The Only Five Streaming Services You Need To Be Cool

Yes, you likely have a subscription to Netflix. You may subscribe Disney+, Paramount+AppleTV+, or any of the other studios with a "+" in their name, and you may have other premium subscriptions like HBO Max. Last year, a report in Variety found that Americans collectively pay over $47 million in subscription fees to streaming services. The days of buying an antenna and pulling free TV signals out of the air are long since behind us, and studios are fighting each other to the death to grab your attention. Average American consumers subscribe to at least 4 services, and discussions of "Ted Lasso," "The Book of Boba Fett," "Stranger Things," and whatever's newest on Quibi are dominating every part of the TV conversation. 

But who wants to be part of the popular conversation? Who wants to talk about "Star Wars" like a square? Or bother watching all the ill-curated prestige pictures on the same service everyone else is watching? Would you rather be the four millionth person to tweet about "WandaVision," or one of the only people in the world to share their thoughts on Hu Bo's "An Elephant Sitting Still" from 2018? How would you like to watch every single one of Devo's music videos? Or hunker down with a few video essays about Chantal Akerman's "Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai to Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles?" 

Don't be L7. You can't afford Netflix's and Disney+'s ever rising prices anyway. If you only have five services to subscribe to, make it one of the following, and you'll be cooler for it. 

Night Flight Plus

For those not in the know, "Night Flight" began its life in 1981 on the USA network and ran until 1988, before moving into syndication in the 1990s, where it continued to feed the heads of ultra-hip, fringe-dwelling Gen-Xers. "Night Flight" offered specially curated blocks of the day's best music videos — New Wave, punk, metal, hip hop, and anything beyond — as well as a showcase for bizarro short films, tokusatsu imports, interviews with the day's filmmakers, and ranting asides from The Church of the SubGenius. "Night Flight" ran for three full hours, and spawned segments like "New Wave Theater" about the local L.A. scene, "The Video Artist" about breakthroughs in animation technology, "Atomic TV," which was video mashups of Cold War-era scare films, and "Video Profile," which would do deep dives on important musicians and filmmakers. 

For those who thought MTV was too mainstream, "Night Flight" was waiting.

In 2016, "Night Flight" launched their own streaming service called Night Flight Plus, which featured not only full episodes of the show as they aired — complete with the original commercials — but also channels devoted to rock documentaries, concert films, and some of the more interesting genre studios: Arbelos Films, Severin, Something Weird, and Arrow Video all have prime content on there. There are also reruns of The Dr. Ruth Show, old anime reruns, Jane Fonda Workouts, "Gumby," and assorted cult oddities from the 1930s. 

Night Flight is only $39.99 a year. Subscribe here.


What happens when you get six of the most interesting distributors of international cinema currently working on a single subscription service? You get, one of the best streaming resources available for the gleefully snobby cinephile. Founded by KimStim, Grasshopper Films, First Run Features, Bullfrog Films, Icarus Films, and Distrib Films US, Ovid offers up one of the more carefully curated series of films available on any service, all carefully rotated out (not randomly dropped like other services), and replaced by new playlists from important rising voices in the world.

If you've ever run across a film critic's year-end top-10 list, and seen three or four international titles that escaped your attention because they were only playing in museums in Los Angeles for three days in February, Ovid is here to get those films back to you. Or if you're keen to find something new, they have their service lined up by country, release date, narrative, or documentary. They have channels devoted to modern art, dance, and biographies. There's also a very impressive collection of films in their "Black Lives" channel, including the works of Marlon Riggs and Cheryl Dunye. If you need a place to start, may I recommend "Too Late to Die Young" by Dominga Sotamayor or Lav Diaz' utterly awesome 338-minute Filipino epic "From What is Before?" Watch and feel your heart and mind expand.

Ovid is $69.99 a year, or $6.99 a month. Subscribe here.


Founded in 2015, Shudder is a streaming service for the horror nut who understands the vastness and the texture of the genre. You'll find all the streaming services on this list are carefully curated, with careful attention paid its catalogue, clearly overseen by people who know what the heck they're talking about. This is undoubtedly true of Shudder, handled by deep-cut gorehounds and intellectual thanatophiles who have a deep and abiding adoration for all things fearful. 

Shudder's catalogue of classic films is not as large as some other streaming services — a quick once-over reveals they only have about 200 films at a time — but those films are pretty much all must-sees for the aspiring horror fanatic. There is a channel devoted to Slashics, that is slasher classics, that includes "Maniac Cop," "Sleepaway Camp," "Black Christmas," "Deep Red," and, of course, "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre." If you're more interested in horror history, check out the movies on their Foundations of Horror channel, like both versions of "Nosferatu," James Whale's "The Old Dark House," and the Bela Lugosi film "White Zombie." They also have a separate channel devoted to horror films directed by women, including greats like "Revenge," "Let the Corpses Tan," and "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night." I could stay here all day recounting their catalogue. 

All the cool kids watch horror movies. Be a cool kid. 

Shudder is $56.99 a year, or $5.99 a month. Subscribe here

The Criterion Channel

I need say little about the Criterion Channel, as you likely already know this one. Since its founding in the 1990s, Criterion has been a go-to buzzword for the best-of-the-best in home video. They not only curated their collection very carefully, but still insists to this day that the best possible audio and video quality be brought to their products, not to mention essays and introductions provided by earnest experts on the film in question. Criterion Blu-rays are expensive, but they are very much worth it; there's a reason cinephiles get excited when they have half-off sales. And it's the same reason you should pay attention to the Criterion Channel.

If you need a place to start with Criterion, try out the channel called Essential Art House, which is pretty much a crash course on important international and indie film for the budding film fanatic. You'll be introduced to names that are commonly buzzed about in hushed tones: Anges Varda, Robert Bresson, Satyajit Ray, Yasujiro Ozu, Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, all film school regulars. Additionally, Criterion also has a great collection of Hollywood classics from the 1940s and 1950s (and beyond), as well as some truly bonkers genre films; If you haven't seen Nobuhiko Obayashi's 1977 horror film "House," get on that.

When a film hits the Criterion Channel, it usually inspires a wave of reconsideration; if you hadn't heard of it, you might consider that it was good enough to be included in the carefully curated Criterion Collection, and therefore might be worth a look. If you had previously dismissed it, its inclusion on Criterion may be a chance to revisit it.

The Criterion Channel is $99.99 a year, or $10.99 a month. Subscribe here.


So far, to subscribe to the above streaming services for one year, we've spent $266.96, which is a bit salty. So let's round out our streaming service collection with a free one. Kanopy is a streaming service that is accessible with your library card. That's it. While the above streaming services are wonderfully curated, and you'll have access to great works of art, Kanopy offers films that will supplement and round out your film access to include, well, just about everything else. Acclaimed indies, mainstream entertainment, PBS documentaries for kids, and even some of the films that are offered on the other services. Anything you may need to study at college, or would get from a library, will be available on Kanopy.

Kanopy was started in Australia, but it's now available in England, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the United States. It was imagined as an educational resource; a way to fulfill the promise of streaming as an extensive, permanent online collection of as many films as possible. Kanopy is as close as we've yet come to a proper online film archive. Netflix certainly wasn't going to do that, as their paltry collection of classic films bears out. In an interview with Documentary, Kanopy's CEO Olivia Humphrey describes the service's function and operational model. If your university library has it, you can stream it. If your public library has it, you can stream it. It's for the people.

See? Your 4th Grade teacher was correct. Your library card is your greatest superpower. And now it will make you even more cool.

Kanopy is free. You can subscribe here. I mean, why not, right?