The 12 best movies to watch on Amazon Prime Video in October 2021
Movies - November 12, 2021

The 12 best movies to watch on Amazon Prime Video in October 2021

From left: The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, Resident Evil: Retribution, and The Graduate (Screenshots)

If the best horror movies that Amazon Prime Video has to offer this Halloween aren’t to your liking, perhaps these recent additions to the streaming service’s library might be. Read on for our top streaming picks for Amazon subscribers this October—which include Atonement, The Graduate, and, seriously, Resident Evil: Retribution—accompanied by excerpts about each film from The A.V. Club archives.

Atonement

Atonement (available October 1)

Director Wright and screenwriter Christopher Hampton adapt Ian McEwan’s acclaimed novel of WWII-era class conflict and literary analysis by focusing on the author’s fascination with misinterpreted gestures, moments that go wrong, and how the mood of a room affects everyone in it. In form, Atonement is a sweeping romantic melodrama, at times acted at a fever pitch by co-leads James McAvoy and Keira Knightley. But the real star of the movie is Wright, who works in the tradition of Michael Powell and David Lean to turn a prestige film into a showcase for his cohesive integration of editing, score, lighting, set design, and performance. When Atonement reaches for literal meaning, it recedes like the tide. Instead, the film’s beauty is mainly in its bravura.

Find out where Atonement ranked in our “year in film” round-up from 2007.

The Bad News Bears

The Bad News Bears (available October 1)

The Bad News Bears ostensibly appeared to be about an underdog kids’ baseball team, but it was really a deft commentary on who the sport is really for—the kids or the adults. Reigning league champs the Yankees have a no-nonsense coach who backhands his kid on the pitcher’s mound, while the Bears are such bad players no other team even wants to play them. Enter alcoholic Coach Buttermaker (Walter Matthau), who molds the team into a winning effort with the help of a then-revolutionary girl pitcher (Tatum O’Neal, coming off her Oscar win for Paper Moon) and delinquent cleanup hitter Kelly Leak (future Rorschach Jackie Earle Haley). But turning the last-place team into champions would have been a bit much even for this feel-good effort. The Bears lose in the finals as Kelly tries to win the game with an inside-the-park homer, and gets tagged out. The Bears’ loss was a solid, realistic call by screenwriter Bill Lancaster (son of Burt), because winning wasn’t really what baseball was about for the kids. As Toby Whitewood tells Buttermaker in the final game, “We just want to play, Coach.” So the second-place Bears have their own celebration, tossing their dinky trophy and dumping beers from Buttermaker’s cooler on each other’s heads. And they were bound to have a much more successful outing in the following year’s The Bad News Bears In Breaking Training. [Gwen Ihnat]

Read the rest of our Inventory about cinematic underdogs who don’t win the big game

4 / 14

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (available October 1)

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid might not have invented the modern buddy comedy, but it may as well have. While Lethal Weapon screenwriter Shane Black was still toddling around playing cowboys and Indians, director George Roy Hill, cinematographer Conrad Hall, composer Burt Bacharach, stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and screenwriter William Goldman were meticulously crafting the gold standard for movies about rugged pals quipping and wisecracking their way through one perilous bonding situation after another. Goldman has criticized his Oscar-winning screenplay for being overly clever, which is akin to job applicants who cite their biggest flaws as “I’m too hard-working” or “I’m too much of a perfectionist.” But Goldman has a point. Butch Cassidy’s dialogue is so unrelentingly sarcastic and irreverent that the film sometimes feels like an especially sharp Mad Magazine parody of itself. In one of the special features included in the two-disc special edition, Hill is reported to have complained following a screening that people were laughing at his tragedy. But tragedies are seldom this glib. Then again, they’re seldom this fun or consistently entertaining, either. [Nathan Rabin]

Read the rest of the review

Die Hard 

Die Hard (available October 1)

During the ’80s golden era of American action movies, there was a certain way these movies looked: burnished steel, gleaming sweat, bulging muscles that couldn’t possibly exist without chemical enhancement. The movies that people like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were making looked nothing like real life. One fascinating thing about 1988’s Die Hard, quite possibly the best action movie ever made, is that it didn’t look anything like that. As played by Bruce Willis, McClane was something other than a steroidal superman. He was an ordinary human being, and kind of an asshole. As the movie opens, we see McClane grumpily huffing at his airplane seatmate, his affable cartoon-character limo driver Argyle, and finally at his estranged wife. He’s a New York cop who wants to remain a New York cop, and he can’t accept that his wife’s business career has taken off in Los Angeles or that she’s using her maiden name. Seeing her for the first time in months, he freaks out at her and then immediately realizes that he’s being an asshole when it’s too late to do anything about it. But fortunately for McClane, before he has a chance to make more of an ass out of himself, some terrorists show up. And all of a sudden, he’s his best self. [Tom Breihan]

Read the rest of Tom Breihan’s History Of Violence column on Die Hard

Fight Club

Fight Club (available October 1)

Since basically flopping at the box office, Fight Club has been widely misinterpreted as a sincere glorification of male violence. That reading misses the point of David Fincher’s adaptation of the satirical Chuck Palahniuk novel, which addresses legitimate concerns about culture commodification, cannibalistic capitalism, and increasing social isolation but ultimately argues we shouldn’t give into our darkest impulses when trying to change the world. Edward Norton’s wonderfully unhinged performance meets its match in Brad Pitt, who brings gleeful mania to Tyler Durden’s personified id. The push-pull magnetism between the pair adds emotional depth to scenes that masquerade as mere masculine posturing, and Helena Bonham Carter’s Marla Singer, with her own brand of anti-establishment survivalism, is the film’s secret weapon. Those performances, combined with the Dust Brothers’ trippy score and Fincher’s customarily confident visual flair (bringing the IKEA catalog to life with the rhythmic population of Norton’s apartment, for example), cemented Fight Club as a cult classic to be feverishly consumed (and misunderstood) for years to come. [Roxana Hadadi]

Find out where Fight Club ranks on our list of 1999’s best films

Get Shorty

Get Shorty (available October 1)

The Elmore Leonard adaptation Get Shorty addresses Hollywood from an outsider’s perspective; as much about crime as filmmking, it follows loan shark John Travolta on a debt-collection run to L.A., where he decides to get involved in the movie industry as long as he’s in town. As Travolta, after forging a relationship with ego-crazed actor Danny DeVito, tries to push his way into the industry based largely on money and muscle, he finds the whole city to be just as full of crooks and compromise as the one he just left, and that filmmaking is really just a ridiculous juggling act of trying to pin down people who all want a piece of the pie, preferably in exchange for lunch meetings and air kisses instead of work.

Read the rest of our Inventory of 27 movies about the difficulty of making movies

The Graduate

The Graduate (available October 1)

It’s not really a movie about the ’60s. The era hadn’t fully defined itself at that point, and baby boomers had not yet remade the cultural landscape in their own image. (They would do this quickly, and The Graduate would be a big part of it, but it hadn’t happened yet.) The movie’s use of Simon & Garfunkel’s music is vaguely revolutionary; most Hollywood directors had not yet figured out how current pop music could enrich their stories. But the script only hints at the cultural upheavals of the moment, as in the quick scene where a Berkeley landlord warns Hoffman’s Benjamin Braddock that he won’t stand for “outside agitators.”

Instead, The Graduate is a smaller, more personal story about alienation and depression. Benjamin Braddock was apparently a brilliant collegiate mind and a track star, but the young man we see is a dweeb who always seems to be dressed up in his father’s clothes. His parents speak to him like he’s a baby, and they trot him out like a prop at parties. He’s beaten down and manhandled by the people in his life, and when Mrs. Robinson, a woman who he’s known since he was a child, decides to start an affair with him, he simply drifts into it, meekly protesting even as he gives in. [Tom Breihan]

Read the rest of Tom Breihan’s The Popcorn Champs column on The Graduate

9 / 14

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (available October 1)

In all likelihood, one of the reasons Life Aquatic was undervalued upon its initial 2004 release was that it directly followed The Royal Tenenbaums, and superficially seems to rehash some of that film’s concerns to considerably lesser effect. Steve Zissou (Bill Murray), a Jacques Cousteau-like oceanographer and filmmaker, was once lionized by the world but has fallen on harder times of late, and is particularly distressed by the recent loss of his best friend, Esteban (Seymour Cassel), who was devoured by a rare “jaguar shark” during an underwater shoot. Zissou vows to find and kill the beast, and is accompanied on this mission by a pregnant reporter (Cate Blanchett), for whom he immediately falls despite her barrage of pointed questions, and by a courtly Southerner, Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson), who believes Zissou to be his father—a belief that Zissou gradually comes to share. [Mike D’Angelo]

Read the rest of the review

Prometheus

Prometheus (available October 3)

Noomi Rapace (star of the original, Swedish Girl With The Dragon Tattoo adaptation) and Logan Marshall-Green launch the story as a pair of scientists who’ve drawn parallels between ancient artworks from around the globe, each depicting the same specific star cluster. In that cluster, they’ve found a moon capable of sustaining life, and on that moon, they believe they’ll find whatever force created life on Earth. A few years after their latest cave-painting discovery, they’re the key crewmembers in a trillion-dollar excursion to that moon, on a ship unsubtly named Prometheus, after the god who gave fire to humanity, then paid a terrible price. But as much as the explorers would like the journey to be about their beliefs—Rapace’s religious ones, Marshall-Green’s scientific ones—they’re firmly under the thumb of a severe corporate overseer (Charlize Theron) and a placid android (Michael Fassbender), each with their own agendas. [Tasha Robinson]

Read the rest of the review

Raising Arizona

Raising Arizona (available October 1)

The humor [of Raising Arizona] is surprisingly lowbrow and slapstick-y, which only serves to underline the superiority of the smart alecks behind the camera. Yet it’s also undeniably hilarious, choked with lines and phrases (“My FI-antz left me,” “way-homer,” “Son, you’ve got a panty on your head”) that are regurgitated in everyday life nearly as often as those in The Simpsons… or at least Fletch. In the figure of a bounty hunter in search of an abducted baby, it’s also an early showcase of the surrealism that would flower in a more sophisticated way in later Coen films like Barton Fink and The Big Lebowski.

More than anything, though, Raising Arizona is a marvel of narrative energy, especially coming off the statelier Blood Simple. Having the credits arrive after the first reel is over—a good 20 minutes into the film—may seem as show-offy as the wiper blades in Blood Simple, but it was really the first pause in the action. Through voiceover, flashbacks, and wild digressions, the setup of the film is so absurdly long-winded and overstuffed that the credits are a payoff in themselves, a moment where the audience can catch its breath and giggle over how much movie has been squeezed into so small a timeframe. [Scott Tobias]

Read the rest of our Primer on the films of Joel and Ethan Coen

12 / 14

Resident Evil: Retribution

Resident Evil: Retribution

Resident Evil: Retribution (available October 1)

Though nominally based on the long-running horror game franchise, Resident Evil mostly exists as a way for series writer and producer Paul W.S. Anderson to work out some of his favorite themes and reference points (namely, Through The Looking-Glass) while telling pulpy action stories chock full of video game-inspired cool. All of this converges in the fifth—and best—of the movies, which finds series protagonist Alice (Milla Jovovich) journeying to a top secret testing facility of simulated environments (Tokyo, Moscow, an American suburb) populated by NPC-like clones. The result is a zippy, sometimes bizarre movie that is overtly about video games. Anderson (who also directed) had by this point abandoned any pretense of horror in favor of outrageous 3-D compositions that play with the viewer’s perceptions and preconceptions: a sky rebooting like a computer screen; a new Alice being introduced and then abruptly killed off; cityscapes revealed to be interiors. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

Read the rest of our Inventory of 16 late sequels that are actually quite good

Wanderlust

Wanderlust (available October 16)

After missing its original release date in 2011, David Wain’s Wanderlust was pushed into the dumping ground of late February, where it was left to rot alongside other misbegotten studio projects. But Wain’s updating of Lost In America had more laughs than any comedy this year, even though the plotting is a bit of a shambles. Stranding a Manhattan couple (Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston) in a hippie commune in rural Georgia provides some clear opportunities for fish-out-of-water comedy, but Wain and his cast never go for the obvious joke, and they’re willing to push the material in eccentric directions. (“So what do you do if it rains?” “I drink the nourishment that Gaia is feeding me through her cloud-teats.”) The breakdown of the couple’s conventional values and their hosts’ hippie ideals adds to the comic anarchy, and Wain regulars like Ken Marino (as Rudd’s unctuous brother) and a constantly naked Joe Lo Truglio give it a lift. If nothing else, it offers “the mirror scene,” Rudd’s filthy, improvised pep talk before a free-love session he professes to want, even though the reality of it clearly terrifies him. [Scott Tobias]

Read the rest of our coverage of the best films of 2012

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