Although Disney+ has raked up 50 million global users since its launch, Amazon remains Netflix’s biggest challenger when it comes to streaming. There are lots of movies that you can stream with an Amazon Prime account, but only so many of them are free. With the current lockdown situation unlikely to change soon, some movie pick-me-ups are always welcome, and Amazon has a healthy share of such movies. From surreal thrillers to offbeat comedies, and from foxes to chickens, below we have a list of the 10 best, most heartwarming and sometimes very strange films that you can watch free with a Prime account. If you’re not in the mood for something good… Well, they’ve got Justice League too.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
Easily Taika Waititi’s best film, and one of the best films from the last ten years, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is an endearing and painfully funny look at dysfunctional relationships, age and family. No other film Waititi has made so perfectly balances side-spitting humour with a genuine emotional core and purpose. It follows the poignant and unpredictable travels of 13 year old Ricky (Julian Dennison) and his embittered new carer Hec (Sam Neill). They have to escape from the law (well, Child Services), wild animals, and conspiracy theorists living in trailers. Beautifully shot, with a delicate touch and endless chemistry between Neill and Dennison, you would struggle to find a more perfect feel-good film than this.
Criminally overlooked at most awards ceremonies, at least for Jennifer Lopez’s incendiary performance, Hustlers is a women-led call to arms against systematic brutality and inequality at every level of life. The 2008 recession forces a group of strippers out of work, so they go on a crime spree to steal from their greedy male audience while staying one step ahead of trouble. Told in the style of a good crime thriller, Hustlers’ secret weapon is the resonating friendships between the main characters, especially between Ramona (Lopez) and Destiny (Constance Wu). It doesn’t assume that you agree with what the women are doing, but invites you to draw your own conclusions and engage with the reasons behind their actions. Hustlers deserves to be recognised as a modern classic of the crime genre.
Even by 1968 a film like Barbarella was at risk of feeling out of date. What we got instead was a Flash Gordon pre-cursor; a science fiction cult classic that in several ways has aged poorly (its female characters) and in a few others remains timeless. Based on the comics of the same name by Jean-Claude Forest, Barbarella (Jane Fonda) is an astronaut in the 41st century who must prevent the sinister Durand Durand from bringing evil back into the galaxy, making the most of her speciality… love. It is as silly as it sounds, and a spectacular change of tone from the sci-fi of the 1950s. Thiis is an intergalactic fever dream with a hint of frolick. Peculiar beyond words and fuelled by a magnetic performance from Fonda, adventure stories are rarely as unique as this.
One of the earlier chances to see Danish auteur Nicolas Winding Refn in action, Bronson is a biographical film about the most infamous prisoner in the UK. With his typical lavish style and feel for what’s going to leave you shocked, Refn predictably holds nothing back when probing into the mind of a violent criminal. It also helped to raise Tom Hardy’s profile, a couple of years before he really hit the big time with Inception and The Dark Knight Rises. His performance is the pounding heart that keeps this surreal and at times unbelievable story going. This is not a film for the faint of heart, but it is a fascinating portrait of illness and self-destruction behind bars. It also unleashed Refn on the world, and his style of filmmaking that for better or for worse has seriously raised its profile since.
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
A much more agreeable delight, Wes Anderson’s bright and eccentric style brings you out in a massive smile. With few films is it as perfect as Fantastic Mr. Fox, an adaptation of the Roald Dahl novel that takes some liberties with the plot without feeling like a butchering of the original story. George Clooney and Meryl Streep voice Mr. Fox and Felicity Fox respectively as they work to protect their family from three greedy, peeved off farmers. It stars some of Anderson’s signature collaborators (Jason Schwartzman, Willem Dafoe and Bill Murray to name a few) and represents two landmarks for the American director – his first adaptation, and his first animation as well. It’s a wonderful film that you cannot help but admire, and you’ll come out of it loving the characters even more than the Fox family loves fresh chicken.
Chicken Run (2000)
Speaking of chickens, few films will leave you as stupidly happy as this undisputed British classic. Chicken Run pushed the boundaries of what stop motion could achieve, and remains an impressive technical feat to this day. With a sequel on its way, there is no better time to dive back into this feathery caper. What really helps Chicken Run to live on in our hearts and minds is a collection of memorable characters, iconic moments and some of the best genre-riffing you could hope for. The result is, among other things, Mel Gibson’s best film – and that is not something anyone would likely have guessed prior to release. It is as infectiously funny and charming as ever, and even though Aardman aren’t quite the kings of stop-motion like they used to be, Chicken Run is a fan favourite reminder of what makes their older work so pioneering.
Bong Joon-Ho’s post-apocalyptic class war took some four years to get a release in the UK, and it sadly was not ever released widely in UK cinemas, but it was worth the wait. A dystopian, grime-covered story of disaster and oppression, an attempt to prevent climate change has resulted in almost all of humanity being killed off. The few lucky survivors are on board a globe-spanning train called Snowpiercer, on board which a rigid class system has formed. Chris Evans is brutal and captivating as the hardened protagonist, Curtis. The impressive cast also features Octavia Spencer, John Hurt and Tilda Swinton. This is another remarkable feather in Joon-Ho’s cap, coming several years prior to the rightly acclaimed Oscar Best Picture winner Parasite.
Whale Rider (2002)
Beautifully filmed, heartbreaking and endlessly fascinating, Whale Rider deserves the label of essential viewing. Kahu Paikea Apirana (Keisha Castle-Hughes) is a twelve year old Māori girl who wants to be a leader among her tribe and family, a role that her grandfather Koro Apirana (Rawiri Paratene) believes is for men only. But their relationship is far more nuanced and moving than a simple generational squabble. This is a heartfelt story of growth and belief, told with the utmost respect for Māori beliefs and with an outstanding debut performance from Castle-Hughes. Director Niki Caro, the director of the upcoming Mulan remake, tackles her adaptation of Witi Ihimaera’s novel with sensitivity and style. If there was ever a lesson in how to make a family drama as moving as it is cinematic, this is certainly it.
Based on one J.G. Ballard’s strangely unrestrained novels, High-Rise is another intoxicating entry in director Ben Wheatley’s catalogue. In this surreal socialist science-fiction drama, a class system ingrained in a tower block begins to collapse violently, and the residents increasingly lose their grips with normal life. The results are sometimes sensual, often shocking and endlessly warped in peculiar ways. Tom Hiddleston is perfectly cast as Doctor Laing, a man who’s desire for a lonely life is thwarted when Sienna Miller’s Charlotte catches him sunbathing with little more than a head towel to cover himself (it’s a scene that stays with you). Luke Evans and Jeremy Irons are also along for the ride in a dystopian thrill ride that didn’t get the recognition it deserved.
The disturbing pagan nightmare reel Midsommar secures Ari Aster’s place as an iconic horror auteur of our time. Dani (Florence Pugh) travels with her boyfriend and his friends to a remote part of Sweden, where they are welcomed with open arms by a seemingly innocent community. They quickly realise that the truth of how these people live is far grislier than it seems. Shot with an eye-catching abundance of colour and endless levels of detail, Midsommar is not a film to leave you feeling on cloud nine. But if what you need to see is a director at the top of his experimental game, capped by a perfect lead performance from Pugh, then this is exactly what you need.