The 50 best movies on Amazon Prime
Netflix’s main rival has come on in leaps and bounds since its threadbare debut
When Amazon Prime Video belatedly launched in the Republic of Ireland – some 10 years after its UK bow – Irish customers were thrilled to finally avail of Mr Robot and Transparent and, erm, Mr Robot? Happily, Netflix’s main rival has come on in leaps and bounds since that threadbare debut. As any regular user can attest, APV is an eclectic bazaar, a marketplace where stately award-winning documentaries (1982’s Genocide) co-exist with barmy conspiracy woo woo (Alien Reptilian Legacy, Hitler’s UFOs), and where undeserving Oscar winners (Chicago, Out of Africa) rub shoulders with financial catastrophes (Freddy Got Fingered, Cool World). Hence this handy cut-out-and-keep (meaning look-up online) guide to the 50 best films on APV. The Irish service hasn’t quite caught up with the bountiful UK equivalent. But it’s getting there.
(Shane Acker, 2009)
Fantastic animated steampunk epic set in an unspecified post-apocalyptic future in which “stitchpunk” puppets take on rampant killing machines.
A MONSTER CALLS
(JA Bayona, 2016)
Preteen Conor is struggling with his mother’s illness, a no-nonsense granny (Sigourney Weaver) and nightly visits from a storytelling giant (Liam Neeson). A wonderful, heart-breaking picture.
(Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker, 1980)
Surely, this still irresistible comedy must have the greatest hit-rate for classy one-liners in the history of the medium? It does … and stop calling me “Shirley”.
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON
(John Landis, 1981)
There has never been a comedy-horror with quite the same tone as Landis’s delicious oddity. That’s to say it’s a proper comedy and a proper horror.
ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY
(Adam McKay, 2004)
Nobody played the slightest attention when McKay’s ramshackle 1970s pastiche emerged. But it went on to become the most-quoted film on this list.
(Joe Wright, 2012)
Here’s a theory. Might this theatrical version of Tolstoy’s classic – featuring Keira Knightley and Domhnall Gleeson – be Joe Wright’s best film and the best English-language Karenina? We’re sticking with the proposition.
(Satyajit Ray, 1956)
The second part of Ray’s legendary Apu trilogy – following on from Pather Panchali – details the hero’s troubled teenage years in Varanasi. The only sequel to win the Golden Lion at Venice.
(Mike Mills, 2011)
Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor star in this lovely, moving family drama about a straight son and his dying gay father.
(Alejandro G Iñárritu, 2014)
Michael Keaton eats the furniture as an actor going slightly mad in one of the decade’s less likely best picture winners. It’s indulgent, but endlessly inventive.
BLACK SNAKE MOAN
(Craig Brewer, 2007)
Crazy Christploitation flick in which a God-fearing small farmer (Samuel L Jackson) aims to save a white-trash sex addict (Christina Ricci).
(Terry Gilliam, 1985)
A year after 1984, Terry Gilliam – approaching from an oblique, unofficial angle – delivered the best take on George Orwell’s novel. Jonathan Pryce is going mad in steampunk dystopia.
(Roman Polanski, 1974)
Postclassical Hollywood was at its absolute classiest in this noir concerning the men who brought water to LA. Jack Nicholson is the gumshoe. John Huston is the controlling maniac.
(Ron Shelton, 1994)
Those in the know declare Shelton’s film a contender for the best (and most undervalued) sports movie of all time. Tommy Lee Jones oozes malignity as the famously disliked ball player Ty Cobb. A home run.
DAZED AND CONFUSED
(Richard Linklater, 1993)
Nobody does American coming-of-age movies better than Linklater (Boyhood), and this riotous 1993 comedy is arguably the highest of his high-school adventures. Cruise with cool (and not so cool) Texas teens on the last day of term in 1976.
(Emile Ardolino, 1987)
In the summer of 1963, a well-heeled teenager (Jennifer Grey) falls for her dance instructor (Patrick Swayze). Now widely revered as a subversive feminist text.
(John Patrick Shanley, 2008)
Meryl Streep’s dragon-lady nun goes head-to-head with a suspected paedophile priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Amy Adams channels Julie Andrews and Viola Davis cries with actual snot. Because proper acting.
FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH
(Amy Heckerling, 1982)
Rolling Stone journalist Cameron Crowe went undercover for a year at a San Diego high school to write nonfiction bestseller Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Universal Studios first approached David Lynch to adapt, before handing the project to Heckerling (Clueless). Good call, dude!
(Dito Montiel, 2009)
A smooth-talking Terrence Howard lures struggling street kid Channing Tatum into the underground fighting circuit in a film of gritty visuals and tremendous performances.
(Herbert Ross, 1984)
The veteran director and choreographer Herbert Ross hit Reagan-era gold with this still-delightful musical about a town that has banned dancing. Kick off your Sunday shoes!
GONE BABY GONE
(Ben Affleck, 2007)
Affleck’s directing career began to eclipse his acting career with this powerful adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s novel concerning a kidnapping in Boston. A breakout role for his brother Casey.
(Werner Herzog, 2005)
Herzog’s documentary on Timothy Treadwell, a young man who got too close to the bears he loved, allows the great man an opportunity to clarify and explore his famous pessimism.
HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY
(Guillermo del Toro, 2008)
Hellboy (Ron Perlman) teams up with aquatic telepath Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), elf princess Nuala (Anna Walton), a German psychic (Seth MacFarlane) and long-time love Liz (Selma Blair) for a big row in Northern Ireland. No, really.
(Steven Spielberg, 1975)
Still as ingenious, exciting and entertaining as it was 40 years ago, Spielberg’s second film exploited a gift for dread that he made insufficient use of in succeeding pictures. Dum dum! Dum, dum!
(Oliver Stone, 1991)
Yes, it’s among the most irresponsible films ever released by a major studio (the New Orleans gay community really didn’t kill JFK), but the craftsmanship remains infuriatingly impressive.
KILL BILL VOL 1
(Quentin Tarantino, 2003)
Tarantino basically threw the contents of his kit bag at the screen in the first part of his indulgent gang bang. Uma Thurman is out for revenge. We’re in for fun.
(Bobby and Peter Farrelly, 1996)
Further evidence that the Farrelly brothers are the masters of working broad laughs in with shameless sentiment. Woody Harrelson is the 10-pin bowler out for revenge. Strike.
(Ridley Scott, 1985)
A swashbuckling Tom Cruise takes on Darkness (Tim Curry) to save a princess and the world. Featuring the music of Tangerine Dream and unicorns.
(Barry Jenkins, 2016)
Chiron – seamlessly essayed by three actors – grows up gay, poor and black round Miami in this year’s deserving winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture.
(Jared Hess, 2006)
How was Hess’s hilarious film about a useless Mexican wrestler (Jack Black) not a cult smash? It’s almost as good as the next film in this list.
(Jared Hess, 2004)
Vote for Pedro. Hess again! It’s like a lion and a tiger mixed … bred for its skills in magic. Nunchuck skills… bowhunting skills… computer hacking skills… Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills! Watch this now.
PRETTY IN PINK
(Howard Deutch, 1986)
Molly Ringwald gained stardom – and the cover of Time – after brightening up this delightful study of teenage life in flux. Harry Dean Stanton is great as her dad.
(Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
Whatever your feelings about Tarantino, it can’t be denied that he helped define a decade. His second film remains a model of energy and invention.
(Franc Roddam, 1979)
Mods versus rockers in 1979. Phil Daniels stars in this gritty depiction of alienated British working-class youth, inspired by The Who’s rock opera. The band do not appear in the film, but Sting does. Still way less disturbing than Tommy.
(Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)
The master’s most formally satisfying picture finds Jimmy Stewart, laid up with a bad leg, suspecting murder in the apartment opposite his, ahem, rear window. All life is there.
(Quentin Tarantino, 1992)
You’re not short of Tarantino on Amazon. His official debut, concerning a heist gone wrong, still looks like the least flawed Q joint. Moves like bloodied clockwork.
(Lenny Abrahamson, 2015)
Brie Larson’s performance as a mother detained with her son by a barely glimpsed maniac is just one reason to watch Abrahamson’s humane Oscar-garlanded drama.
(Wes Craven, 1996)
Craven returned from the semi-wilderness with a comedy-horror that tore apart the conventions of horror. Maybe a little too influential.
(Richard Donner, 1988)
Bill Murray is at his most monstrously manic in this enduring adaptation of A Christmas Carol.
(Asif Kapadia, 2010)
The measure of a good sports documentary is whether it can appeal outside the core audience. Kapadia’s study of Ayrton Senna comfortably managed that.
(Joss Whedon, 2005)
Browncoats – the preferred nomenclature for die-hard fans of Firefly – were thrilled when Whedon resurrected their favourite, cancelled space opera as this rip-roaring 2005 adventure. Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk star.
(Duncan Jones, 2011)
Jones followed up the brilliant Moon with this more frantic, but equally engrossing time-twisting thriller. Worth watching backwards.
(Tom McCarthy, 2015)
There’s nothing wrong with old-fashioned craftsmanship. McCarthy’s study of the Boston Globe’s investigations into clerical abuse was just that. A deserved best picture winner.
(JJ Abrams, 2011)
Five years before Stranger Things, Abrams ploughed the same 1980s horror furrow with his delightful slice of Spielbergia.
TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE
(Trey Parker, 2004)
Indifferently received on release, the South Park team’s Bruckheimeresque satire on American folly now looks like a key measure of the contemporaneous zeitgeist. So ronery!
THE ADDAMS FAMILY
(Barry Sonnenfeld, 1991)
Sonnenfeld’s translation of the great New Yorker cartoons was, among other things, a masterpiece of casting. Christine Ricci as Wednesday. Angelica Huston as Morticia. Perfect.
THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT
(Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez, 1999)
The film that didn’t really change Hollywood remains a fascinating one-off. Found footage became a thing. Internet promotion was here. An artistic dead end, but still chilling.
THE KING OF COMEDY
(Martin Scorsese, 1982)
Scorsese great masterpiece – which may or may not be a comedy – on the fame disease became even more relevant with the rise of reality TV.
THE LAST MAN ON THE MOON
(Mark Craig, 2014)
Apollo astronaut Gene Cernan stepped off the moon in December 1972, leaving his footprints and his daughter’s initials in the lunar dust. In this engaging doc, he discusses all the other things he left behind.
(Scott Frank, 2007)
After a road accident, a former high-school sports star (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is struggling with anterograde amnesia and anger management when he becomes embroiled in a plot to rob a bank.
THERE WILL BE BLOOD
(Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
Daniel Day Lewis breaks all the rules as mad tycoon Daniel Plainview in a drama that many named the best American film of its decade. Not an unreasonable view.