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Having a streaming subscription is only as good as knowing how to use it, and in order to get the most out of a service like Amazon Prime, you need a good starting point. That’s easier said than done, as the library of films and TV options is so voluminous that you could spend a whole day just browsing.
But that’s not what you should be doing. You should be watching things, otherwise you’re just paying for a really cool slide show.
To that effect, we’re going to show you 15 of the best launchpads into the world of Amazon Prime’s moving offerings. Now these titles are subject to change, so you may want to check on the availability of these titles yourself. But at this moment, these are the 15 best movies included with an Amazon Prime membership that are totally worth the time.
A Quiet Place
Writer/director John Krasinski’s big debut behind the camera, A Quiet Place, was an unquestionable success at the box office upon its release. Taking the world by storm, this tale of an apocalypse where the slightest sound may be your last is a thrilling exercise in tension and horror. But even more impressive is how Krasinski and his actual wife, Emily Blunt, use their own real life connection to not only tie their characters together in a realistic manner, but also to include their on screen children in a similarly effective manner. It just makes this already thrilling horror blockbuster all the more believable.
One of the best films to come out in 2018, Cold War, also happens to be an Amazon Studios original film. Its big entry into the Best Foreign Language Race of this past Oscar race, the film tells the story of a complicated romance between a music teacher and his young pupil. That love story alone is intriguing, but seeing it weave in and out of the rise of Communism in Poland between the end of World War II and the sociopolitical era it’s named after is something that only enhances the conflict between these characters in Pawel Pawlikowski’s lush directorial follow up to Ida.
The Shawshank Redemption
Just because a movie like Frank Darabont’s classic adaptation of The Shawshank Redemption has been talked up to the high heavens doesn’t mean everyone’s seen it. To that effect, it’s important that streaming services like Amazon Prime make it available, as this classic tale of hope in a time of imprisonment is always a good bet for entertainment. Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman are the two faces mostly associated with this film, but an incredible supporting roster that includes Clancy Brown, Bob Gunton, William Sadler and James Whitmore Jr. are all present to lend powerful assists in bringing Stephen King’s cherished novella to life.
The Blues Brothers
Sometimes a musical is just a musical, and sometimes it’s a car-chasing, soul singing, blues-fueled adventure like The Blues Brothers. Born out of a recurring musical act/gag featured on Saturday Night Live, John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd star as Jake and Elwood, two orphaned brothers with a taste for mayhem. The story is technically about the boys trying to raise enough money to keep their childhood orphanage open, but don’t let that fool you. Director John Landis’ film is just as much about keeping the songs and celebrity cameos coming as it is about saving the day.
It’s an odd bit of symmetry knowing that writer/director Bo Burnham made a film about a young girl trying to become YouTube famous in her last days of middle school. Eighth Grade tells us that story through the eyes of Kayla, actor Elsie Fisher’s lead character in Burnham’s film. But knowing that Burnham became a sensation through the platform only lends more credence to his story about a young person trying to strike the very same sort of success, and why maybe it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. No matter what age you are or what era you grew up in, this movie hits home hard.
The King of Comedy
As the new Joker film seems to be pulling a lot of influence -- and possibly even lifting whole plot points -- directly from Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy, it’s a good time to experience one of the legendary director’s lesser-known films. With even Robert DeNiro himself stating that this film feeds pretty heavily into the DNA of Joker, this film will set you up for what could be one of DC’s most experimental films ever. But even without the connection to that new film in the DC Comics line of cinematic storytelling, it’s a damned treat to watch DeNiro’s Rupert Pupkin go from mere daydreaming to full-blown psychosis, under the trusted hand of one of his most trusted collaborators.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a rather interesting title to discuss, as it’s an intersection between two subjects we’ll discuss in this rundown. Much like The King of Comedy, it has ties to a more modern version, thanks to The Hustle being a remake of this very film. On top of that fact, director Frank Oz’s ‘80s comedy classic is a remake itself of the David Niven/Marlon Brando comedy romp Bedtime Stories. So substitute Niven for Michael Caine, Brando for Steve Martin, and unleash this combination on the French Rivera, in the name of racing to a $50k swindle that proves who runs the show and who’s got to go. That’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels on paper, but the execution is so beautiful to behold on screen.
The Big Sick
Real life can be funny, but it can also be pretty sad. Both are pretty powerful emotions and they’re difficult to nail when taking a true story like The Big Sick and bringing it to the big screen. Based on the real life courtship of writers Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, and how a mystery illness brought them closer together, this particular story understands the balance between those emotions perfectly. The funny and the sad radiate throughout this film with beautiful clarity, creating a film that truly understands the humanity in its source, while still being quite entertaining.
Without Kick-Ass’s success, we probably would have never gotten X-Men: First Class or either of the Kingsman films to feast our eyes on. That’s because director Matthew Vaughn honed his comic adapting skills on this indie book, showcasing a normal high school kid’s rise into a street-level vigilante. Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chloe Grace Moretz made a pretty big splash as the high school kid who gives the film its name, and the young Hit-Girl who becomes a friend and sidekick to Kick-Ass’s crime fighting crusade. But if you’re a Nicolas Cage fan, you’ll want to partake in this particular film, as it has one of his best performances to date.
Horror movies live and breathe on word of mouth, quite possibly more than any other genre out there. While we all want that occasional good scare, we also want to know if said scare is going to be within our comfort zone before taking the trip. As such, when a film like Hereditary is talked about to the extent that it did during last summer’s box office heatwave, that sort of hype can be scary in and of itself. But you shouldn’t fear Ari Aster’s slow burning film, as it ramps up to the truly terrifying stuff in such a way that you’re freaked out, but you’re only jumping out of your seat every so often. Think less of a jump scare parade and more of an atmospheric dimming of the lights of safety, and you can begin to understand what Hereditary has in store for you.
The Thomas Crown Affair
Good luck creating a remake as awesome as The Thomas Crown Affair. Two years before Oceans’ Eleven would take another piece of ‘60s pop culture and turn it into a sharp and witty ride for the new millennium, director John McTiernan got the jump on the game and made a caper as sexy as it is funny. Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo anchor the tale of a millionaire who steals things for the fun of it, and the investigator who wants to make him pay in the name of the hunt. Though with all of those elements acknowledged, Michael B. Jordan’s proposed remake of this very same film does have a good chance of bringing this particular property back into the pop culture fold in similar style.
It’s not easy to adapt a stage play into a film, much less remake that adaptation into something equally as funny as it source. And yet, La Cage Aux Folles not only translated perfectly into its initial French film offering in the ‘70s, it also made the comedic genius that was The Birdcage. When your cast consists of a comedic battle royale that includes Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest, it’s up to the creative team to screw things up. Not only did the legendary team of director Mike Nichols and writer Elaine May deliver the perfect playground for all of these legends to play ball in, they dropped Hank Azaria in for an extra dose of spice.
Yes, that Child’s Play remake is happening this year, and if it does well, we’ll have another variant of Chucky to run and hide from in pop culture. As the prospect of Mark Hamill being the newer, more digital Chucky is pretty damned exciting, it’s still going to be hard not to think back to the original film. That’s not a knock to the Child’s Play for the modern era, but Brad Dourif’s original incarnation is still pretty iconic, and always worth a revisit; especially in the pre-comedic state that this very first film embodies so perfectly.
While it was released a little over a decade ago, Cloverfield still has a pretty strong following of fans and theorists that dig into its humble origins for clues to the future. What started as a clever viral marketing sensation became yet another franchise that has spurred on a fresh round of detective work with each passing film. And no matter how many sequels are made, it all seems to lead back to this modern legend.
The 2016 sci-fi hit Arrival made a huge name for itself as a contender for Best Picture in its Academy Awards class, but the film seems to be settling into a newer, bigger role since its upsetting loss. Director Denis Villeneuve’s tale of linguistics in a first contact scenario seems to be on the track to becoming a classic, as the beauty of its story is only outdone by the perfect performances from Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and a supporting cast of notables. Just be prepared to cry more than a little while watching this one.
Amazon Prime has a ton of options for anyone looking to entertain themselves through the medium of the movies. So when you’ve exhausted your best options on this list, don’t forget to venture deeper into the waters the company provides. You might just find a new, lesser-known favorite that’s dying to get its moment in the sun.