We run through the best fims, documentaries, and TV shows on Amazon Prime.
With all the new content that seems to be flooding onto Amazon Prime Video these days, how are we, the humble viewers, to know what's worth streaming and what's worth skipping?
We'll tell you how: with this guide. We've rounded up the best TV shows, films, and documentaries on Amazon Prime Video so that you can venture into the Prime video-scape as a fully informed viewer.
From original series and films, to classic TV shows and insightful documentaries – it's all here on our list.
So have a read and set some time aside to get acquainted with your Amazon Prime Video service. And make sure to check back in the coming weeks for our film and TV show of the week.
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TV show of the week
Charlie Brooker's incisive, bleak, and downright disturbing take on our modern world, and the world of the near future, is at once brilliant and awful. Brilliant for its sobering look at societal trends and how they may develop into terrifying realities, and awful for the same reason.
Brooker managed to create something truly unique hear. Bring this up at a social gathering and you might get that knowing 'yes I've seen Black Mirror' nod from a select few who've taken the Black Mirror journey and are all the worse, yet somehow better, for it. Seriously, the second episode set in a nightmare version of reality where a talent show has become the only way to escape a life of high-tech drudgery and consumerism will haunt you for weeks.
Now that we think about it, we're not quite sure why you would willingly watch this. But hey, give it go. It's clever and all that.
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Film of the Week
Looking for something a tad more light-hearted? Owen Wilson and Jason Sudekis have you covered. This one is pretty ridiculous but as long as that's all you're expecting, Hall Pass won't disappoint.
Basically, two guys are given a free pass by their wives to have an affair, consequence-free. That's the entire premise. And for a Farrelly brothers comedy (remember There's Something About Mary?) it works brilliantly. Wilson's effortless affability is always charming, as is Sudekis' lovable dopiness. Together they make for a pretty funny combo.
If you're not a fan of crude humour, steer clear. This one ain't winning Best Picture any time soon. But if you want something to lighten the mood after Black Mirror has sucked all the joy out of your life, this is the perfect antidote.
Best TV shows to watch on Amazon Video
The New Yorker Presents
New to Amazon, this series drafts in well-known and accomplished film-makers to create half hour documentaries, short films, animations, and generally cool stuff. From Alex Gibney, director of such acclaimed documentaries as Going Clear and Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, to Steve James, director of classic documentary Hoop Dreams, the film-makers assembled form an impressive line up.
So check out the five episodes that are available now and check Amazon Prime Video every Tuesday for a new episode.
Amazon has just added the seventh season of this silly yet endearing comedy series. This is the type of show you haven't seen elsewhere because it's no doubt been deemed 'too American' to work in the UK. And in a way, that concern is justifiable.
The show is about a group of dysfunctional friends who all participate in a fantasy football league. Sounds like a pretty flimsy premise right? Well this show isn't aiming for an Emmy win, it's aiming to provide some quick and easy entertainment. A nice aspect of it is that you won't find the usual cast of Judd Apatow affiliates here, with most of the cast being made up of relatively unknown comedic actors. And if you're still not convinced, Paul Scheer as the hilariously hopeless Andre may just win you over, but you'll have to watch it to find out.
We've neglected to add this to the list as it's one which most have probably already seen. However, it's just so good that we feel it deserves a place among the best, and therefore, we give you Mad Men.
Jon Hamm, January Jones, the ad industry. It's all here, and shot as beautifully as any great movie. If you've yet to sample this incisive deconstruction of 1960s America, we suggest you stop what you're doing and immediately start streaming.
Set in Belize, this new Amazon original series promises 'dark secrets and a web of lies, deception and murder.' This is what we're talking about, Amazon. Keep it coming.
Starring Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos), Billy Zane (Twin Peaks), Steve Zahn (Dallas Buyers Club) and Romany Malco (Weeds), the series certainly boasts enough talent to have some potential.
The plot revolves around a group of friends in their mid-40s who meet in Belize for a retirement celebration. Doesn't really do much in terms of amping up anticipation does it? In fact, it sounds downright boring.
But you may be pleasantly surprised by Mad Dogs. Especially once all that deception and murder starts kicking off.
Critics seem unable to agree on whether Mad Dogs is good or not. So that leaves only one option: watch it and see.
It's likely you're already well acquanted with the adventures of FBI special agents Mulder and Scully. But if not, in honour of the show returning to our screens this month, we suggest you catch up on the original series. Amazon has provided all nine seasons of the show's original run for your viewing pleasure, so get to it!
Mozart in the Jungle
Amazon was so pleased that it's original series won two Golden Globes, it made the first two seasons free for a whole weekend. For those who already have a Prime subscription, you should have already checked out Mozart in the Jungle.
If you haven't, you should be ashamed. This strange meld of comedy and drama is an adaptation of Blair Tindall's memoir 'Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs & Classical Music'. It basically takes you behind the scenes of a fictionalised version of the New York Symphony Orchestra where new maestro Rodrigo is causing a stir with his bold approach.
There's some other stuff going on too but with two Golden Globes, one for Best Actor in a TV series, and one for Best TV series, musical or comedy, this thing requires no more explanation.
This was the show that established Amazon as a credible producer of original content and a genuine competitor to Netflix. It focuses on a Los Angeles father who comes out as transgender to his family.
But the Kardashians this ain’t. Willa Paskin, TV critic at Slate, was so impressed by the show’s sensitive and mature treatment of its subject matter that she declared: “to call it Amazon’s first great series, or the only great series of the new fall season—both of which are true—is to damn it with faint praise”.
The Man in the High Castle
Another Amazon original, this show gives us all a look at what America would be like if it lost World War 2. The country has been divided between a Japanese puppet state and a Nazi puppet state, with a buffer zone between them. It’s got everything you want: Nazis, castles, Alexa Davalos (we don’t know who she is either but if you don’t watch it you’ll never find out). (Actually don’t worry we’ve IMDB’d her and she is an actress born in France who apparently lived a ‘quintessentially bohemian upbringing’ and we stopped being interested there.)
But there are still Nazis and castles, and critics are loving this Amazon original series. New York Magazine’s Matt Coller Seltz says “the main draw is suspense and bursts of gunfire and torture, undergirded by the low-level dread.” Sounds like a good time to us!
Mr Robot’s blend of sci-fi, drama, and its bleak observations about modern life make for a show that is both exciting and vaguely haunting. As its tagline ‘our democracy has been hacked’ suggests, this is a show about hacking. But it touches on everything from the economy to personal relationships.
Rami Malek stars as Elliot Anderson, an employee at a cyber security company whose hacking skills are second to none. He meets anarchist Mr Robot (Christian Slater) who tries to recruit him to a project aimed at taking down Evil Corp, the very firm Elliot is employed to protect. The name Evil Corp is lame but the rest of it is pretty good.
Ray Donovan is one of the best shows you've never seen. It’s so good you will wonder how you lived without it. The titular character, played by Liev Schreiber, is a ‘fixer’ for a powerful law firm in Los Angeles. He is tasked with fixing all manner of celebrity faux pas, while simultaneously dealing with one of the most dysfunctional families you’ll ever watch on screen.
Jon Voight is probably the best thing about this show. He plays Ray’s unscrupulous and manipulative father who constantly makes life difficult for his sons and their families. He’ll soon become your favourite character with his mix of mischief and menace. But there’s loads more to love about Ray Donovan. With great actors, great locations, and great writing, this will be the beginning of your next magical binge-watch relationship.
The Walking Dead
The zombie trope became so popular that studio execs decided to make an entire show out of it. And why not? We’ve had the films, we’ve had the comics, we’ve had the games. Now it’s time to indulge your bizarre fascination with walking corpses TV-style.
This show follows a group of survivors as they face the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. Doesn’t sound too original, does it? But it’s well done and you’ll come to care about the group as they struggle through their crumbling surroundings. It’s also pretty gory, so save this one until the family’s gone to bed. Or just play it anyway and scar your children and/or partner for a laugh.
Masters of Sex
It’s raunchy. It’s hot. It’s got Christmas written all over it. And soon, your eyes can be feasting on the delight that is Masters of Sex.
Set in the 1950s and '60s, the show follows Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) as they endeavour to explore the furthest reaches of human sexuality and help to spark the sexual revolution. It’s loosely based on a true story, but don’t let boring reality put you off. This is good.
Another show you probably vaguely recall hearing about but never bothered watching. This is one of those shows that Amazon trialled with a pilot, asking for audience feedback on whether it warranted a full season. Feedback was good and Amazon has since ordered two seasons, both of which are available now.
Bosch is based on a series of novels by American author Michael Connelly. Harry Bosch (Titus Welliver) is an LAPD homicide detective who's standing trial for killing a serial murder suspect. There’s also a cold case involving the remains of a missing boy which Bosch struggles to solve as the trial unfolds. Sounds alright, doesn’t it? You should've started watching it a long time ago.
Parks and Recreation
After the US version of The Office proved a hit, networks scrambled to put out a bunch of shows using a similar mockumentary style. One of those, and perhaps the best, was Parks and Recreation. It was created by the guy who adapted the British version of The Office for the US and follows the life of Leslie Knope – an officer working in the parks department of a local authority in Indiana.
It may sound dull, but the show is worth watching for the comedic actors it assembles. Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, and a portly pre-Guardians of the Galaxy Chris Pratt all put in hilarious turns as Leslie’s co-workers, and although the show never reaches the heights of The Office, it’s still pretty funny.
Prisoners of War
If you’re a fan of Homeland you should check out the original Israeli series it was based on. Prisoners of War was created by Gideon Raff, who was also an executive producer on the American remake.
Israeli soldiers Nimrod Klien, Uri Zach and Amiel Ben-Horin were captured 17 years ago while on a mission in Lebanon. Negotiations to have them freed finally succeed and the two soldiers who remain alive return home. But there are discrepancies with their testimony about the time they spent in captivity and an investigation is launched to find out exactly what happened during those 17 years.
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The Americans is a drama series about two KGB spies working undercover in suburban Washington D.C. during the Cold War. They’re married and their next door neighbour is an FBI agent working in counterintelligence. It’s a decent premise for a show and the whole thing was created and produced by a former CIA officer, so it’s got a level of authenticity to it. There are two seasons on Prime now, so get to it!
Best films to watch on Amazon Video
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Way Way Back
Here’s a comedy with a heartfelt message. Apparently it’s from ‘the people’ who made Little Miss Sunshine. Well ‘the people’ have done it again with The Way Way Back.
14-year-old Duncan is dragged on a summer holiday to Cape Cod, Massachusetts with his mum and her boyfriend Trent (played by Steve Carell). Basically, Trent is a douche so Duncan escapes their summer retreat daily to work in a water park, run by the slightly obnoxious but extremely charismatic Owen, played by Sam Rockwell.
Things get funny, then they get a bit soppy. But it’s a satisfying watch which didn’t see a big release in Britain, so check it out while it’s on Prime.
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.
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.
Best documentaries to watch on Amazon Video
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.
Russell Brand: The Emperor's New Clothes
Nick Broomfield Documentaries
If you haven’t seen any Nick Broomfield documentaries then now’s the time to catch up. His own form of Cinéma vérité investigation makes for some of the most memorable films you’re likely to watch.
From Biggie and Tupac, where he investigates the killings of the two rappers and pretty much solves the case, to Kurt and Courtney where he pulls together an insightful narrative exploring the life of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain and the unanswered questions surrounding his death, these are films you have to see. And they’re all on Amazon Prime (and Netflix) so what are you waiting for?
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.
There’s a film coming out with Bryan Cranston starring as legendary blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo and it looks like it might be quite good. So while you wait for that, why not avail yourself of this novel little documentary where stars such as Liam Neeson and Michael Douglas outline Trumbo’s life by performing his personal letters.
It got good reviews and manages to tell the story of Trumbo being blacklisted and having to write under a pseudonym with humour and tact.
And just like magic, there’s your entire viewing schedule sorted. 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.