The big streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus have plenty of content between them, but if you’re a really big fan of movies, TV shows or documentaries, you might find their offerings lack a little something.
Thankfully there are services that offer more. Indie films, world cinema, Hollywood classics, lesser-seen documentaries and film festival fare, for example, are easier to find on certain other streaming services and websites.
So if you’re bored of Netflix, tired of Amazon Prime and don’t want to pay actual money for a whole streaming service that only has Disney content, these are the best streaming services for you.
Best Netflix alternatives at a glance
- The Criterion Channel
- BFI Player
- Acorn TV
Best Netflix alternatives
A rotating roster worth watching
Lots of exclusives
Movies don’t stay long
Mubi has a wide collection of world cinema releases, as well as indie releases and early films from famous directors. There are, of course, also a few big films on the service at any time.
Every day Mubi adds one film and removes another in a rotating calendar, so it’s one of the only streaming services where you’re always excited to log into to check what’s new for the day. This does mean you need to be pretty quick to see films before they’re removed. The line-up also differs between regions.
A highlight of the streaming service is that it often has exclusive rights to new films from other countries, so it’s your only way to catch certain releases, and there are frequently themed seasons with multiple movies from a cinematic tradition or movement, which is great for learning about the history of cinema.
You can check out Mubi by clicking here
2. The Criterion Channel
The Criterion Collection’s official streaming service
Big collection of classics
Extra content for movie fans
Not available in all countries
Film fans likely know The Criterion Collection, a company which restores and distributes classic films, and The Criterion Channel is its streaming service which gives plenty of those masterpieces a digital home.
The Criterion Channel is only available in certain countries (and not the UK, sadly), so the films don’t have a digital home everywhere, but if you live in the countries it caters to, you can have access to its wide range of older films as well as select tiles from around the world.
Also worth noting is that there’s plenty of extra content available as well as films, like interviews with popular filmmakers and names in the movie world, as well as mini-documentaries introducing you to different cinematic movements.
You can check out The Criterion Channel by clicking here
Free (for select users)
Wide range of content
Only for select users
Kanopy isn’t a streaming service as you might know them – instead, it’s better described as a digital library, mainly because you actually need a library membership to get access.
If you’ve got a library card for one of the participating libraries (of which there are many around the world, not just in the US), or you’re a student or professor at a university, you can enjoy free access to Kanopy’s wide selection of movies and documentaries.
Many of these are the kind of classics you’d be studying for history or film classes, but they’re also worth watching if you appreciate the history of cinema anyway. There are quite a few newer indie films too.
If you don’t have a library card or don’t attend a university, you might be out of luck here, though.
You can check out Kanopy by clicking here
Articles to guide your viewing
Few big-name additions
Not available in all regions
If you want to immerse yourself in the wider world of older, world and indie cinema without really having a preference on exactly what you’re watching, US-only platform Fandor is the best streaming platform for you. That’s because most of its content sits in a nebulous space.
Fandor’s films aren’t old enough or popular enough to be classics, but they’re all worth viewing for one reason or another, especially thanks to Fandor’s editorial side which guides your viewing and provides recommendations. There seems to be a particular focus on 1970s and 1980s cinema from around the world, but there’s also lots of variety. If you’re not a picky viewer, and just want to watch some great older cinema, Fandor could be a good choice.
Sure, the selection isn’t as wide as some of the other entries on this list, but if you live in the US, you should check it out.
You can check out Fandor by clicking here
5. BFI Player
Can rent current films
Subscription doesn’t get you that many films
The BFI Player is the streaming service of the BFI (as the name implies), the British Film Institute, so you know it doesn’t just put any old film on its platform. No, its selection is only of the highest class. In the UK, you can get BFI Player on mobile devices, and in the US you can get it on The Roku Channel. Expect differences in the line-ups.
For a monthly price that’s fairly low compared to some of the others on this list, you get a curated selection of classics from across the world. In the UK right now, that includes BAFTA winner Bait, as well classics like Paris, Texas, 8 1/2 or Ghost World.
In the UK, there’s also the option to rent nearly 2,000 films, many of which are new, in cinemas, or hot off the film festival circuit, and the rental price is far lower than the average cost of a theater ticket. In addition there’s a selection of over 11,000 pieces of free content, most of which are short films or non-fiction footage of Britain through the years.
You can check out BFI Player by clicking here
A streaming service for independent cinema
Supports film industry
Both shorts and features
Doesn’t look like a huge collection
IndieFlix’s name rather gives away the game – it’s a streaming service for independent movies. This includes both feature films, shorts, and documentaries, as well as select TV shows and slow cinema.
It’s unlikely you’ll have heard of much of the content on IndieFlix save for some of the classics they have on there, but watching some of these independent films from around the world supports artists everywhere and broadens your horizons too.
At time of writing, it seems like IndieFlix’s library is a little limited compared to some of the competitors on this list, but its ranks could grow over time. It’s also got a few originals, too, and streams globally according to its FAQ.
You can check out IndieFlix by clicking here
7. Acorn TV
A tip-top British streaming service
Lots of British TV
Lots and lots of Agatha Christie
Not available in Britain
If you love British TV, then Acorn TV might be the streaming subscription service for you, because that’s the main thing it does (well, there’s some content from other countries too, but British-ness is Acorn TV’s thing).
The service has plenty of Agatha Christie content as well as British shows from the last few years like Midsomer Murders, Doc Martin and Detectorists. It puts out some originals too, if you can’t get enough of people talking about murders in middle-English accents.
Acorn TV isn’t actually available in the UK, although a release is slated for later in 2020, but most of the shows are available on TV there anyway. Another alternative for similar content in the US is Britbox, which is available in the UK.
You can check out Acorn TV by clicking here
There are plenty of streaming services out there, and while we capped this list at seven, there are a few more we’d recommend glancing at too.
The Film Detective is an archive of older classics that are in the public domain, yet the site restores them, making them much easier to watch. You can check out The Film Detective by clicking here.
Crackle, part-owned by Sony Pictures, has a limited collection of new films from a few big companies, including certain originals, although it’s not available everywhere. You can check out Crackle by clicking here.
Vimeo might not be your first port of call for new movies, since it’s more commonly known as YouTube’s biggest competitor, but it’s actually used by most indie and up-and-coming filmmakers to post their short (and, sometimes, feature) films, so you can sometimes find gems there. You can check out Vimeo by clicking here.