The 35 best things to watch on Amazon Prime Instant Video
We know, we know: there's too much choice these days. You can't just sit down and watch a movie because there are too many to choose from, so you just spend hours scrolling through potential films and then go to bed.
Not now, you don't - everything on this list is worth watching. And we know, because we've watched them all. The lengths we go to keep you guys happy, eh...
Of course to watch the films and TV shows here you'll need an Amazon Prime Instant Video subscription. Come on, you didn't think it was going to be free, did you?
Mr. Robot (S1)
An office drone by day, Elliott Alderson (played brilliantly by Rami Malek) is also a morphine-dependent keyboard vigilante who hacks the lives of everyone he meets. That is until he’s lured in by Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) to join the hacktivist group ‘F Society’, whose grand plan is to cancel world debt by attacking ubiquitous conglomerate E Corp (or Evil Corp, as Elliott calls it).
Cue a trip down a rabbit hole that twists through Lynchian dream sequences, episode-long musings about the hackability of human minds, and a mounting sense of paranoia that leaves you suspicious of everything down to Elliott’s malfunctioning radiator.
That Mr. Robot resists Hollywood’s ‘Computers for dummies’ approach to the Internet is just one of the reasons why it’s great. The others are that it’s stylishly shot, unpredictable and offers a new take on cyberpunk, while wearing its influences (The Matrix, Fight Club and American Psycho) as proudly as the badge on its title character’s shirt.
Before director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu became a heavy hitter in Hollywood (he’s the man responsible for The Revenant and Birdman) he made his first feature film Amores Perros in his native Mexico – and it was very much a sign of things to come. Telling three separate stories that literally collide in bone-crunching fashion on the streets of Mexico City, it’s a debut that demonstrates skills far beyond a first-time director and plonked Gael Garcia Bernal well and truly on Hollywood’s radar. Just make sure you cover Fido’s eyes during the dog-fighting scenes – you don’t want him getting any ideas.
It may be hard to imagine or remember now, but once upon a time Formula 1 was nail-bitingly, knuckle-whiteningly exciting. That was partly down to the cars, partly down to the danger and partly down to the personalities, and perhaps no era combined those three elements more dramatically than the late 80s and early 90s, when the awesomely charismatic Ayrton Senna set the world alight with his daring, aggressive and record-smashing racing, much to the chagrin of Alain Prost, with whom a bitter, vicious rivalry was formed.
It was an incredible few years of fierce fighting both on and off the track, and Asif Kapadia's blockbusting documentary beautifully captures the glamour of racing at that time, Senna's raw appeal and effortless, natural talent, and the devastating consequences of getting it wrong in an F1 car. If we have one complaint, it's that making it cinema friendly meant keeping it to a tight running time that means some incredible footage is missed out. We'd happily have sat through a documentary that's twice this long.
The X-Files (Seasons 1-9)
The new series of The X-Files, which the producers sadly declined to call The Older Mulder Folders, lands this month on Channel 5, and if you don't rewatch all the originals, you won't be able to have a proper opinion to express on Twitter about it.
This will take a while - over 150 hours, in fact - but you'll meet some old friends: the stretchy, yellow-eyed cannibal Eugene Tooms, the frighteningly intense Luther Lee Boggs (played by guest star Brad Dourif), That Guy Who Wouldn't Be Allowed to Smoke In All Those Public Places These Days, and - most memorable of all - Scully's wardrobe of enormous coats.
The Imitation Game
The Imitation Game portrays the nail-biting race against time by Turing and his brilliant team at Britain's top-secret code-breaking centre, Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II.
Benedict Cumberbatch steals the show as the awkward genius in one of the most important, interesting, tough and painful films of recent years.
There's a moment in Paddington that will make you jump off the sofa and howl out loud in agony. Whether you're a grown-ass adult or bushy-eyed sprog, this filmic ode to everyone's favourite marmalade fiend finds a way to nestle itself around your heartstrings.
It's stuffed full of belly laughs, impeccable voice acting from Ben Whishaw and a refreshingly affectionate take on immigration. Can a Peruvian bear vanquish the dastardly Nicole Kidman, and find a home for himself in Blighty? We're not telling, but you'll have a blast finding out.
The Man in the High Castle (S1)
What if the Allies had lost the Second World War, and America was currently ruled by Germany in its eastern half and Japan in its western half? Well, you can find out in this big budget Amazon Prime original series, a thriller which zips around a 1960s North America that’s more “Ja wohl!” than “Aw shucks!”.
Dealing with underground resistance groups, various plots and an alternative Cold War (waged between Imperial Japan and the German Reich, now the world’s only superpowers), it’s the kind of series that’ll appeal to history buffs, sci-fi fans and anyone who’s into high concept, high budget television.
If you thought Australian cinema began and ended with Crocodile Dundee, brace yourself for two hours with the Cody family – Melbourne’s answer to the Corleones. The Codys’ crime of choice is armed robbery (with a spot of drug dealing and murder on the side) but things become complicated when a young relative, 17-year-old J, comes to the stay after his mother dies of a heroin overdose. A towering performance by Jacki Weaver as the Aussie-mob matriarch and Ben Mendelsohn as eldest son Pope (has he ever played anyone who isn’t a bastard?), Animal Kingdom is arguably the best organised-crime movie since The Departed.
Benedict Cumberbatch teams up with Martin Freeman to form the modern-day version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's dynamic duo, with Cumberbatch donning the famous detective's deerstalker.
The on-screen chemistry between the oddly matched pair keeps things light even when dead bodies are involved, and despite being a tad unrealistic in the deduction department, it's very entertaining, and will leave you wanting more. Sadly, the next series (bar the one-off special early next year) is quite a way off yet.
Under The Skin
An alien takes the form of a woman and travels across Scotland, seducing men to harvest their flesh. The premise is simple enough for a low-budget indie flick but there's much more than meets the eye here, as the title implies. Rarely has there been a bolder piece of cinema. And by that we mean it unapologetically screws with your head.
To clarify this as sci-fi would be a gross oversimplification. It starts off like a straight-up predator movie but morphs into a coming-of-age/road-trip story told from the alien's perspective. Scarlett Johansson's performance is disturbing and mesmerising.
This is an aggressively artsy experiment. Director Jonathan Glazer mixes heavily stylised visuals with hidden-camera footage; much of the film doesn't even make sense. But mostly that doesn't matter. It's chilling enough to command attention and the sense of unease is so gripping it will affect you regardless of your understanding.
It'll certainly polarise opinions, but if you're open to something very different it's a singular and utterly compelling experience.
It might adhere to one of the main horror movie rules outlined in Scream – having sex more often than not ends in your grisly demise – but the stylishly shot It Follows is anything but formulaic. Its killer curse stalks victims slowly but incessantly, disguised as a normal passerby, family member or friend, and that gives It Follows a sense of helpless dread that doesn’t let up until the credits roll.
The Walking Dead (S1-4)
The zombie apocalypse scenario has now been covered so many times that when the dead do eventually start clawing their way out of the ground in a shambling tide of brain-hungry violence, it’ll hardly be worth mentioning. That’s not to say that it doesn’t make cracking TV, though, and if you’re one of the few people who hasn’t yet seen The Walking Dead, you owe it to yourself to do so now.
When an unspecified catastrophe practically anihilates civilisation, it's up to one man to get his young son to the warmer, potentially safer scenery of the southern States. What follows is one of the toughest, bleakest and most harrowing journeys ever shown on screen, which makes it a pretty spot-on adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's superb novel.
Yes, it's miserable enough to make The Walking Dead look like Peppa Pig, but that makes the brief moments of hope all the more poignant. This is a film that's absolutely worth your time if you feel able to handle the horror of a human race driven to appalling desperation.
The Fall (S1-2)
If you missed this Belfast-set drama when it was originally broadcast by the BBC, Amazon is here to help you rectify your mistake. A tense show centring on two compelling characters – Gillian Anderson’s icy, complex detective and Jamie Dornan’s obsessive serial killer – The Fall is equal parts police procedural and psychological thriller.
We all already knew that Anderson was a fantastic actor, but ex-model Dornan is perfectly cast and surprisingly affecting as an apparently normal, caring family man with a deep-seated sickness lying just beneath the surface.
With the second series recently added to Amazon Prime's line-up, and a third currently in production, there's never been a better time to let The Fall's cold grip get a hold of you.
Has there ever been a funnier character in comedy history than Father Dougal McGuire? Nope, and there never will be. The slightest glimpse of his face as he puzzles over some trivial matter is usually enough to set us off. That Father Ted boasts not just poor, simple Dougal but also the none-more-unprincipled Father Ted himself, the hilariously hideous Father Jack, brilliantly unhinged tea-lady Mrs Doyle and a cast of dozens of other madcap characters makes it a gift from heaven. Not that Dougal would know about that. The writing is tight, the acting superb and every single episode bears repeated viewing.
The Hurt Locker
Jeremy Renner steps into a hot and bulky blast suit in this tense flick, which thrusts you straight into the front lines of the Iraq war.
Uncomfortably tense scenes where death is but a wire snip away make for some seriously breath-holding moments, while the underlying physiological toll of war seeps into the performances of the entire cast. Arguably one of the grittiest and best modern war movies since Black Hawk Down.
Amazon’s been trying to “do a Netflix” by creating its very own blockbusting TV shows for ages now, but this is the first time it’s got it right. For a start, Transparent is really bold - it tells the story of a sixty-something divorcee announcing to his three grown-up kids that he’s always felt different and is now going to live as a woman.
Sounds heavy, and it sort of is, but it’s also darkly funny, with a degree of wit and sharpness that’s still rare even in this golden age of TV. The bickering between the three kids (each of whom is riddled with their own individual problems and peccadillos) is as chucklesome as it is awkward and real. Amazing telly.
Dallas Buyers Club
Matthew McConaughey has made an extraordinary about-turn in the last couple of years, going from bland leading-man roles in romantic comedies to full-blown Oscar contender. And the McConaissance kicked off with this film, in which he plays Ron Woodruff – a macho Texan who's diagnosed with AIDS and given 30 days to live. He quickly defies doctors' gloomy predictions by using unapproved drugs; and sets up a business smuggling the pharmaceuticals in from Mexico for fellow patients. McConaughey's easy charisma gives way to a fierce desperation as the film progresses, and Woodruff faces down both the prejudice faced by AIDS sufferers in the '80s, and the bureaucratic indifference of the FDA.
If at first glance it seems like an Oscar-baiting checklist – AIDS! Gay and transgender characters! Weight loss! – it quicky reveals itself as a compassionate, unflinching portrait of a many-layered man.
If blood, sweat and war is what you want to see, then Vikings should be high on your to-watch list, being that it contains some of the best TV battle scenes you’ll find.
It follows the adventures of legendary raider Ragnar Lothbrok, who starts out as a mere farmer - albeit one who claims to be a descendant of the Norse god Odin. He rises to become a respected Earl of his settlement Kattegat, whilst enforcing his reputation as a fierce warrior. With plenty of action, deceit, atrocious hairstyles, scenery-chewing performances and almost educational story lines, Vikings is a must watch.
Parks & Recreation (S3)
A must-watch for anybody who loves Arrested Development or Community, Parks & Recreation is a charming sitcom with a cast of loveably flawed and quirky characters. Oddly, only the third season is currently streaming on Amazon, but if you've already managed to watch the first two, it's well worth diving in.
READ MORE: The 15 best TV box-sets on Netflix
Sons of Anarchy (S1-7)
All seven seasons of Kurt Sutter’s outlaw biker gang drama are now streaming on Amazon Prime, so if you haven’t yet binged on the bloody adventures of SAMCRO, there’s no time like the present.
While there’s plenty of mayhem and butchery to delight thrill-seekers, much of the appeal of Sons of Anarchy lies in its almost Shakespearean family drama, full of dark secrets, jealousy, sins of the father and backstabbing (both figurative and literal). While not always perfect (the ill-advised stint set in Northern Ireland, complete with a fiddle-dee-dee remix of the opening theme tune, springs to mind), the show offers more than enough compelling drama and complex characterisation to keep you hooked right through to its harrowing conclusion.
Mad Men (S1-5)
A TV drama about advertising in the 1960s in the same way that The Sopranos was a TV drama about the mafia, Mad Men uses its premise as a backdrop to explore so much more. Its central anti-hero Don Draper is the American Dream incarnate – literally a self-made man – yet despite his career success and nuclear family can’t escape the feeling that something, perhaps everything, is missing.
And Draper is just one of a huge cast of intriguing characters in a show that takes us through some of America’s most turbulent years without resorting to Forrest Gump-style gimmicks. If you're as interested in existential crises as learning about the inner workings of a Madison Avenue agency, you won't be disappointed.
Now that it’s over (and finished in perfect style, in our opinion), it’s the perfect time for the uninitiated to binge on Mad Men. Its first five seasons are available for streaming on Prime, and we’d be surprised if the remaining episodes don’t wind up there sooner or later.
The sensationalist news media is a great subject for a film, and Jake Gyllenhaal is impressively repugnant as petty criminal turned ambulance-chasing freelance cameraman Louis Bloom. Gyllenhaal’s leading man looks seem a distant memory here; there seems to be something not quite right in the way Bloom looks, a reflection perhaps of his psyche – this is a journalist unbridled by journalistic ethics, and in a news media desperately seeking ever more attention-grabbing content, that gives him an edge over his rivals.
It's no great secret that Woody Allen's output of late has been patchy to say the least. For every film with the wide-eyed charm of Midnight In Paris, there's been been an interminable Vicky Cristina Barcelona. And that's not to mention a slew of his movies where an impossibly attractive woman falls for a boring old dude, usually starring Emma Roberts. Blue Jasmine is the perfect tonic to these wet, middle-aged fantasies, not just because it stars the exceptional Cate Blanchett - she's also fundamentally dislikable. The result is a film about complicated people who aren't defined by their first-world problems. Woody without the whimsy? We're all for it.
Very dark and very funny, Chris Morris’s farcical account of a group of British Muslims plotting a terrorist attack caused a series of cautious broadcasters to have nightmares with its controversial subject matter. In other hands it could have been a travesty, but Morris has a special talent for placing the unthinkable on screen and making it funny and heartfelt, in a weird sort of way.
Simply: two flatmates hang out and talk about stuff, usually as a way of avoiding work. Yep, Spaced, written by and starring a preHollywood Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson, is your classic odd couple sitcom. Only it's much, much more than that. That's partly thanks to the surreal assortment of extra characters – from intense, weirdo artist Brian to military-obsessed manchild Mike, played with deadpan genius by Nick Frost – but it's the constant popculture references that make it a classic.
It's a geek's dream, with loving hattips to everything from Star Wars to Pulp Fiction to Resident Evil.
Exclusive to Amazon Prime’s and based on Michael Connelly’s crime novels, this show stars Titus Welliver as the eponymous Los Angeles detective. Bosch, it has to be said, is something of a clichéd telly cop (haunted by a troubled past; ex-military; bit of a loose cannon; distrustful of and distrusted by the top brass; damn fine at his job), but thanks to a twisty, turny plot, Welliver’s charismatic performance and a fine supporting cast, it's perfect binge-watch material, and with the second season recently arriving on Amazon, there's now twice as much material to get your teeth into.
Attack The Block
Aliens descend on Earth with bad intentions. Aliens land in a South London housing estate. Aliens find out that South London housing estates hold their own kind of dangers. By refusing to cast judgement - either good or bad - on the action of its teenage protagonists, it leaves you free to make up your own mind. Though you'll probably be too engrossed in the action to bother. Directed by Joe Cornish (of Adam & Joe fame), Attack The Block is scary, funny and very cool.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
If you like your espionage dramas served chilled rather than shaken or stirred, this 2011 adaptation of John le Carré’s novel should fit the bill snugger than a hidden wire tap. Gary Oldman plays it wonderfully understated as world-weary spy-catcher George Smiley, pulled out of retirement to uncover a Soviet mole among the higher echelons of British intelligence, and the stellar supporting cast reads like a who’s who of Anglo thespian aristocracy: Colin Firth, John Hurt, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong and Benedict Cumberbatch.
In the Loop
As horrendous political PR Malcolm Tucker, Peter Capaldi takes swearing to another level in Armando Iannucci’s brilliant, all-too-believable political comedy about inept politicians bungling their way to war. Some of the best f***ing swearing on f***ing film.
Source Code is a little like Groundhog Day, except its stars a dashing Jake Gyllenhaal, takes place almost entirely on a train, and involves thwarting a terrorist plot which could level the entire city of Chicago. OK, so maybe it’s not that similar to Groundhog Day.
Still, a very good sci-fi action thriller with enough twists, existential questions and heart to hook you till the very end.
It may be set in outer space, but Alfonso Cuarón’s thriller is remarkably contained; grounded, even. There are no flying saucers or little green men here, just a worryingly feasible disaster in orbit that leaves astronaut Ryan Stone stranded miles above the Earth. It’s heavy on spectacle, but for much of the film, the only person on screen is Sandra Bullock – giving a career-best performance as Dr Stone.
To achieve the film’s extraordinary long takes in zero gravity, Cuarón used innovative visual effects trickery – the actors stood inside a box delivering their lines, while lights moved around them to simulate the lighting sources shifting as their characters moved. Then their faces were composited into CGI spacesuits for the final shot – in many sequences, the only real thing in the frame is Sandra Bullock’s face.
Woody Harrelson coasts through a lot of movies, but occasionally he really pulls it out of the bag, and by 'it' we mean an Oscar-worthy performance. He is absolutely brilliant in this Bad Lieutenant-esque story of a crooked cop; it might look like a standard dumb police movie but it is perhaps the biggest surprise of Amazon Instant Video's back catalogue.
Most war films churned out by Hollywood are blinkered, flag-waving odes to often imagined heroism, but Apocalypse Now isn’t like most war films, just like Vietnam wasn’t like most wars.
It tells the story of a mission up the Nung river to relieve a rogue colonel of his command, stopping along the way to take in some of cinema’s most famous scenes: Captain Willard’s drunken meltdown, helicopters that attack to the sound of Wagner, and surf-mad Lieutentant Colonel Kilgore with his fondness for napalm.
Young English squaddie Gary Hook (the excellent Jack O’Connell) is deployed to Northern Ireland a year before the events of Bloody Sunday. While many might not think of Belfast as a war zone, Hook soon finds himself stranded alone behind enemy lines when a routine house search goes awry. With only the streetlights and shadows for company, his search for safety leads to a chance encounter with a junior streetfighter who inadvertently teaches Hook just how out of his depth he is. ‘71 is more than just good guys versus bad, showing yet again that when it comes to war there are rarely many real winners.
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