Where did you binge the most this year?
Did Netflix stay on top in the streaming game, or did a new challenger emerge to dethrone the champion? Where was the best place to binge in 2018–or, if you’re more into curation, which streaming platform or service had the best selection this year? The answers might surprise you, as the streaming landscape has shifted and changed since last time we took a hard look at it.
Yes, Netflix has absolutely dominated in the category of original content–largely by simply making as many exclusive movies and shows as it can, and hoping some of them turn out great (which they did). But did you manage to take advantage of Filmstruck while it was around? If not, you missed out on streaming some of the greatest films ever made, not to mention the exclusive special features that often accompanied them.
Or what if horror is more your flavor? Sure, Netflix had some great original horror movies and shows this year, but the classics were located elsewhere, on a platform that finally hit its stride in 2018. If you were looking for more recent TV, Hulu was your best bet, whereas wrestling fans did themselves a disservice if they still managed to avoid subscribing to WWE Network this year. And there was even one brand new service that, despite starting weak, turned into an essential by the end of the year thanks to one show.
Where did you binge the most in 2018? What services did we miss, and what did we get wrong? Or do you agree that these were the best for streaming this year? Let us know in the comments down below, then check out the 30 best Netflix exclusives of 2018 as well.
7. DC Universe
During the summer, DC announced its own streaming service to compete with Netflix, Hulu, Shudder, and the slew of others. Called DC Universe, the new app allows users to watch DC movies and TV series, browse comic books, and talk to other users in a community section. However, even when we got our hands on the early beta testing for it, DC Universe was just ok. The service was hitting the same problems any would face in its first year; most importantly, lack of content. But the early months for a new streaming service can be rough, and it’s all about what it does next to evolve.
Everything changed in October when DC Universe released its first original series, Titans. As you probably remember, the first trailer was most notable for Robin saying “F*** Batman,” once again reminding the audience that DC likes to do things a bit more dark and gritty. But ignoring DC’s past sins, Titans ends up being one of the best new streaming series of the year. And sure, it can get a bit over-dramatic at times, but if the rest of DC’s original content is as good and well-produced as Titans, we’re in for a new major player in world of streaming services. This original content combined with what the service already offers made it a must-have for DC fans in late-2018 and one to keep your eye on in 2019. – Mat Elfring
6. Amazon Prime Video
Much like Hulu, Amazon Prime Video spent a lot of 2018 continuing to work on its back catalogue of movies and TV shows to pick up where Netflix is seemingly dropping the ball. Aside from Prime’s original series, of which there are a few really worth checking out, Prime’s ample selection of movies ranges from contemporary blockbusters to straight-to-video atrocities that are immensely fun to watch. You can watch legitimately brilliant movies like The Big Sick or What We Do In Shadows, or you can sit down for popcorn flick Hobgoblins, which is a ripoff of Critters, which is actually a ripoff of Gremlins–from space.
Prime also has continued to add Rifftrax movies to its service, which if you’re unfamiliar, is the cast of Mike Nelson’s run of Mystery Science Theater 3000 making fun of bad movies. Prime also added more classic game shows, anime, and tons of other content. What Prime has above both Netflix and Hulu is the freedom of choice. No, you won’t see as many big budget blockbusters on the service, but Prime has plenty more hidden gems compared to its competitors. — Mat Elfring
While Netflix has plenty of new, independent, and studio horror, it doesn’t exactly dip into the genre’s rich and varied past. Thankfully fright fans have AMC’s Shudder, a streaming services aimed directly at them. It launched in 2015, but 2018 was the year that it really came into its own. The site cleverly divides its catalogue into “collections” with titles like “Bad Genes & Killer Kids,” “Psychos and Madmen,” and “Zombie Jamboree.” It’s a carefully-curated selection too–Shudder boss Sam Zimmerman has made a point of stating that he wants to make Shudder’s catalogue representative of the huge diversity and quality in the genre, and not just fill it up with rubbish.
As a result you’ll find movies from genre legends like George Romero, John Carpenter, Dario Argento, and David Cronenberg alongside more bizarre and obscure offerings. 2018 also saw the service move heavily into premiering new movies fresh from their festival runs, meaning that some of the year’s best horror made its streaming debut there, including the likes of Mandy, Terrified, Revenge, Summer of ’84, and The Witch in the Window. Finally, this year Shudder was responsible for the return of the great Joe Bob Briggs to screens after many years away–his wonderfully entertaining movie marathons in the summer and at Thanksgiving were worth the price of subscription alone, and there’s more to come from the Texan horror legend in 2019. — Dan Auty
If you’ve never used Filmstruck before, then we have bad news for you–the service no longer exists. Launched in 2016 as a joint venture between the Time Warner-owned Turner Movies and classic/foreign language/arthouse blu-ray specialists Criterion, Filmstruck was a movie buff’s dream streaming service–a deep and rich collection of incredible movies from across the decades that covered almost every base. From French new wave and Italian neo-realist to film noir and screwball comedy via American indie and Japanese samurai movies, there really was something for everyone. In addition, many of the amazing extras from Criterion’s releases could be found on there, alongside interviews and essays created just for the service. Sadly, AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner earlier this year meant that in October it was announced that Filmstruck was to close within a few weeks, its new owners clearly uninterested in what they described as a “niche” service.
But that wasn’t the end. Within hours of the announcement a petition to save Filmstruck was launched, which eventually reached over 50,000 signatures. A powerful group of filmmakers, including Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Guillermo Del Toro, and Christopher Nolan, all appealed to AT&T to think again, and by mid-November it was confirmed that the Criterion Collection would return as a standalone streaming service in the spring 2019, with the rest of the Turner/Warner content available alongside it when Warner’s own streaming platform launches later in the year. So although Filmstruck itself is dead, this amazing, constantly-evolving archive of the world’s greatest cinema will continue. — Dan Auty
Hulu stayed the course in 2018, continuing to offer day-after viewing for many television series airing on network and cable TV. This is increasingly important with some networks pulling new episodes from the service, the most notable being FX only allowing Hulu to air past seasons as the cable channel pushes out its FX Plus service. Staying relevant this year as a streaming service was tough, but Hulu continued to offer TV series, movies, and original content.
And they’re slowly starting to dominate this landscape with Netflix focussing primarily on in-house productions and exclusives. Hulu continues to bring TV series and movies to its service, making it more and more a must-have streaming service, with its original series being the icing on the cake. The Path, which originally debuted in 2016, came to an end this year. And while the show concluding was a bummer, Season 3 wrapped up the story incredibly well, and it was the closure fans needed. Aside from The Path, Hulu debuted the Stephen King Universe series Castle Rock, which was incredibly weird but very satisfying by the end of Season 1. There was also another season of Handmaid’s Tale, which didn’t have the same impact as the first, but was still extremely well-produced nonetheless. Hulu continues to prove why it’s one of the giants in streaming services. — Mat Elfring
2. WWE Network
The WWE Network is a must-have for any professional wrestling fan. For the price of $9.99 per month–it’s a minor miracle the price has not changed since the Network’s February 2014 launch–users can stream every new WWE pay-per-view, live. They can watch every past WWE PPV as well; if you want to set up a massive binge marathon, starting with Wrestlemania I and ending with Wrestlemania 34, you can do that. If you want to watch every single Raw, in order, from 2013, you can do that too. Newer television episodes are uploaded as well, on a slight delay.
But that’s not all. The Network has backstage documentaries like WWE 365 and Breaking Ground, which examine wrestlers’ lives on the road and in training. WWE also owns the rights to the territories and competitors they’ve bought out, so you can watch old WCW and ECW PPVs and episodes. You can watch Mid-South Wrestling and Mid-Atlantic Wrestling. The sheer amount of historical footage and backstage footage available is staggering, making a WWE Network subscription well worth it for fans. — Kevin Wong
Netflix is such a powerful force in modern entertainment that it’s easy to take it for granted. In many households it has replaced regular TV as the go-to destination for an evening’s entertainment, and it continues to influence and disrupt more traditional outlets for films and TV. While Netflix does still stream shows and movies made by other studios and companies, it is of course increasingly interested in creating its own content, and 2018 saw it flex its muscles in that area more than ever before. On the TV side, its biggest dramas and comedies continued to pull in major talent, and many of the year’s best shows were Netflix Originals. It’s impossible to think about the year’s TV without talking about The Haunting Of Hill House, GLOW, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Maniac, or Daredevil.
When it comes to movies, 2018 saw the company attract some big-name filmmakers, with such acclaimed directors as the Coen brothers (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs), Alfonso Cuaron (Roma), Jeremy Saulnier (Hold the Dark), David Mackenzie (Outlaw King), and Paul Greengrass (22 July) choosing to make their latest movies for the service. And that’s not mentioning the wealth of documentaries, reality shows, and family content that hit the service on a weekly basis. While it could be argued that the company’s rush to fill its arsenal means that the quality can sometimes suffer, the only real problem is having simply too much to watch.
Next year will see the streaming landscape shift even further, with Disney+ launching as a direct rival. We’ve already seen Netflix canceling the Marvel shows that it has to license from Disney, and questions remain about how many individual streaming subscriptions people are willing to pay for on a monthly basis. But whatever happens, Netflix is going nowhere.–Dan Auty