Best movies on Amazon Prime Video (May 2020)
We're panning for gold in the Amazon film library to bring you these brilliant Prime Video treats.
One of the best things about Amazon Prime Video: many people don't realise they have it at first. You get access with Prime subscription, so when the penny drops it feels like you get a Netflix-a-like for free - as this best movies on Amazon Prime Video list proves.
It's not a perfect service. Spend long enough browsing and you'll find the equivalent of a VHS collection sat in the backroom of a charity shop for 10 years. E.T. rip-off Extraterrestrial Visitors and Hot Wax Zombies on Wheels are unlikely to feature on many must-watch lists.
However, Amazon Prime is home to hundreds of great films worth watching. We've picked out a few handfuls of our favourites, ones we think you should stream as soon as you get a free hour or two.
Upvote the movies you like, downvotes the ones you don't. Any if you think we've missed off an Amazon Prime Video essential movie, submit it to our team at the bottom.
Remember, new members can try Prime for 30 days for free.
- For TV recommendations, check out our shortlist of the best Amazon Prime series
Best Amazon Prime Video movies
1. The Wolf of Wall StreetWatch now
Financial crimes. Big yachts. Piles of cocaine. Being chased by the FBI. Sounds like fun? It’s all there in The Wolf of Wall Street, based on the memoirs of Jordan Belfort.
And, America being America, Belfort still makes big bucks to this day as a motivational speaker.
The Scorsese film sizzles through its 3-hour runtime, and features career defining performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and Matthew McConaughey.
2. Hunt for the WilderpeopleWatch now
Taika Waititi has become one of the most feted directors of the moment, following the critically acclaimed Thor: Ragnarok and Jojo Rabbit. But Hunt for the Wilderpeople remains his highest-rated film according to Rotten Tomatoes.
Sam Neill and Julan Dennison are a classic unlikely duo, foster child and parent, pushed into a walk in the woods adventure. Funny and touching.
3. Pan’s LabyrinthWatch now
Still generally considered Guillermo Del Toro’s best film to date, 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth is a masterclass in dipping into genres to best suit the story being told. While a folk fairytale at heart, the film is in parts war movie, horror, fantasy and drama.
Don’t mistake this for a kids’ film. While some stills can look the stuff of a 90s fantasy, this 15-rated masterpiece is definitely one for adults only.
4. RoomWatch now
A woman is held captive in a room below a suburban home. She is sexually assaulted by her captor, and gives birth to his son. Room doesn’t sound like the rosiest watch. But this is not just the story of incarceration, but also how the pair cope with the real world after they escape.
Room won Brie Larson a Best Actress Oscar in 2016. The novel on which it is based, also called Room, is not based on a true story. But it was inspired by the 2008 Joseph Fritzl case.
5. PaddingtonWatch now
Haven’t seen Paddington or Paddington 2 yet? That kind of behaviour deserves a hard stare. But you can see both movies on Amazon Prime. This is a rare case where the sequel is of the same quality as the original. Many prefer it.
These 2014 and 2017 films are exemplars of family film-making done right. Kids will fall in love with Paddington, and there’s enough meat to the characters and story to lure in adults.
6. MidsommarWatch now
Horror films that deserve a spot on genre-agnostic “best” lists are rare. Midsommar is one of them.
A group of friends are invited to a trip to a tiny community living in the middle of nowhere in Sweden. What starts off as a bit of culture porn tourism rapidly goes downhill in disturbing and engrossing fashion.
7. SnowpiercerWatch now
Six years before Bong Joon Ho won a best film Oscar for Parasite, his earlier work Snowpiercer hit cinemas. It’s an off-kilter sci-fi film with ambition and intellect you wouldn’t expect when you hear a one-line summary.
The only people left alive on Earth are those inside a 1001-car train forever travelling across the globe. It’s based on a French graphic novel series by Jacques Lob.
8. BooksmartWatch now
The setup sounds familiar. Two young students realise they haven’t had nearly enough fun at high school, and try to make up for it the day before their graduation.
Booksmart is much more than your average teen flick, though. The two young women it follows have more depth than you might expect. And while the film is packed with laughs and the odd gross-out moment, there’s an emotional weight that does not feel contrived.
9. Midnight SpecialWatch now
Take a young boy with special powers and a pair of swimming goggles, add a touch of Spielberg magic and add Adam Driver and Michael Shannon as lead cast members. What could possibly go wrong? Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special may not have been recognised as an all-time classic in the half-decade since it was released. But it is thoroughly worth a watch if you like your sc-fi adventures handled with a more grown-up approach.
10. Stan & OllieWatch now
Younger readers may not know Laurel and Hardy at all. And even the older millennials may only recall them from childhood with a faint whiff of embarrassment.
Stan & Ollie fleshes out these once titanic figures by first drenching them in pathos. We see Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (John C. Reilly) in the twilight years of their careers, searching for relevance and a pay cheque in a world that appears to have fallen out of love with their schtick. There are laughs here, but Stan & Ollie is at its best when it makes you go a little misty-eyed.
11. The AeronautsWatch now
This escapist fantasy is unlikely to feature on many top 10 all-time film lists. But it is an absolute must-see in 2020, when we can all do with a break from the real world.
A pilot (Felicity Jones) and nerdy meteorologist (Eddie Redmayne) are an unlikely team in a record-breaking hot air balloon trip into the sky. Tune your brain into The Aeronauts frequency and you’re in for one of the most charming live action family movies in years. There are sofa-clenching sections too.
12. The Big SickWatch now
Kumail Nanjiani is currently famed across the internet as the nerd who got "swole". But The Big Sick was a highlight of his pre-muscle days.
It was written by Nanjiani and his wife Emily Gordon, and is based on their own experiences of an interracial relationship and their struggles with Gordon’s health issues. It is real, relatable and dances effortlessly between its funny and serious sides.
13. Wild RoseWatch now
Wild Rose sounds like the perfect fodder for a by-the-numbers biography film. A young woman dreams of being a country singer, and this is her rocky road to some kind of success.
But the movie is far from ordinary, willing to lean heavily on our main characters flaws. For its first third, you may not even like Rose all that much. Its ability to play with this kind of fire without losing the audience’s interest is the sign of a quality flick.
14. ControlWatch now
Control is one of the better music biopics of the last 20 years. It’s based on a stirring memoir by Deborah Curtis, wife of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis.
For the non Joy Division fans out there: Ian Curtis committed suicide in 1980, aged just 23. Unlike many music biopics, the central performance is entirely Sam Riley’s own, complete with excellent Curtis-a-like vocals.
15. 21 BridgesView now on Amazon Prime
21 Bridges may lean heavily on its Avengers connections (Black Panther's Chadwick Boseman stars and it's produced by Anthony and Joe Russo. But it's a great movie in its own right, about a manhunt for some cop killers that essentially locks down New York City.
16. ContagionView now on Amazon Prime
Once you figure out just what type of accent Jude Law is trying to do in the movie (it's Australian apparently), this is a whip smart thriller that apes just what is happening in the world right now with Covid-19 - so much so that it starts to feel a little like a documentary. This isn't one for the faint hearted.
17. Lost in La ManchaWatch now
Terry Gilliam spent decades trying to make a movie version of Don Quixote. It was finally released in the UK in January 2020, to a fairly muted critical and box office response.
But this documentary film about Gilliam’s attempts to shoot an earlier version of the film in 2000 is arguably far better. It’s a look into the pitfalls of the movie-making process, and Gilliam’s own maddening struggle to commit to film a story he clearly has deep affection for.
18. HustlersView on Amazon Prime
Jennifer Lopez should have been up for an Oscar for her role in Hustlers. She is fantastic as the leader of a group of strip club employees who turn the tables on Wall Street execs who frequent their club. It's based on a true story and is a fascinating insight into those who hustle, why they hustle and where that eventually leads them.
19. Inside Llewyn DavisWatch now
Prime Video is not a rich resource for Coen brothers films. But we do get Inside Llewyn Davis, which fits comfortably into the Coen's top 10 best movies.
It’s a work of fiction, but based in part on the situation of (and real-life anecdotes from) Dave Van Ronk. He was a folk singer, part of the same scene of musicians as Bob Dylan. But where Dylan soared to success, Van Ronk did not. The film examines this kind of failure.
20. If Beale Street Could TalkWatch now
This film has heavyweight pedigree. It is Barry Jenkins’ follow-up to Oscar Best Picture winner Moonlight, and was adapted from a novel by James Baldwin.
The Academy must have thought Jenkins had had enough love, because If Beale Street Could Talk is a much stronger film than some of that year’s Best Picture nominees. It’s an affecting story of a young black couple’s lives in New York.