Netflix, Netflix, Netflix. That’s all we hear these days. People list it as a hobby. It’s the new best way to unwind after a long week of work or school. This is all true. But what about Amazon, doesn’t that streaming service deserve some love? Doesn’t anyone #amazonandchill these days? The bookseller-turned-retail-giant has put considerable resources towards establishing its own studio for subscription content, aptly named Amazon Studios.
Following Netflix’s lead, the e-commerce company has churned out a multitude of well-made, nicely-funded efforts, many of which star famous faces. This proclivity to snatch up prominent Hollywood stars is in large part thanks to Netflix’s first, and most famous, foray into digital TV, House of Cards.
That show not only got America binge-watching; it proved the theory that streaming services could compete with film and traditional television. So while it may sound like Amazon et al are just making the next logical business moves, many of the shows they have supported to creation are actually kind of great. With the success of The Man in the High Castle, Amazon Studios’ most high-profile offering to date, we thought it would be a good idea to take a look at some of this competitor’s content.
Here, we have outlined for you our picks of the best that Amazon currently has to offer when it comes to their proprietary, home-grown shows. We’ve ranked them based on their quality of content. We hope you find some options here you haven’t come across before.
So with that, sit back, relax, boot up the Roku, and enjoy Screen Rant’s 10 Amazon Original Series That Are Just as Good As Netflix’s…
10. Hand of God
Ron Perlman stars as Judge Pernell Harris, a respected jurist who happens to be experiencing intense hallucinations. The show opens with Harris’s daughter-in-law Jocelyn ending up as the victim of a horrid crime, and his son — her husband, PJ — eyed as the main suspect. PJ attempts suicide and is left comatose. Judge Harris must juggle his day job with finding out the truth and saving his family. All the while, his disturbing yet prophetic visions leave viewers wondering which side of the moral line he will end up on.
Hand of God is a slow-moving behemoth and a dark-as-can-be drama. It has scenes that may disturb some audiences, so it’s best meant for those in the right headspace for such fare. Many viewers applaud its unpredictability from one episode to the next, and sleek writing and production values makes it a feast for the senses.
One of the more popular and highly-rated shows on Amazon, Bosch is a taut thriller with a distinct, cinematic tone. Titus Welliver stars as the eponymous Harry Bosch, an LAPD Detective who, while standing trial for the shooting of a murder suspect, comes into the sights of another dangerous suspect, Raynard Waits.
The show is a nice blend of police procedural and shadowy drama. In fact, one wouldn’t be far off the mark in comparing it to The Wire, as Bosch even co-stars Jamie Hector and Lance Reddick, two of the venerable HBO show’s more charismatic talents.
Amazon’s saga tightly follows the structure of the bestselling book series it’s based on, and each episode is even titled as its own chapter. Author and co-writer Michael Connelly’s influence is unmistakably present in this thought-provoking series.
A show about the modern tech industry and the countless startups trying to break through, Betas follows a team of young guys who have a great idea, and the technical acumen to back it up, but are in need of investments and some good marketing.
Led by Trey (Joe Dinicol), the team-members try and fail and try again to secure the needed connections so they can grow their app, meanwhile also lurching through their twenties, replete with awkward dates and self-discovery.
7. Alpha House
Concocted by cartoonist Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury), Alpha House is very much a live action affair, though its main characters are outsized personalities. Gil John Biggs (John Goodman) and his colleagues in the US Senate are at the center of power and influence — navigating re-election season, indictments, powerful committee hearings — but despite all their experience, things often end up a mess.
The show is now an established hit, having delivered two strong seasons. Viewers will inevitably draw similarities to another congress for the streaming, House of Cards, but Alpha House is a much funnier and slap-sticky experience. Goodman and Clark Johnson (The Wire) are exceptionally good.
A tale that’s been rehashed in TV and film innumerable times, Amazon’s rendering of Casanova is particularly careful and well-done. Diego Luna takes on the role of Giacomo Casanova, a womanizer who escapes from prison and leaves his homeland of Italy to find a new life in Paris. Along the way he runs into new enemies and conquests.
Luna, like his good friend and list-mate Gael Garcia Bernal, is an accomplished actor and director, and brings a striking presence to the screen. Director Jean Pierre Jeunet (Amelie), in his first TV directorial effort, makes the most of the show’s estimated $10 million budget, delivering great cinematography, breathtaking locations, and excellent pacing throughout.
5. Mad Dogs
At the moment this is being published, we only have the pilot episode of Mad Dogs to reference. This lone episode is part of Amazon’s “show factory” — every year, a lucky few are given pilots, and the best of them are green-lit for the full-season treatment. And judging from viewer feedback around the web, things are looking good for this one.
Perhaps it has something to do with the stellar cast. Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos), Ben Chaplin (The Thin Red Line), Romany Malco (Think Like A Man), and Steve Zahn (Sahara) star as a crew of buddies who, now into their forties, use a trip to Belize to relax and reminisce on their college days. They have a good excuse to go: An old friend (an ultra-bald Billy Zane) is retiring early and has invited them to crash at his villa. But just as the guys get settled in, everything goes horribly wrong. The group is pulled into a dark plot which includes deception, intimidation, and even murder. It’s a fantastic first episode that’s sure to entertain and leave you wanting more.
4. Sneaky Pete
Another show still in the pilot stage, Sneaky Pete has all the marks of a winner. And like others on the list, it centers on a troubled yet clever protagonist. Giovanni Ribisi (Gone In 60 Seconds) is Marius, a confidence man recently released from prison, who assumes the identity of his old cellmate Pete. Marius deceives Pete’s family into taking him in as one of their own, and soon he’s entrenched in the family business as a bail bondsman.
3. Mozart In The Jungle
Gael Garcia Bernal stars as Rodrigo, the fiery new maestro of a world-renowned orchestra. He pushes his musicians to the limits of their abilities, inspires and seduces audiences, and faces resistance from the old guard, in the form of declining conductor Thomas (the inimitable Malcolm McDowell).
Like many of the other shows on this list, Mozart In The Jungle is part drama, part sitcom. It has been well-executed here especially: The show was nominated for two Golden Globes. Bernal (Y Tu Mama Tambien), a rare talent to see on the small screen, is great fun to watch, whether in his back-and-forths with McDowell or his spot-on aloofness as a misfit genius wandering through modern America.
Jeffrey Tambor steals the show in Transparent, starring as the patriarch of a somewhat dysfunctional family. But he has a secret: She identifies as a woman. His wife and adult children adjust to this new development, while trying to deal with the confusion and turmoil in their own lives.
It’s a brutally funny show, and Tambor (Arrested Development) brings to the role his idiosyncratic blend of sensitivity, grace, and braggadocio. The show is timely, of course, with gender transition and politics commanding a powerful place in our national discourse for maybe the first time ever. The show is everything one could ask for in an adult-oriented sitcom, as it’s perceptive and engaging.
1. The Man In The High Castle
Easily the biggest and most cinematic of the shows on this list, The Man In The High Castle was an easy shoe-in for first place. It’s a tantalizing mixture of sci-fi and noir thriller, set in an alternate dystopian timeline wherein the Nazis defeated the Allies in WWII. The United States is split up, with the Japanese controlling the west and the Germans holding the east. Everyday life has lost any semblance of freedom.
Based on the works of novelist Philip K. Dick, the show focuses on a group of people attempting not only to survive the totalitarian regime, but try to do something about it. High Castle is very well conceived, feeling more like an extra-long film than a TV show. And unlike most shows on Netflix or Amazon, it effortlessly entices audiences into hours of binge-watching.
How’d we do? Do you prefer Netflix or Amazon when seeking new series to stream?