beyond netflix: five streaming platforms changing the way we watch

Introducing a new wave of movie streaming sites that let you queue up campy cult classics, obscure horror films, and critically acclaimed documentaries.

by Salvatore Maicki
Nov 21 2016, 7:40pm

It's been nearly a decade since Netflix introduced its streaming platform in 2007. And though the site has made certain films and television shows more accessible, it has also, in a sense, limited our cinematic scope. How often do you delve into your queue with the expectation of finding cinematic enlightenment, only to feel so uninspired that you rewatch 30 Rock instead? While the collection expands with new additions every month, it's difficult not to feel as though the canon has grown stale when Jackass 3.5 appears as one of the top "cult movie" options.

Luckily, a host of new, alternative streaming services are now offering up more specialized cinematic catalogs to a growing base of users. Some are genre-specific, while others are intensely curated. Here are five of our favorites, each of which guarantees to liven up your standard Netflix-and-chill.

Brown Sugar
This streaming service is devoted exclusively to blaxploitation flicks of the early 1970s. Launched last week by Bounce TV, the site currently offers 111 films within the genre, with hundreds more scheduled for release over the coming months — from Cleopatra Jones and Uptown Saturday Night to more obscure cult classics. The extensive selection is divvied up into sub-genres including "Jive-Ass Turkeys," "Foxy Mamas," "Righteous Revenge," and "Stickin' It To The Man." In the site's promo video, iconic actress Pam Grier calls Brown Sugar "just like Netflix, only blacker." The Mack hath returned.

Le CiNéMa Club
Masterminded by producer Marie-Louise Khondji, Le CiNéMa Club takes an entirely different approach to the standard all-you-can-eat format of many streaming services. It offers just one hand-picked selection per week. The films vary in length, form, and rarity, but each one is chosen with deliberation. And each movie expires after just one week (though they remain archived for anyone in need of curatorial guidance). Khondji has also enlisted the likes of Léa Seydoux, Wes Anderson, and Alex Ross Perry to craft their own lists of favorite films for the site. Best of all? The site is entirely free.

Launched in November, FilmStruck is a new go-to space for bulking up your knowledge of classic cinema. The site is a joint endeavor between Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection and a refreshing example of quality over quantity. The platform's catalog includes hundreds of historic, acclaimed films, many of which have been digitally restored and come with bonus features. It's got everything from New Wave standards like Vera Chytilova's Daisies, to classic music documentaries like Don't Look Back. Though access to the Criterion films will set you back a bit extra, yearly membership winds up costing less than a standard Netflix membership.

Fandor functions as a sort of indie cousin to Netflix. The site has a collection of over 6,000 titles — from Yorgos Lanthimos's Dogtooth to Tom DiCillo's Living in Oblivion — offering up some seriously provoking cinema for those willing to dig deep. For users who are less well versed in independent cinema, the site curates its catalog in easy-to-navigate sections like "directed by women" and "real life stories." Even better, Fandor redirects a good portion of its revenue back towards independent filmmakers.

Shudder is the haunted house of streaming services, home to countless strange and obscure movies within the horror genre — from the creepy to the campy, and everything in between. The AMC-curated service, which launched last year, allows users to sink their fangs into niche subgenres such as the erotic Italian "Giallo" films of the 60s and 70s. There's even a monster-specific filter, which lists categories including ghosts, zombies, werewolves, aliens, and, most terrifying of all, humans.


Text Salvatore Maicki
Lede image Youtube