The sheer amount of Netflix original movies, which seem to come out regularly, has exceeded Amazon’s Prime Video. While Netflix’s quality has improved, the service continues to focus on mainstream entertainment. Amazon, on the other hand, is more concerned with artistic films and taking risks.
Leos Carax, Spike Lee, Gus Van Sant, Park Chan-wook, Richard Linklater, Steve McQueen, Jim Jarmusch, Todd Haynes, Lynne Ramsay, and others are among the outstanding directors nurtured by the streaming service. Actors such as Joaquin Phoenix, Adam Driver, and Kate Beckinsale have all appeared in multiple Amazon Studios films.
Furthermore, Amazon’s collection of catalog titles—many of which are on this list—is far larger than Netflix’s, particularly when it comes to titles released before 1980.
Here are some of our favorites:
Blow the Man Down
Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy co-wrote and co-directed this interesting, funny crime drama, which is unique in the genre because it is entirely driven by women. Blow the Man Down (2020) starts with the sound of sea shanties in Easter Cove, a little Maine fishing community. Pris Connolly (Sophie Lowe) and Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor) have just buried their mother. Mary Beth visits a pub and agrees to be picked up by a man. He leads her to the docks, where she tries to flee and he is pierced with a trident.
Pris faithfully assists in the disposal of the body with her beloved fillet knife, but the knife disappears and a bag of cash appears. Add a cabal of older ladies (June Squibb, Anette O’Toole, and Marceline Hugot) who maintain a vise-grip control over the town, covertly in charge of everything, to this delightful, quietly humorous setting. As Enid Nora Devlin, the town brothel owner with a mysterious link to the other ladies, Margo Martindale steals the show. As she lumbers around in large, black shawls and a black cane, Martindale’s feeling of motherly dread is a lot of fun.
Borat Subsequent Movie film
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020) was a pleasant arrival in the sixth month of the pandemic, and the closing months of the Trump administration, whether or not it made an impact or has a long shelf life.
Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen) is reintroduced after being imprisoned following the publication of the 2006 original. He’s called for a new mission in the United States fourteen years later. “McDonald” Trump, the United States’ new “premier,” has made friends with a slew of nasty, powerful nations (North Korea, Russia, etc.), and Kazakhstan wishes to be one of them.
Borat plans to bribe Mike Pence, the “No. 1 Ladies’ Man” and “vice premier,” with a monkey. Borat has the notion to send his stowaway daughter (Oscar-nominated Maria Bakalova) as a gift instead when the monkey meets an untimely end. On the other hand, Cohen’s humor aims at holy cows of all kinds and manages to expose folly and hypocrisy at every turn while yet managing to make us laugh.
Lakeith Stanfield’s breakout performance in the riveting film Crown Heights (2017), based on a true story of a terrible US prison system that targets Blacks, was lanky of body and highly expressive eyes. Stanfield portrays Colin Warner, a Trinidadian-born, Brooklyn-raised man who was wrongfully imprisoned in 1980 for a murder he had nothing to do with. His alibi is flawless: he was stealing a car to pick up his mother’s TV from the repair shop at the time.
Carl King (Nnamdi Asomugha), Colin’s best friend on the outside, works diligently to get him out, even preparing to be a process server. “It could be me in here,” he says, referring to his decades-long battle. Without ever preaching, the film progresses matter-of-factly, piling on the specifics of a system that bends facts to gain convictions. It makes up for its lack of storytelling expertise with raw impact.
Manchester by the Sea
Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me, Margaret) crafts profoundly developed characters and directs stunning performances in the Oscar-winning film Manchester by the Sea (2016). Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), a Boston handyman, is drawn north to Manchester by a tragic tragedy. Lee has a short fuse and does not bear fools, and he reveals a sense of grief and remorse about his life. He discovers he has been appointed guardian of a teen nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges), and despite their strained connection, they end up spending a lot of time together, dealing with all the issues that arise after death.
It’s bitterly cold, and Lonergan makes the most of it as Lee and Patrick quarrel about the burial (it’s too difficult to bury someone in the winter ground) and the family boat (it’s too expensive to retain, etc.). Michelle Williams co-stars in a short but poignant role as Lee’s ex-girlfriend. The film, like life, has no easy answers, but it does contain many touching moments.
Rear Window (1954) is an unbelievable ride of a picture that never leaves its apartment setting. It is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best films, and possibly his most precisely produced and thoroughly enjoyable as well. L. B. “Jeff” Jefferies (James Stewart), a photographer, is recovering from a broken leg. He’s bored, so he’s started observing his neighbors across the courtyard, eavesdropping on their daily activities.
Nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter) visits him regularly, therefore he must have excellent health care! He tells his stunning socialite girlfriend Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly) about his suspicions that one of his neighbors, Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr), murdered his wife and disposed of her body.
This beautiful, sophisticated love story is devoid of soap-opera crescendos, instead of focusing matter-of-factly on all the mishaps and annoyances that might derail an otherwise made-in-heaven affair. With its stunning colors and polished use of locations, the film has the feel of a classic Douglas Sirk drama from the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Sylvie, played by Tessa Thompson, is engaged but falls in love with jazz pianist Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha). They drift away and then re-unite. Robert’s jazz hopes are shattered by the rise of Motown music, while she realizes her dream of becoming a television producer.
Fox Rich (full name: Sibil Fox Richardson) spends 18 years campaigning for her husband Rob’s release from prison in this compelling, poignant documentary by director Garrett Bradley. The film includes home video footage from the beginning of the story, which director Garrett Bradley transformed to black-and-white and layered over her own modern-day black-and-white footage as Fox—who is also parenting six children on her own—makes her fight a full-time job.
The children grow up without a father, but with the will to fight in their blood; their names include “Freedom” and “Justus.” It’s an engrossing tale about the power of love and the various components that make up a family. But, as the big title suggests, it’s also a heartbreaking metaphor for a wider problem: black males being targeted, apprehended, and locked in a legal system that doesn’t care about them.
Vertigo (1958), often regarded as Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, is undoubtedly his most deeply, frighteningly personal work, exploring obsession and manipulation in an alarmingly matter-of-fact manner. James Stewart plays retired detective John “Scottie” Ferguson, who suffers from the title condition. Madeleine (Kim Novak) has taken to wandering around San Francisco while in an odd mental state, and an old friend asks him to follow her. She leaps into the bay, Scottie saves her, and the two begin to fall in love, but she subsequently jumps from a high bell tower for no apparent reason.
After a while, a broken Scottie notices Judy, who resembles Madeleine in appearance, and he gets obsessed with molding her into his ideal girl. The film could have been brutal, but Hitchcock uses the stunning San Francisco locations—ideal for evil activity—along with Bernard Herrmann’s full-blooded music soundtrack and Stewart’s frantic acting to create a film that is both compelling and enlightening.
Todd Haynes’ superb, underappreciated Wonderstruck (2017) is both an engaging story and a profound commentary on that story, much like his best work (Safe, Far from Heaven, I’m Not There, and so on). It is set in two time periods and is based on a novel by Brian Selznick (Hugo). Rose (Millicent Simmonds, also in A Quiet Place) is a deaf girl who strives for a relationship with her mother (Julianne Moore), a silent cinema star, in the 1920s. This portion is presented as a black-and-white silent film, which is appropriate.
Ben (Oakes Fegley) is struck by lightning in the 1970s and loses his hearing. His mother (Michelle Williams) refuses to tell him anything about his biological father, so when he comes upon a book that contains a clue, he sets off for New York. A kind of impassioned enchantment unfolds as Haynes shifts back and forth between episodes with marvelously intuitive visual and aural rhyming, including history, books, movies, cities, and changing times. Surprisingly, Carter Burwell’s magnificent music composition also emphasizes stillness.