This superlative adaptation of James Ellroy’s novel of the same name is a gripping journey into the gloomy, seedy underbelly of 1950s Los Angeles, exploring the spiral of bloody events that occur where Tinseltown, police corruption and the mob crash together.
Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce and Kevin Spacey all deliver fine performances as a trio of LAPD detectives with very different personalities, and L.A. Confidential’s labyrinthine plot, its beautifully realised recreation of the tarnished dream of post-Golden Age Hollywood, and its sheer attention to detail all work together to make this one of the defining movies of the late 1990s.
The Walking Dead (S1-8)
The zombie apocalypse scenario has now been covered so many times that when the dead do eventually start clawing their way out of the ground in a shambling tide of brain-hungry violence, it’ll hardly be worth mentioning. That’s not to say that it doesn’t make cracking TV, though, and if you’re one of the few people who hasn’t yet seen The Walking Dead, there are a full eight seasons' worth of horrific violence, bad decisions, cannibalism, baseball bats wrapped in barbed wire and more to enjoy!
The Fall (S1-3)
If you missed this Belfast-set drama when it was originally broadcast by the BBC, Amazon is here to help you rectify your mistake. A tense show centring on two compelling characters – Gillian Anderson’s icy, complex detective and Jamie Dornan’s obsessive serial killer – The Fall is equal parts police procedural and psychological thriller.
We all already knew that Anderson was a fantastic actor, but ex-model Dornan is perfectly cast and surprisingly affecting as an apparently normal, caring family man with a deep-seated sickness lying just beneath the surface.
With the third and final series recently added to Amazon Prime's line-up, there's never been a better time to let The Fall's cold grip get a hold of you.
The Hurt Locker
Jeremy Renner steps into a hot and bulky blast suit in this tense flick, which thrusts you straight into the front lines of the Iraq war.
Uncomfortably tense scenes where death is but a wire snip away make for some seriously breath-holding moments, while the underlying physiological toll of war seeps into the performances of the entire cast. Arguably one of the grittiest and best modern war movies since Black Hawk Down.
Amazon’s been trying to “do a Netflix” by creating its very own blockbusting TV shows for ages now, but this is the first time it’s got it right. For a start, Transparent is really bold - it tells the story of a sixty-something divorcee announcing to his three grown-up kids that he’s always felt different and is now going to live as a woman.
Sounds heavy, and it sort of is, but it’s also darkly funny, with a degree of wit and sharpness that’s still rare even in this golden age of TV. The bickering between the three kids (each of whom is riddled with their own individual problems and peccadillos) is as chucklesome as it is awkward and real. Amazing telly.
If blood, sweat and war is what you want to see, then Vikings should be high on your to-watch list, being that it contains some of the best TV battle scenes you’ll find.
It follows the adventures of legendary raider Ragnar Lothbrok, who starts out as a mere farmer - albeit one who claims to be a descendant of the Norse god Odin. He rises to become a respected Earl of his settlement Kattegat, whilst enforcing his reputation as a fierce warrior. With plenty of action, deceit, atrocious hairstyles, scenery-chewing performances and almost educational story lines, Vikings is a must watch.
Sneaky Pete (S1-3)
With Bryan Cranston as both chief villain and executive producer, Sneaky Pete sounds like the perfect choice for Breaking Bad fans looking for a new fix.
In truth, this Amazon Original (available to stream in gorgeous 4K) stands well enough on its own merits, having little in common with Cranston’s other show aside from a plethora of tense situations from which our hero – a likeable conman played by Giovanni Ribisi – must extract himself through a combination of luck and skill. Well, that’s going to happen when you show up on a family’s doorstep falsely claiming to be their long-lost grandson.
With a charming rogue’s gallery of a cast and a story that keeps you gripped and guessing until the end, Sneaky Pete is one of the few Amazon Originals that can go toe-to-toe with Netflix’s best series – it's a shame that Amazon has cancelled it after three seasons.
Very dark and very funny, Chris Morris’s farcical account of a group of British Muslims plotting a terrorist attack caused a series of cautious broadcasters to have nightmares with its controversial subject matter. In other hands it could have been a travesty, but Morris has a special talent for placing the unthinkable on screen and making it funny and heartfelt, in a weird sort of way.
Parks and Recreation (S1-7)
The show that propelled Amy Poehler to Golden Globe-presenting notoriety and Chris Pratt to blockbuster ultra-stardom has its wit and one-liners honed to perfection. Taking Modern Family’s warmth, mixing it with Arrested Development’s absurdity and building it around The Office’s mockumentary formula, it centres on the inconsequential workdays of the least consequential department (Parks and Rec) of the council of madeup middle- American town of Pawnee, Indiana.
Like The Office, its brilliance lies in its characters and their relationships, although its comic set pieces are also ingenious. But unlike The Office, it’s not tragic – it’s bright, touching and will leave you grinning from cheek to cheek. It takes until series two to really hit its stride, but Parks and Recreation is a true must-see.
The Boys (S1)
What if superheroes were not only real, but as messed up and prone to bad behaviour as the rest of us. That’s the premise behind this superb comic book adaptation, in the world’s most famous costumed crusaders are owned and controlled by Vought, a ruthless corporation that keeps their misdeeds – which range from voyeurism and drug abuse to outright murderous psychopathy – under wraps in order to keep the cash flowing.
When one outrage leaves a young man bereaved and hellbent on revenge, he joins a group of like-minded vigilantes with the aim of bringing down Vought once and for all. Effortlessly blending humour, action and drama, The Boys manages to be Amazon’s best original series in ages.