The Criterion Channel is the best movie-streaming service you’ve never heard of. A subscription costs about the same as Netflix or Hulu: $10.99 per month, or $99.99 if paid annually (about $8.33 per month). Instead of offering new movies that have finished their theater runs, original flicks produced in house, or binge-worthy TV series, the Criterion Channel’s library consists of about 2,000 carefully selected films, many of them presented as curated collections accompanied by the extra materials normally found only on DVD or Blu-ray disc releases.
Not every film on offer is a masterpiece, but the vast majority are least good. The website They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They? maintains what I consider to be the most reliable list of the 100 best films ever made, and you can watch at least half of those movies on The Criterion Channel.
That said, this service is very definitely geared toward the adventurous viewer. Many of the titles are in languages other than English (so, you might need to read subtitles), and the newer titles on rotation when I wrote this review are, to put it politely, quite obscure. A few of the less obscure ones are Gabriel Abrantes & Daniel Schmidt’s Diamantino, from Portugal; Jafar Panahi’s 3 Faces, from Iran; Bi Gan’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night, from France; and Hu Bo’s An Elephant Sitting Still, from China.
Geared for the enthusiast
The cineaste, on the other hand, will find the Criterion Channel essential. You’ll find nearly complete—and in some cases, complete—collections of films by masters like Chantal Akerman, Michelangelo Antonioni, Andrea Arnold, Olivier Assayas, Ingmar Bergman, Les Blank, Robert Bresson, Luis Bunuel, Jane Campion, Charles Chaplin, Rene Clair, Jacques Demy, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Sergei Eisenstein, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Federico Fellini, Hollis Frampton, Jean-Luc Godard, Aki Kaurismaki, Abbas Kiarostami, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Masaki Kobayashi, Akira Kurosawa, Louis Malle, Jean-Pierre Melville, Kenji Mizoguchi, Mikio Naruse, Yasujro Ozu, Satyajit Ray, Jean Renoir, Eric Rohmer, Roberto Rossellini, Seijun Suzuki, Andrei Tarkovsky, Jacques Tati, Francois Truffaut, Agnes Varda, Jean Vigo, Wim Wenders, Lina Wertmuller, Wong Kar-wai, William Wyler, and many others.
Hidden treasures await your discovery, too. Are you a Christopher Nolan fan? You won’t find The Dark Knight or Interstellar here, but you can watch Nolan’s fascinating micro-budget debut feature Following, and his early short film Doodlebug. Did you like Josh & Benny Safdie’s Uncut Gems, starring Adam Sandler? That’s not here, either, but there is a whole selection of the brothers’ early short films and their 2009 feature Daddy Longlegs.