Are you ready to update your watching list? We’ve got our picks here of the best of the films coming to Amazon Prime right at the start of this month that you can watch for free with your subscription and there are some total classics, some cult hits you may have missed along the way, and one brand new Prime Original that looks extremely promising.
We’ll take a look at them all by genre, as in ‘the best of that genre’ for the month. Yes, we may sub-genre stretch the rules a bit here but stick with us.
A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966)
If you’re ever in need of a Western movie fix, I’ll bet you default to one of these two Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood classics with Ennio Morricone’s iconic scores. The first and third movies in their “Man With No Name” trilogy are decidedly the best and, while the second film For A Few Dollars More is decent, it’s not available on Prime just yet.
Both movies see Eastwood in his poncho, brown hat, cowboy boots, and smoking his cigarillos, subsequently becoming the default ‘Western guy’ with performances that have been sent up/parodied/referenced all over the place, from The Simpsons to Rango.
A Fistful of Dollars is an unofficial remake of the Akira Kurosawa classic Yojimbo and has Eastwood go up against warring smuggler families, playing both sides against the middle. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly has Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach play three badass hombres competing to find a secret stash of confederate gold during the American Civil War.
Die Hard (1988)
Die Hard With a Vengeance (1995)
Yes, we know, Christmas is over, but for an action movie fix, you just can’t go wrong with Die Hard. Sure, most folks have already seen Bruce Willis take on Alan Rickman and his gang of Swedish terrorists at Nakatomi Plaza any number of times but be honest: when you know it’s there, you just want to watch it again, don’t you? We know we do.
Strange to think that the film that was passed over by the biggest action stars of the day and handed off to an unproven Willis, and has now essentially become THE action film. While immediate sequel Die Hard 2, which is not available currently for free with Prime, descended the silly ladder and hit every rung on the way down, Die Hard With a Vengeance, teaming Willis with Samuel L. Jackson, is easily the second-best film in the franchise, and it’s a close second.
Filled with laughs, action, and a clever plot where the superstars go up against Jeremy Irons, it’s kind of a must-see as well.
Hollywood Shuffle (1987)
For February’s comedy pick, we’re featuring this 1987 Robert Townsend movie that somehow got forgotten by many in the decades since, despite winning some film awards and earning largely universal critical acclaim.
Hollywood Shuffle is a tiny little indie with director/writer Townsend playing the lead role of Bobby, a Black actor who dreams of becoming huge in Hollywood but is confronted with stereotypes as he tries to get interesting parts, but gets rejected because he’s told he’s “not Black enough”. for the parts that are out there. His family doesn’t see why he doesn’t just “get a job at the post office” or work at a fast-food restaurant run by the great John Witherspoon.
Bobby won’t stop auditioning, though, and the film explores his fantasies and nightmares as related to the struggles of a Black actor when all anyone wants is “an Eddie Murphy type”.
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
This little tragicomedy road film surprised EVERYONE when it not only became a huge box office success, but also earned two Academy Awards from four nominations. All that thanks to a tiny indie from a first-time director team and a first-time writer.
Fox Searchlight Pictures won a bidding war for Little Miss Sunshine at Sundance when it premiered, spending a colossal $10 million on the film’s distribution rights. Next thing you know, everyone was talking about it. And why not? This charming film follows a dysfunctional family on a road trip as they pile into a yellow VW van in order to get the youngest across the country to the ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ beauty pageant that she has qualified for.
Tensions build, secrets come out, people die, and of course, the family comes together to support each other. With a stellar cast featuring Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin, Alan Arkin, and Bryan Cranston, Little Miss Sunshine is funny, tear-jerking and still holds up.
Platoon is one of director/writer Oliver Stone’s best films and is often cited as one of the best war films, period. It was a huge success in 1986, featuring a lineup of big names like Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Charlie Sheen, Keith David, Kevin Dillon, John C. McGinley, Forest Whitaker, and Johnny Depp.
The first of Stone’s Vietnam trilogy (followed by the also great Born on the Fourth of July and the not-as-good Heaven & Earth), Platoon was based on Stone’s own experience in the army during Vietnam. The movie centers on Sheen as a grunt following his platoon sergeant (Berenger) and squad leader (DaFoe) who get into moral arguments about the war. The typically-Stone left-wing messaging of Platoon didn’t stop its success, despite coming out in the era of more right-wing war movies (like Rambo and Red Dawn). In fact, it went on to earn eight Oscar nominations, ultimately taking home four awards including Best Picture and Best Director.
It’s really hard to peg Robocop with just one genre. It’s definitely a science fiction film, with its story of Peter Weller as officer Alex Murphy getting shot to pieces by bad guys only to be reassembled by other bad guys into a cyborg cop.
It’s decidedly an action film, with pretty much non-stop big shoot-outs, car chases, and more. It’s SO over-the-top gory it could be considered a horror film (check out the liquefied bad guy scene) and it’s also a smart satire of right-wing politics, as was often the way with Paul Verhoeven films of this time. One might even consider it one part of a thematic political/social satire series by the director when you pair it with Total Recall and Starship Troopers.
Oh, and you’ve pretty much got to label it as a cult film as well because it is downright weird as hell and has been a staple of repertory theaters ever since, as well as getting re-released on home media more times than The Beatles’ White Album. If you’ve got the stomach for it, Robocop is a stone-cold masterpiece.
The Fly (1986)
And speaking of having the stomach for it, The Fly, by body-horror maestro David Cronenberg, has got some of the most queasy-inducing scenes of all time.
A remake of the campy, far-inferior 1958 Vincent Price film, the story followed Jeff Goldblum as sexy scientist Seth Brundle who has managed to almost invent teleportation. Using two pods in his lab, he can do it with inanimate objects, but organic stuff gets pretty outrageously and graphically messed up. Showing off his invention to sexy journalist played by Geena Davis, the two get all sexy together.
Eventually he figures out the organics problem and, on a bit of a celebratory bender, he teleports himself (don’t do experimental cutting-edge science by yourself, kids!) Unfortunately, he also zaps a housefly with him and the computer gets a BIT confused putting him back together, although everything seems normal at first. But soon we are off to the races with all the stomach-churning but brilliant (and Oscar-winning) gross-outs you expect from Cronenberg, but also a moving story to go with it.
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)
Why isn’t this 2007 parody film of rock bio-pics more regularly held up as the masterpiece of comedy that it is? Walk Hard was directed by Jake Kasdan, who would eventually go on to get two rock-solid hits under his belt with the Jumanji films, but this one was unfortunately only really successful with the critics.
It follows John C. Reilly as Dewey Cox, who accidentally cut his brother in half with a machete when he was a boy, the trauma of which caused him to lose his sense of smell. This led to him becoming a blues musician and later, the biggest rockstar in the world.
With a fantastic cast of very funny people, like Kristen Wiig, Margo Martindale, Jenna Fischer, Tim Meadows, Chris Parnell, David Krumholtz, Craig Robinson, Harold Ramis, and more, somehow this brilliant send-up of films like Walk the Line and Ray totally missed most audiences. But you can see it now on Prime and you should, or, to negate Tim Meadows’ reoccurring line in the film, you DO want part of this.
This 2010 documentary was based on the hit book Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything and is a rare example of an anthology documentary film, with segments directed by Super Size Me‘s Morgan Spurlock, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room‘s Alex Gibney and four other big-name documentarians. While the subject matter is kinda all over the place (from a look at match-fixing in Sumo wrestling, to what happens when you pay 9th graders to get better grades), it’s all pretty darn entertaining and inventive stuff, even if its connection to the original book is a bit superficial.
I Want You Back (2022)
The one Prime Original on our list, you’ll have to wait till February 11th to see this one premiere on the service but, from all reports, it might be worth the wait. Charlie Day’s Peter and Jenny Slate’s Emma star as two people who live in the same building who discover that they both have both been freshly broken up with by their respective exes (Gina Rodriguez and Scott Eastwood). They decide to team up to win their sig ots back by destroying their new relationships (Manny Jacinto and Clark Backo) and it sounds like exactly the sort of nasty-then-sweet comedy everybody wants to see from both of these gifted comedic actors. It’s written by the team that did the smart and funny Love, Simon so we’re crossing our fingers this is going to be great.