Our pick of the best Amazon Prime Instant Video movies and documentaries right now.
Anyone who’s ever tried to find a decent movie or documentary on Amazon Prime Video will know the pain of sifting through the mounds of content to find the good stuff.
And it doesn’t help that the Amazon Prime Video catalogue is growing by the month. It’s great, of course, but it certainly makes coming to a decision more difficult.
Luckily, we’ve gone and put together a list of the best movies and documentaries on Amazon Prime Instant Video.
Check out the list below and make sure to check back for our movie of the week.
Film of the week
Related: Best Amazon Prime Video TV shows
When it came time to bring the story of notorious London mobsters, the Kray twins, to the screen, Hollywood decided there was only one man for both jobs. The result is two versions of Tom Hardy playing opposite each other in Legend. And Hardy is definitely the best thing about this crime thriller. His nuanced performances carry what would otherwise be a somewhat underwhelming affair, which for the streaming generation translates as ‘worth a look’.
Watch now: Legend at Amazon Video
Best films and documentaries on Amazon Prime Instant Video
If you’ve seen the new Captain America film, you’ll recognise the villain, played by Daniel Brühl, in this 2013 drama based on the real-life rivalry between Formula One racing drivers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Brühl). Even if you’re not a Formula One fan, the intense contest between these two legends makes for a gripping two hours that anyone who enjoys a well-told story will be glad they watched.
At some point during his busy career, Leo found time to play former head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, in the imaginitively titled J. Edgar. And it was certainly worth his time, even if the film never saw a big release in the UK. Directed by Clint Eastwood, J. Edgar chronicles one of the most powerful men in US history as he presides over the FBI while eight presidents and three wars come and go.
If you’re looking for a slickly produced drama, this one’s got all you need. Of course, George of the Jungle is still sitting there in the ‘Recently Added’ category if you still haven’t got around to reliving the magic of Brendan Fraser just yet.
The Amazon gods have not been kind movie-wise this week; unless you feel like reliving Brendan Fraser’s masterful performance in George of the Jungle. As such, we’re serving up something which many will have overlooked when scrolling through the Prime categories.
Rampart sees Woody Harrelson take on the role of veteran LAPD officer Dave Brown – a ‘loose cannon’ type who gets in a bit of a mess when he’s recorded beating a suspect. Daredevil‘s Jon Bernthal co-stars, along with appearances from Sigourney Weaver and the inimitable Ice Cube. Fancy some gritty cop drama? Check this one out.
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Sir Ian Mckellen has taken on some pretty iconic roles. From Gandalf to Magneto to his illustrious theatre career, he’s proven time and time again to be one of our finest actors. There was that time he turned up in Coronation Street, but other than that it’s been pretty solid.
Now he’s taken on another of fiction’s great characters in Mr Holmes. Mckellan plays a rapidly deteriorating version of the great detective as he attempts to solve the case that led to his retirement. Hampered by a failing memory and reliant on his housekeeper’s son to help him, this is a touching look at a classic character as he navigates his twilight years.
Kristen Wiig is living proof that the stereotype about women not being funny is complete rubbish. Since leaving SNL, she’s featured in a bunch of films, including the Oscar nominated The Martian. But arguably her best post-SNL project was Bridesmaids.
This comedy sees Wiig at her zany best as she tries to live up to her maid of honour duties while her life slowly unravels. It doesn’t sound like much of a comedy premise but the performances make this a must-see comedy.
Melissa McCarthy is hilarious in her role as Megan, a member of the bridal party whose off-beat personality makes for some interesting interplay between the cast members. It was also filmed during the period when that Irish guy from the IT crowd was popping up in all these American comedies, and he’s quite entertaining in this one. Give it a go!
Watch now: Bridesmaids at Amazon Video
Related: Best Netflix TV shows
Stay with us on this one. Halle Berry’s profile seems to have dipped slightly since the good old days of Monster’s Ball. But she’s still out there, flying somewhat under the radar, and starring in the odd movie here and there.
One of those is The Call – a 2013 thriller that actually did quite well in the states, but didn’t see a wide release elsewhere. Once this thing gets going, it’s genuinely compelling. It’s not going to win any Oscars but in terms of entertainment, it’ll keep you intrigued.
When a girl is kidnapped and put in the boot of a car, she calls 911 from her cellphone and gets through to Ms Berry. The resulting race to find the girl will definitely keep you watching, and there’s also some stuff about Halle Berry confronting demons from her past and all that. So give The Call a go.
Here’s a modern classic that the streaming generation could benefit from watching. David Lynch’s 2001 masterpiece is as weird as they come. What does it all mean? Critics have been arguing over that question since Mulholland Drive was released.
What can it offer you? How about a journey into the surreal and subversive? A break from your standard streaming fayre? A mind-bending insight into the world of the non-rational. Not convinced? We understand. You’ll miss out on one of the greatest films ever made but whatever… Seriously, give it go.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
The world has gone Idris Elba mad in the last few years. He’s in everything, from gritty BBC crime dramas to huge Hollywood productions, and in his spare time he’s launchng clothing lines and DJing parties.
In between all that, he’s also taken the time to portray the most inflential and iconic figure in South African history: Nelson Mandela.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom follows the life of the revolutionary, starting with his childhood in a rural village, and ending with his presidential innaguration.
It’s new to Prime so check it out before those pesky temporary deals with the studios mandate its removal.
Related: Amazon Fire TV
Here’s a realtively recent release to get stuck into. Foxcatcher stars Chaninng Tatum as Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz and Mark Ruffalo as his older brother Dave. But this film is all about Steve Carell and his chilling turn as disturbed millionaire John Du Pont. As Du Pont, who recruits Tatum’s character to form a new Olympic wrestling team, gets weirder and weirder, things start to go wrong for poor Channing.
If you’re used to seeing Carell in comedic roles, such as the hapless Brick Tamland in Anchorman, prepare to be surprised. Carell plays the bizarre John Du Pont with a deftness that will make his character stick with you long after the rest of the film has faded from memory. Oh, and the whole thing is based on a true story which makes it even weirder.
Under The Skin
In 2013, Scarlett Johansson took some time away from Hollywood and visited Scotland to make a really weird film. Under the Skin is based on a 2000 book by Michel Faber about an alien who needs to sleep with men in order to stay alive. Johansson plays the seductive alien who lures men to their bizarre death in her weird pool of alien liquid which slowly breaks down their bodies to supply her with sustenance.
This is a dark film but it’s worth watching for several reasons. First it’s incongruous to watch Scarlett Johansson wander the bleak streets of Glasgow. As her character chats to unsuspecting men, it’s worth bearing in mind that most of these scenes were shot without the men being aware they were being filmed. It makes for interesting exchanges between the Hollywood star and the Scottish public.
Also, it’s genuinely haunting and the final conclusion will leave you feeling uncomfortable at the very least. Why would you want to feel uncomfortable? Good question, watch Under The Skin and you might find out.
Watch now: Under The Skin at Amazon Video
A Most Violent Year
The year is 1981 and Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac), the owner of a New York City oil business, is looking to expand. Problem is, 1981 was statistically the most dangerous year in the city, meaning it’s only a matter of time before Morales runs into trouble as the violence and urban decay begin to encroach upon his life.
Isaac recently appeared in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and has proven his talent in films such as Inside Llewyn Davis and Ex Machina. Here, he is just as compelling and the critics love him. This isn’t one of his best known films but it is definitely worth catching while it’s available on Prime.
Related: Netflix vs Amazon Video
You won’t recognise Jake Gyllenhaal as the beyond creepy Louis Bloom. Well, you will recognise him because it’s Jake Gyllenhaal, but he definitely looks a bit weird. Bloom is a sociopath intent upon making something of himself in whichever career he can get a foothold in. His insatiable desire for success leads him to the world of video journalism, where he employs ever more questionable tactics in order to gain the most exclusive, and often grisliest, footage he can. As you can guess, it all goes a bit wrong and things get out of hand.
Although Nightcrawler kind of veers into ‘that would never happen’ territory, Gyllenhaal’s performance really is outstanding, and the film provides an unsettling view on unbridled careerism and modern media.
Watch now: Nightcrawler at Amazon Video
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Coen brothers. These edgy auteurs are the darlings of discerning Hollywood critics. But what if you never really got it? If you were left cold by Fargo, unmoved by The Big Lebowski, and bemused by No Country for Old Men, then give Inside Llewyn Davis a try.
With their 2013 masterpiece, the brothers turned their attention to the 1960s New York folk scene. These are the days of Greenwich Village Dylan crooning Woody Guthrie classics in smoky folk clubs, brought vividly to life by cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel (he’s been nominated for loads of Oscars).
Inside Llewyn Davis is well made, and if you’re not a Coen fan, the whole ‘we know something you don’t’ Coen Brothers smugness is toned down enough in this one to allow the scenes to speak for themselves.
First it was a play. Now it’s a film. And it’s a bit dry. But, if you like your humour highbrow and intellectual, as we’re sure any reader of a list like this does, then Carnage is for you.
It all takes place in the apartment of a couple whose young son has hit one of his class-mates in the face with a stick. The parents of the victim come over to sort things out and the two couples’ attempts at maintaining a congenial atmosphere quickly break down. John C. Reilly is incredibly funny as the father of the violent kid, and the great Christoph Waltz demonstrates his nuanced comedic sensibilities to great effect as the other dad.
It’s really fascinating to watch the relationships between the four unravel in the space of an hour over nothing more than a schoolyard fight. If, however, you’re the type whose idea of humour is actually watching people hitting each other with sticks, then Carnage isn’t for you.
Watch now: Carnage at Amazon Video
It Follows is a great idea for a film which, if we’re being honest, could have been done a bit better. But, its premise is strong enough to hold it up despite some silly moments. Basically, there’s a curse going around some typical US suburban town. If you sleep with an already cursed individual, untold misery will befall you in the form of ghoulish figures only you can see and which follow you everywhere. Let them get close enough to touch you and it’s lights out. The curse then works its way back through everyone who’s ever had it.
There’s some chilling scenes in which the ‘followers’ make their slow yet determined way towards the poor kid who’s been cursed. And there’s no Hollywood stars in sight, adding to the horror by removing the element of familiarity.
Watch now: It Follows at Amazon Video
Let Me In
Let Me In is a remake of the superior ‘Let The Right One In’, a Swedish film about two kids, one of whom is a vampire, who form a close bond. In this American version, Chloë Grace Moretz plays the vampire girl Abbey who befriends meek 12-year-old Owen in 1980s New Mexico. Owen is the victim of repeated bullying at his school but with his new-found friendship the tables are about to turn.
As mentioned, the Swedish one is better, but the American remake is essentially the same film and it manages to keep most of what made the original awesome. It’s worth watching for the brutal scene at the school swimming pool when the bullies finally get what’s coming to them.
All Good Things
Did you see documentary series The Jinx? It was hailed as one of last year’s TV triumphs and became infamous for including ‘one of the most jaw-dropping moments in television history’ according to John Hendrickson at Esquire.
If you haven’t seen it, watch All Good Things first. It’s a dramatic retelling of the true story of Robert Durst. Durst is the son of a powerful New York property magnate whose troubled upbringing leads him to try to break free from the family business and escape to the country with his wife. After he is forced back into the world of property management by his father, he begins to become unbalanced and things go from bad to worse. Durst’s wife disappears, one of his best friends is mysteriously killed execution-style, and bizarrely Durst is implicated in the murder of a Texas man after moving to the Lone Star state to escape the media spotlight.
It’s an unbelievable story that just happens to be true. Ryan Gosling portrays the slow deterioration of Durst’s happiness and sanity very well, while Kirsten Dunst does a decent job of playing his wife. Once you’ve seen the film, go and check out The Jinx to see how things ended up for Durst in real life. It’s worth it for the shocker of a final episode.
Watch now: All Good Things at Amazon Video
Midnight in Paris
This isn’t the film that Woody Allen is going to be remembered for making, but Midnight in Paris really is great. If you’re a fan of the American expatriate authors who descended upon Paris in the 1920s and helped birth the modernist movement then you’ve hit the jackpot. If you’re normal, you should still watch it.
Owen Wilson’s laid-back unassuming demeanor perfectly matches his role in this one. He plays a screenwriter named Gil who’s a bit of a romantic. On a trip to the French capital with his fiance’s family, he finds himself transported back to the city as it was during the 1920s. Great authors from Hemingway to F. Scott Fitzgerald appear to help guide Gil through what could very well be a psychotic episode. The whole thing is one big win for the hopeless romantic types.
Best documentaries to watch on Amazon Video
Whitey: United States of America v James J. Bulger
Anyone who saw Johnny Depp’s finest performance in years in Black Mass should be interested in this one. This is the best documentary available on infamous Boston crime boss and FBI informant James Bulger, who, in 2013, was sentenced to two consecutive life terms for racketeering, money laundering, extortion, and complicity in 19 murders.
Directed by Oscar-nominee Joe Berlinger, Whitey looks at just how Bulger managed to operate as an FBI informant while presiding over one of the biggest criminal empires in Boston’s history.
This doc focuses on professional bodybuilders training to compete in the Mr. Olympia competition. It’s produced by the guy who did Pumping Iron, that documentary from the 70s where Arnold Schwarzenegger says a load of dodgy stuff about weight lifting being sexual.
But there’s not so much weirdness in this one. It gives you an insight into the lives of bodybuilding stars and their almost unnerving dedication to the sport. Critics love it and we’re sure you will too.
Senna is a documentary about Brazilian motor-racing champion Ayrton Senna. The film tracks his career from his debut in the 1984 Brazilian Grand Prix up until his untimely death in an accident in 1994.
Even if you’re not a racing fan, this documentary is genuinely thrilling. It touches on the politics of motor-racing as well as providing an insight into the life of a legend. So whether you care about fast cars going in circles or not, give it a shot.
Back to the Present
It’s a documentary about Back to the Future. Fanboys will love it, but the average viewer may also find something in this film which looks at how many of the inventions predicted in Back to the Future II came to fruition. Apparently there’s a better documentary about the films called ‘Back In Time’ but that’s not on Amazon Prime yet so just watch this instead while you wait.
Check back over the coming weeks and months as we’ll be updating this list with the latest streaming delights you need in your life.