The 48 greatest motion pictures on Amazon Prime Video proper now

Remember when Netflix was the only game in town when it came to streaming services? They had a good solo run there for a while, didn’t they? Things are a lot different now, though, with viewers being so spoiled for choice that the biggest dilemma is finding what to watch, across a veritable sea of streaming services to choose from (we’ve got guides to all of them, too). Amazon Prime Video, which you may not know comes free with your Prime membership, isn’t the cream of the crop, but it’s pretty damn good with a huge library of award-winning Originals, blockbuster hits, indie darlings, and everything in between. And it’s just getting better. So if you’re looking for something to watch this weekend and beyond, we vet everything that comes to Prime Video each week and add the best of the best to this list.
We’ve also put together guides to the best shows on Amazon Prime Video, the best movies on Hulu, the best movies on Netflix, and the best movies on Disney+.

Sideways (2004)
Nominated for five Academy Awards in 2005, including Best Picture and Director for Alexander Payne (who also won for Best Adapted Screenplay, by the way), Sideways is a charming, California wine country-set dramedy drenched in sun-kissed landscapes, flowing reds, and … a wine snob yelling about merlot. OK, it’s a lot more than that. Paul Giamatti is the delightfully disgruntled Miles, a middle-aged failed writer and recovering divorcé, who escapes with his friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church) for a week of wine tasting in the Santa Ynez Valley before Jack ties the knot. But Jack’s got other ideas for the week, as he sets his sights on Stephanie (Sandra Oh), a wine server, and swears Miles to secrecy about his upcoming nuptials. Things get hot between Jack and Stephanie, while Miles and Stephanie’s friend Maya (Virginia Madsen), also a divorceé with some baggage, begin to fall for each other. Can Miles keep Jack’s secret? Does he even want to? And what of his budding romance with Maya if he lets it slip? Full of wit, humor, and more than a few jabs at the pretentiousness of the wine elite, Sideways is a rom-com well paired with, perhaps, a nice cab sauv (spit).
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%Genre: Comedy, DramaStars: Paul Giamatti, Sandra Oh, Virginia Madsen, Thomas Haden ChurchDirectors: Alexander PayneRating: RRuntime: 127 minutes
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In Bruges (2008)
Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ben (Brendan Gleeson) are bad men. They kill people for money. It’s a very stressful job, and after one particularly difficult hit has Ray riddled with guilt, the pair retreat to the quaint, medieval tourist town of Bruges, Belgium, to lay low and await instructions from their employer, Harry (Ralph Fiennes). What’s a team of hired killers to do in one of Europe’s most romantic and historic towns, go sightseeing? While that’s exactly what Ben spends his time doing, Ray, on the other hand, can’t stop thinking about the botched job until he meets the enchanting Chloe (Clémence Poésy), a member of a film crew in town shooting a movie. For the first time, the hilariously sarcastic and cynical Ray starts to see a future beyond the “life.” But just as Ray starts to get swept away by Chloe and the picturesque Bruges, Harry shows up with very different plans. Written and directed by Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), In Bruges is a smart, beautifully shot, fish-out-of-water comedy, but with silencers.
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%Genre: Comedy, Crime, Action, SuspenseStars: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes, Clémence PoésyDirectors: Martin McDonaghRating: RRuntime: 107 minutes
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Val (2021)
Whether the Val Kilmer in your mind’s eye is him in some of his iconic roles like Top Gun‘s Iceman, The Doors‘ Jim Morrison, or Batman Forever‘s caped crusader, or you kept up with the ’80s heartthrob into his later, quieter career for films such as Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang and beyond, one thing is for sure — you’ve never seen Val Kilmer like this. Fascinating and often heart-wrenching, Val is an Amazon Original autobiographical documentary assembled by the actor and directors Leo Scott and Ting Poo from more than 40 years of home video recordings Kilmer obsessively took throughout his life and career — including behind-the-scenes footage with Tom Cruise, Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, and more. Now in his ’60s and recovering from throat cancer surgery that has left him with the need to speak through a voice box on his trachea, Kilmer’s doc is a deep look inward at his life, his rise and fall from fame, his personal triumphs and failures, and, ultimately, his coming to terms with all of it.
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%Genre: DocumentaryStars: Val KilmerDirectors: Leo Scott, Ting PooRating: RRuntime: 108 minutes
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Attack the Block (2011)
The nutters behind Shaun of the Dead do what they do best in 2011’s hilarious alien adventure, Attack the Block, starring who would become two of cinema’s biggest sci-fi stars, the Star Wars prequels’ John Boyega and current Doctor Who, Jodie Whittaker. When their South London apartment complex neighborhood is bombarded with furry, razor-toothed alien visitors hell-bent on a takeover, the kids and adults band together to defend themselves and their block. An invasion flick with heart, Attack the Block adeptly shows the transformation of the mischievous and questionably delinquent youngsters into heroes, using their street smarts to send the aliens packing.
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%Genre: Sci-fi, Comedy, ActionStars: John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Alex Esmail, Leeon JonesDirector: Joe CornishRating: RRuntime: 80 minutes
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Jaws (1975)
Bathtubs, puddles, kitchen sinks full of dishwater: If you were of the generation that was terrified by Stephen Spielberg’s legendary shark film Jaws, no body of water — big or small — was safe after that. You probably know the premise by now, but it all starts when a young woman is killed by a shark off the coast of the small New England town of Amity Island. The shifty town mayor (Murray Hamilton) doesn’t want to shut the touristy beach down, but Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) has a bad feeling about this and knows something bigger is asunder. Much bigger. Following his instincts to protect the town, Brody enlists the help of shark expert Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and a prickly sea-worn boat captain (Robert Shaw) and his not-big-enough boat to hunt down the Great White. If, after watching the first film, you’re not afraid of the water for life, Prime Video is also streaming Jaws 2 and Jaws 3 so you can stage your own Shark Week.
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%Genre: Adventure, Horror, Mystery & ThrillerStars: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Murray HamiltonDirector: Steven SpielbergRating: PGRuntime: 124 minutes
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Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
More than a decade before Dazed and Confused, there was Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which introduced the world to Sean Penn in one of his greatest and oft-imitated roles, stoner surfer Jeff Spicoli. Based on the book Fast Times at Ridgemont High: A True Story by Cameron Crowe (which he wrote after going undercover at a San Diego high school), this classic ’80s coming-of-age comedy follows various plotlines in the lives of a handful of California high schoolers. Sophomores Stacy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Mark (Brian Backer) are getting curious about sex, and are respectively egged on by seniors Linda (Phoebe Cates) and slimy ticket scalper Mike Damone (Robert Romanus) to go all the way. Meanwhile, Stacy’s older brother Brad (Judge Reinhold) has the perfect life — he’s popular, has a good job, and a great girlfriend — until it all comes crashing down when he’s fired. That brings us to Spicoli. When he’s not hot-boxing his VW van with his surfer bros, he’s at war with the perpetually stuffy Mr. Hand (Ray Walston), a teacher of Jeff’s who has it out for him and his stoner ways.
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%Genre: Comedy, DramaStars: Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates, Ray WalstonDirector: Amy HeckerlingRating: RRuntime: 90 minutes
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Moneyball (2011)
Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say. So when the struggling Oakland A’s 2002 baseball team needed to work with a limited budget while still assembling a winning team, General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) turns to the unconventional (at the time) use of analytics to do it. Beane recruits intelligent young Yale economics grad Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) as his assistant GM, whose use of sabermetrics brings together undervalued players that the data would suggest have strengths that would be great when combined with other overlooked players. Is Beane and Brand’s nerdy approach the future of baseball? Will it pay off and bring the A’s to the World Series? Well, if you don’t already know the answers to these questions (it’s all in the source material, too — author Michale Lewis’s 2003 nonfiction novel, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game), we highly suggest watching this Oscar-nominated movie.
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%Genre: Biography, Sports, DramaStars: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Robin Wright, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Chris PrattDirector: Bennett MillerRating: PG-13Runtime: 143 minutes
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Catch Me If You Can (2002)
A young boy cries in pain, lying on a table in a hospital ER, his leg bloody and broken. Barely 21 years old, Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio), posing as a doctor and clearly nauseous at the sight of blood, is called to assist the two junior doctors on the case. “Dr. Harris, do you concur?” is all the freaked-out Frank can muster before passing the boy off and rushing away. Another narrow escape for the young con man, who, by the time Stephen Spielberg’s brilliant Oscar-winning film Catch Me If You Can come to its end, will have also become a master cheque forger and posed as an airline pilot and a lawyer while traveling the world on an adventure to end all adventures. But hot on Frank’s heels is FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks), who develops a respect and bond with the young, scared Abagnale, as he chases the master criminal around the globe. Based on the real-life story of Abagnale Jr., Catch Me If You Can is a not-to-be-missed cat-and-mouse film with incredible performances from two of Hollywood’s best.
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%Genre: Biography, Crime, DramaStars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher WalkenDirector: Stephen SpielbergRating: PG-13Runtime: 140 minutes
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Aliens (1986)
Starting this writeup on Aliens by telling you that this 1986 sci-fi thriller won two Oscars for visual and sound effects and had four other nominations, including a Best Actress nod for Sigourney Weaver, is just an attempt to distract you from the fact that this film is going to scare the living daylights out of you. Weaver makes her first return as Ellen Ripley, who, 57 years after escaping from the horrific alien infestation situation of the first film, is the only person alive who can help a human colony on a distant planet that may be under siege from the same savage species. A crew sent by the corporation that owns the colony includes an android (Lance Henrikson), a couple of Marines (Bill Paxton and Michael Biehn), and shifty company exec Burke (Paul Reiser), who’s more interested in the monetary gains capturing the aliens represents. Boy, are they in for a surprise. Of course, the colony is teeming with the drooling beasts, who begin picking the crew off one by one. Ripley discovers the colony’s sole survivor, a little girl named Newt, and uses everything she knows about the alien enemy to rescue the girl and get off the planet alive. If this James Cameron-directed sequel doesn’t terrify you enough, Prime Video is also streaming the OG Alien film that started it all.
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-FiStars: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Carrie Henn, Bill PaxtonDirector: James CameronRating: RRuntime: 137 minutes
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Patton (1970)
The story of World War II’s infamous hero-villain, U.S. General George S. Patton, is on Amazon Prime Video in all its three-hour glory. Sweeping the 1971 Academy Awards with 10 nominations and seven wins, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor, Patton was hailed as a revelation in filmmaking. George C. Scott’s portrayal of the controversial military figure is nothing short of jarring, capturing all the unpredictability, ruthlessness, and ego of the General, as the film tracks his storied career, shining a light on his victories and defeats on the battlefield, his intense rivalries with German and fellow Allied generals alike, his relieving of duty and fall from grace, and eventual redemption at the famous Battle of the Bulge. Patton is a classic that still holds up today, with Scott’s performance becoming a mold for future hard-assed military film characters.
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%Genre: Biography, Drama, WarStars: George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Stephen Young, Michael StrongDirector: Franklin J. SchaffnerRating: PGRuntime: 172 minutes
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Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest (2011)
For fans of ’90s hip-hop legends A Tribe Called Quest, Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest is required viewing. But even if you’re only vaguely familiar with the group, this directorial debut from actor Michael Rapaport will school you on the world of these iconic artists. Following the trajectory of members Q-Tip (Kamaal Ibn John Fareed), Phife Dawg (Malik Taylor), DJ Producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and Jarobi White from their beginnings in Queens, New York, in the mid-’80s, Beats, Rhymes & Life mixes archival footage with interviews from fellow hip-hop luminaries such as Common, Ludacris, Questlove, and the Beastie Boys to take viewers through the group’s career highs, lows, and conflicts surrounding their controversial and sudden breakup in 1998. Rapaport’s documentary then picks up with the group during their strained reunion for the 2008 Rock the Bells tour, offering faint hope to fans.
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%Genre: DocumentaryStars: Ludacris, Common, Q-TipDirector: Michael RapaportRating: RRuntime: 97 minutes
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Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008)
Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist has two great stars (Scott Pilgrim‘s Michael Cera and WandaVision‘s Kat Dennings) who are genuinely great together. Nick (Cera) is bummed out because his girlfriend, Tris (Alexis Dziena), has dumped him, and when she shows up at his band’s gig in Manhattan with a new guy, he gets even more bummed. That is until he meets Norah (Dennings), who has had a serious crush on Nick because of his cool mix-CDs that he made for Tris. The duo serendipitously end up on an adventure through the East Village in search of a secret show by the mysterious band Where’s Fluffy? that has left clues all around town. As they navigate the city in Nick’s beat-up car, he can’t stop thinking about Tris, while the whole time, the real deal is sitting right next to him.
Rotten Tomatoes: 74%Genre: Comedy, DramaStars: Michael Cera, Kat Dennings, Alexis DzienaDirector: Peter SollettRating: PG-13Runtime: 89 minutes
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Big Fish (2003)
Edward Bloom (Ambert Finney) is on his death bed. The larger-than-life patriarch has lived what many would say was a fantastical life, filled with circus adventures, giants, witches, and a catfish the size of a whale. Well, only one person would say all that, and that person is Edward himself, who has told these stories and more, over and over to his son, Will (Billy Crudup), who has returned home to be by his estranged dad’s bedside. But what Will wants to know more than anything before his dad shuffles off this mortal coil is whether all his dad’s stories were fact or fiction. Told mostly in visually stunning and dream-like flashbacks of Edward’s tall tales, in the way only Time Burton can, and with the aid of Ewan McGregor as a young Edward, Will makes a last attempt to reconnect with and understand his father.
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%Genre: Sci-Fi, Drama, Adventure, RomanceStars: Billy Crudup, Hailey Anne Nelson, Ewan McGregorDirector: Tim BurtonRating: PG-13Runtime: 125 minutes
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Snatch (2000)
Trying to explain the intricate and scribbling plot of Guy Ritchie’s Snatch is not a wise idea — you kind of just need to buckle up and hang on for the ride. What might be helpful to know about this gritty English crime comedy, though, is that it involves the seemingly random intertwining lives of a diamond thief named Frankie Four Fingers (Benicio Del Toro), a psychopathic Russian named Boris the Blade, who is trying to steal Frankie’s priceless stolen diamond, a group of amateur thugs with a dog that has swallowed said diamond, a deadly gangster boss running a boxing racket, and (perhaps the best character in the film) Brad Pitt as a bare-knuckle gypsy boxer with one of the best incomprehensible “pikey” accents in cinema. There are, of course, other larger-than-life characters in the film, but all you need to know is that Snatch is a hilariously dark, connect-the-dots film that’s satisfying for fans of clever Tarantino-style action.
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%Genre: Crime, ComedyStars: Brad Pitt, Jason Statham, Vinnie Jones, Benicio Del ToroDirector: Guy RitchieRating: RRuntime: 102 minutes
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The Tomorrow War (2021)
In what should have brought audiences to the theater in droves, this end-of-the-world action-adventure from one of the guys behind The Lego Movie (Chris McKay) is getting the Amazon Original treatment because of that pandemic thing we’ve all been dealing with. But don’t let that fool you — there’s enough explosive action here to impress even in your living room. The Tomorrow War is kind of a Terminator in reverse, where instead of forces from a future war coming to battle it out in the present, this time, the good guys fighting an alien invasion in 2051 come back in time to recruit soldiers and civilians to join the fight in the future before humankind is wiped out. Chris Pratt stars as Dan Forester, a high school teacher with some serious gun skills who is among the recruits crossing time to save the world.
Rotten Tomatoes: 54%Genre: Sci-fi, Action, Drama, Comedy, AdventureStars: Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strzechowski, J.K. Simmons, Betty GilpinDirector: Chris McKayRating: PG-13Runtime: 78 minutes
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Vertigo (1958)
Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 masterpiece is still as spellbinding now as it was more than 60 years ago. James Stewart stars as the tormented John “Scottie” Ferguson, a San Francisco detective forced into early retirement after his debilitating fear of heights and vertigo play a part in the death of a fellow officer. But that’s just the setup. Vertigo is a dizzying, noir love story, and at its center is the enchanting Madeline Elster (Kim Novak), the wife of Scottie’s friend, Gavin (Tom Helmore), who hires Scottie to tail Madeline, who has been acting strangely. As Scottie grows obsessed with Madeline and the two fall in love, tragedy strikes again because of Scottie’s vertigo. Scottie’s reality becomes even more unhinged when he meets and falls for Judy Barton, who is the spitting image of Madeline (or is it really her?), and the disturbing truth of the plot is uncovered in divine Hitchcock fashion.
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%Genre: Suspense, Romance, HorrorStars: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel GeddesDirector: Alfred HitchcockRating: PGRuntime: 70 minutes
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Awakenings (1990)
Based on the memoir of the same name by renowned British neurologist Dr.Oliver Sacks, Awakenings tells the remarkable story of Dr. Malcolm Sayer (Robin Williams), a fictionalized version of Sacks who is hired at a hospital in the Bronx to study several patients who have been catatonic and, for all intents and purposes, lost in time for decades as a result of encephalitis from the 1920s and 1930s. When the discovery of an experimental Parkinson’s drug allows Sayer to “awaken” one 40-year-old patient, Leonard (the mesmerizing Robert De Niro), and later several more of the hospital’s patients, many of whom have been “frozen” since they were children, the result is a gripping and bittersweet reminder of just how precious life is as Leonard and the patients come to terms with the time they’ve lost and the time they have left.
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%Genre: DramaStars: Robert De Niro, Robin Williams, Julie Kavner, John Heard, Ruth NelsonDirector: Penny MarshallRating: PG-13Runtime: 120 minutes
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Burn After Reading (2008)
The final film in the Coen brother’s “idiot trilogy” preceded by O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Intolerable Cruelty, Burn After Reading isn’t so much about the plot as much as it is the characters insanely screwed up in it. Osborne (John Malkovich) is a disgruntled former CIA agent whose conniving wife, Katie (Tilda Swinton), is cheating on him with Harry (George Clooney), a womanizing U.S. Treasury agent. When a disc containing Osborne’s revealing, unfinished memoir is dropped on the changeroom floor of Katie’s local gym, its moronic employees, Chad and Linda (Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand), attempt to use it to blackmail Osborne for some cash so Linda can get the plastic surgery she thinks she needs. Russians get involved, bodies are stuffed in closets, and Pitt’s blonde frosted tips steal the show. Burn After Reading isn’t one of the Coen brothers’ best, but even that’s saying a lot considering their track record leading up to it (Miller’s Crossing, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, and No Country for Old Men, to name a few). It’s a fun, screwball comedy, Coen brothers style.
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%Genre: Suspense, Comedy, Drama,Stars: Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda SwintonDirectors: Joel Coen, Ethan CoenRating: RRuntime: 96 minutes
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Knives Out (2019)
Writer and director Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) gives the classic Agatha Christie-style murder mystery a modern spin in this tale about a famous crime novelist whose unexpected death one night after a family gathering makes everyone a suspect. Daniel Craig portrays the brilliant, debonair detective Benoit Blanc, whose investigation brings the depths of the family’s dysfunction to light and leaves you guessing who will ultimately emerge as the culprit of the film’s heinous crime. The film’s ensemble cast makes a great mystery even better, with memorable performances from every actor involved, resulting in a modern mystery masterpiece.
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%Genre: MysteryStars: Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, LaKeith Stanfield, Daniel CraigDirector: Rian JohnsonRating: PG-13Runtime: 130 minutes
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Pinocchio (2019)
Italian author Carlo Collodi’s classic children’s story dates back to 1881, and since then, it’s been reimagined and adapted countless times in print, on television, for the stage, and in film — perhaps most notably in Disney’s 1940 animated movie. With this most recently released feature version, Italian filmmakers Matteo Garrone and Massimo Ceccherini use live-action, stunning CGI, and some pretty fantastic costumes and makeup to once again tell the tale of a lonely carpenter, Gepetto (Roberto Benigni), who creates a wooden boy puppet who magically comes to life. Pinocchio‘s universal themes of perseverance through adversity, honesty, and redemption ring true in Garrone’s adaptation as well, as the boy puppet heads out into the film’s bizarre world of animal tricksters, blue fairies, and gigantic fish to learn the lessons he needs to get back to Gepetto and realize his dream of becoming a real boy.
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%Genre: DramaStars: Roberto Benigni, Federico Ielapi, Rocco PapaleoDirector: Matteo GarroneRating: PG-13Runtime: 125 minutes
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Stop Making Sense (1984)
Concert films are not a new phenomenon, but they do seem to be fewer and far between. In 1984, director Jonathan Demme teamed up with the band called Talking Heads for Stop Making Sense, one of the most influential concert films of all-time. Demme filmed the movie over four live performances at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles, and Talking Heads put on the show of their lives every night. The band had a great sense of showmanship and stage presence, and Demme captured it all. Stop Making Sense has even pulled off the rare feat of a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes. If it’s not a “Once in a Lifetime” experience, it’s close enough.
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%Genre: Concert FilmStars: Talking HeadsDirector: Jonathan DemmeRating: NRRuntime: 105 minutes
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The Vast of Night (2020)
This nostalgic throwback to classic sci-fi thrillers follows a young switchboard operator and a radio DJ whose discovery of a mysterious audio frequency sets off a series of discoveries that lead them deep into the unknown. The Amazon Studios film is the directorial debut of Andrew Patterson and has earned high praise from critics and streaming audiences alike for its suspenseful, low-budget spin on the genre.
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%Genre: Sci-Fi, MysteryStars: Sierra McCormick, Jake HorowitzDirector: Andrew PattersonRating: PG-13Runtime: 89 minutes
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Adaptation (2002)
Director Spike Jonze’s Oscar-winning Adaptation is hard to describe. It’s a film about the making of a film and a story about real-life rare orchid hunters, murder, and conspiracy — all balancing on the razor-sharp edge of reality and fiction. But one thing we know for sure is that it’s brilliant. Nicolas Cage plays a fictionalized version of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. He’s neurotic, depressed, and struggling to adapt Susan Orlean’s (Meryl Streep) non-fiction book The Orchid Thief, which is about Florida con man and orchid poacher John Laroche (Chris Cooper), into a coherent film. To break his writer’s block, Charlie shadows Orleans, following her to Florida, where he discovers that she is involved in a passionate, drug-fueled affair with Laroche, and she’ll stop at nothing to keep her reputation intact. The film is thrilling, often funny, totally bizarre, and a complete must-watch.
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%Genre: Drama, ComedyStars: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Tilda SwintonDirector: Spike JonzeRating: RRuntime: 115 minutes
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An American Werewolf in London (1981)
If you had to choose one werewolf movie to watch in your entire life, it’s this one. A horror cult classic, legendary writer-director John Landis (Animal House, The Blues Brothers, Coming to America) used some of the era’s best makeup and special effects artists to bring to life this story of American tourists David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne), who are traveling the English countryside when they’re attacked by a wolf-like creature in the night. Jack is killed, but David survives, only to discover that he is turning into a vicious lycanthrope that will unleash unspeakable horrors come the next full moon. Jack, who appears to David in visions as a decayed corpse, tells David that he must die to end the werewolf cycle, but David’s fallen in love with Alex (Jenny Agutter) and must find another way to break the curse — and stop killing basically everyone he comes across in London.
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%Genre: Horror, ComedyStars: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Joe Belcher, Griffin DunnerDirector: John LandisRating: RRuntime: 97 minutes
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Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)
In the immortal words of legendary dodgeball coach Patches O’Houlihan (Rip Torn), “If you’re going to become true dodgeballers, then you’ve got to learn the five D’s of dodgeball: Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive, and Dodge! Of course, this wisdom was immediately followed by Patches whipping wrenches at his team, but that’s beside the point. This is the kind of necessary training the losers of Average Joe’s Gymnasium’s dodgeball squad need if they’re going to win the American Dodgeball Association of America’s (ADAA) International Dodgeball Competition. The $50,000 prize is a last-ditch effort by Joe’s owner, Peter LaFleur (Vince Vaughan), to keep the megalomaniacal owner of rival Globo Gym, White Goodman (Ben Stiller), from putting him out of business. Teeming with memorable characters and quotable lines (including the origins of “I just threw up in my mouth a little bit”), Dodgeball culminates in one hell of a tournament sequence in which Peter and his misfits battle teams from around the world (and their own demons) toward their eventual showdown with White and his Purple Cobras. Watch for Jason Bateman’s hilarious cameo as spaced-out tournament commentator Pepper Brooks.
Rotten Tomatoes: 71%Genre: Comedy, Action, SportsStars: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughan, Christine Taylor, Rip Torn, Justin Long, Hank Azaria, Jason Bateman, Alan Tudyk, Chuck NorrisDirector: Rawson Marshall ThurberRating: PG-13Runtime: 92 minutes
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Midsommar (2019)
What better way to celebrate the summer solstice than by having the crap scared out of you? Called an “operatic breakup movie” by director Ari Aster, Midsommar proves to be exactly that and more in this suspenseful film. It centers around an American couple with serious relationship issues who travel with friends to a midsummer festival. It gets significantly more violent and unsettling from there, with the setting of a remote Swedish village serving as the backdrop for a cult with less-than-admirable intentions, to put it lightly. It was a hit in summer 2019 and, if you’re up for a nearly 2.5-hour movie where the scares consistently and constantly creep up on you, it won’t take long to understand why.
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%Genre: HorrorStars: Florence Pugh, Liv Mjönes, Jack ReynorDirector: Ari AsterRating: RRuntime: 140 minutes
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The Map of Tiny Perfect Things (2021)
Heavily in line with the time-loop movies that this cute coming-of-age romantic comedy itself references, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is like Groundhog Day or Edge of Tomorrow (without all the death and aliens) for a new generation. Mark (Kyle Allen) is your typical teenager trying to figure life out, except that he seems to be the only one aware that he’s living the same day over and over again — he argues with his dad over his future, plays video games with his clueless best friend, and, like Bill Murray’s Phil Connors, learns the routine so well he can do little things like rescue folks from their everyday annoyances. Mark seems content in his loop, and then he meets Margaret (Kathryn Newton), who, as if fate planned it, is also stuck in the same unremarkable day. Now with something more to live for, the pair revel in their predicament and, of course, fall for each other. Written by The Magicians author Lev Grossman, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is a sweet exploration of youth and the fear that comes with taking that leap of faith to get out of our own ruts and move forward with life.
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%Genre: Romance, Comedy, Young AdultStars: Kathryn Newton, Kyle Allen, Jermaine HarrisDirector: Ian SamuelsRating: PG-13Runtime: 98 minutes
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Sylvie’s Love (2020)
Can we all just agree that Tessa Thompson is great in just about everything she’s in? Alright, then. In this dreamy period melodrama by Eugene Ashe, Thompson plays Sylvie, an aspiring television producer in late ’50s-early ’60s New York. While working in her dad’s record shop, Sylvie meets Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha), a talented up-and-coming jazz saxophonist with big dreams of his own. Robert takes a job in the store and the two begin a friendship that blossoms into love, despite Sylvie having a fiancé who is away at war. But as Robert’s career begins to take off and Sylvie is torn between her own ambitions and obligations, the two go their separate ways … for a little while, anyway. The pair eventually meet again, with Sylvie, having overcome many of the struggles of the era’s racism and women’s rights obstacles to become a successful TV producer, and Robert’s career skyrocketing. Is the love still there? Can and will they pick up where they left off? Sylvie’s Love is a refreshing take on the over-done love-conquers-all trope and is a romantic must-watch.
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%Genre: Drama, RomanceStars: Tessa Thompson, Nnamdi Asomugha, Eva LongoriaDirector: Eugene AsheRating: PG-13Runtime: 116 minutes
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The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019)
Facing displacement from the home his grandfather built as a result of gentrification in his San Francisco neighborhood, Jimmie and his best friend, Mort, set out on a mission to reclaim the house before it is irreversibly changed. Their odyssey tests their friendship and forces them to question where they belong in the place they’ve always called home. A poignant, often intense journey, this film was nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards.
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%Genre: DramaStars: Jimmie Falls, Tichina Arnold, Mike EppsDirector: Joe TalbotRating: RRuntime: 120 minutes
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One Night in Miami (2021)
In actress Regina King’s excellent directorial debut, she takes Kemp Powers’ screenplay of his own stage play and turns it into a riveting drama. One Night in Miami is a fictionalized ponderance of a real-life meeting that happened in Miami Beach in 1964 in which famous friends Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), who earlier that night just beat Sonny Liston for the world championship, Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben -Adir), singer Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), and football star Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) gathered to enjoy each other’s company, debate, and discuss their roles in affecting change in Black America. Each star holds his own portraying such cultural heavyweights, and the film mixes beautifully-shot sequences of their individual lives and achievements with fly-on-the-wall ensemble scenes that give you a sense of what it might have been like being in the room with these icons.
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%Genre: DramaStars: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom JrDirector: Regina KingRating: RRuntime: 114 minutes
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Herself (2020)
Get ready for a tear-jerker of a drama that’s full of both pain and beautiful redemption in this Amazon Original film that won the Human Rights Film Award at last year’s Dublin International Film Festival. Actress Clare Dunne, who co-wrote the film with Shameless U.K. writer Malcolm Campbell, is Sandra, a mother of two in Dublin who, after escaping her abusive husband, finds herself on the cusp of homelessness. Told with care and often intense reality by The Iron Lady director Phyllida Lloyd, Sandra eschews Ireland’s bureaucratic social housing system and decides to try to build her own house DIY-style — all she needs is a bit of land. As Sandra’s friends and strangers alike pitch in to help rebuild (literally) her life, it’s hard not to get swept up in this touchingly unique story.
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%Genre: DramaStars: Clare Dunne, Ruby Rose O’Hara, Molly McCann,Director: Phyllida LloydRating: RRuntime: 97 minutes
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Sound of Metal (2020)
Sound of Metal doesn’t mess around, getting straight to the intense and terrifying moments that Ruben (Riz Ahmed), a drummer in a heavy metal duo with his girlfriend (the wonderful Olivia Cooke), starts to lose his hearing. It’s the little things we take for granted that director/screenwriter Darius Marder zeroes in on in the film’s opening minutes — the excruciating silence of a blender, the subtle drip of percolating coffee, or the shushing spray of a showerhead — all gone. But Sound of Metal isn’t about deafness, it’s a story about change and the journey we must take to embrace it, as Ruben enters a facility to help him learn to live with his deafness while also avoiding a relapse into his old life of drug abuse. It’s a beautiful film about life-changing loss and redemption and shouldn’t be missed.
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%Genre: DramaStars: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul RaciDirector: Darius MarderRating: RRuntime: 120 minutes
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I’m Your Woman (2020)
Premiering in October at this year’s virtual edition of AFI Fest, this gritty 1970s-era crime drama features Mrs. Maisel as you’ve never seen her before. The marvelous Rachel Brosnahan trades swing dresses and handbags for bellbottoms and handguns in I’m Your Woman, playing Jean, the bored suburban housewife of Eddie (Bill Heck), a hustler and thief with some shady associates. Jean learns just how shady when Eddie shows up one night with an infant, declaring “he’s our baby,” and then disappears a couple of days later, triggering a series of events that has Jean terrified, confused, and on the run from gun-toting henchmen. Jean’s only respite from the madness is Cal (British-Nigerian actor Arinzé Kene), who shepherds Jean and baby to a safe house where his wife, Teri (Marsha Stephanie Blake), and father, Art (Frankie Faison), teach her how to navigate her new life on the lam. Dripping with ’70s style, loud wardrobe choices, boat-sized cars, and a groovy Motown soundtrack, I’m Your Woman is a great way to time-warp out of your daily grind.
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%Genre: Crime, DramaStars: Rachel Brosnahan, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Arinzé KeneDirector: Julia HartRating: RRuntime: 120 minutes
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Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020)
There are very few performers in the world who can switch gears so expertly as Sacha Baron Cohen. Comedian, actor, and activist, in the last two years, Cohen has navigated the roles of famous Israeli spy Eli Cohen in The Spy and American “Yippy” activist Abby Hoffman in The Trial of the Chicago 7 (both on Netflix). But perhaps his greatest role of all is Borat. Cohen’s clueless reporter from Kazakhstan is back for another go at America in this sequel to 2006’s Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. After spending 14 years in prison, Borat is released not only to find that he has a daughter, Tutar (Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova), but that he must return to the U.S. to redeem the reputation of his homeland by gifting the feral Tutar to Mike Pence. Along the way, Cohen, of course, resumes his pranking of Trump-era America, but with his cover mostly blown from the first film, much of the task lands on the brilliant Bakalova, who delivers some bewilderingly-awkward situations and poignant political skewering.
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%Genre: ComedyStars: Sacha Baron Cohen, Maria Bakalova, Rudy GiulianiDirector: Jason WolinerRating: RRuntime: 96 minutes
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It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
A classic Christmas movie with an iconic James Stewart performance, It’s a Wonderful Life follows George Bailey (Stewart), a banker in the town of Bedford Falls who is preparing to throw himself off a bridge. An angel named Clarence (Henry Travers) appears to save George, and takes him on a journey through the most important moments in George’s life, showing him all the good things he’s done for other people despite the costs to himself. It’s a Wonderful Life is a charming story about perseverance in the face of an often cruel universe and the value of relationships.
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%Genre: Drama, Science FictionStars: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel BarrymoreDirector: Frank CapraRating: PGRuntime: 135 minutes
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Chi-Raq (2015)
Aristophanes’ classic Greek comedy Lysistrata gets a modern update in this 2015 film directed by Spike Lee. The film follows a group of women who decide to withhold sex from their partners until they agree to curb the gang violence plaguing their Chicago neighborhood. Told in a mixture of music and verse, the film stars Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Teyonah Parris, Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett, John Cusack, and Samuel L. Jackson.
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%Genre: DramaStars: Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Teyonah Parris, Jennifer HudsonDirector: Spike LeeRating: RRuntime: 118 minutes
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Honey Boy (2019)
Shia LaBeouf’s debut script is directed by Alma Har’el and follows the life of child actor Otis Lort as he rises through young success to self-destructive Hollywood star. Navigating fame and his abusive, alcoholic father proves to be next to impossible as their contentious relationship crumbles across the course of a decade. LaBeouf also stars in this semiautobiographical tale that draws from his experience with his father.
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%Genre: DramaStars: Shia LaBeouf, Lucas HedgesDirector: Alma Har’elRating: RRuntime: 93 minutes
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High Life (2019)
From award-winning French filmmaker Claire Denis, High Life is described as an erotic sci-fi horror film, but it really defies classification. It’s difficult to explain High Life in just a few words but we’ll try. Juliette Binoche stars as Dr. Dibs, overseer of a damned space mission that is sending criminals to attempt to extract energy from a black hole. Along the way, Dibs performs sexual experiments on the criminals that lead to their deaths. Ultimately, murderer Monte (Robert Pattinson) is left alone with his daughter, trying to survive and thrive as they hurtle toward certain death.
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%Genre: Science FictionStars: Robert Pattinson, André Benjamin, Mia GothDirector: Claire DenisRating: RRuntime: 110
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Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
In the soft shadows of The Gaslight Cafe, folk singer Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) croons that he “wouldn’t mind the hanging.” Leave it to the Coen Brothers to oblige him. Two of America’s most mercurial filmmakers, the Coens have approached both grim tragedy and madcap comedy in their films, sometimes at the same time. Inside Llewyn Davis falls on the bleaker end of the spectrum, following Davis as he attempts to get his music career on track in the wake of his musical partner’s suicide. His finances are not the only part of his life falling apart; his former lover, Jean (Carey Mulligan), pregnant with a child that is likely his, wants nothing to do with him. Davis’ struggle, set against the frost-glazed backdrop of New York, is a tragic one. But the film is not without humor, black though it may be. The characters surrounding Llewyn are as vibrant as he is cold, particularly Justin Timberlake as Jane’s new boyfriend (although Isaac’s future Star Wars nemesis also has a memorable musical cameo).
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%Genre: DramaStars: Oscar Isaac, John Goodman, Carey MulliganDirector: Ethan & Joel CoenRating: RRuntime: 105 minutes
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The Handmaiden (2016)
From Korean director Park Chan-wook, award-winning director of Oldboy, The Handmaiden is an intense, pulse-pounding crime drama set in the early 1900s during the Japanese occupation of Korea. The film follows two women — a young Japanese lady on a secluded estate, and the Korean woman who is hired as her new handmaiden. Little does the former know, though, that the latter is conspiring with a con man to defraud the woman out of her inheritance.
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%Genre: DramaStars: Kim Min-hee, Ha Jung-woo, Cho Jin-woongDirector: Park Chan-wookRating: NRRuntime: 145 minutes
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You Were Never Really Here (2017)
This Amazon Original was nominated for four 2019 Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Feature and Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix). Phoenix stars as a traumatized veteran who harnesses his trauma into hunting down missing girls for a living. However, as his nightmares begin to overtake him and he continues to get in over his head, he begins to uncover a conspiracy that threatens to destroy or save him, depending on the paths he takes.
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%Genre: Mystery & SuspenseStars: Joaquin Phoenix, Judith Roberts, John DomanDirector: Lynne RamsayRating: RRuntime: 89 minutes
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Cold War (2018)
Paweł Pawlikowski’s gorgeous historical drama Cold War follows Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) and Zula (Joanna Kulig), a music director and singer respectively, who meet and fall in love in Poland after the end of World War II. As the years drag on and the Soviet grip over Eastern Europe tightens, the two drift across borders, in and out of each other’s lives. Their turbulent romance, set against a backdrop of paranoia and repression, is messy but moving. Filmed in stark black and white, Cold War is a beautiful film full of masterfully composed shots.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%Genre: DramaStars: Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot, Borys SzycDirector: Pawel PawlikowskiRating: RRuntime: 89 minutes
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The Big Sick (2017)
Comedian Kumail Nanjiani and comedy writer Emily V. Gordon adapted their real-life love story for film in The Big Sick, a charming romantic comedy that was one of Digital Trends’ favorite movies of 2019 and helped score Nanjiani and Gordon their own Apple TV+ show. The movie begins with Kumail (playing a loosely fictionalized version of himself) struggling to build a stand-up career, mining his Pakistani background for material. After a run-in with a heckler named Emily (Zoe Kazan) turns into a one-night-stand and eventually a relationship, the two start to run into troubles. For starters, Kumail’s parents want him to settle down with a Pakistani woman, leading them to break up. Making things even more complicated, an infection leaves Emily in a coma. While visiting Emily in the hospital, Kumail meets her parents, Terry (Ray Romano) and Beth (Holly Hunter), learning more about them and Emily as he processes his own feelings.
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%Genre: Romance, ComedyStars: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly HunterDirector: Michael ShowalterRating: RRuntime: 119 minutes
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The Lighthouse (2019)
Director Robert Eggers was initially moved to adapt Edgar Allan Poe’s The Light-House as a film, but The Lighthouse ultimately went in its own direction as one of 2019’s most unusual movies. Filmed entirely in black-and-white, The Lighthouse takes place in the late 19th century, as Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) finds himself stationed with the mercurial Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe). Alone and stranded on the remote island, Winslow and Wake battle both each other and the onset of insanity. Pattinson and Dafoe’s confrontations and performances are riveting, but it’s the movie’s surprises that will keep viewers talking long after the film comes to an end.
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%Genre: Psychological ThrillerStars: Robert Pattinson, Willem DafoeDirector: Robert EggersRating: RRuntime: 109 minutes
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The Farewell (2019)
In China, the name of this movie is “Don’t Tell Her.” The Farewell‘s American title doesn’t entirely capture the premise of the movie in the same way, but the core message is similar. Awkwafina stars as Billi Wang, a Chinese-American writer who learns that her grandmother, Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen), is dying from terminal lung cancer in China. To make matters worse, Billi’s parents, Haiyan Wang (Tzi Ma) and Lu Jian (Diana Lin), as well as the rest of the family, forbid Billi from telling Nai Nai that she has only a short time to live. It’s a promise that weighs heavily on Billi, but her connection with her beloved grandmother is beautiful and touching. Nai Nai may not know the truth, but she’s still got something valuable to teach her family.
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%Genre: Comedy, DramaStars: Awkwafina, Zhao ShuzhenDirector: Lulu WangRating: PGRuntime: 100 minutes
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The African Queen (1951)
One of the joys of Amazon Prime is that it allows viewers of all ages to get acquainted with the films that came out decades before they were born. The African Queen is one of director John Huston’s most beloved films, thanks in no small part to the pairing of Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn as the leads. The story is set in World War I, as a missionary named Rose Sayer (Hepburn) and the captain of a riverboat, Charlie Allnut (Bogart) join forces against the Germans after their lives are upended. The journey of the African Queen takes Charlie and Rose into countless dangers, as well as an occasionally rocky romance. This is a classic, folks. And everyone should see it at least once.
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%Genre: AdventureStars: Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Robert MorleyDirector: John HustonRating: PGRuntime: 105 minutes
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Blow the Man Down (2020)
Blow the Man Down is a dark comedy and a hidden gem that arrived on Amazon Prime under the radar earlier this year. Morgan Saylor and Sophie Lowe co-headline the film as feuding sisters Mary Beth and Priscilla Connolly, respectively. When Mary Beth kills a man who tried to harm her, Priscilla decides that blood is thicker than water and she helps her sister cover up the evidence. Unfortunately for the Connolly sisters, secrets are hard to keep in a small town, and they never quite know who they can trust. Margo Martindale also has a terrific supporting turn as Enid Nora Devlin, a local brothel owner who may know too much.
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%Genre: Comedy, ThrillerStars: Morgan Saylor, Sophie Lowe, Margo MartindaleDirector: Bridget Savage Cole, Danielle KrudyRating: RRuntime: 91 minutes
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Paterson (2016)
The stakes aren’t particularly high for Paterson the film. But for Paterson himself, they’re everything. Adam Driver stars as the title character, a man who works as a bus driver. But in reality, Paterson is a poet who hasn’t learned to fully accept that aspect of himself. The entire movie takes place over the course of a week, and we see the daily routine of both Paterson and his wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani). But when the pattern breaks and misfortune strikes, it will take a minor miracle to get Paterson back on the right track.
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%Genre: DramaStars: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Barry Shabaka HenleyDirector: Jim JarmuschRating: RRuntime: 118 minutes
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