Forget HBO Max: Netflix is still the best streaming service for film fans

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Netflix hasn't quite had a banner start to 2021. Competitors such as Disney Plus and HBO Max have dominated headlines with fresh original content offerings, and the news this week that the service lost 31% of its market share in 2020 surely stung. 

There are lots of people who are contemplating cancelling Netflix, but I'm not one of them. All you need to do is look at Netflix's list of upcoming movies to keep that hope alive for the big red streaming machine.

The veteran service is weathering a bit of storm at the minute. With more streaming rivals popping up at a remarkable speed (Paramount Plus launched just last month), and its own slate of original programming for 2021 mostly underwhelming so far. 

The last couple of months have likely got more than a few subscribers considering canceling their Netflix subscription. However, for my money, Netflix remains the best streaming platform for film fans, and content offering like the upcoming feature Havoc is proof. 

A Raid of talent

In case it passed you by, Havoc is an upcoming Netflix original movie written and directed by Gareth Evans. The Welshman’s previous projects include both The Raid films, the television series Gangs of London, and the horror movie Apostle, which also premiered on the streaming platform in 2018. 

Gangs of London television show

(Image credit: Sky Studios)

The acclaimed filmmaker is teaming up with Tom Hardy for Havoc. Hardy will play a “bruised detective who must fight his way through a criminal underworld to rescue a politician’s estranged son”. While the core premises might sound a little ho-hum, it’s the talent that has got me really excited.

Evans is one of the best working directors when it comes to shooting intrinsically choreographed action, and Tom Hardy has proven why he's a perfect leading man for this kind of action! The pair seem like a match made in heaven to me, and I cannot watch to see the breakneck action-thriller they produce next year.

Netflix has also signed a “new creative partnership” with Evans, so Havoc won’t be the only new film from him that the streaming platform gets to add to its library. Locking down a talent like Evans for multiple features is a serious boon for the service. 

Of course, you might be saying, well Havoc is just one movie, why not cancel and resub when it releases in a year or so? To me, the film’s announcement is indicative of a trend that Netflix has continued over the last several years. One that is keeping me subscribed indefinitely.

Netflix's reputation for exclusive films

Netflix has quickly become the place where directors go to make films that no other studio would ever allow them to make. 

Legendary directors like Martin Scorsese and David Fincher have turned to Netflix and been granted not only a sizeable budget but also the creative freedom to bring their passion projects to life. 

In return for the faith shown in them, Scorsese delivered The Irishman in 2019, and Fincher’s own Mank just debuted on the service last year. Both received pretty much unanimous critical praise. 

The Irishman Netflix film

(Image credit: Netflix)

These are two excellent movies that likely wouldn’t have made by any other studio as they would have been considered a risky proposition unlikely to turn a profit at the box office.

Netflix is earning itself a reputation as a place where visionary directors can work without the restrictions often placed on them by the traditional studios. I can’t wait to see Rian Johnson being allowed completely off the leash for the two Knives Out sequels that Netflix has reportedly paid $450 million to acquire. 

Prestige not just profits  

While many of the biggest streaming services rely on blockbuster franchises and brand recognition, Netflix’s original movie slate is often focused more on prestige features and awards recognition.  

oscars 2021 stock image

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The investment that Netflix has made in films like The Irishman, which had an eye-watering estimated budget of $200m+, is unlikely to have been particularly profitable in the long term.  Yet the bigwigs at the streaming giant continue to throw money at these landmark pictures. 

Don’t get me wrong, Netflix also produces plenty of movies that are awful and the service's content slate is not immune to missteps, but it’s telling that during the 2021 award season several of the major players are housed exclusively at Netflix — and the same was true last year as well. 

This isn't to say that Netflix's streaming rivals don't have plenty to shout about. Marvel projects like Loki are exclusively streaming on Disney Plus and big blockbusters like Godzilla vs Kong will be debuting on HBO Max throughout the year, but so long as Netflix continues to give talented directors an outlet to make the movies they otherwise wouldn't have been able to, the service will always get a monthly payment from me. 

Rory Mellon
Entertainment Editor (UK)

Rory is an Entertainment Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on gaming and streaming. When he’s not reviewing the latest games, searching for hidden gems on Netflix, or writing hot takes on new gaming hardware, TV shows and movies, he can be found attending music festivals and getting far too emotionally invested in his favorite football team.