By Mike Murphy
“Stranger Things” may have all the hype, but there’s plenty more to stream in July.
The hugely anticipated season finale of the Netflix smash hit lands just in time for the Fourth of July weekend, but the addition of some big-name movies (like Netflix’s “The Gray Man” and “Persuasion”), returning favorites (like Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building” and “What We Do in the Shadows”) and intriguing new series (like Apple’s “Black Bird” and Peacock’s “Trigger Point”) should keep viewers glued to their screens even as summer hits its peak.
Most importantly, that viewing can be done without busting your budget: This month’s must-have streaming services can be had for just under $30 combined.
Each month, this column offers tips on how to maximize your streaming — along with your budget — rating the major services as a “play,” “pause” or “stop,” similar to investment analysts’ traditional ratings of buy, hold and sell, and picks the best content to help you make your monthly decisions.
As we’ve previously mentioned , consumers can take full advantage of cord-cutting though a churn-and-return strategy — that’s adding and dropping streaming services each month — and all it takes is good planning. Keep in mind that a billing cycle starts when you sign up, not necessarily at the beginning of a month. Also keep an eye out for lower-priced tiers, limited-time discounts (keep an eye on Amazon Prime Day offers!), free trials and cost-saving bundles. There are a lot of offers out there, but the deals don’t last forever.
Here’s a look at what’s coming to the various streaming services in July 2022, and what’s really worth the monthly subscription fee.
Netflix ($9.99 a month for basic, $15.49 standard or $19.99 premium)
There is no use resisting “Stranger Things,” so just strap in and enjoy the ride.
Volume 2 of the fourth season drops July 1, and it’ll take up a good chunk of your Fourth of July weekend. After returning in late May with seven supersized episodes, Season 4 of “Stranger Things” will conclude with two super-duper-sized episodes (1 hour and 25 minutes, and 2 hours and 30 minutes , respectively) as the teen heroes from Hawkins, Indiana, confront their latest and greatest big bad, Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower), with the future of the world at stake. The first half ended on a cliffhanger, with a bunch of key characters in dire situations, and the show’s creators, the Duffer Brothers, have hinted at some major-character deaths in the finale.
And while they may be overshadowed, Netflix /zigman2/quotes/202353025/composite NFLX +0.26% still has a full slate of non-“Stranger Things” stuff in July. At the top of the list is “The Gray Man” (July 22), starring Ryan Gosling as a CIA operative being hunted by international assassins, and co-starring Chris Evans, Regé-Jean Page and Ana de Armas. Directed by the Russo Brothers (“Avengers: Endgame”), the action thriller is reportedly Netflix’s most expensive movie ever , at about $200 million. It’ll also hit theaters July 14, a week before its streaming premiere. It looks dumb but fun — perfect summer fare.
There’s also a new adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” (July 15), starring Dakota Johnson in the Regency-era romance about a young woman getting a second chance at love; “Boo Bitch” (July 8), starring Lara Condor (“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”) in a limited series about a goody-goody high school senior who decides to finally let loose — only to suddenly find herself a ghost; “Umma” (July 16), a horror movie starring Sandra Oh as a single mom haunted by her dead mother; “How to Build a Sex Room” (July 8), which sounds like the icky HGTV-meets-Skinamax mashup that we never asked for; Season 3 of the oddly addictive glass-blowing competition “Blown Away” (July 22); a new season of the small-town romantic drama “Virgin River” (July 20); and “Resident Evil” (July 14), a gory thriller based on the popular videogame series.
Who’s Netflix for? Fans of buzz-worthy original shows and movies.
Play, pause or stop? Play. For the season finale of “Stranger Things” alone, though there are some good offerings beside that.
Hulu ($6.99 a month, or $12.99 with no ads)
Hulu has a strong slate of shows in July, highlighted by new episodes of two series that premiered in June: The Jeff Bridges spy-on-the-run thriller “The Old Man” (season finale July 21) and Season 2 of the delightful comedy/mystery “Only Murders in the Building” (new eps every Tuesday), starring Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez.
Add to that arguably the best comedy on TV: FX’s “What We Do in the Shadows” (July 13), the vampire mockumentary returning for its fourth season. The gang — which split up amid a season-ending shocker last year — reunite at their ramshackle Staten Island mansion as Laszlo (Matt Berry) struggles with something resembling fatherhood and Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) opens a vampire nightclub. Clever, hilarious and packing a sneaky dose of heart, it’s a must-watch. As with “The Old Man,” new eps stream a day after they first air on FX.
There’s also Season 3 of “Solar Opposites” (July 13), the twisted animated comedy about a family of aliens stranded on Earth, from two of the creative minds behind “Rick and Morty”; “Maggie” (July 6), a comedy series starring Rebecca Rittenhouse as a psychic whose visions mess with her dating life; the disappointing fourth and final season of “Killing Eve” (July 10), which aired on BBC America earlier this year; a new season of ABC’s “The Bachelorette” (July 19); Season 2 of the spinoff anthology horror series “American Horror Stories” (July 21); and “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” (July 12), which hit theaters in May.
Finally, Hulu is finally adding every season of the outstanding FX spy series “The Americans” (July 29), and rolling out “The Bear,” a compelling and addictive under-the-radar dramedy about the high-stress world of a small restaurant.
Who’s Hulu for? TV lovers. There’s a deep library for those who want older TV series, and next-day streaming for many current network and cable shows.
Play, pause or stop? Play. “The Old Man,” “Only Murders in the Building” and “What We Do in the Shadows” are three of the best shows of the summer, and there’s plenty beyond that to justify a subscription.
Apple TV+ ($4.99 a month)
Apple /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL -0.02% doesn’t have many new series in July, but two that are debuting look promising.
“Black Bird” (July 8) stars Taron Egerton (“Kingsman,” “Rocketman”) as a convicted drug dealer who’s given an opportunity to avoid prison time — but it’ll involve him being sent to a maximum-security prison for the criminally insane, befriending a suspected serial killer (creepily played by Paul Walter Hauser) and getting a confession out of him. The six-episode psychological thriller is based on a true story, was developed by acclaimed crime novelist Dennis Lehane, and also features the late Ray Liotta in his last TV performance. This seems right up the alley of viewers who are fans of Netflix’s late, great “Mindhunter.”
Apple has another good-looking thriller lined up later in the month: “Surface” (July 29), about a woman — played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw (“The Girl Before,” “Loki”) — who’s suffering from memory loss and trying to rebuild her life while piecing together the events that led to her (apparent) attempted suicide.
There’s also Season 3 of the new-parent comedy “Trying” (July 22), as well as new episodes every week of “For All Mankind” (currently the best drama on TV), the Rose Byrne ’80s-set aerobics drama “Physical” and the Maya Rudolph comedy “Loot.”
Who’s Apple TV+ for? It offers a little something for everyone, but not necessarily enough for anyone — though it’s getting there.
Play, pause or stop? Play. “For All Mankind” is spectacular, the other new additions look solid and the library is growing.
Disney+ ($7.99 a month)
Disney /zigman2/quotes/203410047/composite DIS +5.43% has a “glass half full/half empty” situation in July. On the one hand, there are a couple of new episodes of Marvel’s fantastically entertaining teen-superhero series “Ms. Marvel,” but once that ends July 13, there’s not much left.
The one big addition comes late in the month, with Season 3 of “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” (July 27), set this time around at a summer camp. All your favorite characters will return, though Olivia Rodrigo — now a global pop sensation — will be reduced to a guest-star role, while Corbin Bleu, a franchise OG, joins the cast in a guest role as a fictional version of himself.
There’s also Disney’s version of Shark Week, with a slew of shark programming, including “50 Shades of Sharks,” “Raging Bull Shark” and “World’s Biggest Great White?” (all July 1); and the documentary “America the Beautiful” (July 4), about America’s natural wonders and narrated by Michael B. Jordan.
Who’s Disney+ for? Families with kids, and hardcore “Star Wars” and Marvel fans. For those not in those groups, Disney’s library can be lacking.