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Best online streaming service which is right for you. But how about the hardcore cinephiles who prefer movies to TV and are seeking out fresh stuff on streaming services while staying at home?
With content king of the streaming jungle, many of these platforms offer their own original cinematic projects among a vast catalog of films. Some have snatched up movies from film festivals or, in the case of Amazon and Netflix, have become full-fledged studios jockeying for annual Oscar glory. And an already-bustling space is bound to become busier with the impending launch of WarnerMedia’s HBO Max on May 27.
Here are each of the streamers ranked from worst to best for their original film lineups plus what other flicks you can find on each:
If we’re giving out grades, Apple gets an “incomplete.” The tech giant has put a ton of effort behind A-list TV series like “The Morning Show,” starring Jennifer Aniston, yet its crop of original movies is scant. It’s at least a varied group, with coming-of-age teen film “Hala,” the environmental animated short “Here We Are” and true-life drama “The Banker,” with Anthony Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson.
One to watch: Spike Jonze’s TED Talk/music doc “Beastie Boys Story” is a fascinating look at the iconic hip-hop group through the eyes of their surviving members that’s highly enjoyable, even for casual or non-fans of the trio.
Coming soon: Grammy-winning Billie Eilish is the subject of an upcoming music doc, and a musical take on “A Christmas Carol,” starring Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell.
Best of the rest: That’s it; Apple only has original content.
Disney’s streaming service has an enormous catalog of high-profile movies, from Pixar to Marvel to “Star Wars,” but its lineup of original flicks is also a family-friendly work in progress. And so far it’s been very Disney, with the likes of a live-action/CGI remake of “Lady and the Tramp” and the teen drama “Stargirl.” The move of kid-centered fantasy “Artemis Fowl” (streaming June 12) from now-shuttered theaters to Disney Plus could lend a spark to the service as a home for bigger-deal projects.
One to watch: The comedy “Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made,” about a fifth-grader and his imaginary polar bear, is a lot funnier than you might expect, and is from Tom McCarthy, who also directed best-picture Oscar winner “Spotlight.”.
Coming soon: Streaming this summer, “Secret Society of Second-Born Royals” is a sci-fi fantasy with princes and princesses sporting superpowers, and “Magic Camp” (due later this year) stars Adam DeVine as a magician who tries to jumpstart his career by taking over his old youth camp.
Best of the rest: Almost every Marvel, “Star Wars” and Pixar movie, animated classics plus every cheesy Disney film from yesteryear you’d ever want.
That other streaming service owned by Disney is serious when it comes to high-end TV shows (“The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Little Fires Everywhere”), though not so much with its original movie slate. What they have, however, is decent: some film-festival buys (including Sundance movies “Wounds” and “Big Time Adolescence”), documentaries (“Fyre Fraud,” about the infamous Fyre Festival”) and 007-centric “Becoming Bond.” Its best days might be ahead if Disney begins to use Hulu for first-run not-so-family-friendly fare that doesn’t belong on Disney Plus.
One to watch: Horror comedy “Little Monsters” features Lupita Nyong’o as a kindergarten teacher and Josh Gad as a children’s TV host who have to deal with a zombie outbreak.
Coming soon: Hulu also picked up a couple of 2020 Sundance flicks, the horror comedy “Bad Hair” with Lena Waithe and Laverne Cox, and romantic comedy “Palm Springs” with Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti.
Best of the rest: The service has quite a few high-profile titles right now, including “The Dark Knight” and this year’s Oscar best picture winner “Parasite.”
You could argue that the newest kid on the block is the most gimmicky of the bunch, with piecemeal content, each five to 10 minutes long, and delivered every weekday, made specifically to stream only on your phone. That said, if you can deal with watching a movie on a small screen, it’s neat how well the programming works either horizontally or vertically, and the serialized “Movies in Chapters” titles lend themselves to a binge mindset. And there are stars, too: Sophie Turner takes the lead in survival drama “Survive,” Liam Hemsworth and Christoph Waltz headline action thriller “Most Dangerous Game” and Laurence Fishburne and Stephan James fuel crime drama “#FreeRayshawn.”
One to watch: “50 States of Fright” is a nicely freaky horror anthology from Sam Raimi. based on urban legends in five states, that offers an impressive cast including Emmy winner Rachel Brosnahan (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”) as a Michigan craftsman’s wife obsessed with her golden prosthetic arm.
Coming soon: “The Now,” a comedy from the Farrelly brothers starring Dave Franco, Bill Murray and Daryl Hannah (May 18), and a reboot of “The Fugitive” with Boyd Holbrook and Kiefer Sutherland.
Best of the rest: Like Apple, it’s only original content.
It was the first streaming service to win major Oscars: “Manchester by the Sea” took best screenplay and best actor (Casey Affleck) in 2017, and since then has had a run of outstanding indie fare including a “Suspiria” remake, black-and-white Polish love story “Cold War,” Adam Driver’s political thriller “The Report,” Shia LaBeouf’s quasi-biopic “Honey Boy” and the recent teen drama “Selah and the Spades.” You could create one heck of a stay-at-home film fest just with Amazon movies.
One to watch: “The Big Sick” is a top-to-bottom excellent jam, with a narrative based on star/co-writer Kumail Nanjiani’s own life as a Pakistani comedian faced with cultural differences in his career and struggles in his personal life when his beloved gets ill.
Coming soon: The docket includes more Oscar bait, including Alan Ball’s “Uncle Frank” (starring Paul Bettany as a closeted gay man who comes out to his Southern family in the 1970s), and the musical “Annette” with Driver and Marion Cotillard.
Best of the rest: There’s a lot of noteworthy recent fare such as “Hereditary” and ‘The Farewell,” popcorn flicks such as “Mission: Impossible: Fallout” plus a collection of films from this year’s cancelled South by Southwest festival.
There is an astronomical amount of content across all of Netflix – shows and original movies – and an equally vast range of quality across every genre, all a few clicks away. You want an ace rom-com? “Set It Up” and “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” are two of the best in recent memory. A macho action flick? Take your pick of “6 Underground” or “Triple Frontier.” Quirky Coen brothers Western? “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” bud. Or is Oscar-quality material more your bag? Netflix has that in abundance, including best picture nominees “Roma,” “Marriage Story” and “The Irishman.”
One to watch: He was snubbed during the last awards season, but Eddie Murphy pulls off arguably his best role ever – and reminds us of the comedy superstar he was and always will be – in the throwback biopic “Dolemite Is My Name.”
Coming soon: Netflix isn’t letting up on the gas anytime soon, bringing Spike Lee’s war film “Da 5 Bloods” (starring Chadwick Boseman) and Gina Prince-Blythewood’s “The Old Guard,” an action drama about a group of immortal mercenaries featuring Charlize Theron.
Best of the rest: The service is all over the place when it comes to outside movies, so thank goodness for the great stuff like “Inception,” “Moonlight” and “Silver Linings Playbook.”