In the last couple of years, a vast array of streaming platforms have offered large libraries of movies for affordable prices. That’s wonderful, and this new way to watch films deserves the massive attention it’s earned.
But in shifting our focus to what movies are available to stream on various subscription services, I’ve found myself forgetting that renting movies is often still the best option.
The movie I most want to watch on any given night is usually one I’ve heard about recently but haven’t had a chance to watch yet. For example, I still haven’t gotten around to a few Oscar nominees and would love to check them out. For most of them, renting remains the only way to do that.
So for this list, I’ve gathered a few movies from the recent past that you can rent on Amazon Prime Video. To add some variety, I only included a few 2020 Oscar nominees. I decided to count movies from 2015 and onward as “recent.”
You can’t stream any of these movies on the primary subscription services. If you want a list of movies to stream without renting, I’ve already made lists for Netflix and Amazon Prime. (For example, you can stream Bong Joon-ho’s “Snowpiercer” on Netflix to pair with renting “Parasite.”)
At only 11 selections, this is far from a definitive list. But I think you can’t go wrong with anything here, so it’s a place to start rekindling your renting habit.
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Premise: In this comedic thriller, enterprising members of a financially struggling family trick a wealthy family into hiring them all. They attempt to take more and more from the wealthy family until they get in over their heads.
Setting: Contemporary South Korea
Runtime: 2 hours, 12 minutes
Notable Cast: Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Jang Hye-jin, Lee Jung-eun, Lee Sun-kyun, Park So-dam and Song Kang-ho
Director: Bong Joon-ho, who also co-wrote the screenplay
Academy Awards: Four wins out of six nominations in 2020. Wins included Best Picture.
Premise: In this crime comedy, a journalist works on a story about strippers who stole from their rich clients by getting them inebriated and then making massive purchases on their credit cards.
Setting: Late aughts to 2014, New York City
Runtime: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Notable Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles and Constance Wu
Director: Lorene Scafaria
Premise: In this science-fiction drama, mysterious alien ships hover over different locations on Earth. The military recruits a linguist to try and make contact with the aliens to see what they want.
Setting: Contemporary Montana
Runtime: 1 hour, 56 minutes
Notable Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Academy Awards: One win out of eight nominations in 2017. Won for Best Sound Editing.
Premise: In this drama, a famous film director has an existential crisis about whether his best days are behind him. He recalls the highs and lows of his life while trying to rekindle a passion for his work.
Setting: Contemporary Spain, with flashbacks
Runtime: 1 hour, 53 minutes
Notable Cast: Antonio Banderas, Penélope Cruz and Asier Etxeandia
Director: Pedro Almodóvar, who also wrote the screenplay
Academy Awards: Two nominations in 2020, including Best Foreign Language Film
Premise: In this sports drama, the drivers Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles work together to try and win the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France. The Ford Motor Company employs them both in a glory pursuit to thwart Enzo Ferrari’s team from winning the race.
Setting: 1960s across the United States and Europe
Runtime: 2 hours, 32 minutes
Notable Cast: Christian Bale, Caitriona Balfe and Matt Damon
Director: James Mangold
Academy Awards: Two wins out of five nominations in 2020. Wins included Best Film Editing.
Premise: In this romantic drama, a woman leaves Ireland for a better life in the United States. She explores New York City and ultimately must decide between lovers in Ireland and Brooklyn.
Setting: Early 1950s Brooklyn and Ireland
Runtime: 1 hour, 57 minutes
Notable Cast: Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson and Saoirse Ronan
Director: John Crowley
Writer: Nick Hornby
Academy Awards: Three nominations in 2016, including Best Picture
Premise: In this political comedy, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin dies, leaving a power vacuum. His inept political henchmen fight for control of the Soviet Union without much thought as to what’s best for the country.
Setting: The Soviet Union in 1953
Runtime: 1 hour, 47 minutes
Notable Cast: Simon Russell Beale, Steve Buscemi and Jeffrey Tambor
Director: Armando Iannucci, who also co-wrote the screenplay
Premise: In this comedic drama, a star actor on the decline hangs out with his stunt double best friend. The country is changing around the aging men, and the actor drinks heavily to ignore the fading glamour.
Setting: Los Angeles in 1969
Runtime: 2 hours, 41 minutes
Notable Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie
Director: Quentin Tarantino, who also wrote the screenplay
Academy Awards: Two wins out of 10 nominations in 2020. Wins included Best Supporting Actor for Brad Pitt.
Premise: In this psychological horror, two lighthouse keepers lose their sanity while stranded on a remote island. The younger of the two men had believed he’d only have a short stay on the island, but escape seems increasingly impossible.
Setting: Late 19th century New England
Runtime: 1 hour, 49 minutes
Notable Cast: Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson
Director: Robert Eggers, who also co-wrote the screenplay (with his brother Max Eggers)
Academy Awards: One nomination in 2020 for Best Cinematography
Premise: In this comedy, college baseball players balance their love for sports with camaraderie, partying and love. In the lead-up to a new school year, the charismatic crew bonds together.
Setting: Texas in 1980
Runtime: 1 hour, 57 minutes
Notable Cast: Zoey Deutch, Blake Jenner, Glen Powell and Wyatt Russell
Director: Richard Linklater, who also wrote the screenplay
Premise: In this romantic drama, a famous, controlling fashion designer begins a new relationship. The partner moves in and discovers the depths of his obsessive tendencies.
Setting: 1950s London
Runtime: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Notable Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson, who also wrote the screenplay
Academy Awards: One win out of six nominations in 2018. Won for Best Costume Design.