You are what you watch, and by that we mean that selecting films that 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 critically acclaimed movies like Milk, indie gems like Knives Out and Midsommar, and blasts from the past like Almost Famous and Jurassic Park.
If you're only using your Amazon Prime membership to expedite a crate of loo roll to your house, you're missing out.
24 Hour Party People
Michael Winterbottom's film manages to conjure the full madness of Factory's semi-mythic journey from grotty punk club night to the very heart of everything that mattered in youth culture in a way no mass of BBC4 talking heads ever could. Steve Coogan plays prime mover Tony Wilson, who narrates the whole trajectory, while a ludicrously strong ensemble including John Simm, Shirley Henderson, Paddy Considine and Andy Serkis bring life to the gigantic characters around the label. In a meta twist, real Hacienda and Factory figures like Dave Haslam, Dave Pickering, Howard Devoto and Tony Wilson himself pop up too. "I'm being postmodern," Coogan's Wilson explains, "before it was fashionable."
Young Saroo and his big bro Guddu spend their days in Khandwa, India, nicking coal off trains to swap for food, but one night Saroo and Guddu get separated. Not sure what to do, Saroo accidentally sends himself to Kolkata. In an alien place, he has to find his own way in the world. Lovely, lovely Dev Patel is the adult Saroo, who grew up in Hobart, Australia, having been adopted by white Aussie parents. Realising he still wants to know what happened to Guddu and his family, Saroo has a dim memory of the shape of buildings and a few key names, which isn't much to go on, but he plugs away at Google Maps anyway. This true story managed to avoid being cloying or manipulative, and lands the right side of yearning. Salman Rushdie said he cried pretty much uncontrollably through it, which tells you something.
The Four Year Plan
This documentary is a time capsule in a couple of ways. For one thing, Queens Park Rangers' attempts to launch themselves into the riches of the Premier League back in 2007 now seem to belong to a far less giddily inflated era. (The big masterplan is to spend £250,000 on Gavin Mahon? Look out, Europe!) For another, the advent of the glossy brand-polishing exercises for Manchester City, Juventus, Leeds United and other clubs means The Four Year Plan now stands as the last of the great fly-on-the-wall docs, a British mini-industry which brought us mud-splattered gems like Premier Passions, Chester City: An American Dream and Orient: Club For a Fiver. The Four Year Plan has that blend of wild-eyed ambition and thundering incompetence which made those docs so gripping.
After a stint in jail and attending court-ordered therapy sessions, Shia LaBeouf started to address his painful memories by writing them down. The eventual result is Honey Boy, the 2019 film directed by Alma Har'el in which LaBeouf stars. The film traces his childhood as a child star and his painful relationship with his alcoholic and abusive father over a decade. It's a tender and beautiful story about the marks which our parents leave on us and one which will make you see the controversial actor in a new light.
A Cambodian Spring
Filmed over six years, this documentary concerns the fight over a piece of land in Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. The story follows a Buddhist monk and two mothers who have to fight against a big corporation trying to evict their community and take their homes. Irish director Chris Kelly lays bare the corruption of the government who, like other elected officials across the world, look the other way while choosing profit over protecting ordinary people.
Happy Go Lucky
Academy award-winner Sally Hawkins is brilliant in this endearing film about zany but happy-go-lucky schoolteacher Poppy and the eccentricities of her life. From veteran director Mike Leigh, the auteur behind films such as Abigail's Party and Secrets & Lies, here he turns his observant eye on the quotidian details of one woman's world to create a portrait that feels moving and real, and went on to win several awards in 2008.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Taika Waititi's 2016 film is about the New Zealand tradition of 'going bush' and becoming connected to nature by being off-grid. In it Sam Neill and Julian Dennison play Uncle Hector and Ricky Baker who flee home after becoming the subject of a manhunt. The story is a bizarre but hilarious story about coming-of-age tale with a father and son connection at the heart of it.
A Man Called Ove
Based on Fredrik Backman's 2012 book of the same name, this Swedish film is about a grumpy, lonely named Ove (Rolf Lassgård) who spends his days telling off his neighbours. It takes the energy of the young to bring him back to life, as a young family move in next door to him and a friendship begins when they accidentally flatten his mailbox. Wry and heart-warming without being mawkish, A Man Called Ove is uplifting but still wonderfully dour.
The 1993 sci-fi action epic remains one of the most successful films in box office history, going on to inspire sequels and rollercoasters with its sense of adventure. The original film is a hearty dose of nostalgia, with excellent performances from Sam Neil and Laura Dern, who are almost outshone by the retro Nineties 'fits, that spine-tingling John Williams score, and some of Steven Spielberg's most compelling storytelling.
A fascinating, terrifying true crime thriller about how a hoax caller convinced a manager at a fast food chain to interrogate one of her employees following a theft. The story looks at the alarming ways in which we submit to authority and how this overrides our instincts, even when what we are being told to do seems to make no sense
Gangs of New York
Scorsese's 2003 flick is a theatrical take on the gangster film, planting us in 1846 Manhattan and in the crossfire of the warring groups who maraud the city. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Amsterdam, an orphaned kid looking to avenge his father and the Irish immigrants who were killed alongside him, but it is Daniel Day-Lewis who steals the show as The Butcher, the menacing and maniacal kingpin who takes Amsterdam under his wing.
Jeff Nichols, the director and screenwriter who went on to create excellent 2016 film Mud, is at the helm for this science fiction film with an excellent cast including Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Jaeden Martell and Sam Shepard. The story focuses on a young boy who possesses special powers and the attempts of the government and a group of religious extremists to pursue him and his father.
Rian Johnson's meticulously crafted whodunnit features an unexpectedly brilliant comedic performance from Daniel Craig as detective Benoit Blanc, as well as an an introduction to Ana de Armas, his (now distant) future co-star in No Time To Die. Despite being criminally (boom boom!) overlooked for award nominations, this tightly plotted and hilarious detective story is as strong as its excellent cast (Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Michael Shannon, Chris Evans, and many more) would suggest.
On the Basis of Sex
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an 87-year old member of the Supreme Court who has been an iconic figure through the many waves of the feminist movement, is the subject of this 2018 film about her early career, starring Felicity Jones as RBG herself. Ginsburg lead the fight against gender discrimination, winning six landmark legal cases before the Supreme Court. In On the Basis of Sex we learn more about the personal prejudice that punctuated her life and inspired her to fight for the rights of all women.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
The level of craft that goes into making some of the world's best sushi becomes almost ASMR porn in this charming documentary about Jiro, the 94-year-old owner of a three-Michelin star restaurant in a Tokyo subway station. Telling the story of the pressure his two sons face in trying to live up to his name and continue the family business, Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a moving family portrait which unpacks the customs of cooking in Japan.
Help yourself to a dose of Eighties nostalgia courtesy of this coming-of-age classic staring Tom Cruise as extremely horny teenager Joel, who turns his parents house into a raging sex party when they leave town. Featuring Cruise's iconic sunglasses and a dance scene that has aged surprisingly well, Risky Business is filled with locker room humour, though doesn't endorse it too wholeheartedly.
How To Build a Girl
Caitlin Moran's childhood in Wolverhampton and early years as a music journalist in London are relived in this adaptation of her 2014 novel of the same name. Ladybird and Booksmart's Beanie Feldstein offers up another brilliant female coming-of-age story, this time as lead Johanna Morrigan, a teenage recluse from a large, mad family who wants to escape the Midlands and forge a path as a rock critic, despite knowing nothing about the genre. Feldstein's accent might be a little off the mark, but the story here is moving and entertaining nonetheless.
The Truman Show
The Truman Show is the perfect film to capture the surreal times we are living in, where a trip to the supermarket can feel eerily like a staged production. The 1998 film features Jim Carrey as an insurance salesman who, on realising his life is in fact a television show and everyone around him an actor, tries to escape the simulation. Twenty years since it was released, the dark, paranoid film perfectly predicted the always-broadcasting way we now live by turning the humdrum of daily activities into entertainment.
The first openly gay man to be voted into public office in America, activist and politician Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 before being tragically killed a year later. This Gus Van Sant-directed film follows the events which lead to his election after several failed attempts, all set against the backdrop of rife homophobia across the country. Sean Penn is excellent as Milk, capturing the tireless energy it took for him to live his life as himself and fight for a more tolerant society.
The Cabin in the Woods
Joss Whedon is the screenwriter behind this subversive film which cleverly dismantles all of the clichés within the horror genre. What begins as a classic doomed tale where teenagers take a trip into the woods turns into a maze of different tropes, referencing specific authors, films and conventions of the genre so that the whole thing feels packed with Easter eggs for horror fans.
Writer and director Cameron Crowe tells the story of his early career as a writer for Rolling Stone in this semi-autobiographical story about fame and fandom. In the film we follow misfit teen William Miller on a writing assignment touring with the fictional rock band Stillwater across Seventies America. The journey he goes on sees him exposed to wild partying, drugs and sex, given a front-row seat to the never-ending performance of being a rockstar. Kate Hudson is never-better as "band aid" (not groupie) Penny and other strong performances come from Billy Crudup as the band's frontman and Frances McDormand as William's protective mother.
Shaun of the Dead
Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright's zombie spoof of movies like Dawn of the Dead has earned its place in British cinema history, with so many lines from the script still repeated to this day. In it Pegg plays deadbeat tech salesman Shaun who finds himself thrown into disaster after his girlfriend dumps him and zombies take over London. Alongside his equally morose best friend Ed (Nick Frost) they assemble an unenviable team to fight off the threat. Their initial plan, of going to the Winchester and "waiting for this all to blow over", remains a key part of British lexicon for dealing with a disaster.
Happy as Lazzaro
From Alice Rohrwacher, the director of the award-winning Heavenly Body, as well as HBO's adaptation of My Brilliant Friend, comes the story of a peasant boy living on an Italian farm whose friendship with a young nobleman takes an unexpected turn. Winning best screenplay at Cannes Film Festival in 2018, this Italian film is a beautiful mixture of fable and satire, biting in its depiction of class inequality but also so strange it feels like a surreal daydream.
Ten years since its release and it's clear just how ahead of its time Chris Morris' satirical dark comedy about a group of terrorists was. The film follows four inept would-be terrorists from Sheffield who hatch a plan to become suicide bombers and, with poor results, attempt to take down the London Marathon in ridiculous costumes. Four Lions has the nerve to poke fun at terrorists but never does so purely to shock us, the results is a classic British comedy which landed star Riz Ahmed on the map.
Saoirse Ronan captures the loneliness of being homesick in a strange city in this adaptation of Colm Tóibín's novel of the same name. Ronan plays Eilis, an Irish girl who sets sail for Fifties Brooklyn where, after a rocky start, she falls in love and sheds her past. When she must return to Ireland after tragedy strikes she finds herself torn between past and present; seasick from being pulled between the two. As well as Ronan's commanding performance Domhnall Gleeson is excellent as her love interest and the affecting script is adapted by Nick Hornby.
Blade Runner 2049
35 years after Ridley Scott bought his sci-fi epic Blade Runner to the silver screen, Denis Villeneuve digs deeper into the same dark world with Blade Runner 2049. The story picks up 30 years after the previous film and focuses on K, an LAPD officer played by Ryan Gosling, who goes in search of a former blade runner who has been missing for three decades. Despite polarising viewers, as the original did, Villeneuve's voyage into this world is a mind-bending trip, bought to life by the exceptional cinematography of Roger Deakins.
Kōji Fukada's tense drama won the Un Certain Regard prize when it showed at Cannes Film Festival in 2016, the film telling the story of a metalworker who along with his quiet family, lives a life of dull suburban domesticity. When he hires an old acquaintance and ex-con to work alongside him he begins to untangle his life and drag skeletons out of the closet, the story building into an unbearable climax. There are parallels with Bong Joon-Ho's Parasite in the way that it builds tension until it bursts from the screen and its portrait of a family home and the secrets it holds. It's also a 'foreign language' film which more than deserves the attention of a global stage.
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 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 recounts another stylish summer in Italy. This time the story focuses on a musician (Tilda Swinton) who receives an unexpected visit from an ex (Ralph Fiennes) and his seductive daughter (Dakota Johnson) while 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 strong 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.
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) In 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.
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.
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.
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.
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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