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The best movies on Paramount Plus

The best movies on Paramount Plus
(Image credit: WhatToWatch.com)

Picking the best movies on Paramount Plus is no small feat. For one, there are a ton of movies on Paramount Plus. That's to go along with the live sports on Paramount+, and the ever-expanding Yellowstone universe — plus all the best original series.

In other words, there's a lot to pick from.

But ask us what the best movies are on Paramount+, and we're going to step up and pick the best movies on Paramount+. Because that's what we do.

But first, just a quick reminder that Paramount+ is the streaming service formerly known as CBS All Access. The Paramount Plus price starts at $5.99 a month or $59.99 a year if you don't mind advertising, or $9.99 a month or $99.99 a year if you want to get rid of most ads. (In June 2021, the $5.99-a-month option will be replaced by a $4.99-a-month plan that does not include access to a live stream of your local CBS affiliate. Here's everything you need to know about the new Paramount Plus Essential plan.)

Paramount+ is home to a world of content from the CBS world, plus so much that you know and love from Paramount itself. It's also where you'll find Comedy Central, the MTV Networks, live sports and NFL games, and so much more.

But you're here for the best movies on Paramount+. Let's get to it.

MORE: Read our full Paramount+ review

The Accused (1988)

This one's not an upper, but it's still Jodie Foster and Kelly McGillis as good as they've ever been. Foster plays a woman who was the victim of gang rape, and McGillis is the prosecutor on the case. 

There's absolutely nothing pretty about this kind of thing, and certainly not in this era. Women weren't believed anywhere near as readily are they are now. Certainly she must have been asking for it, right? Or the way she was dressed or the way she behaved must have been egging the men on to the point at which they're not responsible for their own actions.

Of course not. But that's the sort of thing that happens all the time, and is explored here. It's also a high-profile role for McGillis post-Top Gun. And it's hard to get much farther from the flyboy's civilian inspector/girlfriend than this.

Foster won the Oscar for Best Actress in this role, as well as the Golden Globe.

Amelie (2001)

A whimsical tale of a young girl (Audrey Tautou) in Paris. She's got her own idea of justice and sets out to help those around her, brought upon by her parents' decision to homeschool her after she was incorrectly diagnosed with a heart condition.

Amelie was nominated for five Academy Awards and a Golden Globe, won two BAFTAs.

To date it remains the highest-grossing French-language film released in the United States, and the biggest international hit for a French film, making more than $174 million on a $10 million budget.

The Aviator (2004)

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as the enigmatic director and aviator Howard Hughes in the 1920s to 1940s. It's based on the 1993 nonfiction book Howard Hughes: The Secret Life by Charles Higham and details Hughes' skyrocketing career while falling further victim to obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The film grossed $214 million against a budget of $110 million. It garnered nominations for the 77th Academy Awards, winning five — Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best costume Design, Best Art Direction, and Best Supporting Actress for Cate Blanchett.

Directed by Martin Scorsese, The Aviator also stars Kate Beckinsale, John C. Reilly, Alec Baldwin, Alan Alda, Gwen Stefani, Adam Scott, Jude Law and Brent Spiner.

Elvis: Blue Hawaii (1961)

At one point in your life you absolutely must watch an Elvis Presley movie. It's not that they're particularly great — it's that they're a time capsule in to the music and culture of the post-war era. Plus, it's Elvis. 

Blue Hawaii sees Presley as Chadwick Gates having just been released from the U.S. Army, and he's ready to head back to Hawaii with his surfboard (as one does), along with his girlfriend, Maile Duval. His mom wants him to take over the family business, but instead he works as a tour guide for Maile's business.

There's more plot and more beach drama, but really you're here to hear Elvis be Elvis.

And there's nothing wrong with that in the slightest.

Chinatown (1974)

It's hard to beat the trio that is Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway and John Huston. It's the classic Hollywood story of a private detective hired to expose an affair and who gets caught up in the middle of something far worse.

Nicholson is J.J. "Jake" Gittes, hired by someone named Evelyn Mulwray to follow her husband, Hollis Mulwray, who's the chief engineer at the L.A. power company. Jake catches Hollis saying that he won't make a new reservoir that's not safe, and also photographs him with a young woman. The pics are published, and the job is done.

Except another Evelyn Mulwray shows up, and that's when everything goes sideways. 

Chinatown was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, and won for Best Screenplay. It also won four Golden Globes and a BAFTA. 

Clue (1985)

The classic (and silly) movie for the classic board game with a killer ensemble cast. (See what we did there?) It's really only loosely based on the board game insofar as the characters have familiar names, the mansion has familiar rooms, someone is dead, and everyone has to figure out whodunit.

Clue (the movie) is more campy than it is any sort of thriller. It's a fun sort of ridiculousness that really wouldn't work if it had any more of a serious cast. (Though Tim Curry is a brilliant tongue-in-cheek butler, with an answer to everything.)

Clue also Eileen Brennan, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, Lee Ving and Lesley Ann Warren.

It's not a great movie — but it's definitely a fun one.

Election (1999)

If you think politics is bad today, wait till you see what goes down in this high school with Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) and her teacher, Jim McAllister, played by Matthew Broderick. Mr. McAllister isn't all that enamored by Tracy and works to sabotage her run for student body president. 

Not helping matters any is the fact that Mr. McAlister's best friend was forced out of school after Tracy was discovered to be having a sexual relationship with him. So it's personal, too. Jim encourages local jock Paul Metzler to run while he's on the mend from a broken leg. Meanwhile, Paul's younger sister, Tammy, gets dumped by her girlfriend, who starts working to help Paul's campaign. So then Tammy decides to run for president, too.

Things go downhill from there.

Election is based off the Tom Perrotta novel and was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe, but won neither. It did, however, win three Independent Spirit Awards, among other accolades. It's a good movie full of awful people doing awful things because they simply can't help themselves. Sound familiar?

The Faculty (1998)

Another one of those 1990s movies that's greater than the sum of its parts. And like a fine wine, it's gotten better over the years.

On paper, the idea of high school teachers actually being aliens — or at least being controlled by aliens — sounds a little ridiculous, because it is.

It's the sort of Breakfast Club-type of thing where kids from all cliques and all walks of life will have to come together to defeat the alien queen just in the nick of time.

So, yeah. It's a little ridiculous.

But with the likes of John Stewart, Elijah Wood, Usher, Robert Patrick, Bebe Neuwirth, Christopher McDonald, Piper Laurie, Famke Janssen, Salma Hayek, Josh Hartnett and Jordan Brewster all on board, it's a B-level classic.

Fist of Fury (1972)

Enter the Dragon may be the best-known Bruce Lee film, but First of Fury is another must-watch flick. It's the second major role for the martial arts master after The Big Boss, with Lee playing Chen Zhen, out for revenge for the death of his teacher.

How big a deal is Fist of Fury and Bruce Lee? It made more than $100 million worldwide on a budget of just $100,000 — that's over $600 million if you account for inflation and was the highest-grossing Hong Kong film until Enter the Dragon.

So, yeah. If you're going to watch a second Bruce Lee flick, make sure it's this one.

Frida (2002)

Salma Hayek stars in the biography of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, who often painted about her experience with chronic pain following a bus accident at age 18. Also starring Alfred Molina, Geoffrey Rush, Roger Rees, Antonio Banderas and Edward Norton. 

Frida was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Actress for Hayek, Art Direction, Costume Design, Original Song, Makeup, and Original Score — winning the last two.

Frida also won a BAFTA for Best Makeup and Hair, and a Golden Globe for Best Original Score. In all, it nabbed 16 awards on 46 nominations.

The Godfather Trilogy (1972, 1974, 2020)

All three Godfather movies are on Paramount+. The first two are classics, of course. And The Godfather III got a bit of a refresh in 2020, becoming Mario Puzo's The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone.

While it doesn't change the fact that it's the weakest of the three films by far, it does put more of a shine on it.

The original Godfather won Best Picture and Best Actor for Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone. But Brando famously declined to accept the award as part of a protest over the way Hollywood had portrayed Native Americans in film. The Godfather also won for Best Screenplay.

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)

If you're hesitant about a late-1990s follow-up to a 1978 classic, you'd be right. But they pulled it off with Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, with the return of Jamie Lee Curtis, and the addition of Adam Arkin, Michelle Williams, Jodi Lyn O'Keefe, Janet Leigh, Josh Hartnett, LL Cool J, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and more.

It's the seventh film in the Halloween series and is a direct sequel to the first two films in the franchise and finds Laurie Strode in hiding after faking her death to escape her brother, Michael Myers.

You'll never guess what happens next.

H20, as it's known, made $75 million at the box office on a budget of $17 million.

Harlem Nights (1989)

Coming to America may be the best-known team-up of Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall, but there's no denying Harlem Nights. Murphy and Hall may have all the star power you'd need in a film about Black clubs and gangsters in the 1930s. But toss in Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, Danny Aiello, Michael Lerner, Della Reese and Jasmine Guy? It doesn't get much more powerful than that.

Except perhaps for the immortal line "They shot me in my pinkie toe!"

Harlem Nights remains the only film Eddie Murphy has directed. It's not considered to be a great film, at least critically. But it's brilliantly unfunny.

Indiana Jones trilogy (1981, 1984, 1989)

OK, technically Paramount+ has all four Indiana Jones films — from Raiders of the Lost Ark, to Temple of Doom, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It also has Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but ... well, yeah. Come for the good ones, stay to nuke the fridge, if you must.

The original trilogy is as classic as it is different. Raiders introduces us to Jones in his search for the lost Ark of the Covenant, which holds the tablets on which Moses wrote the 10 Commandments. 

Temple of Doom finds Jones (and a new female companion) in India, where he's asked to retrieve a stolen sacred stone and missing children from an evil force at Pankot Palace. It's as much about fortune and glory as it is doing the right thing.

The Last Crusade once again finds Indy going after religious relics, hot on the heels of his father, who's disappeared while seeking the Cup of Christ.

The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is about a crystal skull. And aliens. And giant ants. And, yeah ... 

Infernal Affairs (2002)

If you're a fan of The Departed, you absolutely must watch the Hong Kong film on which it's based. Infernal Affairs — no, not Internal Affairs, which is a wholly different movie — stars Andy Liu, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Anthony Chau-Sang Wong, Eric Tsang, and Kelly Chen.

Same general story — cops, criminals, and betrayal coming from all directions.

Infernal Affairs made HK$55.1 million on a budget of $6.4 million and earned a plethora of Asian film awards. 

Minority Report (2002)

Loosely based on the 1991 story by Philip K. Dick, Tom Cruise is a cop caught up in is own creation as part of Washington, D.C., "PreCrime," responsible for stopping crimes before they start. Of course, Cruise gets caught up by the system and has to set out figuring out what's going to happen while also keeping it from happening even though everyone's already seen it happen in the first place — which is, of course, the point.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice has sent agent Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell) to eyeball the whole thing and possibly shut it down before it can go national.

The movie gets its name from the trio of psychics who predict the crimes. Sometimes they all see the same thing. Other times, they don't, and that "minority report" shows what could be an alternate future.

Minority Report stars Max von Sydow, Steve Harris, Neal McDonough, Patrick Kilpatrick, Jessica Capshaw, Colin Farrell, Tim Blake Nelson, Mike Binder and Samantha Morton.

The Odd Couple (1968)

It doesn't get much more classic than Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau as Felix and Oscar sharing an apartment. Based on the Neil Simon play of the same name, The Odd Couple finds the two divorced men deciding to live together even though there's no way they're not going to butt heads at pretty much every occasion.

The Odd Couple was a huge success, making more than $44 million against a budget of just $1.2 million. It was nominated for numerous Golden Globes and Academy Awards and spawned a TV series spinoff in the 1970s.

A sequel featuring the same cast was released in 1998.

The Original Kings  of Comedy (2000)

Directed by Spike Lee, The Original Kings of Comedy captures the best of Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer and the late Bernie Mac in February 2020 over two nights in Charlotte, N.C.

Harvey serves as the emcee for the show. And if you're used to his more clean-cut work on TV, throw that out the window. This is fully unadulterated Steve Harvey.

Harvey is followed by D.L. Hughley, who at the time was starring on The Hughleys. Then it's Cedric the Entertainer's turn, followed by Bernie Mac, whose comedy took a decidedly inward turn.

It's all very real. It's all very Black. And there's nothing quite like it.

Private Parts (1997)

Original radio shock jock Howard Stern was as big as ever in the late 1990s. And his first book also spurred a film of the same name, showcasing his rise to the top of the airwaves.

We follow Howard through his early years, and then his first radio gigs, then on to Washington, D.C., and finally on to New York City before becoming the unofficial "King of All Media." It's a dysfunctional story, to say the least. And it came before his divorce. But it's also plenty touching at times, but that's balanced right back with the porn stars and nudity and fart jokes.

The film stars Stern (who else could play him, right?) along with real-life cohorts Robin Quivers, Fred Norris, Gary Dell'Abate and Jackie Martling, plus actors Mary McCormack, Paul Giamatti and Allison Janney.

Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)

Any story about chess ultimately is about pain and redemption. That's not unlike the game itself. And this one with Joe Mantegna, Joan Allen, Ben Kingsley, Laurence Fishburne and a young Max Pomeranc is as touching as any.

Pomerac plays 7-year-old Josh Waitzkin, who becomes fascinated after watching people play chess in New York City's Washington Square Park. There's gambling. There's homelessness. 

Josh's dad plays a game with his son and beats him easily — but it turns out that Josh let him win. Josh then has two sides pulling at him. There's the siren song of the pure chess played in the park, and the proper chess being taught by a tutor.

In the end, though, it all comes down to two things: The kid, and the game.

Frank Miller's Sin City (2005)

Directed by Frank Miller and Quentin Tarantino, with Miller and Robert Rodriguez sharing writing credits, Sin City is the graphic novel in the film format.

It was a groundbreaking film for the time, blurring the worlds of comics and film in a way we hadn't really seen before. The film is mostly based on three books in Miller's comic series.

Sin City stars Jessica Alba, Devon Aoki, Alexis Bledel, Powers Boothe, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Clarke Duncan, Tommy Flanagan, Carla Gugino, Josh Hartnett, Rutger Hauer, Brittany Murphy, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis and Elijah Wood.

The film made more than $158 million on a budget of $40 million.

To Catch a Thief (1955)

We've used the word "classic" a few times already, but it applies here as well with the Alfred Hitchcock film starring Cary Grant and grace Kelly.

Grant is retired cat burglar John "The Cat" Robie, living in the French Riviera. He's given up his old ways — until an imposter shows up and forces John to flush him out and secure his new reputation.

It was Kelly's final film with Hitchcock. To Catch a Thief won the Academy Award for best cinematography.

Tommy Boy (1995)

In the mid-1990s, there maybe was no bigger duo than David Spade and the late Chris Farley. And Tommy Boy helped both move from the likes of Saturday Night Live to bonafide movie stars.

The gist is that Tommy Callahan III returns home to Sandusky, Ohio, and sets up shop as an exec in the family auto parts plant. He's the boss' kid, and not much more than that. But when his father dies and the fate of his father's company in trouble, Tommy gets his stuff together just enough to save the day.

Tommy Boys spawned far too many frat boy quotes, but there's no denying that it was funny as hell. It maybe doesn't quite hold up so well nearly 25 years later, but that doesn't mean you won't laugh.

Trainspotting (1996)

Born from the novel of the same name, Trainspotting and director Danny Boyle (28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire) introduced the world to Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, Kelly Macdonald, heroin and more. It's an ugly drug-fueled ride that's probably more real than you realize.

It's also, strangely, a lot of fun.

Trainspotting banked $72 million on a budget of just $1.5 million. It was nominated for a pair of BAFTAs in 1996, winning one. It also was nominated for an Academy Award in best screenplay based on previous material.

Vanilla Sky (2001)

No matter how many times you watch this flick with Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz and Cameron Diaz, it just keeps getting more and more strange.

Vanilla Sky is still beautiful — and all credit to director Cameron Crowe for that — but it is a weird movie.

We find Cruise's character in prison, wearing a prosthetic mask, telling his life story to a court psychologist. We learn in flashbacks about his playboy lifestyle, and that what we're learning about David maybe isn't actually true. Or maybe it is.

It's one hell of a trip no matter what.

Zoolander (2001)

Ask someone what their favorite Ben Stiller movie is, and the answer is Zoolander. (And if it's not, they're wrong!)

It's based off a pair of shorts from the VH1 Fashion Awards from 1996 and 1997 and finds male model Derek Zoolander tasked with unwittingly becoming an assassin, who will kill the prime minister of Malaysia during a fashion show upon hearing the song "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

Yes, it's that absurd.

This fashion send-up also features high-profile talent from the likes of Owen Wilson, Christine Taylor, Will Ferrell, Milla Jovovich, Jerry Stiller, David Duchovny, Jon Voight, Alexander Skarsgård, Christian Slater, and Judah Friedlander.

Phil Nickinson

Phil spent his 20s in the newsroom of the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, his 30s on the road for AndroidCentral.com and Mobile Nations, is the Dad part of Modern Dad, and is editor of WhatToWatch.com.