40 Unique Amazon Prime Movies to Watch Now

40 Unique Amazon Prime Movies to Watch Now

April 26, 2024

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Nothing is ever truly original anymore, least of all in cinema—where filmmakers are constantly inspired by each other and proudly pay homage to earlier works. But there can be a point when movies begin to feel safe and same-y, especially if you’re streaming, buying, and renting from a service with as wide a library as Amazon Prime. So we at agoodmovietowatch have put together a list of films that aren’t only underseen by general audiences but can actually serve as a reminder of what movies can accomplish if filmmakers really think outside the box, while still honoring the greats before them.

31. Wojnarowicz (2021)

best

8.3

Country

United States of America

Director

Chris McKim

Actors

David Wojnarowicz, Fran Lebowitz, Nan Goldin

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Gripping, Inspiring

Even a straightforward documentary on the New York East Village visual artist David Wonjarowicz (pronounced VOY-nuh-ROH-vitch) would be thrilling, given the energy and the irreverence of his artworks especially during the AIDS epidemic from the 1980s to the 1990s. But director Chris McKim goes above and beyond, essentially imagining how Wojnarowicz would have directed his own film. McKim treats the movie like a collage in itself, expertly blending footage and sound together not just to capture the artist’s fury, but to remember how deeply he loved, transcending space and sickness. As an account of the underground New York art scene at the time, a profile on a supposed enfant terrible, and a tribute to all those who lost their lives to a disease accelerated by discrimination, Wojnarowicz is a beautiful, complex tapestry.

32. Il Mare (2000)

best

8.3

Country

South Korea

Director

Hyun-seung Lee, Lee Hyeon-seung

Actors

Cho Seung-yeon, Hong So-yeong, Ji-hyun Jun, Jun Ji-hyun

Moods

Emotional, Original, Romantic

While more people are familiar with its US adaptation, Il Mare is far more striking and emotionally resonant. The Korean romance, separated by timelines, depicts two lonely people who lived in the same seaside residence. They form a bond through the titular house’s mailbox, by sharing letters, voice recorders, and suggestions to deal with loneliness. As they receive each other’s messages, the film slowly reveals the reason for their loneliness– that they’ve been left behind. Matched with shots of creeping urbanization, migration, and the Y2K scare, Il Mare understands modern isolation, but it also underscores how solitude helps us connect with other people.

33. He Got Game (1998)

best

8.3

Country

United States of America

Director

Spike Lee

Actors

Al Palagonia, Arthur J. Nascarella, Bill Nunn, Bill Walton

Moods

A-list actors, Dramatic, Original

There’s a vein of reality running through He Got Game that gives this Spike Lee joint a sense of pulsating immediacy. For one, the young basketball prodigy at its center is played by real-life pro Ray Allen, who shot the movie during the sport’s off-season period in 1997. The film also draws on a host of other ballers and ancillary figures — including coaches and commentators — to fully convince us of the hype around Jesus Shuttlesworth (Allen), a Coney Island high-schooler who’s been crowned America’s top college draft pick.

Lee takes this premise to much more interesting places than sports movies usually go. The plot is a melodrama of sorts, in which Jesus’ incarcerated father Jake (a top-tier Denzel Washington) must convince his son to declare for the governor’s alma mater in exchange for a reduced sentence. The pair are estranged — Jake is in prison for the death of Jesus’ mother — making this as much a tense examination of family and forgiveness as it is a sports movie. And what a sports movie it is: Lee makes his love of basketball not just abundantly clear but also infectious, opening the film on soaring, balletic images of the sport that suggest it’s no mere game, but something unifying, artistic, and ultimately salvatory.

34. I’m Not There (2007)

best

8.3

Country

Canada, France, Germany

Director

Todd Haynes

Actors

Al Vandecruys, Alison Folland, Andrew Shaver, Andrew Simms

Moods

A-list actors, Challenging, Character-driven

I’m Not There is an unusual biopic in that it never refers to its subject, Bob Dylan, by name. Instead, Todd Haynes’ portrait of the singer mimics his constant reinvention by casting six separate actors to play as many reincarnations of the same soul. It’s an ingenious spin on a usually stale genre, one that liberates the film from the humdrum restrictions of a literal retelling of Dylan’s life.

If there’s anyone who warrants such an inventive approach to biography, it’s Dylan, whose public and private personas are so numerous that it’s only by angling six different mirrors at him that Haynes can hope to catch some of his essence. Impressionistic editing toggles freely between these vignettes, each visually distinct: from the 11-year-old Woody Guthrie-obsessive (Marcus Carl Franklin) and the black-and-white Super 16mm-shot poet (Ben Whishaw) to the aging cowboy outlaw (Richard Gere), all by way of Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, and Cate Blanchett’s incarnations. To be sure, this is a somewhat challenging film, reflecting, in places, the enigmatic surrealism of Dylan’s lyrics and his refusal to be pinned down to one thing. But, as Blanchett’s embodiment says, “Mystery is a traditional fact,” and that’s no more true than of Dylan, making Haynes’ film a fascinatingly fitting spiritual biopic.

35. Double Happiness (1994)

best

8.3

Country

Canada

Director

Female director, Mina Shum

Actors

Alannah Ong, Callum Keith Rennie, Donald Fong, Frances You

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Funny, Original

Sandra Oh earned her breakout in this warm, candid Canadian indie, which — not uncoincidentally — shares its name with that of a decorative Chinese symbol associated with marriage. The movie’s title is also a reference to 22-year-old Jade Li’s (Oh) struggle to pursue her own ambitions and meet the clashing romantic and professional expectations her disapproving first-generation immigrant parents have for her. As she puts it, “Double happiness is when you make yourself happy and everyone else happy, too.”

An aspiring actress who dreams of playing Blanche DuBois, Jade is instead asked by unimaginative casting directors to adopt a pronounced Chinese accent for tiny bit parts. In essence, she’s typecast everywhere: on set, and at home, where she struggles to play the good daughter who’ll give up acting for a more conventional job and will only marry a man her parents approve of. It’s a jarring existence, but Double Happiness never feels claustrophobic because it gives Jade the freedom to finally be herself via witty, confessional monologues and fantasy sequences. There’s undoubtedly bittersweetness to this portrait of a young woman fighting to be herself on every front, but that it’s nevertheless such an irresistibly charming, never-flippant watch is a testament to first-time director Mina Shum and Oh’s already mature talents.

36. Polite Society (2023)

best

8.2

Country

United Kingdom

Director

Female director, Nida Manzoor

Actors

Akshay Khanna, Ella Bruccoleri, Eunice Huthart, James McNicholas

Moods

Action-packed, Funny, Heart-warming

Kill Bill meets Bend It Like Beckham in this wild ride about a martial arts-obsessed British-Pakistani teenager who views her older sister’s impending marriage as a catastrophe to be averted at all costs. Aspiring stuntwoman Ria (Priya Kansara) can’t stomach the idea of free-spirited Lena (Ritu Arya) giving up on her creative dreams to marry a nauseatingly perfect man — not least because art school dropout Lena is her hero for refusing to conform to their community’s traditional ideas about respectability and success.

Polite Society makes room to sensitively explore Ria’s disappointment and the loneliness of rebellion, but writer-director Nida Manzoor doesn’t stop there, throwing in a sharp allegory disguised as a zany twist. Rather than upending our expectations for upending’s sake, the surprise metaphor refigures the movie as perceptive cultural commentary on the age-old devaluation of women as mere vessels for the next generation. What’s more, Manzoor takes the analogy full circle to thoughtfully imagine how this kind of dehumanizing misogyny might have affected previous generations, suggesting that the real villains lie offscreen. Movies as inventive and intelligent as this don’t come around often, but one that’s this funny, visually bold, unabashedly feminist, and full of stars-in-the-making is rarer still.

37. Smoke Signals (1998)

best

8.2

Country

Canada, United States of America

Director

Chris Eyre

Actors

Adam Beach, Cody Lightning, Cynthia Geary, Elaine Miles

Moods

Emotional, Funny, Heart-warming

To Hollywood’s shame, it wasn’t until 1998 that a major feature made by Native American filmmakers was released. It was this charming indie gem that belatedly broke that new ground: based on author Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Smoke Signals retains the irreverent humor hinted at in its source material’s title while also being a genuinely heartfelt drama. Set across two cleverly interweaving timelines, it follows the fraught relationship between Victor and Thomas, two young men living on Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene Reservation who are forever linked by tragedy: as a baby, Thomas was saved from the house fire that killed his parents by Victor’s father Arnold (a great Gary Farmer), who soon spiraled into alcoholism and abandoned his young son. When Arnold dies suddenly, then, the duo embark on a perspective-changing road trip to collect his ashes.

Thomas’ nerdy earnestness and happy-go-lucky personality have always gotten on the nerves of the stoic Victor — who’s eaten up by resentment at his father for leaving — but the trip brings the disparate duo together. Though the movie honors their meaningful journey with a serious dramatic focus, it’s also shot through with sharp humor satirizing clichés about Native American people — a tonal complexity that makes it uncommonly accomplished, even without the added value of its all-too-rare perspective.

38. Leonor Will Never Die (2022)

best

8.2

Country

Philippines, United States of America

Director

Female director, Martika Ramirez Escobar

Actors

Alemberg Ang, Allan Bautista, Anthony Falcon, Ara Chawdhury

Moods

Mind-blowing, Original, Thought-provoking

At times looking and sounding like a real Filipino action film from 50 years ago, while painstakingly edited to juggle storylines across several realities, Leonor Will Never Die is worth seeing for its originality and ambition alone. Among so many other films that function as sanitized “love letters to cinema,” this one bears the distinction of still feeling charmingly scrappy and improvised even with how meticulously it’s crafted. It doesn’t simply pine for a bygone era of movies, but it actively explores what purpose movies serve to us as individuals and as communities. Where it arrives with regard to healing and acceptance and bringing people together feels entirely earned, even if it might not always be easy to understand.

39. I Am Not a Witch (2017)

best

8.1

Country

France, Germany, United Kingdom

Director

Female director, Rungano Nyoni

Actors

Dyna Mufuni, Gloria Huwiler, Henry B.J. Phiri, Maggie Mulubwa

Moods

Dark, Funny, Original

Remarkably for a movie about women being shunned and exploited by those more powerful than them, I Am Not A Witch is often wryly funny. That’s because this satire about Zambia’s labor camps for “witches” is told with a matter-of-fact-ness that brings out both the heartbreak and absurdity of the film’s events. The bitter gravity of the predicament nine-year-old Shula (Maggie Mulubwa) finds herself in — she’s been accused of witchcraft on the back of some very flimsy evidence — is never glossed over, but neither is its farcicality. Appropriately for its subject, there are also touches of magical realism here, notes that elevate the film into something even more complex than a wry commentary on this morbidly fascinating form of misogyny. This hybrid tonal approach is executed with the kind of fluidity filmmakers might hope to one day master late on in their career — which makes the fact that this is director Rungano Nyoni’s debut all the more extraordinary.

40. The Monk and the Gun (2024)

best

8.1

Country

Bhutan, France, Taiwan

Director

Pawo Choyning Dorji

Actors

Choeying Jatsho, Deki Lhamo, Pema Zangmo Sherpa, Tandin Sonam

Moods

Challenging, Discussion-sparking, Funny

To plenty of countries around the globe, democracy has become so ubiquitous that we forget it’s relatively new, at least relative to the rest of human history. Bhutan is one of the last countries that became a democracy, and writer-director Pawo Choyning Dorji chose to depict a slice of how they made the shift in The Monk and the Gun. As Tashi sets out to obtain two weapons for his mentor, and Ron seeks a specific antique gun, Dorji presents slice-of-life moments of the beautiful Bhutan countryside, intercut with the subtle ways tradition still persists amidst modernity, and the funny ways change can clash with culture. It’s no wonder The Monk and the Gun was chosen as the Bhutanese entry for the Best International Feature at the 96th Academy Awards.

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