Back in November, Netflix made headlines for finally offering subscribers the option to download movies and TV shows for offline viewing. But guess what? Amazon Prime Video has long provided the same option. If you have a phone or tablet that can run the Prime Video app, you can get many (if not most) Prime movies to go.
There's a difference, of course, between streaming and downloading. The former requires a cellular or Wi-Fi connection, something that's not always available -- or always reliable. In my gym, for example, the Wi-Fi often gets overloaded, to the point where streaming simply doesn't work. And the cell signal isn't strong enough to pull in video. (Never mind what movie streaming does to my data plan.)
If you plan ahead, though, you can download some movies via Wi-Fi for offline viewing. (How many? According to Amazon, "Depending on your location, you can have a maximum of either 15 or 25 total Prime Video titles downloaded at a time across all devices associated with your Amazon account.") That way it won't matter if you have no service (like on an airplane), and it won't blast through your monthly data allotment.
Before I give you my list of must-watch movies, keep in mind that Prime's selection changes from month to month. Not every title listed here will be available indefinitely.
The late, great(sob) stars in this gripping drama about three people and a bag of cash that falls from the sky. Not figuratively; it's discovered in a small plane that crashed in the woods. Will someone come looking for it? If not, all they have to do is divvy up the money, right? If only it were that simple. Directed by Sam Raimi, but with the full flavor of a Coen-brothers noir, the 1998 film also stars Billy Bob Thornton and Bridget Fonda.
It has nothing to do with the eponymous Elton John album, but this Oscar-nominated 2016 comedy-drama is fantastic, indeed. Viggo Mortensen lives not only off the grid, but in the actual forest -- along with his six children. When events conspire to drag them into the real world, well, it's funny, surprising, occasionally wrenching and endlessly entertaining. I seriously loved this movie, though I suspect not everyone will feel the same.
Let me make one thing abundantly clear: I don't like musicals. Saw "Wicked" -- meh. Sat through famous shows like "Phantom of the Opera" and "Les Miserables" -- bleh. It's just not my thing. And yet I seriously dug "Chicago." Maybe it was because of the great songs, or maybe just because it had the benefits of movie editing and production. Either way, I'd say this is the musical for people who don't like musicals. Who knows? You might be one of them.
'Cloverfield' and '10 Cloverfield Lane'
The less I say about these movies, the better. I watched both knowing very little about their plots, and it was that very not-knowing that made them so engaging. I will say they're two very different movies, both very suspenseful and frequently surprising. Indeed, you can easily watch "10 Cloverfield Lane" without having seen "Cloverfield," because they're barely related. Or are they totally related? Aha... hmmm...
If you like your sci-fi dark, sexy and thinky, look no further than this 2015 Oscar-winner (for Best Visual Effects) and nominee (for Best Original Screenplay). It's a meditation on artificial intelligence, one that unfolds slowly and deliberately before building to a pretty incredible climax. Alicia Vikander does amazing work as the android Ava, but Oscar Isaac -- wow. I never got the fuss about him in the movies he's better-known for, but here he's amazing: mysterious, menacing, brilliant and frequently a total jerk. Good guy? Bad guy? Judge for yourself.
Sure, you've seen it already -- probably more than once. But there's almost a nostalgia to it now, a reminder that before Robert Downey Jr. put on the suit, decent superhero movies were few and far between. Indeed, it's thanks to Iron Man (and "Iron Man") that we've enjoyed so many years of Marvel movie goodness. This remains one of the all-time great origin stories, with an equally great villain and some much-needed humor.
You kind of expect that earlier "Mission: Impossible" movies would be available for streaming and download, but the latest one? Pleasant surprise! Equally pleasant was the movie itself, which could easily have been a misfire given that it's the fifth in the series -- and that Tom Cruise is starting to look a little, well, jowly. But, ho, fun stuff! Dazzling action sequences, some welcome funny bits, a plot that -- well, OK, does that even matter? I'd rank this as my second-favorite "Mission," the first being number three.
Looking for a movie to watch with your teenage kids? They've never heard of this one and neither have you, but give it three minutes and you'll all be hooked. Teens and time travel may sound like a recipe for disaster, or at least inanity, but "Project Almanac" does a pretty good job keeping the material grounded. The film doesn't take itself too seriously, even while grappling with serious developments. The ending was perhaps inevitably shaky, but this is still a ride worth taking.
Remember when Kevin Costner was awesome? Never more so than in this streets-of-Chicago gangster epic, which won Sean Connery an Oscar and the score a Grammy. Costner is Elliot Ness, charged with taking down the infamous Al Capone. (Remember when Robert DeNiro was awesome?) The story itself is simple, but the performances are amazing, and some of the sequences just take your breath away. The train station? The baby carriage? Ahhhhh!
Jemaine Clement can do no wrong. (If you've never watched "Flight of the Conchords," it's available on Prime as well. Watch it. Now. I'll wait.) In this seriously funny vampire mockumentary, Clement again knocks it out of the park as 862-year-old Vlad, one of four vampires sharing a flat in modern-day New Zealand -- and coping with modern-day challenges. There's abundant blood and gore, but also lots and lots of laughs. Zombies, werewolves and witches, too. This movie has it all!
OK, those are my picks -- what available-for-download titles would you add to the list? Share your favorites in the comments!
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