Last Updated: January 31st, 2013

Two weeks ago, we took a look at the invite-only beta of Redbox Instant. In that article, we gave a brief glimpse into what the fledgling service's library had to offer. Of course, the inevitable question had to be asked: how does it stack up against Netflix? Or Amazon Instant Video for that matter? While we're at it, how does Google's Play Store compare? Those are pretty big questions! So, they deserve pretty big answers. Today, we have them.

With Oscar season upon us, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings laying down some serious smack talk recently, and the public release of Redbox Instant right around the corner, the time feels right to give the various services a close examination. For this rundown, we'll be looking at Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Redbox Instant, and Google Play. We're also breaking availability down into three categories:

  • Subscription: Services that, for a monthly fee, give you unlimited access to a selection of movies.
  • Pay-Per-Rental: Typically a $2-5 one-time charge that allows streaming access for a short (usually 24 hour) time period.
  • Pay-Per-Purchase: For a more generous fee, ($5-19), unlimited access to a title forever.

A Note On Movie Selection

To get any kind of useful metric for comparing multiple huge libraries, it's necessary to establish some sort of baseline. Put simply, how many movies are there? Thankfully I'm not the first person to attempt to answer this question. I won't rehash other people's articles, but the short version is, it's difficult to say. Depending on how you define "movie," how far back into history you're looking, and whether you count things like commentary as distinct titles (which is more relevant than you'd think, as you'll see), the total number of flicks in existence is somewhere between 268,000 and infinity. Unfortunately, searching for an unending amount of films is impractical.

So, to narrow it down, I chose a sample set that should represent at least a decent portion of movies the average user is likely to search for. Here are the lists that were included:

Finally, some titles on the Bottom 100 list appeared on a given service due to a Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode. Where a given company offered both the original and riffed version, both films were counted as separate entries.

The result is a list of 554 movies that sample most major areas people care bout: popular movies from any time period, successful recent releases, and god awful flicks that you love to hate.

Note: All whole numbers referenced in this article and infographic are out of the 554 title sample set. These services each have considerably more movies available that were not counted.

So, without further ado, here is what we learned, compiled into one ginormous infographic:


Further Analysis

In an effort to not overload your eyes or our servers, I didn't include every bit of data in this chart (and, truthfully, there are about a thousand different ways to interpret all the information), but here are some other factoids gleaned from this examination:

On Subscriptions

  • Netflix wins pretty soundly on its own. However, Amazon is a close second. Moreover, each has a significant number of titles the other doesn't. Of the sampled movies, they only share 35. Account for the overlap and collectively they have 117 unique films from this list. Given that an Amazon Prime subscription nets you more than just streaming, it may be worth it to some cinema buffs to have both.

On Rentals

  • While Google's rental prices are, on a weighted average, lower than Amazon, it comes at the cost of selection. Google has 175 titles available for either $2 or $3. Amazon has 176 titles at $3 alone.
  • Google and Amazon share 215 rental titles. Of those, 169 have the same price on both services. 42 are cheaper on Google, while only 4 are cheaper on Amazon.
  • Since you don't need to commit to a one-off rental service, it seems best to check the Play Store for a movie you'd like to rent before going to Amazon.

On Purchases

  • Amazon seems to be the safest bet for purchasing titles at the moment if you want to avoid a fragmented library. However, if you're going to go that route, it may be worth it to consider a Prime subscription. 57 of the 66 sampled Prime movies are also available for purchase. You don't get to keep them, of course, but given that buying all those movies could cost hundreds of dollars, it may help limit impulse buys.

On Overall Libraries

  • Both Amazon and Google have more rental titles and more purchase titles separately than Netflix has in its entire streaming catalog. Unsurprisingly, studios are more willing to give people the option to pay à la carte than to add more titles to a subscription service.
  • It's obviously unfair to judge Redbox Instant before it's out, but if the current state is any indication, it's worth it to wait a while after launch before jumping on board. Nearly half of all purchases cost $17 (which is crazy), more than half of all rentals are $5, and the streaming library is miniscule at best.

Other Notes

  • This comparison only takes into account movies that you can watch immediately and without leaving your house. Redbox Instant provides four monthly rental credits to use at kiosks, Netflix, Amazon, and the Play Store also include TV shows (under various pricing models), and a Prime subscription nets you far more than just media. There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing who you want to give money to and a lot of those are simply outside the scope of this analysis.
  • Dear Amazon: please release an Instant Video app for Android. The Play Store's biggest advantage right now aside from rental price is that users on its platform can't go to your much bigger library. It's money on the table. Not to mention keeping semi-exclusivity (an app is available on iOS) on content just to sell loss-leading hardware makes no sense.

Closing Thoughts

Ultimately, this is just a fleeting glimpse into the libraries of these movie companies. A complete and exhaustive comparison of all available titles is a monumental task and probably unfeasible for one person or even a team of people. Not only are there a near-incalculable number of films, but even if you could get a single list of all titles and check every service out there for all of them, the library would almost certainly change before you finished searching. In fact, this chart will probably be slightly inaccurate by the time it's published. However, hopefully it can at least give us a snapshot of how the various streaming services stack up.

Eric Ravenscraft
Eric is a snarky technophile with a taste for the unusual. When he's not obsessing about Android, you can usually find him obsessing about movies, psychology, or the perfect energy drink. Eric weaves his own special blend of snark, satire, and comedy into all his articles.

  • DatSilence

    And none of them is available in my country :(

    • Mark

      Have you considered moving?

    • http://www.facebook.com/dwayne.coker.7 Dwayne Coker

      unblock-us.com, unodns, or overplay's smart dns service will solve that problem

  • Trololop

    You forgot iTunes dude

    • ProductFRED

      ...for Android?

      • Jason Rittenhouse

        I don't think Amazon Video is on Android yet (except for Google TV).

        • Robb Nunya

          You can watch it on the Browser, though, if I'm not mistaken. Not Hi Def, but still...

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

      While, yes, I am kinda pushing the boundaries on what counts as Android coverage here, I did at least try to stick to Android-related or cross-platform services. Amazon kinda misses the mark a bit, but it has its exceptions. It's certainly fair to bring up iTunes but ultimately I decided to leave it off the list.

    • JLishere

      This is a comparison for Android users.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      I think y'all forgot to look at his name :P

  • tyler cole

    Amazon Prime just has a good bundle all together with the 2-day shipping and the movies and tv shows thrown in too. If they would ever make an android app it would be perfect.

  • Jason Rittenhouse

    "57 of the 66 sampled Prime movies are also available for PURCHASE. You don't get to keep them, of course, but given that buying all those movies could cost hundreds of dollars, it may help limit impulse buys."

    Do you mean "rental"? Unless I am reading it wrong... Very helpful article, thanks! Knowing how many unique titles Amazon Prime has over Netflix is useful (I have both services) since I pretty much disregard Amazon's service right now.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

      No, I meant purchase. I cross-checked the movies you could get as part of the Prime subscription versus the ones you could buy. 57 of them appeared on both lists. So, if you had a Prime subscription, you wouldn't have to buy them. As I said, you don't get to keep them, so it's not quite the same, but it wouldn't matter if/until you decide to give up your Prime subscription. At which time you can decide if you really wanted to keep them all.

      • Jason Rittenhouse

        Oh I see, I did read it backwards. Thanks!

  • http://katzmatt.com/ Matt Katzenberger

    You can get Amazon video on Android now?

    • http://twitter.com/jheyneman James Heyneman

      The Kindle Fire is an Android device...

      • http://katzmatt.com/ Matt Katzenberger

        In the same way my Nexus 10 is a Linux device, sure.

    • http://twitter.com/talibmorgan Talib Morgan

      I did a search for Amazon Instant on Android and ended running across an old Flash apk. Installed it on my Nexus 10 and I am now able to view Amazon Instant Video media on my device through the browser.

      • http://katzmatt.com/ Matt Katzenberger

        What browser?

        • Matthew Fry

          Any non chrome browser. I found the flash apk through a Nexus 10 apps to have blog post.

    • http://twitter.com/rayk808 Ray K.

      Amazon Video works on non Chrome browsers (Dolphin is the one I use) if you have Flash installed.

  • Raymond Hawkins

    Does this include Netflix DVD rentals?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

      Nope. Just things you can stream. The idea is "I don't want to leave my house and I want to watch a movie right now. What are my options?"

  • acey_zero

    I still cannot comprehend why streaming pay-per rentals are so expensive, can anyone explain this to me?

    I can rent a physical disk from Redbox for $1.20, but to stream anything usually costs $3 or more. I know bandwidth is not free, but it seems like it would have to be cheaper than managing physical disks. In fact I know that there are illegitimate websites that are willing to stream movies for you just to display a few adds, which can't make them more than a few cents.

    • http://twitter.com/Regretful Jason Peffley

      Because people don't want to find a Redbox,

    • Mike

      It's frustrating that the studios don't understand how much they could make if they charged $1-$2 to stream instead of $4-5

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

        I think they're starting to get there. Like I mentioned, the Play Store sticks to the $2-3 rental range and that's not a bad place. It's not great, but given that when I rent a Redbox disc, I invariably forget to return it the next day, it's often not too far off. Still, it would certainly be nice to see the prices get better. At least for some older things. I saw a lot of movies whose prices made no sense. Like, for example, Dune. It's $3 on the Play Store right now. That could easily drop down to $2 or even $1. It's old enough that there's not gonna be a huge rush to get in on it. Besides, if anyone is looking to see Dune that hasn't already and they want to rent before they buy, chances are their nerdy friend had to talk them into it, so it's already been an uphill sale. Why make it worse with a $3 price tag? Drop it to $2 or less and it slips easier into that "I've been told I need to watch it, so maybe now I will" territory.

        If nothing else, though, we can learn it's imperative to never ever, ever rent from Redbox.

        • Nicole Paskiang

          i own all of the versions of dune from book to video, at 42 yrs old i don't consider myself a nerd, and i think the original dune is better than any of the newer versions. i agree about not renting from redbox. the redbox and blockbusters kiosk's prices are a joke, even now that blockbuster closed most of their store fronts doors. i have accounts with hulu plus, netflix, amazon, and vudu, the prices are better than buying at walmart or another store.

  • rap

    Nice comparison to help people make informed decisions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gregori.gualdron Gregori David Gualdron

    Thank you! Amazing chart/review :)

  • SF Steven

    what's up with that infographic? You should either list the vendors in the same order or list the results from best to worst (left to right); they're all mixed up.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      You didn't even read any of the words, did you?

      • MeCampbell30

        When you have a GIANT picture, reading is for suckers.

        Also, all the furniture in my apartment may or may not be assembled correctly.

        • enomele


  • Sergii Pylypenko

    Good job with that chart

  • HopelesslyFaithful

    i find it pointless...its either redbox at the store or netflix....and hulu for free to keep up on current releases....everything else is over priced and gives no options. Really wish netflix would add more DC/Marvel shows and movies....i can't get enough of them ^^

    • http://cashd00d.co.cc/ WHAT?

      Netflix's new deals with Disney and Warner Bros should help got more Marvel and DC content in the future.

      • HopelesslyFaithful

        sweet. i noticed the red hood was added (Epic movie) and year one also good but got those in red box ages ago. Also would be cool if hulu played current stuff....don't own a TV so i miss out on all the current shows. Plus i always forget to look into marvel.com site to watch but their site sucks so oh well their problem on loosing out on ad money ^^

      • HopelesslyFaithful

        BTW tried to watch the 90s spiderman and wow....i forget how shitty it looked! I mean there is NO DETAILS! everything is fuzzy lol. I hope they go back and remaster the 90s spider man because it was the best spiderman ever! Was something else but forgot lol

  • Jonathan Blackhall

    It would be a interesting to add TV series comparison as well

  • mgamerz

    That amazon one is a bit unfair, since the cost also includes amazon prime.

  • Dan

    Great thanks for this. If you have already compiled the itunes data it would be interesting to compare

  • Wayne Randall

    Thanks Eric. A noble undertaking with a terrific curtain-call.

  • White Pawn

    Great work. Excellent article. Thanks for taking up the task and thanks more for finishing it!
    This article deserves more public reach. We should all help.

  • Elias

    Terrific job with that massive comparison. This is actually very useful and no one had done it yet so nicely. Thanks!

  • ElfirBFG

    Netflix all day. And uh, private torr-- er, I mean, nothing, just Netflix.

  • michael interbartolo

    Why no Vudu included in the rental/purchase area? they are in pretty much every smart tv, streaming box and now expanding to android/iOS more.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

      To be perfectly honest, it's because I've tried to use it on about a half dozen different occasions when I get those digital copies and every single time it has some technical issue. At this point, I never even think of it as a viable service.

      Also, collecting all this data was a huge task as is. I know there are a ton of services that could've been included, but at a certain point it just becomes too much for one person to take on in a timely manner. With something like this, you start to run the risk of the data becoming outdated or inaccurate by the time you're done collecting it. The entire analysis is already pretty subjective.

      That's something to keep in mind for any future charts, though. ;)

      • itznfb

        Vudu is the ONLY service worth purchasing from. It's the only service that offers true HD quality AND sound... and it's works seamlessly with UltraViolet. Netflix, Hulu+ and Vudu are pretty much the only services I use. I use Vudu for anything that is a newer release.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

          With respect, that makes Vudu the only service *you* would like to purchase from. It is, by far, not the only service worth purchasing from.

          • itznfb

            True but as I mentioned it's the only (only major anyway) service that provides HD Image and Audio streaming. So if you want higher quality it is the only option. Renting probably isn't that big of a deal but I sure want the best quality I can get if I'm actually going to purchase a movie that will be stored online.

        • michael interbartolo

          I agree the bonus of buying an UV title is a big plus since my UV account is linked to 5 others so our movies are all pooled. Plus the selection is greater than the Play store. Play might have a rental for some movies, but Vudu will have the rental and purchase. Given that Vudu is widespread cross platform (smarttv, xbox360, set tops and Nexus7) increases the appeal.

  • medialuv

    what are your thoughts on Vudo, CinemaNow & HuluPlus? I have Netflix & although not all new movies & TV shows are available there are some. I found a few TV shows I never would of thought I'd like ex: Bones. which I love! So some TV episodes do not show up til @ season later. The other plus for me is the documentaries. I love to put one on when I'm trying to fall asleep so I can just listen but not have to look at the picture & the screen goes black, as they are usually @ an hour. I can rewatch any part I missed, even a month later, as it is not rented just streamed @ $7.99/no. unlimted watch as may time as you like. That's why I'd be interested in the other comparisons as Smart TV's (GoogleTV) don't give you access to Hulu. How would the above mentioned compare with the ones you tested? I guess because I like to fall asleep to TV I prefer unlimited streaming at this point. If you get disrupted by cooking or kids, can you rewatch your vids with any of these without having to pay again? I'd love to find something new & fun & cost effective for my personal preferences. I'm putting this out there in case someone else shares my preferences.

  • http://cashd00d.co.cc/ WHAT?

    Don't forget about Crackle, Epix, Flixster, CinemaNow and Vudu.

  • Andrew

    Purely from skimming the infographic and not really reading the description, it appears - at first glance, at least - that Amazon soundly thrashes everyone else, almost every time.

    • Michael D.

      Then you clearly have trouble reading, because Amazon does not - in any way - "thrash" Netflix. I have both Netflix and Prime, and Netflix has FAR more no-additional-charge streaming content. This is especially true for newer movies. Plus, if a movie is not available on streaming you can get the DVD in two days. No, I'm sorry, but Netflix (as they said in the article you didn't read) "soundly" wins. In my opinion Amazon is not even close to Netflix. These guys used the IMDB top 250 to do the test, but if you actually using both services (which I do) you will quickly find that Netflix has far more no-additional-charge content. Also, something HUGE that wasn't mentioned: On Netflix ANYONE in your family can stream, on multiple devices, at the same time! My son goes to college in a different CITY, and he streams to his dorm room on my account: no additional charge! With Amazon Prime only the PRIMARY member can stream: only ONE person can stream! So, if you think Amazon "thrashes everybody else", you clearly don't know what you're talking about. I've been a Netflix member for many years, and an Amazon Prime member for three, and I can tell you that Netflix is the clear winner, especially for folks that watch a lot of movies.

  • Xajel

    I hope to include country/region availability for these services as not all providers services over the seas market...

  • andrew__des_moines

    The big issues in streaming are movies that are unavailable (Schindler's List, Better Off Dead) and those only available for sale and not rental (a long list). Studios should be making bank on their product as there is very little overhead compared to the rental store model of not too long ago, but they have some paranoid hatred of streaming. I don't pirate movies, but I cheer those that do so for titles I cannot rent. If studios want to put out their own app / Roku channel, so be it -- just make titles available for rental.

  • RodneyLee

    good review, Amazons and Hulu's interface sucks, I checked out a few services and only Netflix has a worth using interface, might be worth a review on getting around inside these services

    • itznfb

      Get a Roku. Then all the interfaces are equally crappy.

  • JAB

    I like renting from TPB the best.

  • http://www.thebiglistofpubs.com/ Bibowski

    What about Xbox Video or CinemaNow? Or are those not even worth mentioning?

  • m1st0

    Thank you for this . . . so glad to see these differences in one shot.

  • John O’Connor

    Great review! I am use amazon prime/netflix and gplay. Finally received my redbox instant invite but haven't gotten around to trying it out considering the poor reviews. It really does pay to have multiple services

  • Brandenlee

    Why can't you have Amazon on the Nexus 7? It's tells me it won't work for my device.

  • http://twitter.com/macdaddybuff macdaddybuff

    One big note I didn't see mentioned. Play store charges on average 5 dollars more for HD version of the movie when buying it. Sd might cost 9 but hd$ version will cost you 17$. Amazon it's one price only. So as long as you have proper bandwidth you can watch the HD version at no extra cost. Big reason I buy all my movies from amazon now.

  • satamusic

    PirateBa... err Netflix FTW!

  • http://gameluv.com/ Shawn S

    Great work! A site I always run to check for specific movies is http://www.canistream.it . I didn't see it mentioned anywhere and wanted to share.

  • Jimmy Mackey

    Your article is so comprehensive that I feel like I’m reading Consumer Reports, LOL! I have a lot of respect for these comparisons but it was my curiosity in Redbox Instant that led me here. I was not surprised to see how low it ranked since it is new still. I also wondered how Redbox Instant compared to my DISH Blockbuster @Home subscription. My favorite part of the service is that I can stream to my iPad when I’m on my break and working at my DISH office or on a trip for them. Of course, I like that it only costs $10 a month and includes games and Blu-ray by mail, but Redbox used to be my go to for movies so I had to see what people were saying. Now it is just too convenient to use Blockbuster @Home since I don’t have to leave the house to rent and yet I have hundreds of thousands of choices over Redbox Instant.

  • scrypps

    Just want to know why I can pay $7.99 a month to Netflix and get crystal clear streaming unlimited, while I pay 3.99 each time I want to watch an amazon flick and whether its download or streaming the picture quality is terrible.

  • David Hughes

    I've had nothing but trouble with Netflix billing, they double bill but in support and message forums it's denied and even supposedly comments deleted. I had to battle with Netflix over being billed twice per month, how did they get authorization to bill me twice? Once was OK but I never authorized the second. A rep at Netflix support said their system was unable to refund my money, but it's funny how it could take it. Add to all that the dismal selection for Canada unless you use a VPN for another $10/month.

  • Erin

    You should have compared Hulu Plus as well.

  • James Smith

    Excellent Review. A fifth column for combined redbox instant + kiosk would have been a
    nice addition though. I would be curious how the combined offerings of redbox did on the 554 movies.

  • ImSometimesJim

    Saying "Netflix has the Largest Streaming Library" isn't true at all.

    Netflix has a total of 7,595 'free' movies at the moment. Amazon Prime Instant has 14,754 'free' movies - TWICE AS MANY. Now..how exactly does Netflix have a larger library?

    On the TV side it's really close - Both have around 1,200 individual TV shows - excluding the counts on all of the individual seasons.

    Each have their pros and cons on the TV side. Amazon having new stuff like Downtown Abby, Under The Dome, Falling Skies, etc and great older stuff like every single Stargate series and episode.

  • danix180

    ''Dear Amazon: please release an Instant Video app for Android''

    Totally agree
    Now with Chromecast out it's time to ditch Amazon for Play. I had enough with this...

  • phones

    no audio/video quality comparison?...