The best movies on Amazon Prime Video New Zealand

Amazon Prime Video has a large and eclectic range of movies available to stream. Critic Tony Stamp lists some of the best you can make a great start with.

Back To The Future (1985)

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Robert Zemeckis’ 1985 classic is the platonic ideal of a Hollywood Blockbuster, a model of setup and payoff that’s supremely satisfying. The buoyant direction and winning performances from Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd are so good you tend to forget some of the movie’s darker elements, which are bracingly welcome.

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Barbarian (2022)

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One of the best horror flicks of the past few years, Zach Cregger’s solo directorial debut is unsettling, frequently shocking, and occasionally hilarious, thanks to his background in comedy (he was a member of The Whitest Kids U’ Know sketch troupe). Georgina Campbell proves she can anchor a movie, Bill Skarsgård is unnerving as always, and then Justin Long shows up to prove why he should be cast in way more movies.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

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Tough call, but this might be the Coen Brothers’ funniest film, and possibly the cult-iest of their many cult classics. A late career role for Jeff Bridges that’s so perfectly realised it wound up being career-defining, joined by Goodman, Buscemi, Moore, Turturro, Elliott and more, all giving pitch-perfect comic performances that tune into the Coen’s very specific wavelength.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

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Villeneuve took on the legacy of Blade Runner some 35 years after its release, with considerable help from original helmer Ridley Scott. The result feels as vast as its depiction of an alternate Los Angeles, threading new ideas through a compelling mystery, punctuated with bouts of action and crammed with superb design and effects work. It may not be a particularly optimistic vision of the future, but there is plenty of humanity here, just not always provided by actual humans.

The Burial (2023)

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A good old fashioned crowd-pleaser, The Burial is a pleasant reminder that small-scale films can be just as satisfying as your average blockbuster. Tommy Lee Jones hires flashy lawyer Jamie Foxx after falling prey to shady business practices, and the pair enact a kind of David vs Goliath retribution, while establishing an unlikely friendship. It’s a superior effort thanks to its leads’ acting chops and chemistry, and the evergreen pleasure of rooting for the underdog.

Charade (1963)

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Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn throw near-obscene amounts of charm at the screen in Stanley Donen’s classic screwball caper. Ten years after he helmed Singin’ in the Rain, Donen proved he was still cinematically fleet-of-foot, as Charade whips through plot twists and double crosses to dizzying effect. A gorgeously pastel romp through France led by two all-time great screen presences that’ll keep you guessing till its conclusion.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

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Any number of images from this movie are probably etched in your brain, thanks to the phenomenal visual prowess of Steven Spielberg, who had released the equally seminal Raiders of the Lost Ark just one year earlier. It also showed how remarkably attuned the director was to the inner lives of children, be they from earth or three million light years away.

Fargo (1996)

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A highpoint in the Coen Brothers astoundingly consistent career, Fargo treads the finest of lines between comedy and tragedy, contrasting the “Minnesota nice’”of the directors’ birthplace with the unpleasant actions of some career criminals. Steve Buscemi got his chance to cut loose in a Coen pic (after supporting in several), and makes a real meal of it, while Frances McDormand brings plenty of nuance to her role as the movie’s moral centre.

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)

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Director Mike Newell’s filmography is a very diverse one, and he might not have seemed likely to helm a lovely cuddly Richard Curtis script, but the results, hinging on the UK/US chemistry between Andie MacDowell and Hugh Grant, certainly deliver. The actor’s “oh crikey” charms became omnipresent for a while following this movie, as it became an unexpected commercial and critical hit.

Get Out (2017)

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Tight as a drum all the way though, from concept to script to screen, Jordan Peele’s debut was an instant sensation, thanks largely to the way it conveys a somewhat tricky concept through massively entertaining (and often terrifying) storytelling. The director knew exactly what he wanted to say, and after honing his chops through years of sketch comedy on Key and Peele, delivered it with verve.

Groundhog Day (1993)

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The perfect vehicle to showcase mid-career Bill Murray’s particular talents, the classic time travel-karma-caper is also a damn good rom com, with Andie MacDowell serving as yin to Murray’s yang, his weatherman character beginning as an egomaniacal jerk then moving through various mental extremes as he’s relegated to a kind of purgatory in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. The shoot may have ended Murray’s friendship with director Harold Ramis, but resulted in a perfect movie.

The Idea of You (2024)

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Even if the phrase “Harry Styles fanfiction” is offputting to you, there’s plenty to enjoy here. It’s rumoured that’s how Robinne Lee’s debut novel came to be, and this eventual adaptation does nothing to shy away from it, but Michael Showalter (Wet Hot American Summer) is a smart guy, and his direction is fully in on the joke. Anne Hathaway is in magnetic movie star mode, and the movie is refreshingly adult.

John Wick 4 (2022)

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The John Wick franchise’s fourth entry comes close to being its best, thanks to a team (and lead actor) who’ve honed their craft to the finest of points. That craft involves a lot of shooting, stabbing, and vehicular
assault, generally in neon-lit famous locations (mainly in France, this time), with the fourth instalment constantly raising the bar visually as an increasingly embattled Keanu rages against the odds. Bonus points for Donnie Yen breezing in and nearly stealing the whole damn movie.

The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

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All three entries of Jackson’s opus are available on Prime, and it’s a tough choice, but this one may be the best. Gollum remains a miracle, as does the siege of Helm’s Deep, and the Ents for that matter. Looking back it represents a lovely midpoint between practical SFX and CGI overload, all in service of a story that still feels gob-smackingly epic, and more emotional than you’d expect from something involving talking trees.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

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If you somehow don’t know what this movie is about, keep it that way: chances are you won’t look at Frank Sinatra or Angela Lansbury the same way again. A typically rock-solid thriller from legendary director John Frankenheimer, it’s surprising until the end, ruthless and somewhat revolutionary. Laurence Harvey and Janet Leigh also deliver great performances, but the real star is the script, which remains unsettling.

The Matrix (1999)

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Twenty five years on, The Matrix’s legacy is firmly established, not just for the way it introduced a whole new cinematic language, or nudged some thorny philosophical ideas into mainstream discussion, or even for cementing Keanu Reeves’ superstar persona. Beyond all that it’s just a great, perfectly-paced story that channels film noir, sci-fi and superheroes. A tale of raging against the machine in the face of insurmountable odds, and coming out on top.

Memento (2000)

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Chris Nolan’s opening salvo set us up for what to expect over his career: an obsession with time, presenting events out of order, and blonde-haired protagonists wearing suits. Guy Pearce can’t store recent memories, living his life in 10 minute increments as he searches for his wife’s killer. It’s an ingenious premise for a movie, rounded out by a fantastically shifty supporting cast.

Men In Black (1997)

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Agent Kay: “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it.” I’ve thought about this quote a lot during the last few years, delivered with unmatchable gruffness by Tommy Lee Jones. Will Smith matches him with supernova levels of charm, and the whole thing whips by thanks to an airtight script and fantastic SFX.

Moonlight (2016)

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Barry Jenkins seriously levelled up with his second feature, which follows its lead character Chiron at three stages of his life, inhabiting three different personas. Exquisitely photographed and infused with soul, it won Best Picture at the Oscars and propelled its director into the upper echelon, along with supporting player Mahershala Ali. Delicate and devastating, Moonlight deserves its place as one of the most acclaimed films of the last ten years.

Moonstruck (1987)

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A lovely, lightweight rom com that smuggles in plenty of profundity, Moonstruck famously pairs Cher with a fiery Nic Cage, playing star-crossed lovers flying in the face of common sense. Veteran director Norman Jewison nails the movie’s yearning, bittersweet tone, and makes sure to pay equal attention to the supporting cast, which includes Olympia Dukakis, Danny Aiello, and John Mahoney.

Network (1976)

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Pairing one of Hollywood’s finest directors (Sydney Lumet) with one of its finest playwrights (Paddy Chayefsky), Network is justifiably famous for its abundance of quotable scenes. “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”, “You have meddled in the primal forces of nature”, and more are lodged in the pop culture lexicon, but beyond that, the film remains one of the great satires about media manipulation.

Nope (2022)

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Controversial take maybe, but I think this is Jordan Peele’s best movie. A lot of people seemed to get hung up on what-it-all-means, but set that aside and you still have a super enjoyable movie about a [REDACTED], Peele drawing on Spielberg and employing exquisite IMAX photography with thrilling (and sometimes very horrific) results. Kaluuya and Palmer are powerhouses, anchoring the film’s emotional stakes as their director takes us on an armrest-gripping ride.

The Princess Bride (1987)

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Impossible to judge objectively by those of us who grew up with it, this feels like it aged particularly well (even whatever the heck Billy Crystal and Carol Kane are up to). A fantasy aimed at every gender, it plays like an ongoing series of classic sequences and phrases, some of which you’re probably thinking of right now. Bonus points for Mel Smith, and Peter Falk and Fred Savage being impossibly endearing.

Rain Man (1988)

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Tom Cruise is still a great actor, but a very different kind of performer than he started out as. He was just 26 here, acting opposite 51 year-old screen titan Dustin Hoffman, playing estranged brothers reunited on a cross-country trip. Emotionally manipulative? Of course! But Barry Levinson is no slouch, and the film’s revelations about the pair’s family history remain powerful.

Road House (2024)

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Can’t possibly hope to match the charm of the original, but regardless we have cartoonishly jacked Jake Gyllenhaal, Conor McGregor being left to do whatever he wants, and some kinetic, computer-assisted fight scenes. Mostly though, Doug Liman is good at being breezy and entertaining, and there’s kind of a loathsome swagger to the whole thing which is repellent but weirdly compelling.

Shoplifters (2018)

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Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda has a long career crafting hugely empathetic slice-of-life dramas, with this one richly deserving its Palme d’Or win in 2018. Following a makeshift family (the specifics of which are teased out over the film to heartbreaking effect) who are forced to steal in order to survive, it’s firmly non-judgemental, warm, and ultimately wise.

The Social Network (2010)

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David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin’s typically incisive, journalistic look at the psychology behind the creation of Facebook only gets more relevant each year, as social media continues to influence our culture and politics. Impeccably directed and performed, with an appropriately unsettling score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross to boot, and a final shot that should haunt us all.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023)

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Expanding on the unfettered imagination of the first Spider-Verse movie seemed like a tall order, only for its follow-up to vault over it with ease, introducing a ludicrous number of distinct new Spider-People (not all of them called Peter Parker). Mashing up different animation styles, each suiting their respective universe, once again it’s elevated by the emotional stakes of Miles Morales and his compatriots.

Suspiria (2018)

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Luca Guadanino wisely chose to disregard most of Dario Argento’s original Suspiria (itself a masterpiece) and focus on making something that’s equally gonzo—just in different ways. Set in 1977 (the year of the original’s release), the film sees Dakota Johnson arrive in Berlin to attend a dance academy, encountering Tilda Swinton (playing multiple roles) and some distinctly witchy goings-on. Thom Yorke’s emotional score is one of many elements that works strangely well.

Tár (2023)

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This film’s many sly jokes start with the accent over its “a”, and go from there. Blanchett is 100% committed but Tár is far from a dusty drama about a conductor; it hews closer to satire disguised as character piece, as she’s gradually revealed as a predator, and possibly a fraud. Todd Field was a protege of Stanley Kubrick, and the way this film is dotted with visual wit makes it feel like a true heir to that director’s legacy.

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

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One of the greatest rom coms of all time, this movie is more cynical and autumnal than the tag may suggest, Nora Ephron’s script providing insight far beyond a typical meet-cute. Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan have chemistry to spare, and director Rob Reiner’s facility with improvisation meant some of the film’s best lines (including the infamous “I’ll have what she’s having”) were devised on the day.

Whiplash (2014)

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Drum lessons wouldn’t seem to be the stuff of thrillers, but in the hands of Damien Chazelle they most certainly are. Miles Teller’s enrolment at a prestigious jazz academy turns out to involve psychological and physical abuse at the hands of his tutor J.K. Simmons, a dynamic which takes over both their lives, becoming a game of cat and mouse between two seriously intense individuals.

The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013)

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Scorsese’s three-hour orgy of excess prompted controversy with suggestions the film was endorsing its leads’ despicable behaviour. The depths that Jordan Belfort plumbs run contrary to that, but this is one of Marty’s loosest, funniest films, always entertaining and sporting a top-tier ensemble, including Margot Robbie in her breakout role, and Jonah Hill improvising zingers like his life depended on it.


Titles are added and removed from his page to reflect changes to the Prime Video catalogue. Reviews no longer available on this page can be found here.