign quickly spiral into a cacophonous din of horror and bloodshed. Heralded as Kurosawa’s last great masterpiece, Ran is a must-watch classic. —TE
Sam Mendes’ 2012 turn at the venerable spy action franchise is a scintillating and melancholic turn for the series, probing at the interiority of James Bond’s history and allegiances in a way that no previous installment (save for maybe On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) has done before. Skyfall follows Daniel Craig as he reprises his role as everyone’s favorite MI6 operative as he goes toe-to-toe with former agent Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) as he mounts a globe-spanning plot to bring the organization to its knees and enact vengeance on Bond’s handler M (Judi Dench) for abandoning him years ago. —TE
M. Night Shyamalan followed modern trends by turning Unbreakable into the basis for a cinematic superhero universe with the addition of Split and Glass, but also like modern trends, the first one is the best. Unbreakable is a slow drip of a thriller, and a what-if-superheroes-were-real thought experiment built on the backs of 30 years of post-modern comic history. The action is minimal — Bruce Willis’ final fight is basically a wrestling match in a bedroom — but the mood is palpable. Portuguese cinematographer Eduardo Serra’s stark imagery combined with a haunting score by James Newton Howard make David Dunn’s intimate discoveries and Elijah price’s diabolical plot as epic as any Marvel plot. —MP
The Vast of Night
Set in the 1950s, The Vast of Night focuses on two teenagers investigating a mysterious radio frequency. Over the course of one night, switchboard operator Fay (Sierra McCormick) and radio DJ Everett (Jake Horowitz) go on a supernatural scavenger hunt, investigating everything from reels of tape to anonymous phone calls as they attempt to uncover the frequency’s source. From our review,
It’s an intimate movie, interrupted only by an impressively showy one-shot that sends a camera hurtling through the town, establishing the contrast between its open, silent spaces and the busy huddle of the big high-school basketball game. And while cinephiles make this point so often that it’s become tedious even if it’s true, it’s a film designed for a dark room with no interruptions. It’s designed to cast a delicate spell over the audience, but the audience has to participate to make the trick work.
New Movies – 20 best Amazon Prime Video movies to watch now (May 2021)
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