Despite being direct competitors for the future of entertainment, Netflix and Amazon have two drastically different approaches to their original content. Netflix’s strategy has been to produce an incredibly wide range of content that is available exclusively to their subscribers. Amazon, on the other hand, has opted for a more blended strategy.
More often than not, Amazon chooses to operate like as a traditional distributor by identifying great material and purchasing the exclusive distribution rights. They often make their content available on other platforms and even sell syndication rights to other terrestrial broadcasters.
They’ve also often partnered with other companies to organize wide theatrical releases of their movies rather than meeting minimum requirements for award consideration before stashing their content on the web.
Regardless of your opinion on their strategy, the result has been some of the best movies and television shows of recent years. Amazon originals have gone on to win multiple Academy Awards, Emmys, and Golden Globes, and are expected to only expand on their collection this year. Their content has often far surpassed the content put out by Netflix and Hulu in terms of quality and critical reception.
Here are 16 Amazon Originals That Are Better Than What's On Netflix.
16 Manchester by the Sea
Despite his recent controversy and the announcement that he will not be presenting the 2018 Best Actress award at this year’s Oscars, it is undeniable that Casey Affleck gives a spectacular performance in 2016’s Manchester by the Sea. Affleck went on to win the Academy Award for best actor at last year’s Oscar ceremony and writer/director Kenneth Lonergan was The Academy’s pick for best screenplay.
The movie has gained a reputation as a movie that can only be watched once. It’s the story of a man struggling with depression who is tasked with taking care of his teenage nephew after the boy’s father dies. It’s a subtle and intricate movie that is incredibly moving.
It’s a movie without a direct comparison to any of Netflix’s offerings. Its impact is similar to something like Beast of No Nation, but its intimacy is most like The Meyerowitz Stories or Tallulah, which is definitely overshadows.
15 The Grand Tour
Following their departure from the BBC show Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May took their talents to Amazon. Rather than simply try to recreate Top Gear, the team tried to expand on their original series and were successful in doing so.
Currently rated in the top 100 shows of all time by IMDb users, The Grand Tour has enjoyed international critical and commercial success. The show received a positive review from Screen Rant among many other outlets and currently has an 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Netflix hasn’t yet come out with an overwhelmingly successful reality series and have instead opted for scripted content. It co-produced the Japanese show Terrace House and a handful of cooking series, but nothing that could compete with The Grand Tour head on. Perhaps the best comparison, because of its format and international appeal, is Ultimate Beastmaster which has received mixed reviews.
Featuring another incredible performance by a controversial actor, Transparent was one of Amazon’s first shows and one of its most successful. The show became the first original series by a streaming service to win a Golden Globe for best series in 2015 when it took home the award for best television series- musical or comedy.
The show tells the story of a Los Angeles family and their lives after discovering that the person they’ve known as their father is actually transgender. Critics have praised Transparent not only for its effect on television but also its sophistication and dedication to human drama.
It can best be compared to the Netflix shows Love, Flaked, or Lovesick (Formally Scrotal Recall), but is far more successful than any of these shows.
13 I Am Not Your Negro
I Am Not Your Negro is a movie about the history of racism in the United States. Based on the unfinished manuscript by American novelist and social critic James Baldwin and featuring narration by Samuel L. Jackson, I Am Not Your Negro weaves together a collection of letters and notes written by Baldwin in the 70s.
I Am Not Your Negro was critically praised and was nominated for best documentary at last year’s Academy Awards. It holds a 98% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes with the critical consensus that the movie, “offers an incendiary snapshot of James Baldwin's crucial observations on American race relations -- and a sobering reminder of how far we've yet to go.”
It can be best compared to the Netflix documentary 13th, but I Am Not Your Negro holds slightly better ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic.
12 The Man In The High Castle
The winner of two Primetime Emmy awards, The Man In The High Castle, based on the novel of the same title by Philip K. Dick, tells the story of an alternate dystopian version of history in which the Axis Powers won World War II.
Critics have unanimously praised The Man In The High Castle. It’s received a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes for it's first season, with the critical consensus saying that the show, "is unlike anything else on TV, with an immediately engrossing plot driven by quickly developed characters in a fully realized post-WWII dystopia."
The Man In The High Castle can be best compared to the Netflix shows Narcos or The Crown, but neither have the combination of critical and audience response that The Man In The High Castle has achieved.
11 The Big Sick
Picked by American Film Institute’s as one of the top 10 movies of the year, The Big Sick was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and has received near universal praise from critics and audiences.
Loosely telling the real-life experiences of the movie’s star and co-writers, The Big Sick centers around the interracial relationship between its main characters Kumail and Emily and how their relationship is affected when Emily gets sick and is put in a medically induced coma. The result is a funny and charming story with just enough freshness to deliver a new experience through an old formula.
In its atmosphere, it can best be compared to The Meyerowitz Stories or I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore, but Netflix hasn’t been able to put out something this delicately emotional yet.
10 The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
The winner of the 2018 Golden Globe for Best Television Series- Musical or Comedy was a surprising treat to viewers. Created by Gilmore Girls mastermind Amy Sherman-Palladino and starring Rachel Brosnahan in a Golden Globe-winning performance, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel tells the story of a housewife in the 50s who decides to become a stand up comic.
Currently ranked directly behind The Office on IMDb’s Top 250 TV Shows, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a heartwarming comedy with poignant statements about societal norms and gender politics. It’s perhaps most similar to the Netflix show Orange Is the New Black which has been hit or miss over its six seasons. Both shows have very funny moments and sharp critiques of society, but The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s charm is overwhelming.
9 One Mississippi
Perhaps the best comparison to The Big Sick is another Amazon original. One Mississippi is another semi-autobiographical story, this time focused on an alternate version of real-life comedian Tig Notaro who returns to her hometown in Mississippi after learning that her mother is about to die. While dealing with her own health issues, Tig learns about her mother’s life and rediscovers her hometown from a new perspective.
One Mississippi has received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics and audiences. It has a certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes with the critical consensus saying that the show, “proves an honest vehicle for its moving dramatic narrative, observational comedy, and the genuine acting skills of its lead, Tig Notaro.”
It can best be compared to the Netflix shows Flaked or Grace and Frankie, but neither is as effective as One Mississippi.
8 The Lost City of Z
From Director James Gray (The Immigrant, We Own The Night), and based on the book of the same title by David Grann, The Lost City of Z tells the true-life story of British explorer Colonel Percival Fawcett, who disappeared while searching for a mysterious city in the Amazon in the 1920s. It’s a throwback to a different era of filmmaking, and, overall, it was an artistic success.
The movie was a commercial flop, making only $17 million against its $30 million budget, but it received a certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes with a critical consensus that reads, “The Lost City of Z's stately pace and visual grandeur hearken back to classic exploration epics, and Charlie Hunnam turns in a masterful performance as its complex protagonist.”
Because of the scope of the movie, The Lost City of Z could best be compared to Netflix shows like Stranger Things or Narcos.
Landline, the follow-up effort from Obvious Child writer/director Gillian Robespierre, tells the story of a teenager living with her sister and parents in Manhattan in 1995 who discovers that her father is having an affair. With excellent performances and willingness to tackle uncomfortable issues head-on, the movie received favorable reviews from critics and audiences alike.
Landline has a fresh Rotten Tomatoes rating with the critical consensus saying that the movie’s, “talented cast -- and a fast-paced approach from director/co-writer Gillian Robespierre -- help this charming multi-generational dramedy overcome a familiar storyline.”
Landline was a bit of an experiment for Amazon. Rather than partner with a theatrical distributor as they had for many of their previous films, for Landline Amazon decided to handle all of the distribution themselves.
Landline finds its Netflix doppelganger in The Incredible Jessica James or The Meyerowitz Stories.
6 Red Oaks
Largely forgotten by critics after its well-reviewed first season, Red Oaks tells a coming of age story about a college student in the 80s who is trying to enjoy his last summer with few responsibilities while working at a country club in New Jersey. Red Oaks is a throwback to a lot of 80s comedies, but it manages to keep its stories and characters fresh through excellent writing and delightful performances.
The show boasts a certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes with the critical consensus saying that the show, “offers an affectionate nod to 1980s comedies that -- largely thanks to a talented ensemble cast -- finds fresh humor in its familiar premise.”
Red Oaks has the nostalgia of Stranger Things mixed with the comedy of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
From renowned indie director Jim Jarmusch (Broken Flowers, Ghost Dog: Way of The Samurai) and starring Adam Driver, Paterson is one of the smallest movies you’re likely to ever see. Following one week in the life of a bus driver and poet named Paterson (who lives in Paterson, New Jersey) the movie forgoes a typical plot in exchange for the smaller triumphs and defeats of everyday life.
Paterson has received nearly universal praise from critics with a 96% fresh rating and a critical consensus that says it, “adds another refreshingly unvarnished entry to Jim Jarmusch's filmography -- and another outstanding performance to Adam Driver's career credits.”
Paterson doesn’t mesh well with the expectations Netflix has for its original content, so it’s difficult to find direct comparisons. It is similar to The Meyerowitz Stories or The Fundamentals of Caring, but is best compared to movies like Frances Ha or Inside Llewyn Davis.
From legendary director Spike Lee, Chi-Raq is a modern day adaptation of the ancient Greek play Lysistrata relocated to south Chicago and dealing with the city’s gang violence. With the tagline, No Peace; No Piece, it tells the story of Lysistrata who, after experiencing several outbursts of gang violence, starts a movement among the gang member’s lovers to withhold intimate contact until they all agree to stop fighting.
The movie received positive reviews from critics and mixed reactions from audiences, but its ambition was praised most of all. With a certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the critical consensus says that Chi-Raq is, “as urgently topical and satisfyingly ambitious as it is wildly uneven -- and it contains some of Spike Lee's smartest, sharpest, and all-around entertaining late-period work.”
Chi-Raq is probably most similar to, and better than, Burning Sands or She’s Gotta Have It.
3 The Handmaiden
There comes a moment while watching The Handmaiden where everything clicks together and you fully realize its brilliance. Currently holding a spot toward the bottom of IMDb’s top 250 movies list, the latest movie from Oldboy director Park Chan-wook tells the story a story too complicated to succinctly surmise. It starts as the story of a Korean woman sent to pose as a handmaid to a wealthy Japanese woman as part of an elaborate fraud scheme, but takes multiple unpredictable twists and turns.
The movie has received near universal acclaim from critics and audiences and has been described as a “masterpiece” by critics. It was included on top ten of 2016 by almost 30 major critics with Danny Bowes of RogerEbert.com calling it the best film of the year.
It is probably best compared to the Netflix originals Okja or Alias Grace.
2 Love & Friendship
Love & Friendship was adored by critics but received a lukewarm response from audiences. Based on the novel Lady Susan by Jane Austen, the movie follows a widow, Lady Susan, as she tries to find a wealthy husband for her daughter and herself. It struck an excellent mix of comedy and drama often poking fun at the movie’s austere setting.
Love & Friendship was the best-reviewed comedy of 2016 with the critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes saying that the movie, “finds director Whit Stillman bringing his talents to bear on a Jane Austen adaptation -- with a thoroughly delightful period drama as the result.”
It’s difficult to find a direct comparison to a Netflix offering for Love & Friendship because Netflix hasn’t put out a period drama with this kind of sensibility. It would probably be enjoyed most by viewers who liked either Godless or the animated series Big Mouth.
1 The Salesman
Director Asghar Farhadi made headlines when he decided to boycott the 2017 Oscars where his movie The Salesman took home the award for best foreign language film, the second of the acclaimed director’s career. The boycott was in response to a travel ban that was enacted in the United States earlier that year.
The movie is about a married couple who perform Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman on stage when the wife is assaulted. Her husband attempts to determine the identity of the attacker, while she struggles to cope with post-trauma stress.
The Salesman has a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and the critical consensus applauded the film for taking, “an ambitiously complex look at thought-provoking themes, and the well-acted results prove another consistently absorbing entry in writer-director Asghar Farhadi's distinguished filmography.”
Its best Netflix comparison is the 2016 movie Sandstorm or Bloodline.
Are there any Amazon Originals we missed? Let us know in the comments!