It’s pretty clear that Netflix will always have a stranglehold on original series in the streaming world, but movies are a different story. With duds like Bright and The Kissing Booth, Netflix has left the title of best streaming service for original movies up to pretty much anyone. A strong case can be made for Amazon Prime, which was the first streaming service to win an Academy Award in a major category.
Amazon just spent a record total of $47 million acquiring the best movies from Sundance Film Festival for their streaming service. Before the new acquisitions hit, here are The 10 Best Amazon Original Movies Ranked.
Adam Driver couldn’t have picked a more low-key movie to follow up his Star Wars debut with. One year after he hit screens across the world with his performance as Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens, he starred in this movie written and directed by Jim Jarmusch about a mostly uneventful week in the life of a regular guy in New Jersey.
In one year, he went from having intergalactic adventures with Han Solo and Chewbacca to playing a bus driver who writes beautiful poetry in between stops. It’s a touching, existential, very human story about one man’s creative self-expression.
9 THE NEON DEMON
Like many of Nicolas Winding Refn’s movies, when The Neon Demon premiered at Cannes Film Festival, it divided the audience so much that it was met with boos from some people and a standing ovation from others. It’s a dark, twisted, satirical horror movie about the vapid world of fashion and modeling starring a terrific cast of Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks, and Keanu Reeves.
It’s a movie that explores the idea of flesh – whether it’s related to beauty or mutilation. It has the slick, sumptuous, creepy visuals of a horror classic like The Shining or Suspiria. It’s not as great as those movies, but it’s a fine film, well worth the watch.
8 THE LOST CITY OF Z
This true-life adventure drama might have bombed at the box office, but it’s brilliantly made. It chronicles Percy Fawcett’s (Charlie Hunnam) journey into the Amazon jungle to find an ancient city, so it’s basically a real-life Indiana Jones movie. James Gray writes and directs the movie like a David Lean epic on acid. The cinematography is spectacular and the 141-minute runtime doesn’t feel a second too long.
It starts off as an exotic adventure in the jungle, but it devolves into something much darker and more haunting than that. People don’t make movies like this anymore and it’s good to see that classical filmmaking is still alive and well.
7 LAST FLAG FLYING
This unofficial sequel to the Hal Ashby masterpiece The Last Detail is adapted from the sequel to the novel that movie was based on. So, it’s not a real sequel, but it is sort of a sequel – it follows on from the same plot. Fans of that movie will be pleased with this one, which stars Steve Carell, Laurence Fishburne, and Bryan Cranston as three Vietnam vets who reunite when one of their sons dies in Iraq.
The greatest thing about Richard Linklater’s direction is that it has the same pitch-perfect blend of drama and humor that made Ashby’s movie such a delight.
6 DON'T WORRY, HE WON'T GET FAR ON FOOT
This biopic of quadriplegic alcoholic cartoonist John Callahan could’ve followed all the clichés. He was a heavy drinker who was paralyzed in a drunken car accident and struggled to recover, from both his addiction and his injury, with the help of risqué cartoons about his situation.
Gus Van Sant’s touching, heartfelt movie uses Callahan’s cartoons to tell part of its story, while the editing leaps around the narrative timeline seamlessly. It’s hard to make a movie like this as entertaining as it is bleak and depressing, but Van Sant manages it. Joaquin Phoenix is tremendous in the lead role, with strong support from Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, and Jack Black.
This movie got some flak for its title, since it’s based on a controversial portmanteau that equates the streets of Chicago with a war zone. However, the film itself is a beautifully shot urban adaptation of a classical Greek play. It uses gang violence as a backdrop to the story, but its message is about peace.
Its premise sees two warring gangs’ girlfriends agreeing to withhold sex until the men agree to put down their guns – it’s like a “hood” movie crossed with an episode of Seinfeld. Spike Lee, who finally got his due this year with a Best Director nomination for BlacKkKlansman, directs the movie with gorgeous style, as usual.
4 THE HANDMAIDEN
This South Korean thriller was loosely inspired by a Victorian novel, although it switched the British setting to Korea under Japanese rule. It’s not often that a western story is easternized – it’s usually the other way around. The Handmaiden is a beautifully made film that reaffirms Oldboy director Park Chan-wook’s place as one of the sharpest filmmakers working today.
The movie faced some backlash for its erotic scenes depicting the two female leads, but if that kind of thing doesn’t bother you, it’s a great movie. The cinematography is breathtaking. It’s no wonder it was chosen to compete for the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
3 THE BIG SICK
Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon’s Oscar-nominated screenplay for this movie was based on their own real-life relationship, which gives the story an element of realism and humanity and ingenuity that elevates it well above the average romcom.
It follows a standup comic who falls in love with a girl who slips into a coma following a big argument. So, the girl is unconscious for the whole falling-in-love phase that is in the second act of every romantic comedy, which also helps to set it apart. Directed by Michael Showalter and produced by Judd Apatow, this is a refreshingly funny and touching movie.
2 YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE
Just like Lynne Ramsay’s previous movie We Need to Talk About Kevin, You Were Never Really Here is a dark, unsettling, horrifying piece of cinema. You don’t want to watch, and yet you can’t look away. It tells the story of a mentally disturbed war veteran, played by Joaquin Phoenix (he had a good 2018), who spends his days tracking down missing girls.
This movie is like Taxi Driver for a new generation. Like Martin Scorsese’s 1976 masterpiece, You Were Never Really Here has a lot to say about everything that’s wrong with society, while also being an intimate character study.
1 MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
This movie became known as the one about the guy who accidentally burned his kids alive, but that’s too simplistic a view of it. That’s just one scene halfway through the plot. This is really a story about a family and redemption and whether or not someone can come back from doing something like that and regain people’s trust.
Kenneth Lonergan’s Oscar-winning screenplay has some of the most naturalistic dialogue ever written and it makes the characters and their situations feel so much more real and authentic. Casey Affleck’s lead performance, which also won an Oscar, is as tragic and compelling as the material required. It’s not easy to play a character like this and make him sympathetic, but Affleck managed it.