Best Amazon Movies and TV Shows for Prime Subscribers
Subscribing to Amazon Prime confers a lot of benefits (if you're into that kind of thing, anyway), and that includes access to a variety of streaming titles on Amazon Video. While Amazon sells à la carte content, too, a Prime subscription will net you unlimited access to both licensed and original TV and movies, just like you can get with Netflix or Hulu.
With almost 20,000 titles available, though, just finding the right programming could take longer than actually watching it. Furthermore, content comes and goes every month. Through careful combing of the Amazon library, the Tom's Guide staff has singled out a handful of movies and TV show sure to please every type of digital palate.
Arrival (2016) (Availability: U.S.)
Credit: Jan ThijsAn adaptation of Ted Chiang's short story, "Story of Your Life," Arrival is one of the smarter, more mind-bending sci-fi films of the last decade or so. Amy Adams stars as Louise Banks, a linguist contracted by the U.S. government for an unusual job. A fleet of alien spacecraft has appeared over Earth, and before the human race can determine what the extraterrestrials want, we need to discover a way to communicate. As Banks learns more about the aliens' strange, circular language, she discovers that they perceive time differently than we do — and that she might not be able to change the future being revealed.
The Handmaiden (2016) (Availability: U.S., U.K.)
One of 2016's darkest, sexiest, most intense films, The Handmaiden tells the story of the devious Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri) and the enterprising Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo) during the Japanese occupation of Korea. Fujiwara is a con artist who plans to milk a wealthy Japanese heiress for all that she's worth, while Sook-hee is a pickpocket whom he contracts to pose as, you guessed it, the heiress's handmaiden. But as Sook-hee grows closer and closer to the heiress, alliances shift and double-crosses become imminent. The film doesn't pull any punches on violence or eroticism, but it doesn't shy away from a gripping story or complex characters, either.
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988) (Availability: U.S.)
Based on the satirical cop TV show Police Squad!, The Naked Gun features Leslie Nielsen in one of his most fondly remembered roles. Queen Elizabeth II is visiting Los Angeles when police Lt. Frank Drebin (Nielsen) learns of a plot on her life. To save her and uncover the plot, he'll have to rely on zany sidekicks, wacky gadgets and snarky one-liners, delivered in Nielsen's incomparable deadpan. The film's climax at a baseball game gone spectacularly wrong is probably its most memorable scene — but you also get an inspired cameo from Weird Al Yankovic and what is perhaps the most over-the-top villain death scene ever put to celluloid.
The Great Escape (1963) (Availability: U.S.)
Based on a true story, The Great Escape is one of the most exciting World War II films out there, featuring an elaborate prison break and a motorcycle chase that rivals anything in a modern action film. But the real appeal of The Great Escape is in its large, memorable cast of characters, particularly Steve McQueen as frequent prisoner Hilts, "The Cooler King." As WWII rages outside, Hilts arrives at the Stalag Luft III prison camp, where the most inventive British and U.S. escape artists find themselves stymied. While the Nazis are content to let their prisoners wait out the war in relative comfort, Hilts devises a plan to escape the purportedly inescapable establishment — but it won't be easy.
I, Tonya (2017) (Availability: U.K.)
Figure-skating legend Tonya Harding was a controversial figure back in the '90s, and this film presents her tale in all of its tangled, complicated, zany glory. Margot Robbie plays Harding, who rises from an impoverished background to become one of the most inventive skaters in the Winter Olympics. But I, Tonya isn't just a feel-good story. It's also about how Harding suffered abuse at the hands of her mother and husband, then dished it right back out in turn, her rough edges reasserting themselves in every stage of her life. There was also the little incident of the 1994 attack on fellow skater Nancy Kerrigan, about which the movie takes a decidedly agnostic approach regarding Harding's involvement.
Paddington 2 (2017) (Availability: U.K.)
Credit: StudioCanalThe original Paddington was one of those rare children's movies that's good-natured without being too sappy. If anything, the sequel improved on the original, judging by the newer film's perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes. Paddington (Ben Whishaw), a Peruvian talking bear with somewhat antiquated British mannerisms, tries to buy a present for Aunt Lucy's 100th birthday. The shopping venture goes awry, though, when an unknown thief frames Paddington and gets the bear sent to prison. From great escapes to witty banter, Paddington 2 has a little something for everyone, particularly those who grew up on the picture books starring the charming bear.
Train to Busan (Availability: U.K.)
The cinematic canon is replete with zombie films; the trick is to find an unusual spin on the genre. Train to Busan does so by putting all of the action on a train (no bonus points for guessing its destination). Seok-woo (Gong Yoo) is a financier who has a strained relationship with his young daughter, Su-an (Kim Su-an). The two board a train bound for Busan to see Su-an's mother, but their plans get derailed (somewhat literally) when a woman with a bite wound on her leg goes full zombie and inducts many fellow passengers into the hordes of the slavering undead. Now, Seok-woo and Su-an must survive their trip and prevent the outbreak from spreading even further.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017-Present) (Availability: U.S., U.K.)
Credit: Amazon StudiosThe Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is kind of a comedy, kind of a drama, kind of a period piece and kind of delightful — which makes sense, as it's from Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino. In it, Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) tries her hand at stand-up comedy. That's all well and good, except that she's a young Jewish housewife in 1958 New York City, making her presence in the club scene relatively unprecedented. With a little help from her loving family, her stoic manager and the great Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby), Mrs. Maisel carves out her own niche, all while dealing with her own domestic dramas.
The Expanse (2015-Present) (Availability: U.S., U.K.)
Fans of space-travel sci-fi were devastated when the Syfy channel canceled the show after three groundbreaking seasons. But Amazon swooped in to save the day and is currently working on a fourth season of the show. Based on a series of novels by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, The Expanse tells the story of an intergalactic conspiracy and a futuristic lawman who just might be able to piece the whole thing together. Thomas Jane stars as Detective Josephus Miller, who finds himself stuck between powerful forces on Earth, Mars and settlements in the solar system's asteroid belt. Fans of Star Trek-style ensemble casts will find a lot to like here.
Doctor Who (2005-Present) (Availability: U.S.)
The British time-travel phenomenon has recently gotten big in the United States, and Amazon lets you catch up with all of the recent seasons. (For "Classic Who," from before 2005's soft reboot, you'll have to buy individual episodes, stock up on DVDs or hunt down inventive bootlegs at your local sci-fi convention.) In case you've never seen the show, the Doctor (Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith or Peter Capaldi, depending on the season) is a nearly immortal alien who explores the universe in a time-traveling blue British police box called the TARDIS. Along the way, he picks up a variety of modern human sidekicks, who help him foil villainous plots in the past, present and future.
The Sopranos (1999-2006) (Availability: U.S.)
Widely hailed as one of the best TV shows ever produced, The Sopranos is a gritty crime drama about the life and family of mob boss Tony Soprano (the late, great James Gandolfini). The show was one of the forerunners of the current prestige TV boom, featuring heavy continuity between episodes and a willingness to shake up the status quo multiple times per season. Over the course of the series, Tony navigates various personal and professional difficulties, but the twist is that he discusses everything with his psychiatrist, Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco). The show is dark, but agreeably so, especially if you were reared on films like The Godfather.
Downton Abbey (2010-2015) (Availability: U.S.)
Credit: Giles Keyte/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MasterpiecePart period piece, part melodrama, Downton Abbey is a sort of "greatest hits" compilation of early 20th-century history, as seen through the eyes of an upper-class British family and its staff of domestic servants. The titular Downton Abbey is a British manor where the aristocratic Crawley family lives, led by Earl Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville) and Countess Cora Crawley (Elizabeth McGovern). As the cultural, social and economic landscape of Great Britain changes drastically, the family experiences (second hand) everything from the sinking of the Titanic to the Irish War of Independence and the Beer Hall Putsch. If you like costume dramas, this one is an easy sell, but it moves at a brisk enough clip to entertain just about anyone.
Leaving This Month
3:10 to Yuma (2007) (Availability: U.S.)
The original 3:10 to Yuma came out back in 1957 and has been a standard-bearer for the Western genre ever since. While the 2007 remake doesn't quite reach the same lofty heights, it's an action-packed, mildly thoughtful movie with strong performances from Russell Crowe, Christian Bale and Alan Tudyk. Dan Evans (Bale) is a down-on-his-luck rancher; Ben Wade (Crowe) is a dangerous outlaw. When lawmen charge the unassuming Evans with delivering Wade to a prison train bound for Yuma, he agrees — for a price. Chases, traps and double-crosses ensue as the crafty Evans and the charismatic Wade try to get the better of one another.
New This Month
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) (Availability: U.S., U.K.)
Credit: Everett CollectionWhile not as true to the book (and arguably not as good) as its 2005 adaptation, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a family-friendly classic that channels a lot of the weirdness and wonder of Roald Dahl. Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum) is a poor boy with a sweet tooth for candy made by reclusive confectioner Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder). When Charlie finds a Golden Ticket inside a chocolate bar, he's invited to see the inside of Wonka's incredible factory. But the other children who come along for the ride need to learn a few ironic lessons in humility along the way, and even Charlie may not be able to resist the factory's temptations.