Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service is an unusual beast. For one thing, it doesn’t offer the volume of content that subscribers get from a rival like Netflix. And thanks in part to all the so-called Dad TV available on Prime Video — in the form of shows like Reacher, The Terminal List, and Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan — the streamer also isn’t as much of a critical darling as a service like HBO’s Max. Furthermore, I’d argue that many of its users probably don’t even consider themselves “subscribed” to Prime Video at all, in the sense that it’s largely an add-on benefit to an Amazon Prime subscription.
Having said all that, I think my peers who write about the streaming landscape too often give Prime Video short shrift. There’s some pretty incredible content to be had on the service, something that 2023 did a great job of underscoring. The year saw another robust slate of TV shows and movies debut on the service, and I’m going to walk through five of my favorites below.
This first Prime Video series is set in a world that’s essentially the same as ours, but for one detail: Teenage girls have developed “the power” to electrocute people. Per Prime Video: “The series features a cast of remarkable characters from London to Seattle, Nigeria to Eastern Europe, as the Power evolves from a tingle in teenagers’ collarbones to a complete reversal of the power balance of the world.”
Stars include Toni Collette, John Leguizamo, Josh Charles, and Eddie Marsan. The show is a production of Amazon Studios and SISTER, with True Blood’s Raelle Tucker as showrunner.
Also this year, music fans were treated to Prime Video’s adaptation of the best-selling novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid, which was structured as an oral history about a fictional band (albeit one that was clearly inspired by Fleetwood Mac).
From the show’s Prime Video synopsis: “Daisy Jones & the Six is a limited musical-drama series detailing the rise and precipitous fall of a renowned rock band. In 1977, Daisy Jones & the Six were on top of the world. Fronted by two charismatic lead singers — Daisy Jones (Riley Keough) and Billy Dunne (Sam Claflin) — the band had risen from obscurity to fame. And then, after a sold-out show at Chicago’s Soldier Field, they called it quits. Now, decades later, the band members finally agree to reveal the truth. This is the story of how an iconic band imploded at the height of its powers.”
This next Prime Video release debuted with a perfect 100% critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes.
It’s not hard to understand why Reacher has been so universally well-received. “Brawny as Alan Ritchson’s biceps,” explains the Rotten Tomatoes critics’ consensus summary, “Reacher swaggers confidently into its sophomore season as rock ’em sock ’em pulp with a sly wink.” Reacher is based on novelist Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series of thrillers, and Season 2 of the Prime Video hit draws specifically from Bad Luck and Trouble — the 11th book in the series.
The title character is a veteran military police investigator, and in the show’s new season, he gets a coded message that members of his former US Army unit (the 110th MP Special Investigations) are being killed off one by one.
Child’s addictive book series is now a global phenomenon, but it’s never gotten an adaptation that fans were mostly happy with. That is until Prime Video and star Alan Ritchson came along.
Imagine an Australian (and much more comedic) version of Showtime’s Yellowjackets, and you’re halfway toward an idea of what this next seriously underrated Prime Video series is all about.
The gist of Class of ’07 is that a group of young women gets together for their high school reunion. They reminisce about a period of their lives that sometimes felt so dramatic it was comparable to the end of the world. While they’re inside enjoying their reunion, though, the outside is undergoing the literal end of the world, thanks to climate change. And you know what? Somehow, the storytelling combo of a high-school reunion and an “Earth is dying” sermon ends up fitting together pretty well.
This last Prime Video release from 2023 was a movie that’s perfect for people like me. I’m a sucker for inspirational, feel-good stories, and this movie based on the book Reaching for the Stars: The Inspiring Story of a Migrant Farmworker Turned Astronaut by José Hernández is as feel-good as it gets.
A Million Miles Away, starring Michael Pena, is about dreamers and was inspired by the real-life story of a NASA flight engineer named Jose Hernandez. The story follows Jose and his close-knit family of migrant farm workers on a journey of more than a decade, one that took him from a rural village in Mexico to the fields of San Joaquin Valley and, ultimately, more than 200 miles above the Earth to the International Space Station.
The movie is a rousing emotional powerhouse, built around the community of support from Jose’s hard-working parents, relatives, and teachers who helped him achieve an audacious goal (“Who better to leave this planet, and dive into the unknown, than a migrant farm worker?”).