A collage featuring some of the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now (clockwise from top left): 'Moonrise Kingdom,' '12 Years a Slave,' 'Thelma and Louise,' and 'The Sound of Metal'

The Best Movies To Watch on Prime Video Right Now

It’s Prime Time.

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That’s what I say to myself, alone in my apartment at 3AM, every time I crack open the Prime Video app. I think it’ll catch on, especially if I say it loud enough. Or people will throw things at me. But that’s okay, because some of the movies on Prime hit harder than a Wham! song, so this streaming platform has earned an obligatory catchphrase in my mind. It’s just a respect thing, you know? Like taking off your shoes before entering someone’s apartment. Or shouting “duck!” before hurling something at Harry Styles during a concert.

Saying “it’s Prime Time” before watching one of these great movies on Amazon’s Prime Video is optional, of course, but maybe give it a try? See how it feels?

The Sound of Metal (2020)

Riz Ahmed sitting on the ground in a camo shirt in The Sound of Metal
(Amazon Studios)

Darius Marder’s The Sound of Metal is part death growl, part melancholy Elliott Smith ballad, but don’t let the metal heads hear me say that. Riz Ahmed stars as a metal drummer named Ruben who performs in an avant-garde metal (yes, it’s a thing) duo with his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke). Following years of intense touring, Ruben discovers that he is losing his hearing, and is told by doctors that his ability to hear will deteriorate rapidly unless he avoids loud noises. Ruben says screw that and keeps playing anyway. The most metal thing of all is to do what you love, even if it kills you.

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Al Pacino in 'Dog Day Afternoon'
(Warner Bros.)

Sidney Lumet’s crime thriller Dog Day Afternoon is surprisingly ahead of its time in terms of trans representation, which was all but non-existent in the 1970s. Al Pacino plays a rookie criminal who intends to rob a bank to finance his lover’s gender-affirming surgery. The film is based on the true story of a man who robbed a bank for this exact reason, and as a result feels deeper, stranger, and altogether more human than your run-of-the-mill heist film. The plight of the transgender character Lia (Chris Sarandon) is treated with a surprising amount of respect and dignity by the filmmaker, despite the fact that the film’s characters are not always as sympathetic. This film loses points for casting a cis male actor as Lia, but did you really expect anything better from the ’70s?

Interstellar (2014)

Matthew McConaughey in 'Interstellar'
(Warner Bros.)

This mind-bending sci-fi epic from Christopher Nolan was developed by a team of screenwriters and actual physicists, and it shows. On a dying earth, a small team of astronauts including Cooper and Brand (Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway) assemble to travel through a wormhole in the hopes of finding life-sustaining planets on the other side. Instead, they find a massive black hole. The film is notable for its almost-perfect visual representation of a black hole—a representation that was so spot-on that the equations necessary to program it were regarded as an actual scientific breakthrough.

Arrival (2016)

Amy Adams in Arrival looking exhausted.
(Paramount)

Yay! More science! Inspired by a Ted Chiang short story called The Story of Your Life, Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival centers around a linguist who is hired by the U.S. government to help communicate with aliens. The problem is, the aliens are so, well, alien that the human voice can’t even hope to replicate the sounds they make. After teaming up with a physicist, the two scientists attempt to decode the aliens’ complex writing system, and discover their reasons for visiting the Earth in the first place.

Whiplash (2014)

JK Simmons in 'Whiplash'
(Sony Pictures Classics)

Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash details the life of a jazz drumming student (Miles Teller) and his fraught relationship with a hot headed university jazz band conductor (J.K. Simmons). This film might ironically be more metal than The Sound of Metal, what with J.K. Simmons slapping Miles Teller around while screaming “NOT MY TEMPO.” This psychological drama inspired countless internet memes, and offered a peek into the often abusive environments of cut-throat conservatory programs.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Suzy and Sam from Moonrise Kingdom looking perturbed by something a scout master is saying to them
(Focus Features)

From the whimsical mind of Wes Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom tells the story of two kids on the fictional island of New Penzance. Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) is an orphaned boy with a troubled past who becomes pen pals with the bookish Suzy (Kara Hayward). After a year of exchanging letters, they decide to run away together, and the result is one of the sweetest, most heartwarming coming of age films of the century.

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Shaun and Ed looking confused in "Shaun of the Dead"
(Universal)

The first installment of Edgar Wright’s Blood and Ice Cream trilogy, Shaun of the Dead centers around electronics salesman Shaun (Simon Pegg), who has reached a dead end in his life. Unluckily for home, the world is about to experience a dead end of its own. Shaun’s small English town has become a hotbed for zombie activity, and he and his similarly deadbeat best friend end are thrown into a fight for survival against the undead hordes. One of the finest horror comedies in existence right here.

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Jake Gyllenhaal cuddles with Heath Ledger in 'Brokeback Mountain'
(Focus Features)

Ang Lee’s gay western romance Brokeback Mountain took the world by storm in the 2000s. And in case you don’t remember, the 2000s were not exactly a great decade for LGBTQ representation. Set in rural Wyoming in the 1960s, Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger star as Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar, two cowboys who fall madly in love. The pair struggle to reconcile their love for each other in a world that is openly hostile to gay people, and their story left nary a single dry eye in theaters across America.

Thelma And Louise (1991)

Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon in Thelma & Louise (1991)
(MGM)

Ridley Scott’s Thelma and Louise stars Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon as two friends who decide to kiss their humdrum lives goodbye and go on a fishing trip together. After the pair kill a man in self-defense, what started as an innocent road-trip turns into a fight for freedom as they try to avoid the long arm of the law. This film features perhaps one of the most iconic finales in cinematic history, and is one of the most beautiful stories of friendship ever told.

12 Years a Slave (2013)

Solomon Northup running against a white sky in "12 Years A Slave"
(Searchlight Pictures)

Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave tells the real-life story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a Black violinist who was kidnapped and sold into slavery while following a phony job opportunity in Washington, D.C. Northup spends the next 12 years of his life attempting to escape his enslavement in the South and return to his wife and children. The film received nine Academy Award nominations in 2013, and walked away with awards for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress for Lupita Nyong’o.

(featured image: Focus Features / Searchlight Pictures / MGM / Amazon Studios)


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Author
Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.