[Editor’s note: While Amazon now owns the below titles following its purchase by MGM, preexisting licensing agreements mean these films could show up on other streaming platforms besides Amazon Prime Video. This gallery was originally published in 2019 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of United Artists, but has been updated accordingly in wake of the Amazon-MGM merger.]
The history of American independent cinema as we know it began February 5, 1919 when four of the most iconic names in silent film — Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffith — joined forces to create United Artists. These filmmakers had grown frustrated with their lack of control in Hollywood and sought to create a company that would give each of them greater artistic freedom and ownership of their work. Flash forward 102 years to May 26, 2021 and now the United Artists banner has a new home at Amazon.
Rumors surfaced this month that Amazon was in talks to buy MGM and its massive library of 4,000 movies and 17,000 episodes of television. The deal was finalized May 26 in a purchase worth $8.45 billion, making it Amazon’s second largest acquisition in history following its $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods in 2017. Because MGM bought United Artists and its library in 1981 and merged it with its own, the Amazon-MGM deal gives the streaming giant ownership of United Artists’ prestigious catalogue. Whether it’s defining cinematic franchises like “Rocky” and James Bond or a handful of titles considered the greatest movies ever made (“Apocalypse Now,” “Raging Bull,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”), United Artists boasts one of the most impressive libraries in American film history.
United Artists movies will now give Amazon Prime Video the same level of prestige they gave MGM after the UA-MGM merger in 1981. No wonder Mike Hopkins, senior vice president of Prime Video and Amazon Studios, singled out several United Artists films in his statement on the merger. The executive said, “MGM has a vast catalog with more than 4,000 films—”12 Angry Men,” “Basic Instinct,” “Creed,” “James Bond,” “Legally Blonde,” “Moonstruck,” “Poltergeist,” “Raging Bull,” “Robocop,” “Rocky,” “Silence of the Lambs,” “Stargate,” “Thelma & Louise,” “Tomb Raider,” “The Magnificent Seven,” “The Pink Panther,” “The Thomas Crown Affair,” and many other icons—as well as 17,000 TV shows. The real financial value behind this deal is the treasure trove of IP in the deep catalog that we plan to reimagine and develop together with MGM’s talented team.”
With United Artists now under Amazon after 102 years, IndieWire goes deep into the studio’s collection to pinpoint its 50 most definitive titles.