While clicking through Amazon snaps up movies like Manchester by the Sea to show in the US, but it also nabs worldwide rights to originals perfect for a night in with a smaller screen., you've probably come across a handful of Amazon original movies. They can be hit and miss, but some of them are surprising gems.
Hopefully you'll find something to your taste (and available in your country) below.
The 12 Lives of Sissy Carlyle
This crowdfunded film is a bundle of quirky, feel-good adventures in a sweet 90-minute hit. After a tragic loss, 27-year-old antique shop owner Sissy Carlyle retreats into her inner world, imagining 11 different, exciting lives that she details in her journals. But eventually she questions whether to shed her fantasy cocoon and face stark realities, which might not be as hopeless as they once seemed. Uplifting is the word to describe Sissy's ultimate adventure in The 12 Lives of Sissy Carlyle.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Nearly 15 years after Kazakh journalist and TV personality Borat first graced our big screens, he's back playing pranks on unsuspecting Americans while delivering some incredibly incisive cultural commentary. In Borat 2, or Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Borat's on a trip to the US to offer his daughter Tutar (played by a revelatory Maria Bakalova) to Vice President Mike Pence during the 2020 presidential election -- and the COVID-19 pandemic. Prepare to cringe at the doubled-down political incorrectness before succumbing to the outrageous laughs.
Selah and the Spades
If you're into the dark-things-happen-at-boarding-schools genre, then Selah and the Spades might be the subject to sign up for. A senior leads a faction called the Spades who sell drugs to other students. But Selah's about to graduate, so must find the right candidate to carry on her legacy. Shot beautifully and guided by debut director Tayarisha Poe's unique lens, this is a taste of even greater things to come.
The Big Sick introduced the world to Kumail Nanjiani, who co-wrote the movie based on his real-life romance with partner Emily V. Gordon. After the pair go on a few promising dates, Emily inexplicably falls ill and must be placed in an induced coma. While Kumail gets to know her worried parents at the hospital, his own Pakistani family keeps arranging dates for him with other women. Not only ripe for cultural comedy setups, The Big Sick is also a down-to-earth and heartfelt story of an interracial couple.
A psychological thriller starring a pre-Joker Joaquin Phoenix? Yeah, more people need to watch You Were Never Really Here. Lynne Ramsay's masterful take on a story about a hitman who's hired to rescue a politician's daughter from a human trafficking network, is stark, brutal and mercifully straight to the point, running at a taut 90 minutes. With Phoenix doing his brilliant committed actor thing, You Were Never Really Here is more than your average thriller.
An enjoyable comedy, yes, but Brittany Runs a Marathon also hits close to home, focusing on the things we're all obsessed with: food, body image and exercise. Brittany, played by the effortlessly relatable Jillian Bell, receives strong advice from her doctor to lose weight and cut the hard-partying lifestyle. She starts running, taking all the tough steps toward the life-changing finish line. Watch it from your couch, then be inspired to head outside for a jog.
Luca Guadagnino's horror picture framed in a bleak, art house window won't be for everyone, but for those who go down the rabbit hole of its prestigious Berlin dance school, you're in for a twisted treat. Tilda Swinton is the majestic lead teacher, who mentors young ingenue Dakota Johnson. Be warned: The flexible dancers bring new contortions to body horror. It's a long movie, at over two and a half hours, but if you're into disturbing visuals and a touch of witchcraft, there are a couple of jaw-dropping scenes you'll want to stick around for.
Based on the life of British adventurer Percy Fawcett, The Lost City of Z drops you into the Amazon Rainforest on the search for an ancient lost city. If that setup for adventure isn't enticing enough, the movie stars Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson and Tom Holland... with a moustache. A beautiful, grandiose film put together with great care, The Lost City of Z might move slower than you think, but that only enhances its fascinating psychological layers.
Prepare for Amazon's first big, prestigious movie to wallop you in the chest. A broken man who's experienced terrible losses becomes the guardian of his teenage nephew. Lee Chandler's story will hit you with punch after emotional punch, as will the immense performances from the likes of Michelle Williams. Another accomplishment from Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea is full-bodied, unforgettable storytelling.
Even if you've heard good things about The Handmaiden, nothing can prepare you for the insane twists this exquisite South Korean movie takes. Classed as an erotic psychological thriller, The Handmaiden contains explicit scenes you should probably avoid watching with parents around. It all kicks off with a con man wooing a Japanese heiress with the intention of committing her to an asylum once they're married. But his pickpocket partner who poses as her maid strays from the plan. If you've been getting into South Korean films thanks to Parasite, this is a must watch.
In trademark Jim Jarmusch style, this low-key indie narrows in on the finer details of regular life with a distinct sense of humor. Spanning one week, Paterson follows a bus driver and poet named Paterson who listens to passengers talking, takes his dog for walks and stops for beers at his local bar. Adam Driver alone makes all that endlessly watchable. Dotted with the idiosyncratic characters living in a New Jersey town, Paterson offers a wise take on life, delving into personal setbacks and the new paths weaved around them.
Written by and starring Mindy Kaling, Late Night follows an acclaimed news show host whose ratings are on the decline. She hires a female, Indian-American writer to shake up her white-male writer's room. Never preachy, while making an argument for transforming Emma Thompson into a real-life talk show host, Late Night is lively comedy with hints of The Devil Wears Prada. That alone should be a solid reason to watch it.
Following lovers from different backgrounds and temperaments, Pawel Pawlikowski's historical drama is set in a ravaged, post-World War II Poland. Zula is an ambitious young singer faking a peasant identity, while Wiktor is a jazz musician holding auditions for a state-sponsored folk music ensemble. The politics are handled elegantly and the black-and-white visuals are precise and beautiful. For an 88-minute treat of a sumptuous, passionate, almost impossible love story, look no further than Cold War.
The Vast of Night is a curious indie sci-fi flick from debut director Andrew Patterson that plays with narrative in clever ways. Long, sweeping shots carry us after two young radio workers who investigate an audio frequency they think could be traced to aliens. The distinct 1950s New Mexico setting, and characters delivering monologues with the smooth intonations of those on radio, all build an eerie atmosphere with satisfying payoff.
Shia LaBeouf wrote the screenplay for this autobiographical movie about a child actor and his relationship with his father. We follow Otis, who's traumatized after days on set accompanied by his father, a former rodeo clown. LaBeouf actually plays the character inspired by his father, giving Honey Boy even more psychological layers. This is fascinating, cinematic therapy from a singular perspective.
I Am Not Your Negro is a documentary narrated by Samuel L. Jackson and inspired by a collection of notes and letters written by American writer and activist James Baldwin in the mid-'70s. The subject of these memoirs? His close friends, the revolutionary civil rights leaders Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Medgar Evers. Exploring the history of racism in the US, I Am Not Your Negro spotlights, through Baldwin's observations, the painful struggle for civil rights.
One Child Nation gives you an illuminating look at China's one-child policy, which lasted from 1979 to 2015. Its directors, Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang, were born during this period and explore the aftereffects of what had become a normal aspect of life for Chinese people. Looking at the unpleasant side of the "population war" through the experiences of a wide variety of people, One Child Nation is a stark illustration of this period of Chinese history.
The Coen Brothers meet Wes Anderson in this black comedy thriller steered by two brilliant young female leads. Set in a snowy fishing town in Maine, Blow the Man Down follows sisters, played by Morgan Saylor and Sophie Lowe, who try to hide the body of a man after he attacked one of them and she fought back. While on their crime caper, they find themselves digging up the town matriarchs' dark secrets, spinning this into a noir mystery. It's as wonderful as it sounds.