The best movies on Prime Video
When Prime Video first launched, it was tough to recommend as a viable replacement for Netflix’s TV shows or Stan’s movie dominance. Fast-forward to today, though, and with a quality selection of award-winning TV shows and, as you’ll see below, a solid selection of movies, Prime Video has grown into a worthy competitor for the big two names in streaming.
Have a gander at our picks for the best movies on Prime Video currently available in Australia.
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Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Critically-acclaimed indie drama Never Rarely Sometimes Always has finally found its way onto an Aussie streaming service after a year as a digital rental or buy exclusive, and we’re so very glad it did.
It stars newcomer Sidney Flanigan as a 17-year-old girl who, discovering she’s unexpectedly expecting, finds she has few options in her home state of Pennsylvania. Presented with an adoption brochure and an anti-abortion video, she confides in her cousin Skyler about the pregnancy. Together, they embark on a journey to a New York Planned Parenthood clinic to seek the help and support Sidney needs.
If you like your comedies with a hefty side order of feels, look no further than Our Friend. Based on Matthew Teague’s heartwrenching and beautifully written Esquire essay (spoilers within), Our Friend stars Casey Affleck and Dakota Johnson as Matthew and Nicole Teague, married parents to two daughters whose world is upturned by life-changing news. Without a moment of hesitation, the couple’s best friend Dane Faucheux (played by Jason Segel) drops everything to move in with the family and help out, leaving behind his job, his friends, his apartment, his relationship and his entire life.
Though the film doesn’t quite equal its source material in terms of its unflinching honest and raw depiction of terminal illness, it’s still well worth a watch for the performances of Affleck, Johnson and Segel alone.
The Mauritanian stars Tahar Rahim as Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a Mauritanian man suspected of terrorism yet held without charge in Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay detention camp for 14 years. Based on Slahi’s bestselling 2015 memoir Guantanamo Diary, the film stars Tahar Rahim as Slahi and follows his intense legal battle for freedom.
Before he can give up completely, Slahi forms an alliance with defence attorney Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster), her associate Teri Duncan (Shailene Woodley), and military prosecutor Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch (Benedict Cumberbatch). In their desperate, six-year-long fight for justice, the trio uncovers falsified evidence and a shocking conspiracy that goes all the way to the top.
The Map of Tiny Perfect Things
Yes, it’s another time-loop rom-com (Amazon seems to have a thing for them, see Palm Springs below), but we had to add The Map of Tiny Perfect Things to our list because… well… it’s just bloody cute, okay?
Kathryn Newton and Kyle Allen star as two teens who find themselves repeating the same day over and over again, with the entire town none the wiser. Upon realising they’re both experiencing the same weird temporal anomaly, the duo begins spending most of their time together, trying to make the most of the situation. But while Mark (played by Allen) is keen to get unstuck from the time-loop, Margaret (Newton) is strangely reluctant…
I Care a Lot
Further asserting herself as the queen of enigmatic-woman-in-a-psychological-thriller roles, Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, An Education) stars in this darkly comic thriller about a woman who, surprise surprise, isn’t exactly who we think she is. After creating a shady career for herself as a court-appointed guardian for wealthy elderly people, con artist Marla Grayson may finally have met her match in Jennifer Peterson, a rich retiree with ties to some pretty dangerous folks.
It’s funny, gripping, and will have you on the edge of your seat, with Pike’s performance second to none, scoring her a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy).
One Night in Miami
One night in Miami, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay), Jim Brown and Sam Cooke came together in celebration of Ali’s win over Sonny Liston. While no one but that group knows what really went down that night, this Amazon original imagines what it might have looked like. After the fight, the four meet up at X’s motel room to celebrate and discuss the responsibility of being prominent, successful black men during the civil rights movement.
Regina King’s direction is flawless, and the performances of Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcolm X, Eli Goree as Muhammad Ali, Aldis Hodge as Jim Brown and Leslie Odom Jr. as Sam Cooke are impeccable. Keep an eye out for One Night in Miami come awards season.
Sound of Metal
Oscar nominee Riz Ahmed gives a powerful, unforgettable performance in this directorial debut by Darius Marder. Ahmed plays Ruben, a drummer in a touring heavy metal duo who discovers he is rapidly losing his hearing and should avoid exposure to loud noises or else risk speeding up the process.
His girlfriend and bandmate Lou (played by Olivia Cooke) checks Ruben into a rehab facility for the hard of hearing, run by compassionate Vietnam War veteran Joe (Paul Raci). Though he soon realises that his hearing loss is not a handicap, he still must grapple with his new normal while still yearning for the life he once knew.
The best comedy film on Prime Video
Rom-coms tend to get a pretty bad rap, but if Palm Springs is anything to go by, they may be turning a corner. This Prime Video exclusive stars Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti as two strangers who meet at a wedding in Palm Springs, only to find themselves sucked into a vortex which traps them in a time loop. Totally normal stuff, right?
You’d be forgiven for wanting to write Palm Springs off as yet another Groundhog Day-esque tale, but it’s done in such a refreshing, fun and heartwarming way that we’ll happily let it slide. It’s a ridiculously charming movie that’ll almost make you forget about the trash fire that was 2020.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Borat is back and more outrageous than ever in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, the long-awaited sequel to Sasha Baron Cohen’s cult 2006 mockumentary. Despite claiming he was retiring the character in 2019, the film was shot, edited and completed in the midst of the craziness that has been 2020, with Amazon securing the rights and dropping it on Prime Video on 23 October.
After spending 14 years in a gulag for humiliating Kazakhstan, Borat is once again sent to the U.S. on a mission by the Kazakh government to deliver a monkey (not just any monkey, the Minister of Culture Johnny the Monkey) to none other than Donald Trump (failing that, Mike Pence). Joining Borat on his American adventure is his equally ridiculous heretofore unknown daughter, Tutar. Throw in COVID-19 and some drama surrounding Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and you’re in for a wild ride.
The best horror film on Prime Video
From the genius mind that brought us 2018’s Hereditary, Midsommar is Ari Aster’s latest masterpiece. After losing her family in a horrific murder-suicide, psych student Dani (played by the amazing Florence Pugh) decides to tag along on her emotionally distant boyfriend’s upcoming trip to a Swedish midsummer festival at a mutual friend’s childhood commune home. Of course, not everything is as it seems, and the group of visitors soon find themselves questioning why they’re there.
If you like your horror movies filled with jump scares, mask-wearing baddies and lots of blood, Midsommar ain’t for you. However, if you’re into pagan rituals and that feeling of total, all-consuming unease (aren’t we all?), you’ll be a very happy camper.
The best drama film on Prime Video
2019 was a busy year for Florence Pugh, who also joined the cast of the adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic coming-of-age novel, Little Women. Directed by Greta Gerwig, the flick stars Pugh, Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson and Australia’s own Eliza Scanlen as the March sisters, four young ladies traversing the trials and tribulations that come with growing up as a woman in Civil War-era America.
Little Women currently has a massive 95% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with many reviewers calling it the best, most faithful interpretation of the iconic novel. The writing, acting, costume, set design and directing are so spot-on, it’s not hard to see why it was nominated for six Oscars.
Sonic the Hedgehog
The best family film on Prime Video
After a harshly-received trailer back in April 2019 due to Sonic’s weirdly humanoid appearance, Paramount actually took the feedback on board and completely redesigned the character, resulting in something much closer to the Sonic we all know and love.
Starring Jim Carrey, James Marsden and Parks and Rec alumnus Ben Schwartz, Sonic follows everyone’s favourite speedy blue hedgehog as he attempts to foil evil genius Dr. Robotnik’s plans for world domination. Sure, it’s not the most original plotline we’ve ever heard, but it’s the kind of fun escapism we all need this year.
In one of the best performances of his career (and one that earned him a Best Actor gong), Joaquin Phoenix takes us on a raw, creepy and darkly funny journey into the iconic DC villain’s origin story.
The first R-rated mainstream superhero flick to hit cinemas, Joker follows poor, socially awkward clown Arthur Fleck as he slowly descends into madness. It’s probably the least superhero-y superhero movie you’ll ever see, but it’s well worth a watch for Phoenix’s unbelievable portrayal alone.
With a cast boasting the likes of Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, Michelle Dockery, Colin Farrell, and Hugh Grant, 2020 action-comedy The Gentlemen has some serious star power behind it, and director Guy Ritchie truly makes the most of it.
In a very pub-yarn kind of story, The Gentlemen follows an American expat who, rumour has it, is keen to cash out of his extremely successful marijuana empire in London. Enter a motley crew of shady characters, each wanting their piece of the pie and willing to do anything to get it.
Adam Driver is the new household name whose role choices demand attention because his on-screen presence shows that, even when he’s in a divisive movie like The Last Jedi, his performances are always engrossing. The Report is an important movie in today’s global climate, which tells the real-world events of a decade-spanning investigation into the CIA’s use of torture to garner intelligence from suspected terrorists.
While far from escapist subject matter, it’s not altogether surprising that writer/director Scott Z. Burns is tackling this topic given his portfolio of political thrillers. The chewy content is brought to life by Driver and a top-tier cast, including Annette Bening, Michael C. Hall, and Jon Hamm. You definitely don’t need to see The Report more than once, but even that single viewing will stick with you.
One Child Nation
The best documentary on Prime Video
China’s policy of only allowing couples to have one child came to an end in 2015, but One Child Nation is a documentary that digs deep into the history and impact of this generations-impacting decision. This is not surprising given the reality that the policy was in place for the better part of 40 years and is estimated to have prevented hundreds of millions of births.
One Child Nation explores the people and the consequences of this strict policy, in a story that unravels the extreme social experiment and how it was enforced. Far from a detached documentarian view, acclaimed director Nanfu Wang brings a lived experience to a story that is as personal as it is profound.
Brittany Runs a Marathon
Jillian Bell is a scene-stealing comedian who scores big-belly laughs in the likes of 22 Jump Street, Rough Night, and Workaholics. Clearly, she really should get her own movie. Brittany Runs a Marathon rights this wrong, with Bell in a titular role that succinctly sums up the plot.
Poor Brittany has a tendency lean into partying, unhealthy relationships, and not being fully employed. She’s in a rut, and she’s determined to overcorrect in her steps to improve her life by training towards running, jogging, and ambling a whole lot of steps in the none-too-easy New York City Marathon. Genuinely funny actors who usually play background roles have their comedic talents on full show in a fun flick that manages to pack plenty of humour and heart into an entertaining tale.
At times heartbreaking, at others uplifting, Beautiful Boy is based on the intertwining memoirs of a drug addict and his father. This background sets the foundation for a powerful family drama that respects both addict and those closest to him, as Nic Sheff (Timothée Chalamet) wrestles with his addiction, subsequent relapses, and his recovery.
Steve Carrell flexes his dramatic chops once again, this time as Nic’s father who struggles with the ripple effects of navigating the best way to support his drug-addled son. Chalamet and Carrell are the heart of the movie and carry it through the ups and (many) downs. Just like how a family member’s drug addiction affects more than just the drug user, Beautiful Boy is crafted in such a way to be deeply affecting to an audience.
The best thriller on Prime Video
I want you to watch this as fast you can. Okay, so that’s a bastardised quote from David Fincher’s Fight Club, but it’s as relevant today as it was when this flick hits cinemas in late 1999. Fight Club was the perfect full stop to the 20th century, but its deconstruction of masculinity in the modern world and our consumer-addicted society is still just as relevant today.
If you’re not particularly interested in the movies philosophising, there’s still a whole lot more to appreciate. From The Dust Brothers’ killer soundtrack from to the dark comedy and intensely quotable dialogue, repeat viewings of Fight Club may not have the same jaw-dropping twist revelation as the first time you watched it, but there’s always something new to appreciate in this timeless tale.