Streaming hits (and misses) of 2016

Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu produced more original TV shows and movies than ever in 2016. We list the big names, breakout hits and ones to avoid.

Richard Trenholm
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Richard Trenholm
1 of 53 Netflix

'Stranger Things'

Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and Crackle all create original movies and TV shows for online viewing. The '80s-tastic "Stranger Things" was one of the year's biggest streaming hits on Netflix.

2 of 53 Netflix/Laurie Sparham

'Black Mirror'

Netflix bought Channel 4's sci-fi anthology series, "Black Mirror," for more twisted tales of technology that'll leave you shaken -- at least until you pick up your phone again.

3 of 53 Amazon Video

'The Grand Tour'

The former "Top Gear" team of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May hit the road with a pile of Amazon cash in "The Grand Tour."

4 of 53 Robert Viglasky/Netflix

'The Crown'

The first UK production for Netflix is "The Crown," which tells the story of the British royal family in sumptuous style.

5 of 53 Amazon

'The Tick'

The superpower of Peter Serafinowicz is comedy in "The Tick," one of several pilots streamed on Amazon that were then picked up as a full series.

6 of 53 Netflix

'The Get Down'

Baz Luhrman tells the story of hip-hop with lavish musical extravaganza in "The Get Down," a hugely expensive and visually impressive production that somehow didn't get the praise it deserved. Perhaps that's because it landed around the same time as runaway word-of-mouth hit "Stranger Things."

7 of 53 Amazon

'Good Girls Revolt'

One of Amazon's unsung gems is 1960s-set "Good Girls Revolt," which entertainingly and quite originally depicts the flipside of "Mad Men," Sadly, it hasn't been picked up for a second season.

8 of 53 David Newsom/Netflix


Ellen Page stars in the film "Tallulah" on Netflix, one of the movies snapped up by the deep-pocketed streaming service.

9 of 53 Netflix

'Luke Cage'

Netflix extends its run of hard-hitting Marvel shows with "Luke Cage," a series entertainingly indebted to blaxploitation classics and boasting a badass hip-hop soundtrack.

10 of 53 Netflix


The second season of Marvel's "Daredevil" introduces Jon Bernthal as the Punisher, who gets his own show next year.

11 of 53 Hulu


James Franco is one of the proper stars attracted to streaming as he tries to save JFK in Hulu's time-travel series "11.22.63."

12 of 53 Saeed Adyani/Netflix

'Gilmore Girls'

"Gilmore Girls" has been resurrected on Netflix to finally finish the story.

13 of 53 Crackle

'Dead Rising: Endgame'

Sony's Crackle service has streamed a second movie based on the Dead Rising video game series.

14 of 53 JoJo Whilden/Netflix

'The OA'

Alice Krige and Brit Marling help Netflix close out the year with intriguing drama 'The OA."

15 of 53 Scott Garfield/Netflix


Comic genius Christopher Guest gives the "Spinal Tap" mockumentary treatment to the world of sporting "Mascots."

16 of 53 Amazon

'The Collection'

Amazon Prime goes high fashion with "The Collection," a glamorous visit to a scandalous Parisian atelier.

17 of 53 Matt Kennedy/Netflix

'True Memoirs of an International Assassin'

Not every original production is a success. For example, Netflix movie "True Memoirs of an International Assassin," starring Kevin James, was deeply unfunny.

18 of 53 Kerry Hayes/Netfilx

'Special Correspondents'

Ricky Gervais claims Netflix had given him a free hand to write and direct "Special Correspondents," in which he stars with Eric Bana. Sadly, there is nothing special about this lackluster and laugh-free affair.

19 of 53 Tony Rivetti Jr., SMPSP/ Netflix,

'The Do-Over'

"The Do-Over" is the second movie in Adam Sandler's four-film contract with Netflix, which means we're halfway through the ordeal.

20 of 53 Greg Gayne/Netflix

'The Ranch'

Sam Elliott and Debra Winger give strong performances in the cowboy comedy "The Ranch" on Netflix, but the old-fashioned studio sitcom format feels awkward amid the herd of more heavyweight and innovative productions found on streaming services.

21 of 53 Adam Rose/Netflix


Netflix experiments with the chat show format with one led by Chelsea Handler (right), shown here with actress Gwyneth Paltrow.

22 of 53 Netflix

'White Rabbit Project'

Former "Mythbusters" stars Grant Imahara, Kari Byron and Tory Belleci returned with a new science series, "The White Rabbit Project," on Netflix.

23 of 53 David Moir/Hulu


The current golden age of TV drama is known for its troubled protagonists, and streaming shows have no shortage of conflicted and often unpleasant characters. For example, Hugh Laurie follows his hit show "House" with another difficult man in Hulu's "Chance."

24 of 53 Netflix

'Orange is the New Black'

There were plenty of troubled women in "Orange is the New Black" when the prison show returned to Netflix for a dramatic fourth season.

25 of 53


Political intrigue-packed "Marseille" was the first French show from Netflix. Zut alors!

26 of 53 Juan Pablo Gutierrez/Netflix


Speaking of unsympathetic protagonists, "Narcos" continues the fascinating story of drug lord Pablo Escobar.

27 of 53 Jeff Neumann

'Sneaky Pete'

Giovanni Ribisi plays the sneaky lead in Amazon pilot "Sneaky Pete," which was ordered to a full series.

28 of 53 Netflix

'Bojack Horseman'

He may be an animated horse, but he's one of the most unsympathetic characters on TV. The new season of "Bojack Horseman" on Netflix was still a compelling watch, especially during the clever silent episode.

29 of 53 Amazon


Billy Bob Thornton is another big name playing a troubled role in Amazon's "Goliath."

30 of 53 Hulu


There are family troubles and a few laughs in Hulu's "Casual."

31 of 53 Amazon/YouTube

'Crisis in Six Scenes'

Woody Allen brought his period drama "Crisis in Six Scenes" to Amazon Prime Video.

32 of 53 Hulu

'Shut Eye'

Jeffrey Donovan is a troubled psychic in Hulu's "Shut Eye."

33 of 53 Crackle


Sony's Crackle streaming service started up "StartUp," the steamy story of Miami criminals including Martin Freeman, who back a bitcoin-like cryptocurrency for their own nefarious ends.

34 of 53 Pedro Saad/Netflix


Netflix goes to Brazil for the dystopian sci-fi series "3%."

35 of 53 Erica Parise/Amazon

'Jean-Claude Van Johnson'

Amazon's series sees the muscles from Brussels Jean-Claude Van Damme playing himself, only as a secret agent.

36 of 53 Greg Lewis/Universal Television

'The Path'

Aaron Paul stars in cult-themed drama "The Path" on Hulu.

37 of 53 Netflix

'Kong: King of the Apes'

Speaking of larger-than-life protagonists, there is plenty of monkey business from Netflix with "Kong: King of the Apes."

38 of 53 Netflix

'Lego Friends: The Power of Friendship'

Kids shows are big on Netflix and Amazon. Among the hits, friendship is build brick by brick in "Lego Friends: The Power of Friendship" on Netflix.

39 of 53 Michael Rowe/Netflix

'Reggie Watts: Spatial'

Netflix brought a whole slate of established and up-and-coming comics to the stage for comedy specials. Among them was Reggie Watts with his blend of music and laughs.

40 of 53 Alex Crick/Netflix

'Ali Wong: Baby Cobra'

Ali Wong's stand-up special "Baby Cobra" hit a bump on Netflix.

41 of 53 Marcus Price/Netflix

'Hannibal Buress'

Comedian Hannibal Buress was among the comedy specials on Netflix this year.

42 of 53 Timothy Hiatt/Netflix

'Iliza Shlesinger: Confirmed Kills'

Comedian Iliza Shlesinger hit Netflix for a comedy special.

43 of 53 Katie Yu/Netflix

'Haters Back Off'

Online sensation Miranda Sings went from YouTube clips to Netflix show "Haters Back Off."

44 of 53 Neil Davidson/Netflix


Netflix picked up British comedy series "Scrotal Recall" and renamed it "Lovesick."

45 of 53 Saeed Adyani/Netflix

'Lady Dynamite'

Maria Bamford blew up in the wacky "Lady Dynamite" on Netflix.

46 of 53 Netflix


"Easy" is a Chicago-set comedy-drama anthology series written, directed, edited and produced by Joe Swanberg for Netflix.

47 of 53 Netflix


Plenty of real-life stories were told on streaming services this year. Feature-length drama "Barry" tells the story of a young Barack Obama on Netflix.

48 of 53 Karen Ballard/Netflix

'The Siege of Jadotville'

Jamie Dornan battles both political intrigue and enemy soldiers in "The Siege of Jadotville," based on true events.

49 of 53 Netflix

'Last Chance U'

Among the slate of Netflix documentaries was the compelling "Last Chance U."

50 of 53 Netflix

​'Into The Inferno'

Idiosyncratic director Werner Herzog has a lot of lava for volcanoes in Netflix doc "Into The Inferno,"

51 of 53 Netflix

'Audrie & Daisy'

Heartbreaking Netflix documentary "Audrie & Daisy" tackles modern attitudes to sexual assault.

52 of 53 Netflix

'White Helmets'

Powerful Netflix documentary "White Helmets" confronts the devastation of war-torn Syria.

53 of 53 Jean Louis Schuller/Netflix


Netflix documentary series "Captive" explores high-profile kidnappings.

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