10 best Amazon Prime Video movies to watch on Father’s Day

Miles Teller and Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick.

As it was written in the Kalmar and Ruby standard popularized by Groucho Marx: “Today, Father, is Father’s Day, / And we are giving you a tie… According to our mother, you’re our father, / And that’s good enough for us.”

Once the requisite ties, haphazardly wrapped, have been deposited in his lap, here are some of the best Amazon Prime Video films with which your father can while away the remaining uncomfortable hours he has to be the center of attention.

Air (2023)

Ben Affleck as Phil Knight in Air.
Amazon Prime

A basketball story that focuses not on the court but on the white-collar sports enthusiasts who helped bring Air Jordans into existence, Ben Affleck’s 2023 Prime Original is unexpectedly smart and engaging.

For a movie nominally about fashion, Air is notable for how much it delights in Matt Damon’s ill-fitting khakis and the outrageous neon-colored sweatsuits sported by Affleck as Phil Knight, CEO of Nike — in this respect, it’s a conscious throwback to the vaunted analog ’80s.

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Steve Buscemi and Harvey Keitel in Reservoir Dogs.

Violence, tension, and discursive lunch table conversation — Quentin Tarantino’s debut film, the story of a heist gone spectacularly wrong, has pretty much everything. Ultimately, it’s a movie about how men relate to one another, slipping into father, buddy, or macho rival dichotomies depending on stress and circumstance.

The relationship that stays with you is that of Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) and Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) (fake names, obviously). White is a career criminal whose stalwart (and mistaken) insistence that Orange couldn’t possibly be an undercover cop comes from a deep-seated paternal instinct.

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty.
Columbia Pictures

Director Kathryn Bigelow, the first woman to win the Best Director Oscar, has always made ironically testosterone-heavy movies — like the vaguely homoerotic extreme sports flick Point Break (1991), or her Oscar-winning Iraq War film The Hurt Locker (2008). With Zero Dark Thirty, her retelling of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, she took on only her second female protagonist, Maya (Jessica Chastain), loosely based on CIA agent Alfreda Frances Bikowsky (known as the “Queen of Torture”).

But for dads, the film will still read as a red-blooded American success story, controversial upon its release for its massaging of history regarding the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation” but ultimately a whip-smart and admirably subtle approach to one of the country’s most cathartic revenges.

Sicario (2015)

Benicio del Toro in Sicario.

Forget DuneDenis Villeneuve’s Sicario, an American-Mexican saga as richly textured and visually gorgeous as a painting, is his uncontested masterpiece.

Featuring Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, and a pre-Get Out Daniel Kaluuya as a joint FBI-CIA task force desperately contending with a whirlwind of cartel conspiracies, the film is perhaps most notable as the debut screenplay of former actor and Hollywood phenom Taylor Sheridan, who would go on to write the excellent Westerns Hell or High Water and Wind River and create Yellowstone and its myriad spinoffs.

The Blues Brothers (1980)

Dan Aykroyd, Ray Charles, and John Belushi in The Blues Brothers.

I myself have rarely gotten into the car with my father without quoting John Belushi’s iconic Blues Brothers line: “It’s 106 miles to Chicago. We got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark outside… And we’re wearing sunglasses.”

One of the rare successful films to be adapted from an SNL sketch, The Blues Brothers is an anarchic band-on-the-run comedy anchored by a never-better Belushi and Dan Aykroyd but more memorable for providing indelible screen roles for a murderer’s row of musical geniuses including Cab Calloway, James Brown, Ray Charles, and Aretha Franklin. If your dad happens to be from Chicago, consider it a bonus.

Vertigo (1958)

A man and a woman look at each other in Vertigo.
Columbia Pictures

Alfred Hitchcock was never better — or weirder — than with Vertigo. From a drably philosophical French novel and two co-screenwriters better known for light romantic comedies, the British master yielded a symbolist psychological quagmire consistently considered one of the greatest movies ever made.

It’s a mystery that keeps you on the edge of your seat, and a film buff’s delight that anyone can enjoy, if only for its extraordinary use of Technicolor. This one’s for the Letterboxd users and their movie-poster-hoarding dads.

Paths of Glory (1957)

Kirk Douglas in Paths of Glory.
United Artists

Stanley Kubrick’s fourth feature, and the second for which he co-wrote the screenplay, Paths of Glory is both a stark anti-war cautionary tale and a hugely engaging courtroom thriller. Starring Kirk Douglas as a French Colonel defending soldiers court-martialed for cowardice during World War I, the film is a call to arms against the suicidal use of men as cannon fodder by clueless masters of war.

As with so many of Kubrick’s screenplays, one is amazed at the modernity of the ideas on offer nearly 70 years ago, and as with so many of his behind-the-camera stints, even more amazed at his cinematographic risks with a film that was only barely greenlit thanks to Douglas’ involvement.

Batman Returns (1992)

Michael Keaton in Batman Returns.
Warner Bros.

Between the dour Batmen of today and the cartoonish caped crusadery of Adam West lie the stylistically triumphant Tim Burton Batman films.

Of the two, the stronger is Burton’s 1992 sequel, featuring a characteristically pitch-perfect performance by Michael Keaton (who, it’s often forgotten, was considered a controversial choice for the role as a known broad comedy actor) alongside instantly iconic turns by Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, and, especially, American hero Danny DeVito.

On the Waterfront (1954)

Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront.
Columbia Pictures

Blue-collar to the core, steeped in American lore about unions, organized crime, and thwarted dreams, On the Waterfront was a perfect storm of talents at the top of their game — directed by Elia Kazan, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald protégé Budd Schulberg, and starring Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Lee Cobb, Rod Steiger, Martin Balsam, and Eva Marie Saint — nearly all the great serious film actors of the 1950s.

Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

Jennifer Connelly and Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick.

Joseph Kosinski’s popcorn flick is not just a mystifyingly successful attempt to capitalize on ’80s nostalgia but also the dad movie to end all dad movies. Decades in the making and utilizing heart-in-throat practical effects, this 2022 sequel outdoes its overrated 1986 predecessor in nearly every respect. (Another sequel is reportedly on the way.)

It’s a story of generational transition, with Tom Cruise’s Maverick passing the torch of hotshot young upstart to Miles Teller’s Rooster, the son of Maverick’s fallen partner. But ultimately, it extols good-old-fashioned know-how and experience over youthful exuberance — a metaphorical reminder that father knows best.