The 50 best movies on Prime Video Australia

Incorporating the fabled MGM, a Hollywood studio literally 100 years old, Amazon Prime Video has a huge and eclectic selection of movies available to stream. Critic Craig Mathieson lists 50 of the best.

American Fiction (2023)

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Cord Jefferson’s debut feature, a sardonic comedy about African-American professor and author ‘Monk’ Ellison (Jeffrey Wright) sideswiping his way to self-awareness, pulls off the not inconsiderable task of being thorny, witty, and illustrative, as Monk deals with a changing family and surprising publishing success when a satirical novel is taken very seriously.

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Babette’s Feast (1987)

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Winner of an Academy Award in 1987 for Best Foreign Language Film, Gabriel Axel’s Danish drama is set in a remote and pious 19th century community, where spinster sisters have accepted a political exile as their housekeeper. After many years the woman asks to cook a lavish thank you meal for her employers and their acquaintances, creating both scandalous attention and a celebration of cuisine that has a rapturous impact.

Barbarian (2022)

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A slow burn horror film about ownership and the different—but nonetheless connected—generations of misogynistic violence, Zach Cregger’s low-budget feature begins with the unsettling double booking of a Detroit rental house before tearing its dimensions apart with hidden tunnels and historic crimes. It packs an almighty kick.

Back to the Future (1985)

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If you’ve got a souped-up DeLorean that can travel through time then you’ve got a science-fiction film. But Robert Zemeckis gives you so much more in the one of the finest enduring examples of Hollywood filmmaking where a young man (Michael J. Fox) finds himself back in the 1950s and infringing on his parents’ tentative connection. It remains an inventive delight.

Bicycle Thieves (1948)

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Italian neorealism was born out of the rubble of World War II, as young filmmakers found a stripped-down means of expression on the barely liberated streets of Rome. Shot on location with actors and non-actors, Vittorio De Sica’s classic is a story of poverty’s grasp, the paternal bond’s painful parameters, and lost illusions.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020)

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Sacha Baron Cohen’s finest creation, bumbling Kazakhstani journalist Borat Sagdiyev, returns to the scene of the crime as he tours Donald Trump’s America for a candid camera documentary that reveals xenophobia and the paranoid conspiracy mindset. There’s a shocking moment with a notable Trump associate as Borat continues to be both a hilarious figure and a deeply incisive mirror.

Breaker Morant (1980)

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Australia’s belief in defining itself through the deeds of soldiers is torn apart in Bruce Beresford’s ground-breaking examination of war crimes, scapegoats, and imperial hypocrisy as a trio of Australian combatants fighting in the Boer War—memorably played by Edward Woodward, Bryan Brown, and Lewis Fitz-Gerald—face a court-martial.

Casino (1995)

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Based on the real-life story of two Mafia associates—Robert De Niro’s shrewd numbers cruncher and Joe Pesci’s brutal gangster—given the run of Las Vegas in the 1970s, Martin Scorsese’s organised crime epic reveals the yin and yang of his masculine longing. There are numerous sequences that pulse with the purest of filmmaking pleasure, but the transformative note is played by Sharon Stone as a Vegas insider who moves between the two men, even though she knows the fix is always in.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

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Michel Gondry’s masterpiece is heartfelt and magical, tender and tragic. When Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey’s couple break up, they decide to have all trace of each other wiped from their memories. When he reconsiders, they go on the run in his subconscious, as skewered sci-fi and magic realism are interwoven.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

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Steven Spielberg’s paean to the loneliness of childhood begins with a spindly creature from another planet being left behind in the Californian hills, but he soon joins the children who shelter him—yes, that’s Drew Barrymore—in eating candy, watching TV, and sneaking out for Halloween. It’s science-fiction as heartfelt childhood fantasy, still deeply compelling and directed with wonderment by Spielberg.

A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

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With Ealing Studios veteran Charles Crichton (The Lavender Hill Mob) directing, John Cleese wrote and starred in this marvellous London heist comedy where stolen gems take a back seat to the cultural gap between Brits and Americans and the farcical mistakes of an inadvertent pet assassin. Bodies and attitudes collide, with Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Palin and a deliriously gung-ho Kevin Kline in perpetual play.

Get Out (2017)

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Few films have better captured the tenor of the times than comic Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, a compelling horror film about the dispossession of African-Americans that stars Daniel Kaluuya as a Black photographer invited to visit the family home of his white girlfriend. Peele memorably turns awkwardness and tolerance into menace and terror, as history threatens to repeat itself.

Get Shorty (1995)

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Barry Sonnenfeld’s a gangster in this Hollywood comedy that’s a delight from start to finish, Scott Frank’s adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel matching laconic cool to the faded dreams of the big screen’s bit players. John Travolta’s debt collector gets to play off a pithy supporting cast, including Rene Russo as a scream queen, Gene Hackman as a shonky filmmaker, and James Gandolfini as an ageing stuntman.

Ghost in the Shell (1995)

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Still the most influential anime ever produced—The Matrix doesn’t exist without it—Mamoru Oshii’s neo-noir animation is set in a cyberpunk Japan of 2029, where a police cyborg, Motoko Kusunagi, is pursuing a hacker who targets human brains online. The feature is wildly atmospheric, and existentially tormented: both the body and mind are symbols of resistance and yet vulnerable to the whims of others.

Gladiator (2000)

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Ridley Scott’s revival of the swords-and-sandals genre remains a canny blockbuster, focusing on the noble Roman general Maximus (Russell Crowe), who is supreme in battle but betrayed by politics. Cast into slavery by a jealous new emperor (Joaquin Phoenix), he uses success as a gladiator to steer him toward revenge and a satisfactory death. It’s a morbid scheme, but the digital spectacle helps render it heroic.

Heathers (1988)

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“Dear diary, my teen angst bullshit now has a body count.” The seminal satire of the teen movie genre, Michael Lehmann’s scorching black comed—determined to bite every hand that would even think of feeding it—offers a bleakly hilarious high school critique with note-perfect performances from Winona Ryder and Christian Slater.

High Tide (1987)

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Gillian Armstrong reunited with her My Brilliant Career star, Judy Davis, for this bittersweet and beautifully observed drama about three generations of women—Claudia Karvan’s teenage daughter, Davis as a long-absent mother, and Jan Adele’s wary grandmother—reunited in a wintry New South Wales coast town. It’s an essential Australian movie.

His Girl Friday (1940)

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Is there a better screwball comedy from Hollywood’s Golden Age? Absolutely not. Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell are aces together as a pair of divorced newspaper reporters whose farewell gets side-tracked by a breaking story. With wisecracks and witticisms delivered at madcap speed, this is a timeless Howard Hawks classic.

Jaws (1975)

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Scared it would bomb, the studio put Steve Spielberg’s shark thriller into every cinema it could and went big on television marketing. It was a huge hit and the modern blockbuster was born. Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw play the trio who eventually confront the menacing great white, but the true star is John Williams’ score. Every motif has become part of cultural history.

Lady Bird (2017)

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Greta Gerwig’s potent ability to get to the heart of a story and see it anew was readily apparent in this jolting, bittersweet coming of age feature, where Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf play a warring high school student and her pragmatic mother. The supporting cast is incisive, the autobiographical lessons soulfully real.

La La Land (2016)

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Both incandescent and heartbreaking, Damien Chazelle’s update of the classic Hollywood musical is dazzling but never oppressive—the everyday tips over into the extraordinary as Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s Los Angeles hopefuls perform with heart but never mere technical mastery. It’s a film about creative endurance and personal sacrifice that’s both thrilling and enduring.

The Lobster (2015)

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A dystopian comedy of gloriously deadpan dimensions, the English language debut of Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos turns relationships into a bureaucratic nightmare as Rachel Weisz, Colin Farrell and Lea Seydoux bring to life a truly cutting vision. It’s savagely sublime, paving the way for The Favourite and Poor Things.

Local Hero (1983)

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Bill Forsyth’s idiosyncratic 1983 comedy is the source code for successive generations of quirky independent features about small towns and their eccentric populace charming outsiders. But it remains the first and the best, with Peter Riegert as the American envoy of Burt Lancaster’s Texan oil magnate, who is sent to purchase a tiny Scottish town and quickly becomes unstuck.

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

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Peter Jackson and a small army of New Zealand collaborators set the modern ideal of the fantasy epic in stone with this epic middle instalment of the Tolkien trilogy where good and evil clash on both vast and intimate levels and the technical skill—as much physical as digital—brings a world into being.

Lost in Translation (2003)

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An ode to ennui and wearing Marc Jacobs, Sofia Coppola’s now totemic second feature has some brief cultural cliches, but they’re easily overcome by the platonic bond created by Bill Murray’s ageing movie star and Scarlett Johansson’s becalmed young wife. The duo pal around Tokyo’s neon nights and ponder their lives, sharing a bittersweet cinematic moment as the future looms.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

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The best action film of this century, or simply of all time? Either way, George Miller rebooted his post-apocalyptic franchise with Tom Hardy as the taciturn anti-hero and Charlize Theron as a feminist rebel for the ages to create a magisterial automotive experience. “Fang it!” screams one of the road warriors, and this movie absolutely does.

Malcolm (1986)

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The team of director Nadia Tass and screenwriter David Parker nailed a mix of gentle whimsy, unlikely friendship, and madcap set-pieces for this eccentric heist comedy about a shy Melbourne engineering genius (Colin Friels)—he builds his own tram!—who takes on an ex-con (John Hargreaves) as a boarder and finds himself in a criminal enterprise. An absolute pleasure.

The Matrix (1999)

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A game-changer. Made both about and with technology’s power, The Wachowski’s science-fiction blockbuster set in a machine-run future alternately accentuated and abbreviated the action scene’s traditional narrative. Neo (Keanu Reeves) could defy gravity and human reflexes, and the film made his insurrectionary feats into intricate chamber-pieces that still dazzle.

May December (2023)

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Appearances can be deceiving: Todd Haynes turns this drama about an actress (Natalie Portman) embedding herself in the family of the woman she’ll be playing in a biopic (Julianne Moore), who was jailed for having sex with a boy and subsequently marrying him when grown up (Charles Melton), into a terrifying black comedy about control, role-playing, and the past’s imprecise but cruel grip.

Memento (2000)

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In Christopher Nolan’s noir-flecked second feature, Guy Pearce is a man whose memory has stopped working, so he tattooes facts on his body even as worries that outsiders are corrupting him. The picture is run in reverse, each scene is followed by the one that chronologically preceded it, giving you the same information as Leonard has—i.e. none—and a sense of how unsettling that is. It’s thrilling puzzle where every piece hurts.

Moonlight (2016)

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Barry Jenkins’ Academy Award winner for Best Picture is a work of lyrical, incisive filmmaking, seemingly wrenched from three ages—an uncertain boy, a vulnerable teenager, and a hardened young man—in a single black life. Flourishes of high art and tender realism refute clichés, as does the healing required to refute deeply felt trauma.

Monster (2003)

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Patty Jenkins’ dramatization of the adult life and crimes of Eileen Wuornos, the roadside prostitute who was convicted of killing six clients and subsequently executed in Florida in 2002, has an enthralling double act in Charlize Theron as Wuornos and Christina Ricci as her needy girlfriend Selby. Optimism and bitter manipulation unexpectedly collide, cutting deeper than any criminal transgressions.

Of An Age (2022)

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One of the most exciting new voices in Australian cinema, Goran Stolevski announced himself with the one-two punch of the gripping folk-horror film You Won’t Be Alone and this intimate queer romantic drama. Set in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, it tracks the bond discovered between Nikolal (Elias Anton) and Adam (Thom Green), which unfolds with the thrill of discovery and the risk of loss.

Paddington (2014)

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The best family film of the last decade, rich with inviting design and repellent of xenophobia, allows the gentle antics of a Peruvian bear new to London (voiced by Ben Whishaw) to save a family, bestow a purpose, and defy Nicole Kidman’s cartoonish villain. An absolute delight.

Palm Springs (2020)

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Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti are aces together in this barbed time loop romantic comedy, where a wedding party in the titular American resort town soon turns into one guest trapping another in his endlessly repeated life. This is Groundhog Day, but it’s a first-rate riff that makes much of the leads and hits on unexpected twists and realisations. It manages to be both funnier and sadder than you expect.

Past Lives (2023)

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Greta Lee delivers a breakthrough performance for the ages in Celine Song’s eventually overwhelming romantic drama, capturing the burden of moving between cultures, the pain of unresolved memories, and the wonder of being desired. Her Korean-born New York playwright, the now married Nora, is visited by childhood companion Hae Sung (Teo Yoo), upending her life in quietly riveting days.

The Player (1992)

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After a decade outside Hollywood, director Robert Altman made the perfect return with this tart satire about a Hollywood studio executive (Tim Robbins) being blackmailed by a scorned writer. It’s a black comedy awash in celebrity cameos and bit parts, as Altman and writer Michael Tolkin send up storytelling tropes and the heroic leading man.

Priest (1995)

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Condemned by the Catholic Church upon release, Antonia Bird’s drama charts the clash of faith and desire as a young priest (Linus Roache) new to a Liverpool parish discovers the realities of his vocation while struggling with his desire for another man (Robert Carlyle). It’s not a subtle film, but it has a startling power and performances that resonate long after the note-perfect finale.

The Quiet Earth (1986)

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The wonderful New Zealand actor Bruno Lawrence, best known to Australian audiences as the conniving producer in television’s Frontline, gives a magnetic performance as a scientist who wakes one day to discover that his project has erased the world of other people. Freedom and fear spin out of control, with director Geoff Murphy making the possibilities feel claustrophobic.

Reversal of Fortune (1990)

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Accused of putting his wealthy wife (Glenn Close) into a coma, the terribly refined and charmingly repugnant Claus von Bulow (Jeremy Irons, never better) turns his story and the audience’s sympathy inside out in a real-life crime tale marshalled by Hollywood maverick Barbet Schroeder.

Scarface (1983)

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Written by Oliver Stone and directed with bloody relish by Brian De Palma, this update of the immigrant criminal’s rise and fall makes great use of Miami and the cocaine trade in the early 1980s. The film finds every garish angle in the bloody rise of Al Pacino’s Tony Montana, with Michelle Pfeiffer as a mercenary mistress from the disco age. The movie suggests violence is the obvious outcome of unfettered capitalism.

Shoplifters (2018)

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Hirokazu Kore-eda’s sublime family drama, which rightfully collected the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, unfolds on the tucked away margins of Japanese society, where a multi-generational clan lives in a tiny apartment. Observed with tender, telling detail, their lives spill out of the overcrowded home in much the same way that a need for caring and connection spills out from their hearts.

Sicario (2015)

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A horror film told through female endurance, Denis Villeneuve’s crime thriller stars Emily Blunt as an FBI door-kicker seconded to a drug cartel task force, menacingly staffed by Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro, whose purpose is at odds with her belief and, ultimately, her safety.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

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No-one expected Jonathan Demme to follow Something Wild and Married to the Mob with a grisly immersion in the methodology of serial killers. But his unlikeliness also guaranteed a tender, inquisitive eye which created the chaste bond between a determined rookie FBI agent (Jodie Foster) and an incarcerated monster (Anthony Hopkins) with valuable knowledge. Horror’s gaze and masterful performances give the story’s deadlines gripping resonance.

A Simple Favour (2018)

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Paul Feig updates the camaraderie and competition of female friendship for the influencer age with this wildly knowing and genre-defying melodrama about school mums—Anna Kendrick’s over-achiever and Blake Lively’s flamboyant publicist—whose friendship becomes a mystery when one of them disappears.

The Terminator (1984)

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Forget the sequels. James Cameron’s lean, pulsating B-movie, made cheap and propulsive, is still a science-fiction classic that made perfect use of Arnold Schwarzenegger as the relentless cyborg from an apocalyptic future pursuing Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn’s desperate fugitives.

The Train (1964)

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Shot on location in France with physical effects—those are real trainwrecks and explosions—this World War II action-thriller stars Burt Lancaster as a resistance leader trying to stop fleeing Nazis escape with looted museum masterpieces. Director John Frankenheimer (hired after Lancaster had Arthur Penn fired) mixes a muscular momentum with bittersweet sentiment. Just what is your life worth?

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

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Written by Nora Ephron and directed by Rob Reiner, this is the foundation stone that rightfully underpins every romantic-comedy. Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal play the title roles, sharing a ride from Chicago to New York and starting a conversation about whether men and women can truly be friends, as they then reunite over the next decade. “I’ll have what she’s having,” is the movie’s signature line, but the dialogue is incisive and hilarious throughout.

The Wild Goose Lake (2020)

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Rife with uneasy assignations and buried truths, this noir thriller confirmed Chinese filmmaker Diao Yinan (Black Coal, Thin Ice) as a premier director of visually arresting crime dramas. Hu Ge plays a budding gangster on the run from police, Kwei Lun-Mei the sex worker who could deliver safety or surrender. Yinan keeps you guessing until the very end.

Women Talking (1999)

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Based on historic events at an isolated Mennonite community in Bolivia, Sarah Polley’s haunting drama is a debate about the means of survival. The tradition-bound women have discovered that some men have been drugging and raping women and girls for years, but the perpetrators will not be cast out. Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, and Jessie Buckley play those who debate their response, risking their faith, marriages, and very safety.


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.