9 Best Instructive Movies On Amazon Prime

Staff & contributors

One of cinema's greatest powers is to educate. If you want to plunge into the center of lives, industries and systems you might otherwise never know about, here are the top instructive movies and shows to stream now.

Find the best instructive movies to watch, from our mood category. Like everything on agoodmovietowatch, these instructive movies are highly-rated by both viewers and critics.

Told in urgent fashion with first-hand accounts from cyber professionals from around the globe, Zero Days is a fascinating and alarming documentary about the Stuxnet computer virus. Originally codenamed “Olympic Games” by the people that fathered the worm, Stuxnet is a virus in the true sense of the word. It not only maliciously feeds off the host, but it also replicates itself as soon as it is implanted, which is exactly what it did when it was used by the US and Israeli secret services to sabotage centrifuges inside Iran's Natanz nuclear plant—making them spin out of control. All this is brilliantly unpacked by renowned documentary maker Alex Gibney (Going Clear, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room), who manages not only to detail the complexities of advanced coding in a remarkably evocative manner, but also to send out a well-researched alarm call about the future of war. Ultimately, the message here is that cyber warfare is very much part of our new shared reality. This film deserves to be seen by anyone who is even remotely concerned about global security in the 21st century.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Barack Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu, David Sanger, Emad Kiyaei, Eric Chien, Eugene Kaspersky, George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, Joanne Tucker, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan, Sergey Ulasen, Tadashi Mitsui, Vitaly Kamluk

Director: Alex Gibney

Rating: PG-13

Do today's political talk shows often feel like meek, scripted, and predictable affairs to you? Would you rather have that euphoric feeling you get when watching someone smart and eloquent talk about important ideas? Multiply that by two and you get Best of Enemies. In 1968, ABC covered the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach and the historic Democratic National Convention in Chicago by airing a 10-part series of nationally televised debates between two ideologically opposed and sharp-minded public intellectuals: Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley. The former was an ardent and openly bisexual liberal and progressive. The latter an elitist cultural conservative, whose magazine, National Review, vowed to always support the most far-right candidate viable for office. This confrontational set-up is not only credited with ushering in an era of pundit politics, but also with producing some of the most entertaining intellectual debate ever to be seen on TV. When's the last time you saw anybody unironically being called a “crypto-Nazi” on national television?

Genre: Documentary, History

Actor: Christopher Hitchens, Dick Cavett, Gore Vidal, John Lithgow, Kelsey Grammer, Noam Chomsky, William F. Buckley, William F. Buckley Jr.

Director: Morgan Neville, Robert Gordon

Rating: R

One of the most thrilling biographical films to come out of Hollywood in the 2020s, Shaka King's exhilarating take on a truly remarkable leader within the Black Panther Party—and the young man who would eventually be twisted into betraying him—also provides a respectful, honest space to voice out progressive views that still aren't fully embraced in the United States. Much of the film is made up of beautiful, powerful rhetoric, contrasting in fascinating ways with scenes of violence or deception that only remind us how ahead-of-his-time chairman Fred Hampton was and still is. And in a thunderous, Oscar-winning performance, Daniel Kaluuya brings all of Hampton's words roaring to life while still reminding us of how tragically young this inspirational figure was at the time of his death.

But Judas and the Black Messiah tells an equally powerful second story over this one: that of FBI informant William O'Neal who reluctantly agrees to sell Hampton to the feds, and quickly realizes that he's been scammed too. Rivaling—and, arguably, besting—Kaluuya's performance is LaKeith Stanfield, whose tortured and increasingly despairing performance as O'Neal is the stuff of pure Shakespearean drama. Together, both stories ask us what real freedom looks like, and that we believe we can still fight for it.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Algee Smith, Amari Cheatom, Amber Chardae Robinson, Ashton Sanders, Caleb Eberhardt, Chris Hahn, Daniel Kaluuya, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Dominique Fishback, Dominique Thorne, Graham Lutes, Ian Duff, James Udom, Jermaine Fowler, Jesse Plemons, Khris Davis, Lakeith Stanfield, Lil Rel Howery, Martin Sheen, Nick Fink, Robert Longstreet, Terayle Hill

Director: Shaka King

Adam Driver, Annette Bening, and Jon Hamm are among the many recognizable faces of this star-packed political drama.

Driver, pictured above in his ‘I’m goofy but I will save the world’ signature stare 😍, plays Daniel J. Jones, an investigator working with the Senate. He is assigned to write a report (“the” report) about the CIA torture program post 9/11.

If you so much as liked Vice, the hit movie from earlier this year, you will love The Report. It covers similar grounds: incompetency, unclear intentions, confusion, etc; but in a way that is more to-the-point (which might make it feel dry to some). It also helps in understanding or getting a refresher on, how the Senate works and how organizations like the CIA interact with (bully) other branches of government. 

I would almost go as far as to say that if you are a U.S. citizen, watching this movie, with its many goofy Adam Driver moments, is your civic duty.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Adam Driver, Alexander Chaplin, Annette Bening, April Rogalski, Ben McKenzie, Carlos Gómez, Corey Stoll, Daniel London, Dominic Fumusa, Douglas Hodge, Evander Duck Jr., Fajer Kaisi, Guy Boyd, Hope Blackstock, Ian Blackman, Jake Silbermann, James Hindman, Jennifer Morrison, Joanne Tucker, John Rothman, Jon Hamm, Joseph Siravo, Julia K. Murney, Kate Beahan, Linda Powell, Lucas Dixon, Matthew Rhys, Maura Tierney, Michael C. Hall, Noah Bean, Pun Bandhu, Ratnesh Dubey, Sandra Landers, Sarah Goldberg, Scott Shepherd, Sean Dugan, T. Ryder Smith, Ted Levine, Tim Blake Nelson, Victor Slezak, West Duchovny, Zuhdi Boueri

Director: Scott Z. Burns

Rating: R

In Lyon, the second biggest city in France after Paris, a man confronts the church about a prominent priest who sexually assaulted him and his friends when they were young.

The man, being religious, wanted to keep the issue within the church. He only asked that the pedophile’s priesthood be revoked so that he doesn’t assault more children.

When it becomes clear that the church will not act, he considers legal action, even though the statute of limitations has expired. But, as is usual in these cases, he was far from being the only victim.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Éric Caravaca, Alexandre Steiger, Amélie Daure, Amélie Prevot, Arnaud Viard, Aurélia Petit, Aurelia Petit, Baya Rehaz, Bernadette Le Saché, Bernard Verley, Chloé Astor, Christian Sinniger, Damien Jouillerot, Denis Ménochet, Denis Ménochet, Éric Caravaca, Fayçal Safi, Fejria Deliba, Frédéric Pierrot, François Chattot, François Marthouret, François Chattot, François Marthouret, Frédéric Pierrot, Hélène Vincent, Hélène Vincent, Jeanne Rosa, John Sehil, Josiane Balasko, Jules Gauzelin, Julie Duclos, Laurence Roy, Lilly Rose Debos, Martine Erhel, Martine Schambacher, Max Libert, Melvil Poupaud, Nicolas Bauwens, Nicolas Bridet, Pierre Lottin, Sébastien Pouderoux, Stéphane Brel, Swann Arlaud, Timi-Joy Marbot, Xavier de Guillebon

Director: François Ozon, François Ozon

A quiet documentary that was released to celebrate the British Royal Air Force's centenary, Spitfire tells the story of the famous plane that younger audiences might only recognize from movies like Dunkirk or Darkest Hour. It features gorgeous footage of the last remaining planes in service flying over the British coast, testimonies from pilots who are still alive and a reminder of the key role that this plane once served. It feels like an attempt to capture and archive the importance of the plane, but also of its pilots, who for the most part were young kids with little training, but who, with time, learned valuable lessons from warfare. A must for aviation fans and a great option for anyone looking for a quiet movie to watch with their family (grandparents included). 

Genre: Documentary, History, War

Actor: Charles Dance

Director: Ant Palmer, David Fairhead

Rating: TV-PG

Through her irreverent, no-bullshit point of view, Chinese documentarian Christine Choy balances out The Exiles' painful reckoning with a traumatic event that shaped a generation of Chinese immigrants: the student-led protests and subsequent massacre of civilians in Tiananmen Square, Beijing in 1989. As Choy reconnects with the subjects of a documentary she stopped making 30 years ago, they help provide a fitting conclusion and new insights into the aftermath of the incident. And while the film eventually loses Choy's brash spirit and settles into a more conventional tone of storytelling, the testimonies and analyses of nation and home that we get to hear are still heartbreaking. After such a reprehensible violation of human rights, it becomes clear that the countries who refuse to condemn wrongdoing are just as guilty.

Genre: Documentary, History

Director: Ben Klein, Violet Columbus

A cynical down-on-his-luck Seoul taxi driver is hired by a German journalist to go to another town called Gwangju. What seemed like an easy and overcompensated journey at first takes him into the heart of a city under siege by the military. This is in fact the student uprising that will be a very important event in South Korean history, known as 1980 Guangju Democratic Uprising. Both the journalist and the taxi driver confront life-threatening situations as they find themselves at the center of the movement. A true-story-based movie, it's a heartfelt and entertaining political drama about one of the bleakest chapters of modern Korean history. In 2018 it was the country's official submission to the Oscars.

Genre: Action, Drama, History

Actor: Cha Soon-bae, Choi Guy-hwa, Choi Gwi-hwa, Daniel Joey Albright, Hae-jin Yoo, Han Sa-myung, Han Yi-jin, Heo Jung-do, Jeon Hye-jin, Jeong Seok-yong, Jin-young Jung, Joey Albright, Jun-yeol Ryu, Jung Jin-young, Kang-ho Song, Ko Chang-seok, Kyul Hwi, Lee Bong-ryeon, Lee Ho-chul, Lee Jung-eun, Lee Sae-byeol, Lee Yong-yi, Park Hyeok-kwon, Park Hyuk-kwon, Ryu Jun-yeol, Ryu Sung-hyun, Ryu Tae-ho, Seo Hyun-woo, Seok-yong Jeong, Song Kang-ho, Thomas Kretschmann, Uhm Tae-goo, Um Tae-goo, Yoo Hae-jin, 许政度

Director: Hun Jang, Jang Hoon, Jang Hun

Rating: Not Rated

“There is no ethical consumption under capitalism,” a famous socialist belief goes, but like many activists, Jo is trying to curb that. She marries her two conflicting passions, coffee and the environment, by establishing a vegan cafe that only serves plant-based drinks. If a customer so much as mentions dairy, they're humiliated before being kicked out of the place. It’s both impressively assertive and gratingly obnoxious, which is something you could also say about the tone the entire film strikes. It’s well-meaning in its attempt to shed light on the ongoing climate crisis, but rather tone-deaf in trying to place the blame on everyday consumers rather than large-scale corporations. The editing choices, while meant to be cheeky, also go overboard with the cuts and colors, making it more annoying than anything else. Which is a shame, because apart from a noble cause, Coffee Wars also has a funny script and engaging performances going for it. It also gives us an insightful look into the highly competitive coffee tournaments being staged around the world. If only Coffee Wars let things brew for longer, maybe removed some elements and expanded others—specifically, dwell more on the contradiction of wanting to change a system while participating in it—then it would’ve been even more enjoyable and educational than it is. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Freddie Fox, Hugh Dennis, Jenny Rainsford, Jordan Stephens, Kate Nash, Lydia West, María Conchita Alonso, Owain Arthur, Ray Fearon, Rosie Cavaliero, Sally Phillips, Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Tobias Forrest, Toby Sebastian

Director: Randall Miller