The top 10 movies on Amazon Prime Video
- Indiana Jones 1 – 4
- American Beauty
- Forrest Gump
- No Country For Old Men
- L.A. Confidential
- There Will Be Blood
Amazon Prime has finally come to New Zealand, and the streaming service is a rich source of some of the greatest movies ever made. Here are the best movies we’ve found so far, ranked.
The portmanteau of Chicago and Iraq (pronounced “shy-rack”) is worryingly apt. That said, don’t expect Spike Lee to deliver a docu-drama exposé of this Illinois gangland. Re-adjust your expectations to a modern hip-hop remix of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, a bawdy Greek classic in which women on opposite sides refuse their husbands bedroom action in pursuit of peace. Via narration from a slick-suited Dolmedes, (Samuel L Jackson), the sorry state of affairs is laid out in iambic pentameter rhymes. On one side we have the Spartans, headed by our hero, Lysistrata’s boyfriend, and they’re beefing with their rivals, the Trojans, when an innocent citizen catches a stray bullet. From there Chi-raq escalates into a musical that delivers an incendiary look at violence and guns, men and women, and sex and power.
Side-splitting in its raunchiness and ludicrously quotable, Superbad has stood the test of time to remain a comedy classic. How does it achieve this? Via a heaped helping of heart, that tags along on a hilarious ride out of puberty and into adulthood. Two inseparable best friends (and a cling-on named Fogell/McLovin’) must navigate the final weeks of high school and attend a gigantic house party. Seizing upon one last chance to be known as awesome, they go on a nigh-impossible quest to secure booze for their respective crushes to, hopefully, lose their v-cards. Memorable moments include an absolute worst-result attempt to purchase drinks, and a confession about one person’s secret burning desire to illustrate “man-dicks”. Special props also have to be given to two inept and morally flexible beat cops played by Bill Hader and Seth Rogen.
If you want to hear a heated debate, try asking my friends what the best Indiana Jones film is after they’ve all been drinking. There’s always the purist who stands up for the original Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lucas and Spielberg’s incredibly tight re-imagining of “ye olde” action serials. There’s often an ever-so-slightly larger group who insist that the best entry was Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, a father and son quest for the Holy Grail. Then there is that edgier outlier, who swears by the darker, heart-ripping antics of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Before fist fights can break out, my crew usually bond over one simple fact: despite our differences, we can universally agree on the letdown nature of Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Avoid it, stick to the original trilogy, and you can’t go wrong. You’re guaranteed to be swinging into a priceless, (whip) cracking action-adventure series that belongs in a museum.
Oh, how many times I’ve sat in a cubicle and thought about emulating Lester Burnham – a disillusioned, 40+ worker drone who delivers the most incendiary job exit since the protagonist of Fight Club. This is a mid-life crisis for the ages, brought on by a sexually disinterested wife who’s become career-obsessed, a borderline emo daughter and Lester’s sudden infatuation with a younger woman. The arrival of Ricky, a new neighbour who conveniently sells AAA-grade weed, sure does help this revolution along, too. Unfortunately, what starts as a new awakening of the senses and a healthy recapturing of one’s youth triggers negative changes in Lester’s family. His tightly-wound better half becomes more manic and his daughter, Janie, hooks up with Ricky and expresses desires bordering on the homicidal. Incredibly well-cast and chock full of poignant observations and dark comedy, American Beauty is still very much the masterpiece.
Winning no less than 13 Oscars (one of those for Tom Hanks’ captivating and moving portrayal of the title character) Forrest Gump has become cinema Gold. For those who haven’t seen it (is there anyone who hasn’t?), Forrest Gump follows the life of a man with an intellectual disability. With Forrest providing much of the narration to fellow travellers as he sits at a bus stop, we see his life through a series of flashbacks, where he is present at many iconic American historical events – the Vietnam war, the Watergate Scandal, the start of the hippie movement. On each occasion, we find that Forrest has a specific set of skills that those around him capitalise on, and that life is never going to hold him back. However, we run a gamut of emotions, as the one thing Forrest truly desires, the love of his childhood friend Jenny, continues to elude him. Forrest’s story surely proves Mrs Gump’s favourite saying, “Life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.”
Prepare to meet Anton Chigurh, the most magnetic on-screen villain since Anthony Hopkins was laced into a face mask as Hannibal Lector. Chigurh’s an absolute terminator, an implacable hit man hired to locate Llewelyn Moss, a good ol’ boy who stumbled across a suitcase full of cash left in a drug deal gone wrong. Slight problem! Said luggage carries a fairly primitive tracking device, and what follows is a state-wide game of cat-and-mouse. To make matters even more complicated, the ageing and disillusioned Sheriff Bell is only half a step behind them both, plus the cartels have decided to hire a plan-B merc. Admittedly, the ending isn’t for everybody, but there’s also a consensus that everything leading up to it represents an incredibly taut neo-noir thriller. Couple this with intense moments of ultra-violent action, plus some darkly humorous musings on the moral rot in America, and No Country For Old Men is a modern masterpiece.
Sometimes great horror is purely in the music and what you can’t see. It’s been nearly 40 years but the creeping dread of John Williams “duunn dunnnn” theme still sends chills up my spine. I’m confident that if you were to play that swelling double-note menace over the speakers of any indoor pool complex, people would cast reason aside and get out. The power of this music was a godsend for Steven Spielberg, a fledgling director who invested too much faith in his prop department’s ability to create life-like sharks. Turning what was a 25-foot polystyrene lemon into lemonade, Spielberg shifted course onto some of the most creative and (cost) effective jump-scares in the history of film. The end result is a great monster flick that’s made damn near perfect, thanks to the plight of a hapless Chief Brody and a strong set of supporting characters, all of whom you don’t want to be on the menu (but totally are).
Widely regarded as Hollywood’s last great film noir, L.A. Confidential tells the 1950s tale of compromised dreams and the unfortunates who fell victim to the siren’s song of Tinseltown. When a massacre takes place at a café, and one of the dead is a young prostitute, further investigation reveals an employer who specialises in surgically altering “the wares” to better resemble movie stars. Cue a much wider conspiracy that’s picked apart by three vastly different law-enforcers. You have Ed Exley, an ice-cold careerist; Jack Vincennes, a spotlight-chasing “Hollywood Cop” who does studio consultancy; and Bud White, an ask-questions-later brute. While director Curtis Hanson had his bases well covered, with top-billed stars like Kevin Spacey and Kim Basinger, he elevated this film from good to great by filling out his ensemble cast with relative unknowns, Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe. Allow yourself to be seduced by L.A. Confidential and you’ll go on a complex, gripping thrill ride that thoroughly deserves every Oscar it won.
Daniel Day-Lewis delivers a powerhouse as Daniel Plainview, an oil pioneer whose trailblazing spirit is equalled only by his murderous ambition. When black gold is discovered by chance during a mining accident, Plainview embarks on an obsessive and ruthless approach to mastering the oil business. The first step: bilking simple religious folk out of their land by leveraging access to his mining equipment and expertise. Sadly, Plainview’s growing success becomes tainted by paranoia and an insatiable lust for, you guessed it, more power. Worse, this oil tycoon’s designs become stymied by The Prophet, a nemesis in the unlikely form of a teenaged preacher who uses his “higher connections” and people-power for shakedown purposes. Don’t let the misleadingly violent title fool you, There Will Be Blood is more a masterfully shot parable of obsessive egotism and the worst facets of American capitalism.
After being diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, New Orleans Saints football player Steve Gleason decides to put up the best fight possible and record a series of video journals for his unborn son. When the battle starts to look insurmountable, the plan shifts to submitting this footage to charity to raise awareness about this disease as the film documents Gleason’s slow deterioration over the course of a five-year period. Equal parts inspirational, heartbreaking and brutally candid, Gleason runs the full gamut of human emotions. This is a front-row seat to a man moving through the five stages of grief, along with marital stress and religious conviction. There’s even a bit of light-hearted toilet humour when the worst indignities of the disease kick in. This is a tough watch but an important one, too – an unflinching portrayal of a person fighting back against incredible adversity.
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