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Amazon Prime Video, one of the biggest on-demand streaming services in both reach and quantity of content, is slowly establishing itself as a competitor for original TV shows and movies. It’s no threat to Netflix or Hulu yet, but Prime Video is slowly catching up.
For every hit like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and The Boys, there are several Prime Video originals you probably haven’t heard of—like Electric Dreams, Prime Video’s solid-but-little-seen answer to Netflix’s Black Mirror. Until the streamer’s $465 million Lord of the Rings series arrives later in 2021, Prime Video content is mostly under the pop-culture radar.
But we know what’s prime on Prime: Here are some of our favorite TV shows and movies currently on Amazon Prime Video.
Prime Video’s most recognizable original, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a charming, fast-talking slice of 1950s/’60s Americana that’s won countless awards over three seasons. New York housewife Miriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) stumbles into a standup comedy career, much to the dismay of her upper-middle-class Jewish family and, well, everyone. If nothing else, check it out for Midge’s dazzling array of period-perfect outfits.
After a decade of blockbuster superhero movies featuring (mostly) infallible good guys, a dark backlash was inevitable—but we didn’t expect it would be this dark. The Boys presents a world wherein superheroes are narcissistic, unstable pawns of corporate interests, with one vigilante group (the titular Boys) bent on taking them down. The Boys evenly balances ultra-violence and dark comedy, and Antony Starr’s anti-Superman Homelander is terrifying.
The Expanse was too sci-fi for even the Syfy channel, which canceled it after three seasons, leading Prime Video to pick it up for three more. Even after humanity has colonized the entire solar system (aka the Expanse), class struggles and cold war tensions still prevail—the utopian future of Star Trek, this isn’t. The Expanse has been called “Game of Thrones in space,” and the dense writing and stunning cinematography back it up.
After 40 years in the film business, Billy Bob Thornton finally landed a TV character to rival Sling Blade and Bad Santa: Billy McBride, a scrappy Los Angeles lawyer who litigates truth to power from his hotel home/office on the Santa Monica Pier. Show creator David E. Kelley knows legal drama, and Goliath’s supporting cast (including Tony-winner Nina Arianda and Lost’s Tanya Raymonde) is as compelling as its villains (like William Hurt, Mark Duplass, and Dennis Quaid).
Netflix may have more “Scandi-noir” series (dramas set in particularly snowbound, desolate areas), but British Prime Video import Fortitude is easily one of the best. Fortitude, set on the remote Norwegian Arctic island of the same name, is a combo murder mystery, psychological drama, and supernatural thriller in one, with an endearingly eccentric cast and surprising American costars (including Stanley Tucci). You can almost feel the chill coming off the screen.
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Film festival favorite Sound of Metal follows the downward aural spiral of noise-rock drummer Ruben (Riz Ahmed), a recovering drug addict who begins to lose his hearing while on tour. Sound of Metal, which makes pointed use of stark silence, has been nominated for over 40 film awards since its 2019 release, and it won two Oscars in 2021.
In a critically praised departure from her Marvelous Mrs. Maisel character, Rachel Brosnahan plays a 1970s wife and mother on the run thanks to the criminal activities of her husband in I’m Your Woman. The tense neo-noir thriller rounds one unpredictable turn after another, culminating in the closest thing to a happy ending possible here.
Andrew Patterson’s directorial debut The Vast of Night was filmed for just $700,000, but it has the technical and emotional ambitions of a mega-budget blockbuster. Small-town teens in 1950s New Mexico discover an alien invasion through radio frequencies, as well as a conspiracy to downplay the existence of UFOs. The Vast of Night is worth experiencing for the cinematography alone.
Actress Regina King (Watchmen, If Beale Street Could Talk) directed this fictionalized tale of a February 1964 meeting of Muhammed Ali (then Cassius Clay), Malcolm X, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke at the Hampton House in Miami. One Night in Miami unfolds much like the play it’s based upon, and it powerfully reflects the racial tensions and hopes of the time.
Gimme Danger, about the rise and fall of ’60s/’70s proto-punk cult band The Stooges, isn’t your typical rock documentary—because singer Iggy Pop isn’t your typical rock star. Director Jim Jarmusch blends archival footage, interviews, and cutout animation into an appropriately ragged ransom note of a storyline. Gimme Danger is a punk-perfect portrait of The Stooges.