5 Best Movies to Stream Right Now On Amazon Prime

Early Wes Anderson, illegal car chases and more films to stream first thing on Amazon Prime.

With a multitude of streaming options at your fingertips, the most difficult decision becomes what you should watch first. Here are our picks for the best stuff you can check out on Amazon Prime right now.

Bottle Rocket (1996)

Back before Wes Anderson became known for his twee, adorable cinema as identifiable in its branding as West Elm or Cadillac, he was a fresh-faced kid out of Texas who made a short with his college buddy Owen Wilson that caught the eye of James Caan, who helped get his first feature financed. The result is this proto-Anderson delight: Wilson, playing alongside brothers Luke and Andrew, is the unforgettable Dignan, a sweet-minded innocent with big, caper-film inspired dreams of planning elaborate bank heists and utilizing the big con. Luke is an old friend recently released from mental institution, whose friendship to Dignan requires him to play along with his misguided schemes. Funny and incessantly charming, you can see many of the hallmarks of what would come to be Anderson’s signature style, but slightly less sure of themselves: An auspicious and thoroughly entertaining debut.

The French Connection (1971)

One of the greatest police procedurals in cinematic history, and the precursor of many a gritty cop drama—on big screen and small—William Friedkin’s Oscar-winning action drama features a lot of documentary-like elements (hand-held camera; overlapping, naturalistic dialogue) to spin its loosely fact-based story about an obsessive cop, Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman), who’s tasked with tracking down a giant heroin-smuggling operation out of France. Among other delights, you have a young Roy Scheider playing his partner; a vision of the hell that was New York City in the early ’70s; and one of the all-time classic car chases, which, as legend has it, was not properly sanctioned by the city, and involved several near misses with regular pedestrians and other drivers.

The Hustler (1961)

Featuring an acting tour-de-force from a young Paul Newman. He solidified his genuine star status as Fast Eddie Felson, an arrogant young pool player whose insane bravado has him challenging the legendary Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason) to an epic winner-take-all match that he loses, causing him to question his place in the world. Robert Rossen’s gripping drama is anchored by Newman, who elevates his character’s predicament to the universal suffering of any wayward soul who is forced to take stock in themselves. When Fast Eddie takes on a new, ruthless manager in an effort to rise back up in the ranks, he can see the terrible trade-off it’s going to take for him to recapture his former glory. It’s a theme interestingly further explored in Martin Scorsese’s 1986 follow-up, The Color of Money, only with Fast Eddie having to teach a young hot-shot player (naturally played by Tom Cruise) some of the bitter lessons he had to learn in order to survive.

Ida (2014)

The Oscar-winning Best Foreign Language Film, from Polish director Pawel Palikowsi, stars Agata Trzebuchowska as the titular character, a young nun-in-training in early ’60s Poland, who lives at the convent where she was raised as an orphan. When she is informed by her Mother Superior she has one last living relative, an aunt, whom she will need to meet before she can officially take her vows, she tracks the woman down only to have her entire world seemingly upended. Her slightly debauched, errant aunt (memorably played by Agata Kulesza) tells her many shattering truths, not the least of which is that she was born a Jew. The black-and-white cinematography (also nominated for an Oscar) is stunning, the performances from the two leads mesmerizing, and the power of the film’s ending, when the two women finally solve the mystery of the deaths of Ida’s parents, hits you like the proverbial wrecking ball.

Under the Skin (2014)

One of the best, if largely unheralded, films of last year, Jonathan Glazer’s hypnotic film follows a comely alien (played by Scarlet Johansson in a particularly unselfconscious performance), who cruises the streets of Edinburgh, enticing men to come home with her, only to stick them fast in a giant tank of oil-like liquid for purposes that remain horrifyingly unclear for some while. A visionary effort from the director of Sexy Beast, the film never gives you much in the way of exposition, but through its shrewd storytelling and thoroughly beguiling cinematography, you come to know as much as you need to for the film to resonate. The kind of movie you take in right away but don’t quite feel the full impact of until several days later.

Follow Piers Marchant @kafkaesque83