Last updated: September 3, 2020
In the world of streaming subscription services, there’s what’s become known as the “big three.” Netflix is still the biggest kahuna in the game, but Hulu and Amazon Prime are hot on its heels. Each service offers its own large selection of movies, with thousands of titles of various calibers included. Currently, Amazon Prime actually boasts the largest movie library of the three, but it could be argued that quantity isn’t nearly as important as quality.
The best movies on Amazon Prime can be found below, featuring a mix of blockbuster hits, award-winning critical darlings, hilarious comedies, bone-chilling horror movies, and more. The list below attempts to include something for everyone, and thankfully, Amazon Prime’s selection houses quite the robust grouping of worthwhile streaming choices.
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Before the list begins proper, there are some important notes to be made. First the movies below are available to stream on Amazon Prime at the time of this writing. As movies expire, the list will be updated, and new great options will be added. Also, the best movies on Amazon Prime below, while numbered for convenience, are not ranked. So the movie marked number one is not meant to necessarily be seen as superior to the movie at number 25.
Just one of many terrific films directed by modern master Christopher Nolan, 2010’s mind-bending sci-fi action blockbuster Inception started off its decade with a bang, earning raves from both critics and audiences. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Dom Cobb, a highly skilled professional thief that steals secrets from his targets by entering their dreams without permission. Cobb is offered the chance to escape his criminal past, provided he can successfully plant an idea into a particular person’s subconscious mind. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, and Cillian Murphy also star in this thrilling Amazon Prime pick.
Most horror films are full of obvious supernatural threats, whether they be vampires, ghosts, demons. or even the occasional sadistic leprechaun. Sometimes though, a horror effort comes along to reinforce that at the end of the day, the fear of losing a loved one is one that audiences can’t escape, even after the latest scary movie stops playing. One recent example of that type is 2018’s critically lauded (89% on Rotten Tomatoes) Hereditary, directed by Ari Aster, and starring Toni Collette as Annie, an emotionally scarred mom who finds her life spinning more and more out of control following the death of her own mother. Hereditary has become a bit divisive in horror circles, but it’s worth watching on Amazon Prime and judging for oneself.
23 The Terminator
When director James Cameron made his sci-fi slasher movie The Terminator back in 1984, it’s doubtful anyone anticipated it spawning a franchise of soon to be six films, a TV show, video games, comic books, and more. Yet, the tale of Sarah Connor’s (Linda Hamilton) attempt to survive the relentless pursuit of the titular cyborg (Arnold Schwarzenegger) remains one of the most compelling pieces of action and suspense to come out of the decade of New Wave music and feathered hair, and is definitely one of the best movies on Amazon Prime. Michael Biehn also stars as Sarah’s human protector, Kyle Reese.
22 The Avengers
While the MCU has topped it many times over since, 2012’s The Avengers was Marvel Studios’ first big test, the culmination of Phase 1. Thankfully, the Joss Whedon-directed film passed with flying colors, giving birth to many moments that still remain iconic in superhero cinema. Seeing Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye, and Black Widow all team up to face off with Loki and Thanos’ alien army was truly magical for Marvel fans, many of which had spent years hoping to see anything close to that on the big screen. The Avengers will probably become exclusive to Disney Plus eventually, but for now, it’s available on Amazon Prime.
21 Eighth Grade
The feature writing and directing debut of comedian Bo Burnham, Eighth Grade wowed many in 2018 with its very relatable, and often very frank depiction of what it’s like to be transitioning into one’s teenage years. Most movies and TV shows tend to depict childhood and young adulthood as this time full of nothing but fun and carefree idealism, but in reality, many people spend their youths battling social awkwardness, dealing with anxiety, and struggling to fit in. Fronted by a great lead performance from Elsie Fisher, and bolstered by one of the best speeches ever given from a parent to their child onscreen, Eighth Grade isn’t always easy to sit through, but it’s consistently rewarding. Another impressive offering from Amazon Prime.
20 The Usual Suspects
While the various sexual misconduct allegations surrounding director Bryan Singer and star Kevin Spacey sadly loom a bit large over The Usual Suspects at this point, that doesn’t change the fact that the (new to Amazon Prime) film itself is a terrific mystery, and sports one of the most game-changing twist endings ever. Centered on the interrogation of a small-time crook named Roger “Verbal” Kint (Spacey), the plot spins a web of intrigue around mythical criminal Keyser Soze, who nobody alive has ever actually seen. Chazz Palminteri, Kevin Pollak, Benicio Del Toro, Gabriel Byrne, and Stephen Baldwin also star.
19 Fighting With My Family
When it was first announced that comic actor Stephen Merchant would direct a biopic about former WWE wrestler Paige (played by Florence Pugh) – who sadly was forced to retire young due to injury – most didn’t expect much. Those expectations were wrong, as Fighting With My Family – now on Amazon Prime – provided not only a fun inside look at the world of WWE and professional wrestling, but a dramatic, funny, portrait of a family that always stands by each other in the end, even if they disagree along the way. The fact that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson shows up as himself doesn’t hurt either.
18 The Graduate
Widely regarded as one of the greatest American films of all time, director Mike Nichols’ 1967 dramedy The Graduate earned seven Oscar nominations, winning Best Director. Based on a novel, The Graduate stars Dustin Hoffman – in arguably his signature role – as 21-year-old recent college grad Benjamin Braddock, who finds himself in an odd position when he’s seduced by an older woman – Anne Bancroft’s legendary Mrs. Robinson – and then falls for her daughter Elaine (Katherine Ross). To call The Graduate anything less than iconic would be an insult, and it’s truly one of the best movies on Amazon Prime.
17 The Cabin in the Woods
2012’s The Cabin in the Woods, directed by Drew Goddard, is a decidedly unique film. It’s both a deconstruction of and loving tribute to the many tropes and cliches that make the horror genre work, and while other films have done that before and since, few have managed the feat as well. It would be criminal to spoil the film’s twists for those unfamiliar, but suffice to say the ending sequence will leave any fan of horror grinning from ear to ear.
The second feature to be directed by award magnet filmmaker Alexander Payne (and the only one on Amazon Prime), Election is based on Tom Perotta’s 1998 novel of the same name, and takes a darkly comic look at high school life through the lens of a hotly contested election for student body president. Reese Witherspoon stars as Tracy Flick – an ambitious overachiever who sets her sights on the office – while Matthew Broderick plays frustrated teacher Jim McAllister, who makes it his mission to try and crush the often manipulative girl’s dreams.
15 Close Encounters of the Third Kind
One of the many classic films directed by Steven Spielberg, 1977’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind is one of the most iconic sci-fi dramas ever made. The plot centers on Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss), a working class Indiana family man whose life is turned upside down after a fateful encounter with a UFO. Close Encounters manages to truly convey the wonder involved with confirming the existence of alien life, and remains one of the best movies on Amazon Prime today.
14 The Machinist
While Oscar-winner Christian Bale has become well-known for his ability to transform himself physically for roles in acclaimed films like The Fighter and Vice, one of Bale’s earliest transformations occurred for a film that didn’t even receive a wide theatrical release. However, that doesn’t mean 2004’s The Machinist isn’t worth watching on Amazon Prime. Directed by Brad Anderson, The Machinist stars Bale as Trevor Reznik, a man whose chronic insomnia issues have caused him to become horrifyingly emaciated. After Trevor causes an accident at work and loses his job, his mental state spirals downward fast. Jennifer Jason Leigh and Michael Ironside also star.
13 In the Heat of the Night
A rare example of a movie better known for the long-running TV series it spawned, 1967’s In the Heat of the Night stars Sydney Poitier and Rod Steiger as a black detective and white police chief respectively, who are reluctantly forced to investigate a murder together in small town Mississippi. Needless to say, racial tension is on the menu. The spinoff TV series ran for seven seasons, starring Carol O’Connor in the Steiger role, and is also available on Amazon Prime.
Clue, based on the board game long before that became a common thing to do, is almost the definition of a cult classic. At the time of its 1985 release, reviews from middling, and box office was almost nonexistent. Yet, in the decades since, Clue has become a favorite of many. Boasting a terrific cast – including such comic titans as Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Martin Mull, and Christopher Lloyd – and multiple endings, Clue offers a great option for Amazon Prime viewers who like their murder mysteries mixed with laughs.
11 Fatal Attraction
Perhaps the most iconic cinematic example of the dangers of an affair gone wrong, 1987’s Fatal Attraction was a critical and commercial smash. Directed by Adrian Lyne, Fatal Attraction stars Michael Douglas as married man Dan Gallagher, who has a steamy weekend-long fling with Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) while his family is away. Things go sideways fast when Dan attempts to return to his marriage and move on from Alex, who (famously) isn’t willing to be ignored. Before long, Alex threatens not only Dan’s family, but his very life. Fatal Attraction is just as arresting a watch today as it was over 30 years ago, and one of the best movies on Amazon Prime.
10 Invasion of the Body Snatchers
There are certain sci-fi stories that never really lose their resonance, and one of the best is Invasion of the Body Snatchers, first told as a classic novel by Jack Finney. Case in point is the 1978 film adaptation of the story by director Philip Kaufman, which is less a remake of the 1956 original movie – which until recently was also available on Amazon Prime – and more an updating of the book for a different generation. Featuring a cast full of heavyweights (Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, Leonard Nimoy, and more), 1978’s Invasion also boasts fantastic practical special effects, leading to an arguably even more chilling take on the idea of aliens that prey on and replace human beings in their sleep.
9 Changing Lanes
Back before Ben Affleck played Batman and Samuel L. Jackson started playing Nick Fury, the two heavyweight actors went head-to-head in 2002’s Changing Lanes, now on Amazon Prime. Affleck plays Gavin, a hotshot Wall Street lawyer who accidentally gets into a car crash with Jackson’s Doyle, a mild-mannered insurance salesman. Gavin leaves the scene of the crime, and from then on, the two men set out to ruin the other’s lives.
8 Leave No Trace
One of the most critically acclaimed films of 2018, director Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace is a recent addition to Amazon Prime, and one worth checking out. Leave No Trace is the story of Will (Ben Foster) and his daughter Tom (Thomasin McKenzie), who begin the film living inside a public park in Portland, Oregon. The pair spends most of their time isolated, but after they’re discovered and arrested by police, Will and Tom are forced to try and adjust to life within normal society. Tom finds herself being won over by the charms of a standard American life, but Will’s war-induced PTSD won’t allow him to change so easily.
7 Knives Out
Director Rian Johnson’s star-studded murder mystery Knives Out is now one of the best movies on Amazon Prime, and it’s just as effective now as it was in theaters. When rich author Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) suddenly dies, everyone in his orbit becomes a suspect, especially his ungrateful family members. Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is brought in to identify the killer, but the real answer is far from simple.
6 Captain America: The First Avenger
The movie that ultimately set the stage for the aforementioned 2012 Avengers film, Captain America: The First Avenger will probably also migrate to Disney+ exclusively at some point, but for now, Amazon Prime customers can still enjoy it. Chris Evans stars in the role that made him a household name, World War II-era youth Steve Rogers, who becomes the titular superhero as the result of an experiment. Pure of heart and always seeking justice, Steve was the perfect choice to become Captain America, and take the fight to the likes of the evil Hydra. Sadly, it would take many decades to finally get that dance he wanted with Peggy Carter.
While not exactly a critical darling, 1986’s Highlander is most definitely a cult classic, and has gone on to spawn an enduring franchise of both films and TV shows. In director Russell Mulcahy’s original film, Christopher Lambert stars as Connor MacLeod, the titular immortal warrior. Trained to fight by the extravagantly named Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez (Sean Connery), MacLeod knows he’ll eventually have to participate in “The Gathering,” in which all immortals fight to the death, only being killed by decapitation. Opposing Connor is The Kurgan (Clancy Brown). Boasting a rocking theme song by Queen, Highlander is a great addition to the Amazon Prime library.
4 Bone Tomahawk
Horror crosses over with many other genres, the most common being sci-fi and comedy. Less common is the horror/western mashup, but one of the best example of that combo is 2015’s Bone Tomahawk, directed by S. Craig Zahler. Sporting an impressive 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, Bone Tomahawk never got a wide release in theaters, making its streaming run on Amazon Prime the first opportunity many will have had to see it. Like, From Dusk Till Dawn, Bone Tomahawk makes a sharp left turn into horror country, and exactly how it does so is best left unspoiled. The terrific cast includes names like Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, and Richard Jenkins.
Any dedicated horror fan has surely had their soul torn apart multiple times by Hellraiser‘s Pinhead (Doug Bradley) by this point. Director Clive Barker (adapting his own novella) crafted one of the most enduring tales of terror to come out of the 1980s, spawning one of the longest-running horror franchises out there as well. Hellraiser may only have a 68% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but it’s a certified classic of the genre, and needs to be watched by anyone who enjoys a good fright flick. Direct sequel Hellbound: Hellraiser II is also part of Amazon Prime’s roster.
2 It’s a Wonderful Life
There are certain movies that just about everybody associates with Christmas. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Home Alone. The Santa Clause. For the less jolly out there, Silent Night, Deadly Night. Arguably the most iconic Christmas movie in history though is director Frank Capra’s 1946 classic It’s a Wonderful Life. Quite possibly the most uplifting film about suicide ever made, It’s a Wonderful Life stars Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, a man whose attempted death is foiled by his guardian angel. George is then shown just how much worse the lives of those around him would be if he was never born, a premise that’s since been ripped off endlessly. Christmas might be many months away, but it’s always a wonderful time to watch It’s a Wonderful Life on Amazon Prime.
1 The Stepford Wives
Be mindful, Amazon Prime subscribers, as this is the original 1975 classic, not the overly comedic 2004 remake starring Nicole Kidman and Matthew Broderick. An adaptation of the novel by Ira Levin, The Stepford Wives focuses on Joanna Eberhart (Katharine Ross), who moves with her husband to the titular community. Before long, it becomes clear that there’s something not quite right about Stepford’s women, who all seem too content being subservient to their spouses.
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