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The gathered family in The Farewell. A24

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20 of the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now

What to watch on Prime, from bilingual family comedy dramas to apocalyptic anime epics

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 under the Amazon Studios banner, like Sound of Metal, Manchester By the Sea, Selah and the Spades, Paterson, and Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria remake.

But along with originals, there are tons of back catalogue picks just waiting to be discovered in the platform’s, let’s say, challenging UX. So we’ve looked through the service and cherry-picked some of our favorite films currently on the platform to try out. Without further ado, here are the top 20 best films to stream on Prime Video right now.


Alien

A xenomorph uncoiling from Kane’s chest in Alien (1979). Image: 20th Century Studios

Ridley Scott’s 1979 film Alien is irrefutably one of the most influential works of science fiction horror ever produced. From the dark pipe-laden corridors of the commercial spaceship Nostromo, to Sigourney Weaver’s iconic turn as heroine Ellen Ripley, to the serpentine extraterrestrial night terror of H.R. Giger’s xenomorph, Alien is a film whose aesthetic and conceptual precedent is felt and known across nearly every corner of sci-fi media from film and television to books, comics, and videogames. In short, Alien is the Rosetta Stone of cinematic sci-fi horror; if you somehow haven’t seen it already, you absolutely must. —TE


Blade of the Immortal

Manji and Rin facing off against a crowd of sword fighters in Blade of the Immortal. Image: Magnet Releasing

Based on Hiroaki Samura’s historical martial arts fantasy manga series of the same name, 2017’s Blade of the Immortal stars Takuya Kimura as Manji, a ruthless swordsman who wanders the countryside of feudal Japan on a quest to kill enough “evil” men in order to undo the curse that renders him immortal yet still susceptible to injury and pain. Enlisted by Rin Asano (Hana Sugisaki), an orphaned teenager whose family was slaughtered by a villainous band of sword fighters to be her bodyguard, Manji swears to protect her on her own quest for vengeance with the hopes that her vendetta will eventually set him free. Takashi Miike (13 Assassins, Ichi the Killer) is the perfect director to tackle this material, rendering Manji’s many mutilations at the hands of his opponents with gleeful physical humor, gory detail, and stylish grace as he and Rin cut a swath through their adversaries. —Toussaint Egan


Burning

Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in) wanders through a field. Photo: Well Go USA Entertainment

Lee Chang-dong’s Burning easily ranks as one of the most engrossing psychological thrillers of the 2010s. Based on a 1992 short story by The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle author Haruki Murakami, the film focuses on the story of Lee Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in), an aspiring writer who reunites with his childhood friend Hae-mi (Jeon Jong-seo) after years apart ... or does he? Soon after Jong-su meets Ben (Steven Yeun), a “friend” of Hae-mi’s whose extravagant lifestyle, vague occupation, and seemingly iron-clad hold over Hae-mi conjures feelings of suspicion and jealousy within Jong-su. When Hae-mi suddenly disappears one day, Jong-su’s desperate search to find her unearths a web of implications that shake him to his core. Burning is a mystery-thriller that thrives on insinuations conveyed through a triumvirate of masterful performances between Yoo, Lee, and especially Yeun, whose portrayal as Ben sincerely ranks as one of the most unsettling on-screen antagonists in recent memory. —TE


Coherence

Nicholas Brendon, Maury Sterling, Lorene Scafaria, Alex Manugian, Lauren Maher, and Emily Baldoni in Coherence (2013) Photo: Oscilloscope Laboratories

Writer-director James Ward Byrkit’s 2013 sci-fi thriller Coherence is a taut puzzle box of multidimensional weirdness and fraught existential terror. Holding it all together are strong performances led by Emily Baldoni, Homeland’s Maury Sterling, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Nicholas Brendon. If you’re hungry for an intriguing blend of mumblecore cinema and sci-fi horror, Coherence is it. —TE


Drug War

Sun Honglei as police captain Zhang Lei pointing a pistol in Drug War (2012) Photo: Variance Films

Though Johnnie To might go unrecognized by a majority of Western filmgoers, he’s one of the most prolific Hong Kong directors of his generation, renowned for his tense action crime thrillers and gangster dramas. Drug War, To’s first feature produced in mainland China, is as excellent an introduction to his work as any. It’s a tightly wound cat-and-mouse game focusing on Zhang Lei (Sun Honglei), a relentless police captain trying to topple an illicit drug cartel, and Timmy Choi (Louis Koo), a mid-level drug smuggler who agrees to cooperate with police in order to escape the death penalty for his offenses. If you’re looking for a taut, pulse-pounding crime film with blistering action and dark twists, Drug War is a must-see. —TE


Edward Scissorhands

Edward Scissorhands (Johnny Depp) eating dinner in Edward Scissorhands. Image: 20th Century Studios

Tim Burton’s 1990 fantasy romance Edward Scissorhands is not only an essential touchstone in the director’s filmography of darkly whimsical and human-centric stories, but a searing indictment of the dark hypocrisy at the heart of suburban America. Johnny Depp stars as Edward, an artificial human with long scissors for hands who is left alone to tend to the castle of his now-deceased creator (Vincent Price). When Peg Boggs (Dianne West), an endearing door-to-door saleswoman meets Edward while visiting his home, she adopts him into her family alongside her son Kevin and their teenage daughter Kim (Winoa Ryder). Over time, Edward grows to love The Boggses and their home, but the neighborhood at large mistrusts and hates the mysterious young man for what makes him different. Edward Scissorhands is a touching modern fairytale told with gothic flourish with a simple message told elegantly and with heart. —TE


Evangelion: 3.0+1.0: Thrice Upon a Time

Evangelion Unit 13 and Evangelion Unit 01 dueling with spears Image: Studio Khara/Amazon Prime Video

The final installment in the Rebuild of Evangelion theatrical tetralogy finds the anti-Nerv organization Wille on ropes as Shinji, Rei, and Asuka muster the resolve to prevent yet another apocalyptic “Impact” event. If you haven’t watched the previous three films in the series — or for that matter, the original 1995 anime and 1997’s End of Evangelion — you’ll probably want to do that before watching this one, to save yourself some confusion. But with that said, Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time is a thrilling and fulfilling conclusion to one of the most influential and iconic anime in the history of the medium. —TE


The Farewell

The gathered family in The Farewell. Image: A24

Inspired by a true story, Lulu Wang’s 2019 comedy drama The Farewell stars Awkwafina as Billi, a headstrong Chinese-American woman who returns to China after learning of her beloved grandmother’s terminal diagnosis. In a collective effort to shield their matriarch from the emotional burden of the news, Billi’s parents orchestrate a fake wedding as a means of bringing the extended family together for one last farewell. Irreverent, poignant, and achingly beautiful, The Farewell is an stirring ode to the strength of familial love and an fascinating exploration of the tangled intersecting forces of grief, culture, and identity. —TE


Halloween II

Michael Myers in Halloween II Image: Universal Pictures

Halloween II is essentially a feature-length post credits sequence to 1978’s Halloween — and that’s fine! Following his murder spree in the original film, Rick Rosenthal’s 1981 follow-up sees the terrifying masked killer Michael Myers stalking his would-be prey Laurie Strode through a hospital after he was being shot by his psychiatrist Dr. Loomis during the prior film’s climax. Ultimately, Halloween II is more of the same to somewhat lesser effect — more gore, more violence, more scares, and more lore in the form of the reveal of Laurie and Michael’s estranged familial relation. However, again, considering we’re talking about the immediate sequel to one of the most iconic serial killer horror franchises of all time, that familiarity of form and style is perfectly fine so long as it delivers on the requisite frights. —TE


The Handmaiden

Kim Min-hee and Kim Tae-ri in Ah-ga-ssi (The Handmaiden) Photo: Amazon Studios / Magnolia Pictures

Oldboy director Park Chan-Wook’s elegant and elaborate erotic thriller set in 1930s Korea was released to near-unanimous acclaim back in 2016, leaving audiences and critics clamoring for Park’s next turn at the director’s chair. Based on Sarah Waters’ 2002 novel Fingersmith, the film follows Nam Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri), a woman hired to work as a maid to a Japanese heiress (Kim Min-hee) in a sinister plot to despoil her inheritance. Things quickly take several dozen turns however, escalating into an intricate web of seduction and deception as Sook-hee and the heiress are brought ever closer together. Whether you’ve seen it before or not, now’s as perfect time as any to see what all the fuss is about while Park begins filming his upcoming his romantic murder mystery Decision to Leave this year. —TE


House on Haunted Hill

Vincent Price in House on Haunted Hill Image: Shout Factory

Director William Castle was the king of the gimmick. Though he went on to produce bona fide classics like Rosemary’s Baby, he spent his early days pitching genre pictures to mass audiences through the promise of enhanced, terror-inducing viewing experiences. His film The Tingler screened with “Percepto” buzzer enhancements, which jolted viewers whenever the titular creature popped up. A ticket to 1960’s 13 Ghosts came with Illusion-O Glasses, which revealed hidden specters in the picture.

The twist on 1959’s House on Haunted Hill would be a little bit harder to replicate at home today — during the haunted house movie’s finale, a skeleton swooped over the audience on a zip line. But the truth is, Castle’s fun-forward horror flicks hold up just as well without the accoutrement. With a cast led by Vincent Price, House on Haunted Hill finds a macabre millionaire inviting a number of unsuspecting, money-hungry guests for a night at his haunted mansion rental. If anyone can last the night, they get $10,000. But it’s haunted! Or is it? Castle’s funhouse tricks weave their way into both plot and execution.

The fun here is all the sight gags on screen. There are ghosts, skeletons, violent hands brandishing weapons, and a basement with its own acid death pit. The old fashioned rat-a-tat dialogue and goofy setups keep House on Haunted Hill as blissfully silly as any straight-faced remake (and, seriously, the remake of this one is bad). It’s also a joy to see Price in action, reminding viewers with each scene why he’s one of the key voices of classic horror. Castle had to hustle to get butts in seats back in the day, but this one’s a no-brainer for any crowd with varying degrees of horror tolerance. —Matt Patches


Jennifer’s Body

Megan Fox as the demon-possessed Jennifer Check in Jennifer’s Body (2009) Image: 20th Century Studios

Gory without being gratuitous, sexy without being degrading, empowering without being pandering, Jennifer’s Body is a hell (ha ha) of a good time, and is exactly the movie I needed to see, as someone who went to high school in that era and is still unpacking all the mixed messages about female friendships and empowerment given to me then. —Petrana Radulovic


The Lighthouse

Thomas (Willem Dafoe) and Ephraim (Robert Pattinson) in front of the lighthouse. Photo: A24

Director Robert Eggers and his brother Max conceived of The Lighthouse as a ghost movie, but it plays more 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. —Chris Plante


Paterson

Adam Driver as the bus driving poet Paterson Photo: Bleecker Street Media/ Amazon Studios

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


Ronin

Image: United Artists

Ronin is’nt your typical heist movie. Directed by John Frankenheimer, the 1998 American action thriller stars Robert De Niro and Jean Reno as members of an elite team of mercenaries assembled by a mysterious handler to intercept and retrieve a suitcase before it is sold to the Russians. While it certainly doesn’t lack in terms of bristling gunfights and nail-biting chase sequences, the strength of Ronin lies in the meticulous and deliberate set up leading up to its fateful third act. Frankenheimer’s film is as austere as it gratifying; an action film with an emphasis on richly-crafted characters with byzantine alliances and a plainspoken sense of style. —TE


Tangerine

Mya Taylor, left, and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, in Tangerine. Image: Magnolia Pictures

Filmed entirely with iPhone cameras, Sean Baker’s 2015 comedy-drama Tangerine follows Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and Alexandra (Mya Taylor), two trans sex workers who set out to find Chester (James Ransone), Sin-Dee’s boyfriend/pimp and get to the bottom of a salacious rumor that he cheated on her while she was serving a 28 day stint in prison. Set during Christmas Eve and filmed entirely on the streets of Los Angeles, Tangerine is a raw, uproariously surprising, touching, heartbreaking, and thoroughly engrossing experience that offers an affecting glimpse into the emotional trials and tribulations of sex work while constructing a portrait of Los Angeles in all its many-splendored chaos. —TE


Time

Fox and Rob Richardson in a still from the documentary Time. Photo: Amazon Studios

Compiled from hundreds of hours of video tape recorded over nearly 20 years, Garrett Bradley’s documentary Time is a profound examination of the American penal system that concentrates on the souls affected by it from start to finish. Bradley’s subject, Sibil Richardson, is a mother, wife, entrepreneur, educator, and fighter. But when life left her and her husband Robert hopeless, and in charge of a roost of small children, the married couple resorted to armed robbery, which ultimately ended in Robert being locked up with a 60-year prison sentence. After serving three years before being granted clemency, Sibil exits prison and immediately begins the juggling act of caring for her children, keeping the family afloat, and taking every measure to reunite with her husband, who she believes deserves a second chance at life.

Throughout her journey, Sibil keeps a camera rolling, and it’s a gift — she is bursting with joy, even in the gravest moments of reality. Bradley stitches together the found footage with a clockmaker’s touch, relying on the 60-year-old jazz tunes of Ethiopian nun Emahoy Tsegu Maryam Gubrou to create a temporal ebb and flow. Whatever your politics, whatever your taste for nonfiction film, Time is a genuine masterpiece that Amazon wisely picked up for its growing Originals catalogue. —MP


Train to Busan

A bloodied Seok-woo (Yoo) looks over his shoulder. Image: Well Go USA Entertainment

Imagine if, instead of eating cockroaches and warding off ax-wielding thugs on their way to the one-percenter front carriage, the passengers aboard the Snowpiercer train warded off zombies. OK, OK, stop imagining: Train to Busan is better than anything you’ll come up with. Propulsive, bloody and glimmering with that dark whimsy particular to Korean cinema, animator-turned-live-action-director Yeon Sang-ho’s take on the zombie apocalypse wears its heart on its sleeve ... until the flesh-eating undead tear the heart to shreds. It’s a father-daughter story. It’s a husband-wife story. It’s a who-deserves-to-live-and-die survivor narrative. It’s a people story trapped in a high-speed rail train, where the only hope of escape is a well-timed leap into the baggage shelf. It’s a hell of a movie. —MP


Wanderlust

Wanderlust: George (PAUL RUDD), Linda (JENNIFER ANISTON) and Seth (JUSTIN THEROUX) at Elysium common area wearing cool hippie clothes Photo: Universal Pictures

Somehow, a movie starring Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd, made by Judd Apatow and Wet Hot American Summer and Role Models director David Wain, completely bombed in 2012, then immediately fell into obscurity. What happened? It’s really impossible to say when movies as random and anonymous Horrible Bosses and We’re the Millers popped during the same window in Aniston’s career. Maybe the problem was that this one was for adults?

Specifically, adult weirdos. Bringing the same oddball personality of Wet Hot to a traditional rom-com template, the movie follows a couple forced to retreat from New York City after financial disaster only to find solace in a New Age commune — ahem, sorry, intentional community — called Elysium. Justin Theroux plays the leader Seth, Jordan Peele is a resident stoner, Kathryn Hahn is a militant vegan, Alan Alda scoots around as the elder founder, and Brooklyn 99’s Joe Lo Truglio shows up as a nudist winemaker/novelist wearing what I assume is a giant fake penis prosthetic, but, if not, congratulations to Joe Lo Truglio.

Their dream life off the grid, and the big questions we ask ourselves about what to make of our lives, are ripe for Wain’s precision comedy and reflective storytelling. And the movie is riotous. Wanderlust can find sly commentary by staging scenes in McMansions where every wall is covered with TVs, or bring blunt-force dopiness, like a scene where Rudd spends a minute practicing the worst dirty talk in human history. Like a good swig of Ayahuasca tea, the movie is a bizarre trip with a significant destination. No one saw it back in 2012, but it’s a rare film I’ll watch over and over again: quotable, silly, poignant, and skillfully made. —MP


You Were Never Really Here

Joaquin Phoenix as Joe in You Were Never Really Here Image: Amazon Studios

Joaquin Phoenix (The Master) delivers an unsettling and soulful performance as Joe, a traumatized veteran-turned-hired fixer in Lynne Ramsay’s 2017 psychological thriller You Were Never Really Here. When Joe is hired to rescue Nina (Ekaterina Samsonov), the kidnapped daughter of a notable New York Senator, he descends into the criminal underbelly of the city on a brutal, blood-drenched mission for personal redemption. Troubled by suicidal ideation and a history of abuse, Joaquin’s rendition of Joe is emphatically sympathetic even at his most barbaric; a wounded soul searching for absolution and the will to go on in a world teeming with adversarial uncertainty and death. —TE