EVERYONE AND THEIR MOTHER HAS A NETFLIX ACCOUNT, BUT THERE MAY BE OTHERS WORTH THE MONTHLY FEE.
Entertaining ourselves has become more important than ever. No matter how good you are at being with your own thoughts, at some point we all need the voices of our favorite TV and movie characters to fill the air so we don’t have to. Streaming services have become essential in this pandemic for that very reason. People are streaming more than ever, and not just the big three services. Despite the massive libraries featured on Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, there is plenty more out there to discover. If you’ve exhausted your streaming accounts’ catalogues, or are just interested in a change of viewing material, there are some quality services you probably haven’t heard of.
These services focus on specific and less mainstream tastes. Whether it’s finding the oddball cartoons you watched as a kid or cop shows form the 1970’s, these streaming services may satisfy your unique interests.
At the end of 2020, Funimation announced that it would be purchasing Crunchyroll, creating the greatest online bastion of anime ever in one place. The combination of these two brands isn’t official yet so in the meantime, we would recommend Crunchyroll as their library is superior (and will hopefully soon be expanded). While Netflix has significantly upped its anime offerings in the past year, it still doesn't hold a candle to Crunchyroll. They’ve got over 25,000 episodes of TV featuring both anime and live-action East Asian TV. Some of their content is free with adds, but their ad-free premium membership costs $7.99/month. They also offer subtitles for their shows in seven languages as well as plenty of digital manga to read.
Popular titles include Cowboy Bebop, Attack on Titan, One Piece, Yu Yu Hakusho, and Yuri!!! On Ice. It’s the perfect place to start if you're just dipping your toes into anime, or if you've been an anime fiend for years.
The folks at AMC Networks created this service, and as the name suggests, it focuses on horror. From remakes of classics like Carrie, Pet Cemetery and Child’s Play to modern horror indies like It Follows and Hereditary, Shutter is a boon for any and every type of horror fan. Shudder also produces and distributes its own original content including films and series like Tigers Are Not Afraid, one of the best horror films in recent memory. But Shudder's killer feature is Shudder.TV, a 24-hour, ad-free live feed of horror that you can watch whenever you bloody feel like it. Their subscription costs $5.99/month or $56.99/year and includes a 7-day free trial.
Chances are you've let Pluto TV fly under the radar. That's fair enough. It's super weird. Pluto is like a digital version of a classic basic cable service, with roughly 70 video channels and 30 audio channels to choose from, all of which are perfect for mindless comfort television. On Pluto TV, you can find recognizable channels like MSNBC and Bloomberg TV. You can also find channels that are just loops of one show like "MTV Teen," which is just a marathon of My Super Sweet 16. Pluto also features a Mystery Science Theater 3000 channel and The Addams Family channel. Then there’s odder channels like the Eye Candy channel that features women in various stages of undress, the Cats 24/7 channel that promises “the cute kittens nonstop,” the High Channel (content self-explanatory), and the Slow TV channel, which includes a feed from the front of a Norwegian rail line. There are also movies on demand, in case that's more your speed. The best part is, Pluto is totally free (with ads).
If you’re an expat who longs for the TV & Film from your homeland, if you lived a year abroad and want to find the stuff you watched when you were there, or if you’re simply an internationally minded individual who embraces subtitles, these services are for you.
If you’re looking for a broad range of international series with an emphasis on European countries, this service programs more than 2,500 hours of drama, comedy, and mystery series, all with English subtitles. There’s a mix of older titles and new releases, including the Spanish import Arde Madrid: Burn Madrid Burn (featuring Younger’s Debi Mazar), French mystery Les Secrets, and Norwegian crime drama Twin featuring Game of Thrones regular Kristofer Hivju (a.k.a. Tormund). Their subscriptions costs $8/month or $90/year. You can sample some programming for free (with ads) via the platform’s MHz Now service, too.
Spuul features a massive library of Bollywood productions (10,000 hours’ worth), plus dozens of live channels of Indian TV. Most Americans think Bollywood refers to films from India, but strictly speaking that term only includes Hindi-language movies. The fullness of the country’s film industry dwarfs Hollywood in terms of output, churning out well over 1,000 movies a year. Popular titles include the 2017 crime thriller Raees, the 2015 romance Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, and 2015's fantasy epic Bāhubali: The Beginning. That is of course the predecessor to this year's Bāhubali 2: The Conclusion, the all-time highest-grossing Indian film in the world. A Spuul subscription is quite cheap at only $4.99/month or $49.99/year.
Are you the type of person who lives and breathes Masterpiece Theatre? Is your idea of relaxation an obscure British comedy or countless episodes of Doctor Who? Would you consider yourself an Anglophile in any way? Well then BritBox is the service for you. Featuring the best BBC and ITV have to offer, it will satisfy your need for content from across the pond. It's got literary adaptations like Sense & Sensibility, raucous comedy like Absolutely Fabulous, new and old Doctor Who, and all the EastEnders you could possibly want. Unlike us greedy Americans who produce 10–22-episode seasons of television, the Brits are a little more reserved, making their shows shorter, higher quality, and easier to binge. BritBox costs $6.99/month or $69.99/year and includes 7-day free trial.
For true cinephiles or those just trying to impress cinephile-chicks, these three services are essential. So catch some under the radar classics and support some independent filmmakers.
If you’re any kind of cinephile you probably know about the Criterion Channel. One of the biggest brands in art-house cinema curation has a streaming platform worthy of its namesake. It features more than 2,000 titles (big ones, not the obscure stuff, though there’s plenty of that too) plus expertly crafted collections, behind-the-scenes extras, and original documentary series such as Art-House America and Adventures in Moviegoing. Their subscription is a bit pricier than some at $10.99/month or $99.99/year. They include a two-week free trial.
You don’t necessarily need to be a fan of French new wave to subscribe to Criterion. If you’re interested in the less mainstream (but supremely more interesting) world of film, Criterion will give you a crash course on film history from around the world and oddly thrilling works from across the decades. In the mood for a classic musical? There's The Court Jester starring Danny Kaye. What about a Polish horror musical about man-eating mermaids? There's The Lure.
Want to watch great films and support art house cinemas that were forced to close during the coronavirus pandemic? The film distributor Kino Lorber has you covered. Through their new service Kino Marquee, you can watch arthouse films currently in theaters in the comfort of your home. You search for a film and Kino will find theaters near you that are screening it. You pick a theater and purchase a ticket through Kino. The money from the ticket goes straight to that theater and you watch the film on Kino’s platform. You can also buy or rent other Kino titles both digitally through their service Kino Now or by buying DVD’s and Blu-rays off their website such as the modern classic A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. Using Kino Lorber costs nothing, you pay for each film a la carte.
Tired of scrolling through endless rows of movies and not being able to pick one? This cinephile-centric service solves that problem with curation. It premieres and deletes one title every day, giving subscribers about 30 releases to watch each month (Mubi attaches a label to each title letting you know how many days are left before it disappears). Programming features a highly selective offering of global cinema, operating almost like the digital version of a film festival. Selections range from 1940s classics (Jean Renoir’s Oscar-nominated The Southerner) to recent Cannes films (Si Ling Hun’s 2018 film Dead Souls). Some selections are a part of a cohesive series like career retrospectives for directors Mike Nichols, Agnès Varda, and Luis Buñuel, or highlights from the Cannes Film Festival. Mubi is a steal at $5.99/month. Plus, they have their own digital-only film publication, Notebook.
That Russian crime drama you’re now obsessed with, you’re welcome.