The Best Movies on Amazon Prime Right Now

[Last updated January 9, 2019)

How many hours have we all lost the endless streaming scroll? Aiming for a little kick back, you end up perusing title after title, intent on finding just the right movie, ultimately unsure what to choose in the face of overwhelming options. Fret not, the Collider staff did all that scrolling for you, scanning through the catalogue in search of the best picks for an entertaining night in, and putting together a wide-ranging list of the best movies currently available for streaming on Amazon Prime. What’s more, we’ll be updating the list regularly with additional picks, so you won’t run out of viewing material any time soon. The list spans genres, decades, and ratings, so there should be a little something for everyone, but if you can’t find what you’re looking for below (and you’re a multi-platform streamer), be sure to check out our picks for the best tv shows and best movies on Netflix.

RELATED: The Best Movies on Netflix Right Now

You Were Never Really Here

Writer/DirectorLynn Ramsay

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Judith Roberts, Frank Pando, Alex Manette, Ekaterina Samsonov

It’s been seven long years since Lynne Ramsay‘s shattering We Need to Talk About Kevin, but the wait was worth it because her followup You Were Never Really Here is just as devastating with the filmmaker’s signature eye for stunning shots on full display. Joaquin Phoenix gives the performance of his career as Joe, a hulking force of learned violence with a stunning vein of sweetness and fragility run right through him. Traumatized by his abusive father and his years at war, Joe unleashes his violence via his gig tracking down kidnapped young girls, but when one of his cases gets tangled in conspiracy, Joe’s unbalanced life comes toppling down all around him. Gorgeously shot with moments of searing humanity, You Were Never Really Here isn’t the type of film that’s going to scoop up awards, but it’s unequivocally one of the best films of the year. — Haleigh Foutch

The Florida Project

Director: Sean Baker

Writers: Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch

Cast: Willem Dafoe, Bria Vinate, Brooklyn Prince

After toping critics lists with his iPhone shot drama TangerineSean Baker returned with another visually vibrant and emotionally immersive drama rooted in the culture and community of a singular place. For The Florida Project, Baker moved from the streets of Downtown Los Angeles, to the fairy-tale colored discount motels on the fringes of the Disneyworld dreamland. Often exhausting and occasionally frustrating, the film isn’t for everyone, but the poignant emotional payoff is enough to reduce even the hardest-hearted to a blubbering mess. And lest we forget that Willem Dafoe delivers one of the best performances of his career, a lovely understated turn as a man trying to do the best he can in an impossible situation. — Haleigh Foutch


Director: Barry Jenkins

Writer: Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney

Starring: Naomie Harris, Mahershala Ali, Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders, Alex Hibbert, Janelle Monae, Jharrel Jerome, Jaden Piner, Andre Holland

Moonlight is a delicate film that could’ve easily been overwrought, following a young black Miami boy into manhood as he continues to struggle to form his sexual identity. Three different actors play Chiron in specific times of his life: as a child, as a teen, and as an adult (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes). Each section of the triptych has a standout moment that speaks to the power understatement: two very different trips to the beach and a diner scene that washes us away.

Instead of having the big telegraphed scenes, Barry Jenkins favors secondary bits of dialogue to fill in the community’s narrative of funerals and prison sentences that are uttered like it’s just a natural progression. Instead of letting the great Mahershala Ali overtake the film with his beguiling presence as a neighborhood drug dealer who gives a safe space to Chiron, Jenkins lets us see the characters pain from his absence. And in the third act, Jenkins doesn’t give us an easy solution but instead we see two bodies that have carried the burden of self-denial for far too long. — Brian Formo

Dog Soldiers

Writer/Director: Neil Marshall

Cast: Kevin McKidd, Sean Pertwee, Emma Cleasby, Liam Cunningham, Darren Morfitt

Director Neill Marshall is best known for his work on Game of Thrones for pulse-pounding episodes like Blackwater and The Watchers on the Wall and the upcoming Hellboy reboot, but the filmmaker got his start as a horror director and his werewolf drama Dog Soldiers is one hell of an action-packed bloodbath. Easily one of the best werewolf movies ever made (though admittedly there are surprisingly few good ones), Dog Soldiers unites a cast of kickass UK actors as a squad of soldiers on a training mission in the Scottish Highlands who stumble upon a family of vicious werewolves and wind up in a fight for their lives. Rich with just the right amount of character drama, and a whole lot of spectacularly bloody set-pieces, Dog Soldiers is the perfect pick for the next night you want to pump up the adrenaline.– Haleigh Foutch

Lady Bird

This blurb first appeared in Collider’s Top 10 Movies of 2017.

Writer/Director: Greta Gerwig

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Odeya Rush

I’m so glad this movie exists and that it functions as an announcement that Greta Gerwig is not only a major talent, but also a talent that can go beyond herself. My fear going into Lady Bird is that the movie would be too autobiographical and Gerwig would have unintentionally created a parody of her mumblecore roles. Instead, she provided a film that was personal and specific. It’s a movie that relishes its lived-in relationships while never being exclusionary.

On my first viewing, I found the movie to be a very good example of the coming-of-age dramedy. Upon a repeat viewing, I see it as one of the best examples the genre has to offer. Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf are both amazing as they relish both the highs and lows of their mother-daughter relationship, and watching Lady Bird’s rocky senior year, complete with all the honest missteps a teenager makes, turns Gerwig’s debut into an unforgettable feature. – Matt Goldberg


Image via Fingerprint Releasing / Bleecker Street

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Writers: James Greer and Jonathan Bertnstein

Cast: Claire Foy,Jau Pharoah, Joshua Leonard, Amy Irving, Juno Temple, Colin Woodell

Unsane is an up-close panic attack assault that uses the intimacy of an iPhone to tap into centuries of female oppression and transform it into the kind of psychological thriller that gets way too deep under your skin. Led by an unpredictable, exciting performance from The Crown breakout Claire FoyUnsane follows a recently relocated survivor who starts to see her stalker everywhere she looks, and accidentally winds up committed to a mental institution against her will.

Steven Soderbergh and psychological horror are a natural fit, especially with the added element of experimentation that comes with shooting a whole damn film on a phone. The director mines the human history of female institutionalization and modern statistics of assault to underscore a very relatable and real terror of the way women’s’ bodies are controlled and exploited, but he makes it universal by also tapping into the primal fears of lost autonomy and doubting your own mind. Throw in a dose of commentary about the American mental health system and some truly bleak moments of violence and you’ve got the makings of an all-timer psychological horror. Unsane had a so-so reaction when it dropped in theaters in early 2018, but I have a feeling time is going to be very generous to this one. — Haleigh Foutch


Director: Denis Villeneuve

Writers: Eric Heisserer, Ted Chiang (Novella)

Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg

If you want serious, thought-provoking science-fiction that tackles real-world political tensions and the complexities of language, look no further than the Oscar-winning film, Arrival. It’s a rare treat indeed to find a film like this, one that sets a female scientist as the protagonist and sticks with her as she attempts to maintain a tenuous hold on world peace by establishing communication rather than reaching for a weapon. Good luck finding anything even remotely similar in the cinematic landscape.

When it comes to alien “invasion” flicks, Arrival is in the minority in that it not only showcases the primitive limitations of human civilization and technology, but it holds the extraterrestrial visitors up as beneficent beings instead of conquering invaders. And yet the entirety of mankind’s relationship with the aliens hinges on the establishment of a dialogue; one miscommunication or delay in unlocking the key to the aliens’ language could literally cause all-out global war. It’s a tense premise that puts all the onus on linguist Louise Banks, which Adams carries aplomb. Wrap your head around this one again, even if you’ve seen it before. – Dave Trumbore

What We Do in the Shadows

Writers and Directors: Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi

Cast: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Jonathan Brugh, Ben Fransham

Finally, someone breathes new life into the vampire genre! What We Do in the Shadows is a mockumentary about four vampire flatmates and it takes an absolutely delightful approach to exploring creature clichés in a deadpan, reality show-like manner. Viago (Taika Waititi), Vlad (Jemaine Clement), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) and Petyr (Ben Fransham) all turned during different time periods, which leads to some brilliant spins on familiar issues like doing the dishes, getting into nightclubs, adapting to new technology and so much more. The only unfortunate thing about What We Do in the Shadows is that it clocks in at a mere 86 minutes. Between the winning jokes and the wildly charming friendships between the characters, I’d happily watch a whole series about their antics. — Perri Nemiroff


Director/Writer: Pier Paolo Pasolini

Starring: Franco Citti, Franca Pasut, Silvana Corsini, Paolo Guidi, Adriana Asti

Are you a big Federico Fellini fan? What if Nights if Cabiria was told from a deadbeat pimp’s point of view? That’s Accattone. It has the pretty Italian sights and the nice slice-of-life pace but the dire straits are more dire and the women who work the night face a bleaker darkness. Pier Paolo Pasolini—the first film from the man who’d go on to make Salo—is kind of the anti-Fellini. There’s no levity in the Italian slums here. Accatone is closer to an atheist Los Olvidados than any “La Dolce Vita.”

There’s beating scene with the woman holding onto the fender until she drops as it speeds away that is quite devastating via a long shot. It’s not as dark and angry as Pasolini’s future films but perhaps it reveals a bit of an anger in the more positive Italian films that the world was celebrating at the time. Pasolini was extremely anti-fascist. And this is about as content as he got with Italy in the 60s. It’s truly a great first feature and a nice entry point for anyone who thought that Salo‘s depravity was all he had to offer. — Brian Formo


Director: David Fincher

Writer: James Vanderbilt

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Chloe Sevigny, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Edwards, Brian Cox, and John Carroll Lynch

In the mood for an impeccably crafted drama from a master filmmaker? Look no further than Zodiac, David Fincher’s 2007 chronicle of the hunt for the Zodiac Killer in 1960s and 70s San Francisco. Jake Gyllenhaal anchors a phenomenal ensemble as a cartoonist at the San Francisco Chronicle who grows obsessed with figuring out the identity of the serial killer, to the detriment of pretty much everything else in his life. Buoyed by terrific performances from the likes of Mark RuffaloRobert Downey Jr., and Anthony Edwards as well as Fincher’s knack for details, the film is an absorbing, darkly funny, and at times terrifying watch that stands as one of Fincher’s best. – Adam Chitwood

The Strangers: Prey at Night

Director: Johannes Roberts

Writers: Brian Bertino and Ben Ketai

Cast: Lewis Pullman, Bailee Madison, Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson

Ok, so this is more for “best scene” than “best movie”. In full honesty, the first half of The Strangers: Prey at Night is a bit of a stilted drag, and not much of anything the characters do makes a whole lot of sense. But hoo boy, the second half of the movie is a wild bit of throwback fun, and the film’s highlight sequence is a five-minute fight scene in and around a neon-lit pool with “Total Eclipse of the Heart” full-on blasting in the background. It’s a great piece of pop-horror; colorful, fun and thrilling, and it’s the cherry on top of a final act that makes the first bits worth trudging through. — Haleigh Foutch

The Big Sick

Director: Michael Showalter

Writers: Emily Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani

Cast: Kumail Najiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Anupam Kher, Zenobia Shroff, Bo Burnham, Aidy Bryant

Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon’s real-life love story serves as inspiration for the most delightful romantic comedy in years in The Big Sick. Directed by Michael Showalter from a script by Nanjiani and Gordon, the film stars Nanjiani as himself and Zoe Kazan as Emily in the stranger-than-fiction story of two people falling in love despite clashing cultures, family expectations, and a mysterious life-threatening illness.

The story follows a standup comic (Nanjiani) who falls for a woman who heckles him (Kazan) at a show. He tries to hide the relationship from his parents, who expect a strictly traditional arranged marriage to a Muslim woman, but their romance faces an even greater hurdle when she falls into an inexplicable coma and he bonds with her parents (who you can’t help but fall in love with thanks to the performances from Ray Romano and Holly Hunter). Bursting with heart and earnest good nature, The Big Sick is a witty and charming exploration of love, commitment and family, and it’s a bonafide crowd-pleaser to boot. — Haleigh Foutch

The Central Park Five

Directors: Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon

Writers: Ken Burns, Sarah Burns

If you’re looking to see a spike in your blood pressure, look no further than David McMahon, Ken and Sarah Burns’ sober-eyed account of how five African-American youths got bullied and cajoled into serving extended prison sentences for a brutal crime they had no part in. The story of the Central Park Five remains one of the biggest black eyes to be left on New York City, its government, and the NYPD, who are not short on damning incidents that have peppered their past and current administration.  Burns relates to the story as a modern New Yorker, someone who lived through the ludicrous trial and the grotesque media circus that came along with it. The five scapegoats – Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise – were thrown like raw meat to a city hungry for any semblance of justice, and Burns does not stop at condemning the likes of Donald Drumpf, Governor Mario Cuomo, and an unrepentant police department for brazenly supporting the conviction and asking for much harsher penalties. The time that was forcibly taken away from these men come for racist mentalities that, as Burns and co-directors ably unveil, even a seemingly liberal bastion like New York City is happy to support, if it means that we look like a civilization that cares about justice.

Inside Llewyn Davis

Directors/Writers: Joel and Ethan Coen

Cast: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Adam Driver, Garrett Hedlund, John Goodman, and F. Murray Abraham

Inside Llewyn Davis is a masterpiece and, by my estimate, one of the best films the Coen Brothers have ever made. The film is set in 1961 Greenwich Village, just as the folk scene is evolving, and chronicles the struggles of undoubtedly talented but “uncommercial” musician Llewyn Davis. Oscar Isaac gives a stirring, dimensional performance as the titular character, and the film at heart is really a story about depression, unhappiness, and coming to terms with one’s place in one’s life. It also features a phenomenal soundtrack, curated by T. Bone Burnett—the same man responsible for the Coen Brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. If you haven’t seen this underrated gem, get on it. – Adam Chitwood

It Comes at Night

Writer/Director: Trey Edward Shults

Cast: Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo, Christopher Abbott, Riley Keough, Kelvin Harrison Jr.

It’s a shame that a misleading marketing campaign soured moviegoers on this one because if you came waiting for some monster that literally comes at night, you’re in for a disappointment. Trey Edward Shults’ Krisha followup is a psychological art house horror flick that demands patience from its audience in a slow-burn tale of two families fighting to maintain a semblance of safety and sanity in a world where social order has collapsed. Fueled by nerve-rattling tension and a simmering sense of impending doom, It Comes at Night is a flavor of existential dread that isn’t for all tastes, but if you’ve got the disposition, it’s a beautifully shot pensive tale of mortality and trauma that will leave you with plenty to mull over long after the credits role. — Haleigh Foutch


Director: Spike Lee

Writers: Kevin Wilmott and Spike Lee

Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Bassett, Teyonah Parris, John Cusack, Wesley Snipes, Jennifer Hudson, Dave Chappelle, Nick Cannon

With its distribution of Spike Lee’s latest masterwork, which he’s made several of, as it turns out, Amazon Studios put itself in stark contrast with most major studios and their indie leagues by revealing itself as willing and able to put out a truly radical and deeply political vision of America. Though the themes of Lee’s film are classical – race, religion, machismo, feminism, nationalism, etc. –  but Lee’s take on Aristophanes’ “Lysistrata” in Chi-Raq is thoroughly modern in its moods, aesthetics, and narrative details, from the setting in the modern hip-hop world to the use of texts and worldwide video protests. It’s a bit of a mess at first glance, but there isn’t a single second of indifference or compromise in this tale of a no-sex protest against gun violence in the Windy City.

The mass incarceration of African Americans, the empty masculinity of the gangster lifestyle, the limits of faith and the church in political matters, and the heartlessness of capitalism are only a portion of the subjects on trial here, and neither Caucasians or African-Americans, men or women, young or old are spared from the director’s fiery outrage and skepticism. Stacked with great performances from the likes of Angela Bassett, Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Teyonah Parris, John Cusack, and Samuel L. Jackson, amongst others, Chi-Raq is one of the most generous, daring, and astoundingly wise films to be released thus far this decade, but its timeliness in relation to American in 2015 is simply astonishing.  -Chris Cabin

The Lost City of Z

Writer/Director: James Gray

Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Tom Holland, Sienna Miller

James Gray often gets called a throwback director but The Lost City of Z is the furthest throw he’s lobbed into cinema’s great past. Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) is an undecorated military man who cannot receive advancement due to his “poor choice of relatives” but then captures the world’s attention when he ventures into the Amazon to find an ancient civilization that might pre-date the Western world. It spans more than two decades of his life and Gray uses that time economically. It never feels like Z is rushing past important touchstones and it even stops to show how World War I—a Western war, for we are not that much more evolved than the Amazonian “savages” that Fawcett is constantly defending to the British Empire—marks time as something that’s just as twisty and cruel as the Amazon River.

There are arrows, there’s dissection of familial bloodlines and their importance to both the Western world and the native tribes, there’s mist, there’s a mumbly Robert Pattinson and an enunciation to the nosebleeds done by Hunnam. It’s impeccably and economically paced. The expansive story places it in the realm of the thoughtful and immense profiles of greatness that David Lean used to make. But don’t think that it isn’t modern. Gray is attuned to ideas that would’ve been revolutionary not only in 1905 but also throughout most of Hollywood’s history. It’s about a small batch of white men who believe that their society and Empire is built on false pride. And the pride of their societal order not only looks down on other cultures they enslave, but it also starts global wars and keeps women in service to their partner’s greatness—even at the expense of hiring an unqualified society man who they perceive can carry his weight simply due to his elevated rank. Gray might be making movies like he lived in the 1970s, but he’s also making them great—for modern times—by taking the time to enhance the meaning underneath the grand adventure. — Brian Formo

A Ghost Story

Director/Writer: David Lowery

Cast: Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints director David Lowery made his studio debut with his compassionate Pete’s Dragon update for Disney, but after that he went with a serious palate cleanser in A Ghost Story. This contained, tiny-budget drama stars Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara as a couple living in Texas whose life is upended when Affleck’s character dies in a car crash. But he comes back as a ghost, haunting the home they made together as Mara’s character attempts to grieve and move on. The result is an intensely existential story about love, loss, and the passage of time, culminating in a surprising and wonderfully moving climax that you won’t see coming. – Adam Chitwood

The Handmaiden

Director: Chan-wook Park

Writers: Seo-kyeong Jeong and Chan-wook Park

Cast: Min-hee Kim, Tae-ri Kim, Jung-woo Ha, Jing-woo Jo

The Handmaiden is the most downright gorgeous erotic thriller ever made. Liberally inspired by Sarah Waters‘ British melodrama, Chan-wook Park gives the source material a cultural transplant to 1930s Japan-occupied Korea where Sook-Hee (Tae-ri Kim) takes a job as a handmaiden to the mysterious, troubled Lady Hideko (Min-hee Kim), sparking a passionate affair that reshapes their lives. Our entry point to the twisted tale is through Sook-Hee, a thief by trade and family tradition who is in fact teaming with a fake count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo) in a scheme to defraud Lady Hideko of her fortune, but when Sook-Hee falls for her mark, the fiendish plan is thrown for a loop as new layers of deception and manipulation are uncovered at every turn. — Haleigh Foutch

20th Century Women

Writer/Director: Mike Mills

Cast: Annette Benning, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Billie Crudup, Lucas Jade Zumann

Another achingly tender and personal film from Beginners director Mike Mills20th Century Women is a snapshot film that transports you entirely to a time and place gone by. In this case, the location is 1970s Santa Barbara where single mother Dorothea (Annette Benning) recruits the help of her unconventional household — a punk photographer (Greta Gerwig), an easygoing mechanic (Billy Crudup), and her son’s clever, complicated bet friend (Elle Fanning) — to make sure her son grows up to be a good man in the age of feminist and punk counter culture. Backed by a killer 1970s soundtrack20th Century Woman is a lovely, warm-hearted delight that invests in the micro-moments of love and loss in a celebration of the family’s we make. — Haleigh Foutch

Cruel Intentions

Director: Roger Kumble

Writer: Choderlos de Laclos (novel), Roger Kumble (screenplay)

Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon

Based on “Les Liaisons Dangereuses”, the French novel responsible for introducing two of the most seductive characters in literary history, Cruel Intentions is one of those contemporary high school-set adaptations of classic literature that were so popular for a while. However, for a “teen movie”, Cruel Intentions is wildly suggestive and occasionally downright explicit.

Transplanting the French aristocracy for the privileged VIPs of an upper crust prep school, Cruel Intentions follows Sarah Michelle Gellar‘s Kathryn Mertueil and Ryan Phillippe‘s Sebastian Valmont as they seduce, corrupt and blackmail their way through the student body in a series of escalating bets. That is until Sebastian meets the remarkably wholesome Annette (Reese Witherspoon) and falls in love for real. Cruel Intentions delivers the feels and the feels as it bounces between the risque and the romantic, and for folks of a certain age, no less than one of the characters was probably responsible for a minor sexual awakening. Factor in the quintessential soundtrack of sultry nineties pop and it’s a contender as a Netflix and Chill all-timer. – Haleigh Foutch


Director: Jim Jarmusch

Writer: Jim Jarmusch and Ron Padgett (original poetry)

Starring: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Rizwan Manji, Barry Shabaka Henley, Chasten Harmon, William Jackson Harper, Method Man, Kara Hayward, Jared Gilman

Jim Jarmusch’s newest film is certainly simple. Paterson follows a bus driver (Adam Driver) in Paterson, New Jersey for one week. He’s named after the town he lives in and we follow him as he eavesdrops on passengers, purchases a harlequin guitar for his girlfriend (Golshifteh Farahani), visits his local pub on his nightly walk with his bulldog and as he writes poetry at the beginning and middle of his shift. Of course other things occur, but Paterson is powerful in its modesty and warm in the way it slows everything down to recite Paterson’s poetic works in progress.

With a perfect synergy from a meditative drone and the calm demeanor from Driver, Paterson is able to convey the very difficult task of an artist’s thought process as everything becomes still and elongated as he writes his thoughts on a pad of paper. It might not sound thrilling, but it’s a warm cup of tea and Jarmusch playfully dips the bag while stirring in tea. As a portrait of a relationship of would-be famous artists—he who follows a strict routine and she who changes her artistic pursuit on a whim—Jarmusch does not take a stance that one is better, just that simply doing is the best. The result is simply lovely and true. — Brian Formo


Written and Directed by: James Ward Byrkit

Cast: Nicholas Brendan, Emily Baldoni, Maury Sterling, Lorene Scafaria, Elizabeth Gracen, Hugo Armstrong, Alex Manugian, Lauren Maher

Shot over the course of five nights with an almost entirely improvised script, Coherence is a tremendous feature film debut from Gore Verbinski‘s frequent storyboard artist James Ward Byrkit, and one of the best original science fiction concepts in recent memory. Set at a dinner party reunion among old friends on the night of a rare astronomical event, tensions rise as the laws of science and the firmaments of reality bend and break over the course of one mind-bending night. Part sci-fi, part horror, the no-budget chamber piece succeeds not by banking on its fantastic concept, but seeing that concept to its completion through honest character arcs and the unsettling reality that there’s nothing more frightening than the way we perceive ourselves. – Haleigh Foutch


Director: Ivan Reitman

Writers: Don Jakoby, David Diamond, David Weissman

Cast: David Duchovny, Orlando Jones, Julianne Moore, Seann William Scott, Ethan Suplee, Ted Levine, Ty Burrell, Dan Aykroyd, Sarah Silverman, Richard Moll, Kyle Gass, John Cho

If you want a very silly movie that sort of explores what would happen if the Ghostbusters had encountered alien life instead of spectral spirits, check out Evolution. This movie is also very 2001—just look at that cast—so it’s worth a watch for nostalgia purposes alone. But above and beyond that, it’s an easy, breezy comedy that showcases a number of styles from sarcastic, to gross-out, to slapstick; there’s something for everyone!

The plot follows the discovery of a meteor that has crashed to Earth and, as it turns out, harbors alien life. This lifeform evolves and multiplies into increasingly bizarre critters as both blue collar Joes and white collar folks attempt to research it, contain it, and ultimately, destroy it. There’s some very silly pseudoscience alongside surprisingly solid scientific concepts here, but the fun is in watching the multitudes of alien life evolve and wreak havoc on our Earth. If Mars Attacks! and Ghostbusters are your jam, but you haven’t seen Evolution, remedy that right now. – Dave Trumbore

Fear and Desire

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Writer: Howard Sackler
Cast: Frank Silvera, Kenneth Harp, Paul Mazursky, Virginia Leith, Stephen CoitStanley Kubrick famously wanted to destroy every copy of his first film, Fear and Desire. It makes sense that he’d want to because it’s nowhere near as accomplished as The Killing or Paths of Glory. But thank heavens the perfectionist auteur and one of the undeniable greatest directors of all time never had his way. Fear and Desire is an average film that has some stunning moments and it’s absolutely integral viewing for any cinephile to see the first seedlings Kubrick dropped. The story involves a few WWII soldiers who get caught behind enemy lines and start to go mad from fear of everyone who lives on that side and desire for an enemy woman.
There are some fantastic shots here; the camera falling with a body or pushing through the leaves. Sure this is far below what we expect from Kubrick but his fear of man, woman, and violent conflict are all on display here. It’s he who’s the magician, for once he was a fish-y filmmaker who became one of the most obsessive and important filmmakers of all time. So obsessed one of his obsessions was ridding the world of something that wasn’t perfection. There are far worse ways to spend 62 minutes of your time. This is time well spent for any cinephile. — Brian Formo

The Loved Ones

Image via Magnolia

Writer/Director: Sean Byrne

Cast: Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, John Brumpton, Victoria Thaine, Jessica McNamee

The strangest little blend of high school drama and “torture porn”, The Loved Ones was one of those great international horror films that built up one hell of a buzz in the festival circuit before finally making its way to the states. But thanks to the miracle of the streaming age, you can watch it on Amazon Prime right now! A stunning feature debut from Australian director Sean Byrne (who went on to direct the similarly delayed festival hit The Devil’s Candy), The Loved Ones tells the terrifying tale of a high school heartthrob (an impeccably cast Xavier Samuel), who is kidnapped and tortured by an unhinged outcast (Robin McLeavy) after he turns down her invitation to the prom. A twisted and terrifying tale of revenge with a truly sick sense of humor, The Loved Once will make you grimace and wince and chuckle and cheer with gripping, gruesome charms. — Haleigh Foutch

The Neon Demon

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Writer: Refn, Mary Laws, Polly Stenham

Cast: Elle Fanning, Keanu Reeves, Abbey Lee, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote, Karl Glusman and Christina Hendricks

Nicholas Winding Refn certainly knows how to make a divisive movie. Like Only God Forgives before it, Refn’s Neon Demon was jeered at Cannes and met with split response from critics and moviegoers alike. That’s not too surprising. It’s explicit and nebulous, and seemingly dedicated to make the audience as uncomfortable as possible as often as possible. It’s also staggeringly beautiful, but leave it to Refn to make a shallow movie about the pitfalls of being shallow. Elle Fanning stars as Jesse, a manipulative underaged monster in the making who has “that thing” everyone wants, and she knows it. Rapidly climbing the ranks of the fashion industry, Jesse believes her own hype and goes full Narcissus, drawing the ire of three experienced industry pros who envy her youth, easy beauty, and immediate success. Along the way, shit gets truly crazy. The Neon Demon‘s got beautiful women basking in blood, it’s got glorious Technicolor visions of cannibalism and self-worship, and it’s got just way too much necrophilia. All the same, it’s a stunning visual accomplishment and it never abandons character in favor of the shock, it embeds them in each other. The Neon Demon may not have a lot to say, but what it does, it says beautifully. — Haleigh Foutch

The Naked Kiss

Director/Writer: Samuel FullerCast: Constance Towers, Anthony Eisley, Michael Dante, Virginia Grey, Patsy Kelly, Marie Devereux“Tell me where is the blue bird of happiness found?” For the viewer, it’s found at the beginning of this revisionist film noir where a bald Constance Towers beats the camera that represents the POV of her no-good pimp. The Naked Kiss truly has one of the best openings in the history of cinema and the rest of the film can’t really match that punch, but it still packs a mighty wallop as Samuel Fuller neuters the hooker with a heart of gold noir trope that kept women on the sidelines and only showed that they could change through the love of a man. Towers change is all her own. She even nurses sick children and helps young women avoid becoming prostitutes but still has a secret too naughty for 60s suburban America to grapple with.
The version that’s streaming for free on Amazon is nowhere near as clean as the Criterion Collection version but in a way it enhances the movie a little, making it feel like you’re watching a stag film when really you’re watching a movie that belittles the hidden desire to watch such a movie and still espouse holier than thou values. When the children sing for nearly six minutes and their voices are grating, don’t worry, that sadness and innocence in their voice will be all the more devastating later in the film. — Brian Formo

The Greasy Strangler

Director: Jim Hosking

Writer: Toby Shepherd and Jim Hosking

Cast: Elizabeth De Razzo, Sky Elobar, Michael St. Michaels

The Greasy Strangler is a blast, and I’m no bullshit artist. The feature film debut from Jim Hosking has incited a lot of pearl-clutching and gasps of horror since it debuted at Sundance earlier this year, and it’s easy enough to see why — it’s absurd, unapologetic, and indecent by just about every conventional standard, but the beauty of The Greasy Strangler is the fact that it doesn’t care about conventional standards at all. Forget about photoshopping, and narrative guidebooks, and all the little safety boxes that have to be checked off when a film tries to be a four-quadrant picture. The Greasy Strangler feels like Grindhouse incarnate, a midnight movie sprung from the very soul of midnight movies to make you cringe and guffaw and quote one-liners you’ll probably never be able to get out of your head. –Haleigh Foutch

This Is Martin Bonner

Director: Chad Hartigan

Writers: Chad Hartigan, Tara Everhart

Cast: Paul Eenhoorn, Richmond Arquette, Demetrius Grosse, and Tom Plunkett

The idea of prisoner rehabilitation and reentry has received much overdue attention in recent years, and few films have approached the subject with the sensitivity, humor, and intelligence of Chad Hartigan’s micro-masterpiece. The title character, played with ample charm and wisdom by Paul Eenhoorn, was once a local rock & roll star, as well as a priest, but his calling is now in helping former inmates get reacquainted with life on the outside. The character alone is a wildly clever yet gentle consideration of how the empathy preached by religion is often found in more meaningful, useful ways in the selfless work of federal and state institutions, but the film’s central ideas come to fruitful life when he meets his latest charge, Travis (Richmond Arquette). Not only does the film act as a vibrant testament to the societal good that is done by personal dedication to a job that is often thankless – especially when it’s governmental – it’s entire focus of the film is on the struggle of forgiveness, the work that must go into overcoming guilt of past actions and being at some sort of peace with the world. That Hartigan, and co-scripter Tara Everhart, also see the regular failure of forgiveness, and never suggest that either Bonner or Travis is altruistic in their positive endeavors, renders This is Martin Bonner that rare, melancholic film about the tremendous joy that friendship and understanding can bring, and the near-overwhelming level of work and effort that goes into sustaining just such connections.  — Chris Cabin

The Girl with All the Gifts

Director: Colm McCarthy

Screenwriter: Mike Carey

Cast: Sennia Nanua, Gemma Arterton, Glenn Close, Dominique Tipper, Paddy Considine

A lot of you probably won’t have heard of The Girl with All the Gifts, and that’s a damn shame. McCarthy’s clever update on the stale zombie narrative was quietly dumped in America despite heaps of positive festival reviews and a solid UK opening, but it’s well worth seeking out. Based on Mike Carey‘s hit YA novel, from a screenplay he penned himself, the film takes place in an apocalyptic dystopia where the world has been ravaged by mold-covered zombies called “Hungries”. We pick up with the survivors of a military camp, where they’re searching for a cure by experimenting on different, trickier kind of monster — human/hungry hybrid children who look, think, and act like your average school kids… until they catch the scent of live flesh and the monster comes out. When one of the test subjects, a precocious young girl Melanie (Nanua, who is phenomenal in her feature debut), demonstrates an aptitude for self-control, she’s thrust into an uneasy alliance with her beloved teacher (Arterton) and a team of soldiers as they venture beyond the confines of the camp and discover a new world, no longer dictated by human rule. A potent blend of horror with sci-fi just enough philosophical musing to elevate it beyond a campy romp, The Girl with All the Gifts is the perfect zombie film for the post-Walking Dead age. — Haleigh Foutch

Love and Friendship

Writer/Director: Whit Stillman

Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Xavier Samuel, Tom Bennett, Chloë Sevigny, Emma Greenwell, Morfydd Clark

Whit Stillman’s delightful comedic career has included a few pointed critiques of East Coast private school privilege (from Metropolitan through Damsels in Distress). Which makes him the perfect fit for taking on a comedic class navigation of America’s colonizers. One of Britain’s cheekiest and most rebellious melodrama scribes, Jane Austen, fits him like glove. Austen’s Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale) is our guide through the houses of many 18th century estates. Lady Susan is a widow and property-less, but she means to not only keep her stature, but to continue to rise in society. She requests quarters at her distrustful sister-in-law’s (Emma Greenwell). And from there she sets up a chessboard that includes a new-money suitor (Tom Bennett) for her daughter (Morfydd Clark), an American confidant (Chloë Sevigny) who’ll cover for her when she meets up with a married man (payment in gossip, of course), and attempts to win over her former brother-in-law (Xavier Samuel) to keep her in the family’s good graces (and guest room).

There’s a labyrinth of characters in Love & Friendship, and Stillman helps us keep track of them through posed portraits. It takes the first third of the film to set up all the characters, but once they’re all placed, it’s dizzying fun. Bennett is a hoot as the oaf with a heart of gold, who’s new to gold, and thus the type of conversation that old money wants to echo in their quarters. And Beckinsale properly keeps the audience at arm’s length as she’s consistently putting on a new affront and gives no sense of self, besides achieving her status desire. While such a distant character might make another film impenetrable, Stillman’s supporting cast is so delightful that it makes Susan’s manipulation of her status (and them) more lighthearted and fun. — Brian Formo

Swiss Army Man

Writers and Directors: Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Paul Dano, Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Not for the easily offended, Swiss Army Man is about as weird and grotesque as a film could be while delivering a genuinely touching emotional story about mortality, the will to live, and the insanity of isolation. You’ve probably heard of Swiss Army Man as “the farting corpse movie”, which is a crass, if not inaccurate, description of the insane comedy. Paul Dano stars as a man stranded on an island, ready to end his own life, when a besuited corpse washes up on the shore and reinvigorates his will to live. It also becomes his best friend in an increasingly bizarre series events wherein his farts and erections guide the way back to humanity. As the corpse in question, Daniel Radcliffe has an impossible task and he is extraordinary, and surprisingly emotional as the dead man learning about life and love from a man who has given up on both. Written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, aka The Daniels, Swiss Army Man has heart and guts and gas and boners, taking on the down and dirty parts of the human experience we tend to gloss over. It’s super fucking weird and definitely not for everyone, but it’s also singular, deeply brave and unflinchingly honest. — Haleigh Foutch

The Blackcoat's Daughter

Writer/Director: Oz Perkins

Cast: Kiernan Shipka, Lucy Boynton, Emma Roberts, James Remar, Lauren Holly

Like too many good horror films, The Blackcoat’s Daughter (previously titled February) sat on the shelf for a few years before it finally reached audiences so you may already be familiar with director Oz Perkins from last year’s ambiance-fueled haunted house chiller I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, despite the fact that The Blackcoat’s Daughter is technically his directorial debut. Perkins shows that same skill for hypnotic dread in his first film, an enigmatic occult drama that conjures a spellbinding, nightmarish thrall of Satanic menace. Amidst the creepy slow-burn and punctuating moments of violence, there’s a melancholy undercurrent of loneliness and remorse that pays off big in the film’s blistering final moments. The Blackcoat’s Daughter is cryptic and methodically paced, but each moment of subdued action preserves inertia for when that final blow arrives, and when it does, though it may not be entirely surprising, it is a searing blow straight to the solar plexus that leaves you reeling. The film’s evasiveness demands patience, but there are moments of brilliance that scratch at the subconscious with a wicked edge, leaving a raw and hollow feeling long after the film has ended.

Short Term 12

Image via Cinedigm

Writer/Director: Destin Daniel Cretton

Cast: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Rami Malek, Kaitlyn Dever, and Lakeith Stanfield

Short Term 12 could have been a horribly schmaltzy film that took all of the sting and reality of short-term foster care facility, but Cretton never shies away from the heartbreak and warmth of the system he explored. Led by Brie Larson in an outstanding performance, the film follows Grace (Larson) as she bonds with Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), a teenage girl in her care who likely has a history of sexual abuse. As Grace begins to wonder if she can move in her life with her boyfriend and co-worker Mason (John Gallagher Jr.), she has to confront the abuse she herself suffered and see if there’s a way to move on. It’s a beautiful, funny, powerful film that Cretton’s directs with humanity and profound decency. – Matt Goldberg

Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills

Directors: Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky

The mack daddy of all true crime documentaries, with only Errol Morris’ chilling, enveloping The Thin Blue Line battling for its otherwise undisputed title. At 150 minutes, the film plunges us deep in the horrifying case of the West Memphis Three – Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin – who were unfairly tried and convicted for the murders of three young boys in Arkansas’ Robin Hood Hills. Not only do directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky cover the case itself, but also the emotional aftermath on the families of the dead and the accused, and the local community, following the slayings, catching the corruptive nature of violent retribution and vengeance on the justice system with startling clarity. There was so much information pouring from the story that the directors would go onto direct two other films, and that’s not even counting the Peter Jackson-produced alternative film, West of Memphis, and Atom Egoyan’s unpleasant narrative take on the happenings, Devil’s Knot. But the original remains the gold standard, one of the most haunting visions of the human compulsion to find a simplistic, stereotypical narrative trajectory even in far more complex life situations, to the point where they are willing to send three young innocent men to prison for life, or even the electric chair.  — Chris Cabin

Bone Tomahawk

Written and Directed by: S. Craig Zahler

Cast: Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Richard Jenkins, Matthew Fox, David Arquette, Evan Jonigkeit

S. Craig Zahler’s Bone Tomahawk didn’t get the love it deserved when it hit select theaters last year, but I highly recommend catching it now on Amazon Prime, especially if you’re into horror movies and Westerns. The movie stars Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox and Richard Jenkins as four men who head out into the Wild West to rescue two people who are taken captive by a group of cannibals. It’s an eerie slow burn that builds an overwhelming sense of dread before unleashing an especially savage display of violence and gore. In fact, there’s one scene from Bone Tomahawk that scored a spot on our Best Movie Kills of 2015 list and while it is insanely bloody and brutal, the movie earns the moment thanks to the stellar performances, character-driven narrative and all-consuming atmosphere. – Perri Nemiroff

Stop Making Sense

Written and Directed by: Jonathan Demme

Concert films are a rare type of art-form, one that has yielded only a handful of true masterworks. The Last Waltz and The Other Side of the Mirror would be two notable entries in the pantheon, but top prize easily goes to Jonathan Demme’s hypnotic Stop Making Sense, which documents a series of shows that David Byrne’s Talking Heads played in the 1980s. The film is as much about Byrne and company’s physical, varied stage performances, which include props and tailored stage design, as it is about Demme’s astute knowledge of camera placement, framing, and editing, which turn three concerts into one impactful work of staggeringly inventive performance art. What really matters, however, is the music and Stop Making Sense captures one of the great art-rock acts of the 1980s in their prime, expanding the recorded versions of “This Must Be the Place (Naïve Medley),” “Take Me to the River,” and “Making Flippy Floppy” into titanic, anthemic dispatches from a country on the brink of total chaos. — Chris Cabin

The Monster

Writer/Director: Bryan Bertino

Cast: Zoe Kazan, Ella Ballentine, Scott Speedman, Aaron Douglas, Christine Edabi

It’s likely inevitable that director Bryan Bertino’s work will forever be associated with his smash-hit directorial debut The Strangers, a dread-inducing first time effort that set the bar high for the young filmmaker. But where 2014’s Mockingbird folded under its own narrative weight, Bertino’s most recent effort The Monster triumphs in its pared down approach to the monster movie. Starring Zoe Kazan (in a career best performance) as Kathy, an inattentive and alcoholic mother to the fragile Lizzy (Ella Ballentine), The Monster wastes little time before setting up its central thrill – broken down on a country road in the middle of the night, Kathy and Lizzy quickly find themselves in the fight of their lives against a sticky black creature that resides in the woods just beyond the edge of the road. A lean and singularly focused monster movie with shades of the matriarchal horror of The Babadook and Lyle, The Monster is skillful proof of Bertino’s impressive talent. — Aubrey Page

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