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The 50 Best Amazon Prime Free Movies on Amazon Instant Video

July 24, 2012  |  4:21pm
I’ll be honest. While I love being able to order anything from Amazon and get free shipping, I often forget about the free, streaming movie selection that comes with being an Amazon Prime member. There are some great titles available to Amazon Instant Video. Just as we’ve done with Netflix, we put together a list of the Best Free Movies for Amazon Prime Members. Whether you’re in the mood for an indie foreign film or a classic ‘80s comedy, we’ve got you covered.

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30. Grizzly Man
Year: 2005
Director: Werner Herzog
This profile of nature lover Timothy Treadwell, who unwisely tried to live among wild bears in Alaska until he was devoured, cuts a Herzogian swath across the hillside: A man attempts to find harmony with nature but instead finds, as Herzog puts it, “chaos, hostility and murder.” Looming over the film is not only the horror of Treadwell’s demise but also an audio recording of the tragedy, taped inadvertently by the video camera in Treadwell’s tent. Herzog tastefully omits it from the film, but he makes the viewer aware of its existence. “The question of the tape which recorded Timothy Treadwell’s death and Amie Huguenard’s death is something that I had to address,” Herzog told Paste in 2007. “So I listened to it, and that’s the only time I appear in the film. You only see me from behind, listening to it with earphones. The interesting thing is that Jewel Palovak who was working with Treadwell and living with Treadwell for 20 years tries to read my face, and it’s very, very intense and moving for her. The moment I heard the tape it was instantly clear: Only over my dead body is this tape going to end up in the movie. I’m not into doing a snuff film, and I have to respect the dignity and privacy of two individuals’ deaths.—Robert Davis

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29. Girl, Interrupted
Year: 2000
Director: James Mangold
Seen through the eyes of voluntarily admitted Susanna, the film explores the difference between treating the mind vs. the brain and how people are seen as different because they refuse to conform. Susanna joins potential sociopath Lisa (Angelina Jolie) in her antics and explores her own mind through her depression and depersonalization. Winona Ryder surprises with a complex performance of a girl who is confused about who she is, her actions and what the future holds for her. The supporting cast is amazing, and Angelina Jolie wows as Lisa, the beautifully disturbed and institutionalized friend. Based on Susan Kaysen’s memoir and set in the 1960s, Girl, Interrupted made waves and made room for more films (like Rachel Getting Married) to address women’s mental health.—Muriel Vega, Shannon M. Houston

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28. Election
Year: 1999
Director: Alexander Payne
A high-school election for student body president turns into a darkly comic satire on politics and sexuality in one of Alexander Payne’s uproarious takedowns of Midwestern values. The election turns into a struggle of wills between Matthew Broderick’s wormy high-school teacher and Reese Witherspoon’s overbearing know-it-all Tracy Flick, but resentful mediocrity doesn’t stand a chance against relentless ambition. With a hyper-capable schoolkid surrounded by hilariously flawed characters, Election could be Rushmore’s cynical classmate.—Curt Holman

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27. Ocean’s Eleven
Year: 2002
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Admit it: Even though you’ve probably seen Ocean’s Eleven at least, well, 11 times, that part at the end where the casino robbery goes down and Brad, George and company snatch millions right out from under Andy Garcia’s nose never gets old.—Rachel Dovey

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26. Full Metal Jacket
Year: 1987
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Before filling out, rather unfortunately, before our eyes on Law & Order: Criminal Minds, Vincent D’Onofrio piled on 70 lbs. for his role as Pvt. “Gomer Pyle” Lawrence before demonstrating exactly what was his Major Malfunction was to R. Lee Ermey’s Gunnery Sgt. Hartman. Stanley Kubrick’s film is a meat grinder of a reflection on the myriad horrible choices confronted in war. Along with providing an apex for Matthew Modine’s career, it also makes its case for being one of the best war movies ever made. —S.W.

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25. Man on Wire
Year: 2008
Director: James Marsh
In 1974, high-wire walker Philippe Petit fulfilled a longstanding dream by sneaking into New York’s World Trade Center, stringing a cable between the tops of the two towers, and—with almost unfathomable guts—walking across it without a net. The man is clearly a nut, but he’s also a great storyteller with a heck of a story, and Man on Wire gives him a chance to tell it. Petit’s stunt was both an engineering challenge and a test of, well, a test of something that most of us don’t possess in this much quantity. Filmmaker James Marsh uses standard documentary techniques, combining new interviews with a satisfying pile of footage and photographs, but his film has the suspense of a caper movie. The title comes from the report written by a police officer who was more than a little uncertain about how to respond to the audacity on display.—Robert Davis

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24. Ghost Dog
Year: 2000
Director: Jim Jarmusch
After making Dead Man, a Western film about a meek Ohio accountant and a Native American warrior, indie auteur Jim Jarmusch blended Oriental philosophy with gangster reality in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. Forest Whitaker plays the title character, a hit man who adopts the code of the Hagakure, a training manual for 18th-Century would-be samurai.—Josh Jackson

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23. Eat Drink Man Woman
Year: 1994
Director: Ang Lee
Ang Lee’s sumptuous Taiwanese film details the life and work of a talented but intensely difficult chef, a widower named Mr. Chu who has lost the use of his taste buds. The lonely Chu cooks elaborate feasts for his three lovelorn adult daughters, forcing his children to sit through brutally tense Sunday dinners at all costs.—Emily Riemer

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22. Exit Through the Gift Shop
Year: 2010
Director: Banksy
When renowned graffiti artist Banksy took the camera away from the man shooting his biopic and decided that the subject would become the documentarian (and the documentarian, the subject), the zaniest doc in years was born. Was it Banksy’s own attention and the pressure of the film that motivated Mr. Brainwash to become an international sensation in his own right, with his inaugural show in Los Angeles becoming the largest and most profitable in street-art history? Or was the artist born, not made? Or is his whole career just part of the whole huckster atmosphere of the film? Banksy’s not saying. But it’s certainly a wild ride to watch.—Michael Dunaway

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21. Days of Heaven
Year: 1978
Director: Terrence Malick
Terrence Malick recreated the biblical story of Abraham and Sarah as an American myth as large as the southwest it’s supposed to take place in. One of the most immediately noticeable aspects of the film is its stunning cinematography. Following the tradition of the French New Wave and other independent American pictures from the ‘70s, director of photography Nestor Almendros rejected artificial lighting as much as he felt he could and the result is a picture that feels like nothing else from the period. With Badlands Malick found out how to make a film, but it was with Days of Heaven that he found his mature style, and since then he’s used the same elliptical, minimalist storytelling and improvised scenes in everything he’s done.—Sean Gandert

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20. The Iron Giant
Year: 1999
Director: Brad Bird
Brad Bird’s feature debut was traditional 2-D animation when computer animation was the craze, released by studio folk who didn’t realize just how special a film they had on their hands. Luckily, The Iron Giant received its due recognition on home video. Set in the 1950s and drawing off the nuclear fears of the time, it incorporates the hallmark of the era’s science-fiction—a giant metal robot—into a touching coming-of-age story. Bird effortlessly moves between riotous comedy (such as young Hogarth’s efforts to hide his enormous new robot friend from his mother), high-spun action and poignant moments of fear and friendship.—Jeremy Mathews

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19. The Last Emperor
Year: 1987
Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Epic barely begins to describe the scope of Bernardo Bertolucci’s Oscar-winning masterpiece which follows Pu Yi, Emperor of China at the age of three before the Ching Dynasty gave way to the first and second republics, Japanese occupation and eventually Communist rule.—Josh Jackson

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18. Casablanca
Year: 1942
Director: Michael Curtiz
What else can be said about one of the finest romances in film history starring golden-age legends Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman? Sam can play it again whenever he damn well pleases.

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17. This is Spinal Tap
Year: 1984
Director: Rob Reiner
What else could be number 11? This is satire at its best, as “the world’s loudest band” tours the country with outrageous songs, even more outrageous leather pants, and amps that go just a little bit higher. Christopher Guest plays the misguided lead guitarist, Nigel Tufnel, and his biting comedic timing carries the film. It’s a must-see for music fans of any genre.—Caroline Klibanoff

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16. Winter’s Bone
Year: 2010
Director: Debra Granik
Watching Winter’s Bone is like entering into an entirely different world, vividly capturing the sights and sounds of the Ozark mountains in a way that’s stylized yet feels completely natural to the setting. But that’s all just beautiful wrapping around Jennifer Lawrence’s stunning performance as a 17-year-old raising her two younger siblings, supporting her mother, and trying to find the whereabouts of her deadbeat father before their house is taken away. Debra Granik takes this search plotline in dreadful new directions, and while Lawrence may end up battered by her community and nearly starved by an indifferent society, she never loses her dignity. Winter’s Bone is simultaneously the most depressing and uplifting film of the year, showing us the worst of humanity without ever giving in to it. —Sean Gandert

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