You are what you watch, and by that we mean that selecting films which show you something outside your comfort zone is a great way to educate and entertain yourself.
As such, we've put in the time and sifted through Amazon Prime Video to pick out the best films you can stream without leaving home. These include recent critically-acclaimed movies like The Farewell and The Big Sick, indie gems like If Beale Street Could Talk and Midsommar, and blasts from the past like The Squid and the Whale and Lost in Translation.
If you're only using your Amazon Prime membership to expedite a crate of loo roll to your house, you're missing out.
The relationship between a teenage girl and older man in post-war suburban London at first appears to be a heartwarming romance in this film based on a memoir of the same name by British journalist Lynn Barber. But the more Jenny (a brilliant Carey Mulligan) learns more about the impressive David (Peter Sarsgaard) the more she becomes out of her depth and realises what she has given up for him.
A Bigger Splash
Luca Guadagnino, the director behind Call Me By Your Name, here tells recounts another stylish summer in Italy, this time the story focuses on a musician (Tilda Swinton) who receives an unexpected visit from an old flame (Ralph Fiennes) and his seductive daughter (Dakota Johnson) when on holiday with her boyfriend (Matthias Schoenaerts). Alluring and intense, Guadagnino creates a melting pot of emotion which burns under the Sicilian sun.
Scorsese's gangster epic remains as taut and carefully crafted as when released in 2006, a testament to the great performances from Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon. The film follows two parallel cat and mouse games as an undercover agent and spy both try to keep their identities hidden while secretly helping out the other side. A film packed with hidden Easter eggs, Scorsese's depiction of a rotten system and the shifting loyalties it produces grips until the end.
The Girl with all the Gifts
After a fungal disease which erases humanity's free will turns the population into flesh-eating zombies, one girl immune to the illness leaves shelter to try and save mankind. As with the best pandemic fiction, this sinister post-apocalyptic film reveals truths about our world in one that seems unfamiliar, cleverly twisting traditional horror film tropes as it does so.
Mad Max: Fury Road
The fourth adventure in the Max Max film series from director George Miller sees Max (Tom Hardy) team up with warrior Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) on a high-octane race to overthrow a tyrannical authority who controls the water of the land. Exhilarating from start to finish and with action sequences that blow up so wildly it makes the Fast and the Furious franchise look like Robot Wars, Mad Max: Fury Road is an action film in a league of its own.
Into the Wild
Sean Penn directs this 2007 film which tells the true story of Christopher McCandless, a man who hiked across North America into the Alaskan wilderness during the Nineties, eventually setting up a campsite in an abandoned bus. Steeped in wanderlust and with sweeping mountain and sky views, the film has become something of a Bible for people wanting to reject modern society in favour of a simpler life.
Emad and Rana are a young couple living in Tehran, Iran, who are forced to move out of their apartment, and the history of their new building by chance brings a violent encounter to their doorstep which threatens to undo them. The recipient of two awards at Cannes Film Festival and an Academy Award, The Salesman simmers with a tension that always feels about to boil over.
The Wolf of Wall Street
Martin Scorsese's money-stuffed 2013 film tells the story of Jordan Belfort, a stockbroker who cashed in after the Wall Street crash and conned his way to the big time. Belfort is played brilliantly by Leonardo DiCaprio, whose crowning glory in the film is a twisted crawl towards his car while out of his mind on Quaaludes. There's also excellent performances from Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey and Jonah Hill in this decadent and high-octane car crash.
It might feel a little too close for comfort to bed down with the story of a virus which originates in China and wreaks havoc around the world, but the strangely prescient 2011 film shows that dystopian fiction can hold some answers in how humanity reacts when tested. Directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring Matt Damon and Kate Winslet, Contagion is one of a select number of pandemic films actually worth watching.
Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Stephen King's seminal horror novel features a tour-de-force performance from Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, a crazed writer who spends a winter at the Overlook Hotel with his wife and son. King might have never warmed to the film but its motifs, from the winding maze to the spooky twin girls in the hallway, and even the geometric carpets, have gone on to influence horror ever since.
The Imitation Game
The story of how mathematician Alan Turing saved the country with a code-breaking computer during the darkest hours of World War II is a chapter in British history that is sadly unknown to so many. Benedict Cumberbatch is excellent as Turing in this 2014 retelling of his work at Bletchley Park, with a strong ensemble cast that includes Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode.
Desiree Akhavan directs and stars in this indie drama about an Iranian-American living in Brooklyn who is struggling to come to terms with breaking up with her girlfriend and keeping her bisexuality hidden from her family. Like New York hipster dramas Tiny Furniture and Frances Ha, Appropriate Behaviour mixes heart and humour effortlessly while painting a modern picture of sexuality.
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Coen brothers' acclaimed film about a folk singer from Greenwich Village features a moving performance from Oscar Isaac as the travelling troubadour as well as appearances from Carey Mulligan, Adam Driver and Justin Timberlake. An intimate portrait of an adrift man and the people he meets on his journey, Inside Llewyn Davis is an ode to the nearly men of life.
Director Lulu Wang first shared the story of her grandmother's terminal cancer diagnosis, and how the family kept it a secret from grandma “Nai Nai”, on an episode of the podcast, This American Life. In this dramatisation of the story, Billie (a never-better Awkwafina) returns to see her Nai Nai in Changchun, China, her farewell disguised as the wedding of a cousin in a film which asks questions about grief and family and sees cultures clash over the best way to say goodbye.
Lost in Translation
Sofia Coppola's 2003 homage to Japan captures the vivid feeling of finding yourself in vast, bright Tokyo as a lonely foreigner. It follows the unlikely friendship between a travelling actor and a college graduate, played by Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, as they find themselves jet-lagged and alone in the same towering hotel. Whether it is the sky-high views from the karaoke booth or the strange restaurant menu where the pictures all look the same, Lost In Translation captures the brilliant strangeness of travel.
No Country for Old Men
Joel and Ethan Coen's gritty Western thriller took home awards for best picture, director, screenplay and supporting actor for Javier Bardem's performance at the 2008 Oscars, a clean sweep that shows just how gripping this tightly-woven story is. The plot follows a hunter who discovers a bounty of $2m in the aftermath of a bloody drug deal, leading him to be pursued by a psychopathic killer in a breathless game of cat and mouse.
Nominated for the best foreign language film Academy Award in the year that Roma took the prize, this beautiful black and white masterpiece from Polish filmmaker Paweł Pawlikowski is a love story set against the backdrop of Cold War- era Europe. The story follows a music director (Tomasz Kot) and his pupil (Joanna Kulig) across borders and many years as they are forced apart and pulled back together again.
If Beale Street Could Talk
Moonlight writer and director Barry Jenkins adapts this love story set in 1970s Harlem from James Baldwin's novel of the same name. In it Trish (Kiki Layne) fights to free her falsely accused husband (Stephan James) from prison before the birth of their child. As with Jenkins’ previous film, some of the scenes which say the most are also the most silent, whether it is the couple staring wordlessly at each other through prison glass, or gazing into the other’s eyes in the dusk-light of Harlem. There's also a sublime score from Nicholas Britell whose music makes so many scenes ache with longing.
Lebanese director Nadine Labaki mixes fiction and documentary-esque realism in her film about a 12-year-old boy who rebels against his life in the Middle East and later sues his parents for the life they gave him. The title means chaos but also refers to the Isreali village where Jesus is believed to have healed the sick, with Capernaum's protagonist serving as a Biblical allegory in the way he tends to a younger boy. Labaki shines a light on the political and social conflict of the streets of Beirut and the human stories hidden in the rubble.
Manchester by the Sea
Sometimes there are no happy endings and life keeps trudging on even after a tragedy that feels as though it should end the world. This is what Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is faced with after being named guardian to his teenage nephew, Patrick, and forced to return to his hometown and confront his past. Michelle Williams give a sublime performance as Lee's ex-wife Randi and Lucas Hedges is also brilliant as the awkward but endearing Patrick.
Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara play two women who meet at the counter of a department store in Fifties Manhattan, their tryst sparking a forbidden romance which they cannot resist. Directed by Todd Haynes and adapted from Patricia Highsmith's novel The Price of Salt, Carol is visually stunning and meters out its drama slowly. Both leads give measured yet moving performances and manage to conjure a love story which asks questions about sin and sexuality while revelling in the female gaze.
Actress Olivia Wilde makes her directorial debut in this sharp comedy about two friends Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) who reach the end of their time in school to realise they have traded their social lives for academic prowess. A Superbad remix for a more woke era, Booksmart delivers laughs and heart as well as nailing Gen Z in a way that feels fresh.
Jennifer Lopez may have never got her Academy Award nomination for Lorene Scafaria's excellent 2019 film, but this strobe-lit dive into the strip clubs and shopping mall excesses of pre-crash New York City shines without a gold statue. Based on a New York Magazine article about strippers who drugged and robbed their clients when they stopped spending, Hustlers is a slick, funny and compelling look at bending the rules when the system is broken.
Long-time Steven Soderbergh screenwriter Scott Z. Burns makes his directing debut in the compelling true story of Senate staffer Daniel J. Jones, the man who forensically compiled a report into CIA Detention and Interrogation Program, a scheme which saw the brutal torture of suspects in the wake of 9/11. Adam Driver is excellent as Jones, a character who makes the case for speaking truth to power even at extreme personal cost.
Based on Emma Jane Unsworth's book of the same name, this hedonistic look at the drug and drink-fuelled nights that seep from our late twenties to our early thirties are the backdrop for this funny romp. Holliday Grainger and Alia Shawkat play best friends whose wild nights are interrupted when one of them falls in love, their story showing how friendship can be the real love story of our lives in the same vein as works like Girls and Fleabag.
Silver Linings Playbook
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are at their best in this David O'Russell directed story about a Pat, a man with bi-polar disorder who finds an unlikely ally, and dance partner, in a a Tiffany, woman also struggling with her mental health. Jacki Weaver and Robert DeNiro also star, giving wonderful performances as Pat's doting but infuriating parents.
Florence Pugh's breakout role comes in this story of a couple who attend a Swedish midsummer festival which turns truly horrifying at the hands of a pagan cult. From the twisted mind of Hereditary director Ari Aster, Midsommar is one of the best products of the horror boom of recent years, using the genre as a foil for weighty ideas about misogyny, grief and betrayal.
Martin Scorsese leaves the gangster genre briefly for this 2016 adaptation of the 1966 novel of the same name by Shūsaku Endō. In it two Jesuit priests, Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Garrupe (Adam Driver), travel to japan during the 1640s in search of an older mentor named Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson). Though it was a film which polarised viewers at the time, Silence is a nerve-wracking, intense and at time almost entirely still film which demands your attention.
The fable of how the McDonald's golden arches became as ubiquitous as Church crosses is a tale which feels as American as they come. Michael Keaton plays Ray Kroc, a struggling salesman who gets a taste of pure joy via a burger in California, deciding on tasting it to turn it into the biggest restaurant business in the world.
The Big Sick
Arguably one of the great romantic comedies of the last decade, this Academy Award-nominated film is based on the real-life romance between Pakistani-born comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his partner Emily, played in the film by Zoe Kazan. Balancing laugh-out-loud moments and sucker-punch moments of sadness as Emily's health deteriorates, The Big Sick is a story that stays with you.
Mahershala Ali picked up his second Oscars in three years for the film which also went on to win the 'Best Picture' Oscar in 2019. Green Book follows the real story of a tour of the deep south which Jamaican-American pianist Don Shirley (Ali) took with his driver, former bouncer Tony "Lip" Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) in the 1960s. Both Ali and Mortensen's performances balance comedy and candour and have an on-screen chemistry and warmth with each other that carries the film.
The Squid and the Whale
Director Noah Baumbach is masterful at telling stories of families breaking down and this 2005 film about a couple divorcing feels like a prequel to his semi-autobiographical Academy Award-winning drama Marriage Story. It follows The Berkmans, a dysfunctional family coping with divorce as the children bear the brunt of their parents separation, with Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney playing the parents, and Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Kline as their two sons.
The Nice Guys
Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe play private eye and enforcer trying to find missing pornstar Misty Mountains in this dive into seedy Seventies Los Angeles. Powered by chemistry between Crowe and Gosling, both of whom do physical comedy very well here, The Nice Guys is bromance that will have you groaning and laughing in equal measure.
Chronicling a boy's descent into meth addiction and the repeated relapses that follow, Beautiful Boy is told through the eyes of David (Steve Carell), a father who watches his son, Nic (Timothée Chalamet) gradually be consumed by the drug. A role in which Chalamet cements his status as one of the most exciting actors of the moment after his Oscar-nominated performance in Call Me By Your Name.
Requiem for a Dream
Darren Aronofsky's look at lonely people searching for happiness is just as arresting now as when it was released in 2000. The film follows four strangers, all linked by the relationship between the lonely widow Sara Goldfarb and her sweet but sad son Harry, plunging into a desperate and unsettling end for each of them.
Coming from dark comedy expert Adam McKay (The Big Short), Vice stars Christian Bale as former VP Dick Cheney, Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush and Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld. The biopic charts Cheney's ascent from the early days of the Nixon White House to becoming 'the most powerful Vice President in history'.
Irish actress Jessie Buckley earned a Bafta for her turn in this superb musical about an aspiring country singer and single mother from Glasgow who is released from prison after serving a drug smuggling charge. When given the chance to pursue her musical ambitions she travels to Nashville, Tennessee on a journey that is more complicated, and ultimately uplifting, than a standard Dream Big fairytale.
Based on Emma Donoghue's harrowing novel of the same name, Brie Larson plays a kidnapped mother who is held captive in a tiny room with her young son Jack. The film does justice to the book by showing the perspective of Jack in this strange world, one where his friend is a lamp and the stranger that comes into 'room' is hidden away from him. A difficult but enormously powerful watch.
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