Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, & 18 Other Streaming Sites Compared: Which is Best for You?

By   

View as:

woman looking the tv at home
Photo credit: franckreporter/istockphoto

TUNE IN ONLINE

Not so long ago, Netflix was just a DVD-by-mail delivery company with high hopes of eventually supplanting Blockbuster Video. Today, it's the wildly successful forerunner and retail pioneer in an online ecosystem of competing streaming services, all of which give subscribers access to a unique digital library of movies and TV shows—some of them original productions. Each has its own perks and drawbacks for different viewers, so for those still deciding between services, we've highlighted what subscribers can expect from 21 of the most prominent services.
Netflix
Photo credit: Courtesy of play.google.com

BEST FOR NEARLY EVERYTHING BUT NEW RELEASES

Netflix
Price: $8-$14 per month
Netflix is still the granddaddy of streaming services, and though their film library has taken a big hit in recent years with many titles transferring to Hulu or Amazon, they've made up for it through their television catalog and an almost absurd amount of original content. The interface, while not ideal, is still far better than those of its chief competitors, and the $14 subscription lets you create up to five different profiles, so the whole family can customize their queues (sorry—"lists") with their own selections from Netflix's diverse content. Netflix is not the service for you, however, if you're always itching to see movies or cable TV shows as soon as they hit on-demand services.

Amazon Prime Video
Photo credit: Courtesy of play.google.com

BEST FOR ANYONE WHO ALREADY HAS AMAZON PRIME

Amazon Prime Video
Price: $9 per month, $11 for full prime benefits
Amazon Prime Video works best for those who plan on taking advantage of other Prime benefits though the e-shopping site, like free shipping or same-day delivery. Their film selection was estimated to be four times larger than that of Netflix in 2016, and they've bolstered their original programming with hits like "Transparent." Unfortunately, their user interface is largely unhelpful for finding all those titles.

Crackle
Photo credit: Courtesy of play.google.com

BEST FOR YOUR BUDGET

Crackle
Price: Free
It's hard to beat "free" when it comes to value, and Crackle is just one of several services (others include PopcornFlix and Tubi TV) that lets users access content at no cost, in exchange for a steady onslaught of advertising. The TV and movie offerings are usually recognizable but rarely award-winning, however, and the Sony-backed service's most recognizable original program, Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee," was recently poached by its largest competitor, Netflix.

Hulu
Photo credit: Courtesy of play.google.com

BEST FOR KEEPING UP WITH NEW SERIES

Hulu
Price: $8 per month with ads, $12 per month without
There's no denying Hulu's prominence in streaming television, with more than 75,000 episodes from 1,700 titles on the service and many more being added the day after their original airing. Their original content has improved with a noted hit in "The Handmaid's Tale," but their film library is still lacking and website problems are common.

FilmStruck
Photo credit: Courtesy of play.google.com

BEST FOR CINEPHILES, FILM SCHOOL GRADUATES, AND CRITERION COLLECTORS

FilmStruck
Price: $7 per month, $11 with Criterion Channel
FilmStruck was founded as a joint venture between Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection in 2016, so if you know those two companies, you know what you're getting into with this service. Their film library just got bigger with a load of 600+ Warner Bros. classics like "Casablanca" and "Rebel Without a Cause." Those who have a definite interest will get the best value by subscribing for one year with the Criterion Channel at only $99.

Fandor
Photo credit: Courtesy of play.google.com

BEST FOR MOVIE BUFFS BORED WITH STANDARD STREAMING FARE

Fandor
Price: $10
Fandor isn't for everyone, but a certain strand of film lover will find this San Francisco-based film subscription service well worth it for the steady-holding selection of 6,000 titles from all around the world, including impressive selections of documentaries, martial arts movies, and foreign arthouse films. Fandor also makes browsing titles easier and more engaging than perhaps any other service, allowing you to sort films by language, duration, and year of release.

Pluto TV
Photo credit: Courtesy of play.google.com

BEST ONLINE IMITATION OF BASIC CABLE

Pluto TV
Price: Free
Pluto TV is a little like online basic cable, with established cable networks and digital-only streams showing free round-the-clock, albeit with advertising. This lets you watch more than a hundred channels—some audio only—live, with offerings including news services like MSNBC and Bloomberg TV, digital entertainment brands like Popsugar and Shout Factory TV, plus other channels specializing in standup, sports, classic television, and more.

VRV
Photo credit: Courtesy of play.google.com

BEST FOR GENERAL-INTEREST GEEKS

VRV
Price: $10 per month, individual "channels" $2-$7
VRV's main offering is a "combo pack" that offers Crunchyroll, MUBI, and several other geek-oriented subscription channels owned by parent company Ellation. It's a good value and unique service for anyone with broad interest in often rare content ranging from anime, cartoons (Cartoon Hangover), science (Curiosity Stream), horror movies (Shudder), Asian TV (Drama Fever), web series (Rooster Teeth), or gaming (Geek and Sundry).

Shudder
Photo credit: Courtesy of play.google.com

BEST FOR HORROR FANS AND SCAREDY-CATS

Shudder
Price: $5 per month
Shudder is an affordable service for horror movie lovers, with classics and cult hits from throughout the genre's long history on display, categorized into creatively specific genres like "Flesh Eating Frenzy." For those interested but not enough to pay, the site runs a free 2-hour live feed of horror at Shudder TV.

Brown Sugar
Photo credit: Courtesy of play.google.com

BEST FOR FANS OF BLAXPLOITATION FILMS

Brown Sugar
Price: $4 per month
Another niche streaming service, Brown Sugar specializes in African-American-oriented entertainment, especially focusing on the low-budget, cheesy yet culturally relevant, blaxploitation films of the 1970s. Many such movies are difficult to find through other channels, and with their film library still growing after little more than a year in business, Brown Sugar is doing a stellar job preserving an underseen chapter of film history for more to enjoy.

Acorn TV
Photo credit: Courtesy of play.google.com

BEST FOR COZY BRITISH CLASSICS

Acorn TV
Price: $5 per month
Another service ideal for Americans interested in TV from abroad, Acorn TV is an Anglophile service with hundreds of British TV series and miniseries available, as well as a smaller selection of films, and even smaller selection of original programming, including the Agatha Christie adaptation "Witness for the Prosecution."

MUBI
Photo credit: Courtesy of play.google.com

BEST FOR MINIMALISTS, OR ANYONE WHO CAN'T MAKE UP THEIR MINDS

MUBI
Price: $9 per month
For art film lovers only, MUBI distinguishes itself from competitors through minimalism. Every day they add one new movie, and every day they take one away, so they always have 30 titles at any given time, each set to expire after one month. This unique structure will appeal most to those with an open mind about foreign and art-house movies, who also don't want to spend hours deciding what to watch on more extensive streaming services.

Crunchyroll
Photo credit: Courtesy of play.google.com

BEST FOR ANIME LOVERS

Crunchyroll
Price: $7 per month
As with many of the subsequent niche services, Crunchyroll is only a good value if its niche is up your alley. In this case, that means un-dubbed Japanese anime and live-action Asian TV series, with thousands of episodes to choose from and some simulcast from overseas. They're partnered with a similar service called Funimation Now, whose content is usually dubbed in English.

Hallmark Movies Now
Photo credit: Courtesy of play.google.com

BEST FOR FEEL-GOOD STORIES

Hallmark Movies Now
Price: $6 per month
Until recently called Feeln, Hallmark Movies Now is a streaming service whose family-friendly movies are meant to offer "heartfelt stories of love and togetherness." The Hallmark Hall of Fame anthology series is here along with many other schmaltzy options organized in categories like "Hope Springs Eternal" and "Country Life."

Spuul
Photo credit: Courtesy of play.google.com

BEST FOR BOLLYWOOD LOVERS

Spuul
Price: $5 per month
If you're already interested in or just becoming curious in Bollywood film, Spuul is the service for you. They have roughly 1,000 titles—or more than 10,000 hours—at any given time from throughout India's multicultural film industry, whose output far outpaces Hollywood.

Starz
Photo credit: Courtesy of play.google.com

BEST FOR 'OUTLANDER' FANS

Starz
Price: $9 per month
Subscribing to Starz gives you access to the premium cable channel and its programming without an associated TV package. This gives users a rather limited selection of blockbuster films and Starz original shows like "American Gods" and "Outlander" to choose from, while also allowing access to live programming—a small advantage over other streaming services, given that it's only one channel.

Showtime
Photo credit: Courtesy of play.google.com

BEST FOR 'HOMELAND' FANS

Showtime
Price: $11 per month
Similar to Starz, viewers can now watch Showtime's original programs and acquired movies without a paid-TV subscription. This service is a bit more costly, but the difference in value largely depends on which channel's programming you prefer—unless you already have Amazon Prime or Hulu, services through which a Showtime subscription costs only $9.

HBO Now
Photo credit: Courtesy of play.google.com

BEST FOR 'GOT' BUFFS

HBO Now
Price: $15 per month
Cable-free access to all of HBO's programming on all your devices costs more than it does for Showtime or Starz, but the network makes up for the price disparity through the sheer quality and volume of their TV backlog, which includes modern hits like "Game of Thrones" as well as influential classics like "The Sopranos."

CBS All Access
Photo credit: Courtesy of play.google.com

BEST FOR LOCAL NEWS JUNKIES

CBS All Access
Price: $10 per month, $6 per month with ads
CBS All Access works best for cord-cutters who still want access to major network TV shows. The service offers access to a complete backlog of episodes for CBS programs like "Big Bang Theory," as well as live programming streams of local affiliates in 124 markets across the country. All Access' original programming has also seen a bump in interest thanks to new series "Star Trek: Discovery" and "The Good Fight."

YouTube Red
Photo credit: Courtesy of play.google.com

BEST FOR AD-FREE WEBSERIES (AND NOTHING ELSE)

YouTube Red
Price: $10
YouTube has been around for a while, but they're just now focusing on their subscription service as well as building up their own original content. For now, however, YouTube Red is mostly just a way to access YouTube's predominantly user-created content without ads, and with a few extra features like offline playback. It's hardly worth it when an ad-blocking service can be nearly as effective.

Cheapism.com participates in affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product through a link on our site. This helps support our work and does not influence editorial content.