Update, 8/17/22: Two of our movie recommendations left Amazon’s platform, so we replaced them with two up-to-date picks.
Before they made The Matrix, the Wachowskis debuted with the stylish crime thriller Bound, an early indicator of their bold filmmaking style. Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon play neighbors Violet and Corky, who experience an instant and powerful romantic attraction.
They hatch an elaborate plan to steal from Violet’s mobster boyfriend (Joe Pantoliano), taking advantage of his sexist dismissal of their intelligence and strength. The Wachowskis demonstrate visual inventiveness in even the most basic interactions, and the chemistry between Tilly and Gershon is electrifying.
Sometimes unheralded among Francis Ford Coppola’s 1970s masterpieces, The Conversation is a brilliant thriller that stands alongside the legendary filmmaker’s best work. Gene Hackman is fascinating to watch as Harry Caul, a private security contractor who fixates on a potentially dangerous recording he’s made for a client.
Harry is stubborn and paranoid, but he may also be right about the deadly consequences of handing over the tape. The movie places Harry at the middle of a conspiracy, using his own seasoned expertise and careful precautions against him.
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Cult classic Heathers is one of the best comedies on Amazon Prime. This dark satire takes on the teen movies of its era (the 1980s), bringing a violent edge to the story of an upstanding young woman falling in love with a rebellious bad boy. Veronica (Winona Ryder) and J.D. (Christian Slater) take their crusade against the vapid popular students at their high school to deadly extremes, while the movie retains a sense of the absurd. The filmmakers mix whip-smart dialogue with cutting commentary on conformity.
Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell star as bickering newspaper reporters (and ex-spouses) in Howard Hawks’ classic comedy His Girl Friday. Hawks swaps the gender of one of the main characters of the popular play The Front Page, turning the story into a comedy about remarriage as well as a farce. The rapid-fire dialogue is filled with clever put-downs and wordplay, and Grant and Russell continually one-up each other as their characters pursue the biggest story of their careers (and also fall in love again).
One of Amazon’s best original movies, Love & Friendship is a delightful Jane Austen adaptation from filmmaker Whit Stillman. Based on Austen’s early novel Lady Susan, the movie stars Kate Beckinsale as a ruthless, sharp-tongued social climber with witty rejoinders for everyone she meets. Love & Friendship adds a nasty edge to Austen’s typical romantic narrative while still satisfyingly pairing off all the main characters in suitable marriages.
The zombie genre wouldn’t even exist without George A. Romero’s landmark 1968 horror movie Night of the Living Dead. Romero pioneered most of the key elements of zombie movies with his creepy, low-budget film about the dead rising from the grave, hungry for human flesh.
Taking place mostly within an abandoned house where characters hide from the growing undead hordes, Night of the Living Dead creates indelible scares on minimal resources. It’s one of the most influential movies of all time (in any genre).
Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull is often considered one of the greatest movies ever made, and it remains striking and powerful even as it’s become part of the cinematic canon. Robert De Niro has a powerful presence as boxer Jake LaMotta, a brute of a man who alienates everyone in his life in his self-destructive quest for a championship.
Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty hold their own as Jake’s brother and wife, respectively, matching De Niro’s intensity. Scorsese turns the boxing scenes into impressionistic pieces of visual art, making a sports movie that defies every expectation.
Filmmaker Edgar Wright brilliantly parodies and pays homage to the zombie genre in Shaun of the Dead. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play a pair of slacker friends who find themselves surprisingly adept at navigating the undead apocalypse, once they realize what’s actually going on.
Shaun of the Dead is a warm comedy about friendship that’s also an effective and sometimes scary horror movie. Wright’s extensive knowledge of and affection for zombie films serves him well as he equally embraces and subverts the standard elements of the genre.
When Arnold Schwarzenegger said “I’ll be back” in James Cameron’s The Terminator, he didn’t know how right he was. Schwarzenegger returned in bigger and bigger movies thanks largely to his breakout performance as a killer cyborg from the future.
Schwarzenegger’s Terminator targets waitress Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), attempting to prevent her from giving birth to the future savior of humanity. Meanwhile, human freedom fighter Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) also travels back in time to protect Sarah, in this explosive combination of action and suspense.
Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief is more lighthearted than many of the master of suspense’s thrillers, but it’s no less engrossing. Cary Grant plays an expert jewel thief whose retirement is threatened by an impostor robbing wealthy tourists on the French Riviera.
Determined to clear his name, the burglar, known as “the Cat,” decides to catch the real thief. Along the way, he falls in love with a wealthy heiress played by Grace Kelly. It’s a stylish caper that benefits from the stars’ playful chemistry and Hitchcock’s mastery of the camera.
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