It’s easy to feel like there’s nothing left to watch, after getting caught up on everything during the holidays (and something of a deficit when it comes new movies and television shows). But fear not! There are still plenty of certifiable classics and catalog favorites to dip into, for the first or hundredth time.
Below, we’ve assembled a list of the best new movies on Amazon Prime Video in January 2022. Everything from time travel thrillers to dueling magicians to voodoo on the bayou are all represented. There’s certainly something for everybody!
One of the very best films of the 1990s and one of the most consistently overlooked (how Criterion hasn’t ponied up for a new restoration and an array of special features is truly baffling), “Eve’s Bayou” is available to stream right now and you should not miss your opportunity. Written and directed by the ridiculously talented Kasi Lemmons (as an actor you might remember her as Clarice’s roommate in “The Silence of the Lambs”), “Eve’s Bayou” shares elements with films like “Atonement,” but with a much greater specificity of the experience and with grander mythological implications. Jurnee Smollett plays Eve, a young girl living in a wealthy African American community in Louisiana in the 1960s, who witnesses her father (Samuel L. Jackson) having an affair. From there things get very tense within the family, a feeling that is only intensified by the movie’s flourishes of magical realism (yes, there is some voodoo introduced) and the atmospheric score by the great Terence Blanchard. This is the type of movie you’ll watch and think, where has this been all my life?
Did you know that Tony Scott and Denzel Washington made a time-travel thriller (complete with a car chase occurring in two different timelines) almost a decade-and-a-half before Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” which starred Washington’s son John David? Well, it’s true! Co-written by “Pirates of the Caribbean” scribe Terry Rossio, “Déjà Vu” concerns the aftermath of a terrorist bombing in New Orleans (this was one of the first big post-Katrina productions in the city) with Washington’s ATF agent being sucked into an experimental government time travel project; initially it’s just surveillance but, of course, Denzel zaps himself to the past to try and prevent the tragedy. Most of the cast, including Adam Goldberg and Val Kilmer as the nerds behind the project, is operating at an 11 (perhaps in an effort to compete with Scott’s gonzo visual aesthetic), with Paula Patton adding some nice emotional nuance as a victim that could be key to the terrorist (Jim Caviezel). “Déjà Vu” is insane and a total blast.
One of the more infamous box office disappointments of 1995, “Judge Dredd,” based on the beloved comic book character from “2000 A.D.,” is ripe for rediscovery. Sylvester Stallone plays the titular character, a “judge, jury, and executioner” in futuristic Mega-City One who is framed for murder and banished to the badlands. There, he teams up with a screwball comic foil (Rob Schneider) while making his way back to the city, where he has to uncover the conspiracy and clear his name. Technically speaking, “Judge Dredd” is pretty unimpeachable – it’s got a sturdy script by William Wisher and Steven E. de Souza, it’s handsomely photographed by Adrian Biddle, and the Alan Silvestri score has some “Batman”-y grandeur. Plus, the visual effects, at a time when everything was going from optical to digital, have a handcrafted charm that still feels cutting edge. Is it the best film? No. It’s not even the best “Judge Dredd” film (that’d be 2012’s “Dredd”). But to outright dismiss it is just criminal.
With “Licorice Pizza” in theaters now, it’s the perfect time to revisit another Paul Thomas Anderson epic. “The Master,” loosely based on the founding of the Church of Scientology by sci-fi author L. Ron Hubbard, is singularly transfixing. Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays Lancaster Dodd, a man starting a religious movement called the cause. Soon a self-destructive drifter (played by Joaquin Phoenix) comes under Dodd’s spell, and the story is really about their relationship, as it ebbs and flows with the foundation of this movement. “The Master” features magical flourishes and is maybe the PTA film most indebted to his love of Jonathan Demme (there are entire sequences lifted directly out of Demme’s masterpiece “Melvin and Howard”). Luxuriously shot in 70mm and filled with dream logic and flights of fancy, “The Master” might not be Anderson’s best film (the climax, in particular, shares uncomfortable similarities to “There Will Be Blood”), but like all of his movies, it’s one that you can get endlessly lost in.
Mission: Impossible 1-4
Sadly, the seventh and eighth installments of Tom Cruise’s grand saga were just delayed once again. But that doesn’t mean you can’t revisit earlier installments in the action-packed franchise. Brian De Palma’s original film is still a masterpiece (and arguably remains the series’ highpoint), full of edge-of-your-seat suspense and simmering sexual energy. It proved that you could adapt an old TV show with style to spare. The sequel, directed by Hong Kong superstar John Woo, falters a little bit; it’s the most tonally dissonant of the series with its turn-of-the-millennium aesthetics and hard rock attitude. But there’s still plenty to love, including some weird gay sexual chemistry between the villains, and Thandiwe Newton commanding every second of screen time. The third film, the debut feature from TV whiz kid J.J. Abrams, occasionally feels too much like an overlong episode of “Alias,” but is still delightful. And “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol,” the live-action debut of animation director Brad Bird, hums with an energy all of its own, adding some much-needed humor and humanity to the franchise, while delivering a sequence that still has yet to be topped: Tom Cruise’s climbing of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It’s filmmaking that will literally take your breath away.
Perhaps one of Christopher Nolan’s most underseen movies, and certainly one of his best, “The Prestige” (based on the novel by Christopher Priest) concerns a pair of dueling Victorian magicians (played by Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman). As the nature of their rivalry becomes more acrimonious, it also becomes more dangerous, leading them to some very uncomfortable extremes. (The twists are too good to reveal here!) Around the same time “The Prestige” was released in theaters, there was another Victorian magician movie out, “The Illusionist” starring Edward Norton. People might have been confused, which is a shame. “The Prestige” is a much better, more electric film, and features David Bowie as Nikola Tesla, wonderful supporting performances from Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Michael Caine, and Andy Serkis, and some of the most striking images in Nolan’s grand oeuvre. It’s quite the magic trick.
Adrian Lyne’s new erotic thriller, the Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas-starring “Deep Water,” has been pushed back and will debut later this year on Hulu. To help fill the gap why not watch one of his earlier classics, 2002’s “Unfaithful” (incredibly, his last produced feature). Richard Gere and Diane Lane star as an affluent, seemingly happy New York couple. That is, until Lane starts having an affair with a young Olivier Martinez. Gere gets wind, hires a private investigator and, well, things end in murder. (You’ll never look at snow globes the same way again.) “Unfaithful” was a modest hit upon release but in the decade since, it has gained in estimation and now is often cited in the same breath as earlier Lyne classics “Fatal Attraction” and “Flashdance.” This is a really-for-real sexy movie that also has some surprisingly heartfelt and emotional things to say about the sanctity of marriage and the unspoken bond that forms between committed couples.