Adam B. Vary / BuzzFeed News; Joe Belanger / Alamy Stock Photo
It's been 10 years since Netflix first opened our eyes to the world of streaming movies and TV shows directly to our computers. A year later, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video officially launched similar services. Soon enough, all three also began streaming original content, which has gone on to win Emmys and Oscars and lead crucial national conversations about teen suicide, gender identity, women's rights, and abandoning best friends in the Upside Down. In less than a decade, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video have become so central to popular culture that, for many, they've replaced broadcast TV networks as the new Big Three — the core trinity of content delivery for millions of cord-cutting viewers.
The world of digital streaming, however, expands far beyond the scope of these three services. Just about every broadcast and cable network also has its own streaming service (never to be outdone, HBO has two), and the major sports leagues all have their own as well. This year, CBS even began making premium original shows — The Good Wife spinoff The Good Fight, and the first Star Trek TV show in 12 years, Star Trek: Discovery — for its subscription-only service, CBS All Access. And some outlets, like YouTube, PlayStation Vue, Sling, and Hulu, have started offering streams of live TV and à la carte access to popular basic cable networks.
All of that would provide enough #content — delivered through a sprawling technological ecosystem of tablet apps, set-top boxes, smart TVs, and USB sticks — for several lifetimes. And yet, specialized streaming services have been proliferating like cinematic universes and NBC’s Chicago shows. Tucked into just about every corner of the mainstream internet, these services offer platforms for all kinds of feature films, TV shows, and short-form series one could imagine — and many more one could not. There are services for military veterans, workout routines, and science and nature documentaries, to name a few.
There have never been more options for streaming — and making sense of where to do that has never been more overwhelming. Universal search sites like Yidio and GoWatchIt don't cover many of these services. Confusing things further, Amazon has started offering several of these streaming services separately from their respective discrete apps via its Prime Video Channels option.
To help make sense of it all, here is a small sampling of services available within the current streaming landscape, along with how much they cost and what devices you need to watch them.
(Note: While some of these services are available outside of the US, all viewing and pricing options listed here are for their US versions only.)
…so long as you're cool with ads running during your movie or TV show.
What is it? While just about every TV network has its own streaming portal, very few movie studios have followed suit, preferring instead to use established ones like Netflix, and VOD options like Vudu. Sony is the rare exception, launching this free, ad-supported movies and TV service in 2007 that leans heavily on male-skewing content.
What’s on it? Of the roughly 200 viewing options, there's a rotating selection of TV shows, including all episodes of recent (i.e., canceled) shows like Last Resort and The Player, as well as selected seasons of classics like Seinfeld and All in the Family. There is also a limited range of classic and contemporary movies from sci-fi (2011’s Attack the Block) to comedy (1980’s Stir Crazy) to thrillers (1993’s In the Line of Fire) and prestige dramas (2004’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind).
Crackle also includes a growing assortment of original series, including Snatch with Rupert Grint, and StartUp with Adam Brody and Martin Freeman, and original films, like Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser with David Spade and Christopher Walken.
How much is it? Free with ads
How can I watch it? Desktop, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, PS4, PS3, PS Vita, PlayStation TV, Xbox One, Xbox 360, smart TVs (Samsung, Sony, LG, Vizio), Sprint TV (for an added fee), T-Mobile TV (for an added fee)
Where can I watch it? Including the US, Crackle is available in 21 countries.
2. Tubi TV
What is it? Tubi TV boasts that it offers "thousands" of ad-supported movies and TV shows not available on subscription-based services like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. The depth of its options draws from partnerships with studios such as Paramount, MGM, Lionsgate, and the Weinstein Company, and TV networks like Starz, Sky, and ITV.
What’s on it? A crap-ton of options: Over 5,000 movies and 1,000 TV series rotate through the site every month, pulling from an astonishing library of more than 50,000 licensed movie titles and over 25,000 total TV episodes. The options really run the gamut, from prestige films like Gladiator, Eve's Bayou, and My Week With Marilyn to long-in-the-tooth favorites like Overboard and Teen Wolf. It even includes “wait, that was a movie?” options like the 2013 caper Life of Crime with Jennifer Aniston and the 2009 horror spoof Stan Helsing. (There's also a section named Not On Netflix.)
Without the participation of most major US networks, the TV options are more rarefied, emphasizing British options like Spaced and the original versions of Queer as Folk and Shameless, as well as canceled American series like Running Wilde (with Will Arnett and Keri Russell).
How much is it? Free with ads
How can I watch it? Desktop, iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Xbox One, Xbox 360, smart TVs (Samsung)
Where can I watch it? US and Canada
What is it? This is an offshoot of the DVD and Blu-ray distribution company of the same name. It offers ad-supported access to cult favorites, with a selection that strongly evokes the bygone experience of browsing through the aisles of an independent video rental store.
What’s on it? There are roughly 350 movies and dozens of TV series, including multiple episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Elvira's Movies Macabre, and the selected works of schlockmeister Roger Corman. Serious dramas like John Cassavetes' A Woman Under the Influence and the selected works of gonzo auteur Werner Herzog keep the service classy in an off-kilter way.
How much is it? Free with ads, and $2.99 for an ad-free version via Amazon Channels
How can I watch it? Desktop, iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, smart TVs (Samsung)
Where can I watch it? The US and Canada, with a UK version launching soon via Amazon Channels.
FOR FILM BUFFS
A crowded and competitive subset that tout “curated” lists of often obscure titles.
What is it? A rare movie studio–based service that focuses on titles within Warner Bros.' vast library of classic (and maybe just old) feature films and TV series.
What’s on it? A wealth of 600–700 feature film options dating from the 1920s through the 1990s, including standouts like the 1933 screwball comedy Bombshell, the 1967 thriller Wait Until Dark, and the 1971 Western McCabe and Mrs. Miller. Only serious cineastes, however, would recognize many of the titles here, like the 1958 Paul Newman Western The Left Handed Gun or the 1986 psychological thriller Dream Lover, starring Kristy McNichol. The TV options are more modest, with about two dozen series available in any given month, including the '70s sitcom Eight Is Enough and the '80s primetime soap Falcon Crest.
How much is it? $9.99/month or $94.99/year
How can I watch it? Desktop, iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku
Where can I watch it? US only
What is it? Conceived as an online hub for hardcore film lovers, Fandor recently announced plans to expand to original programming. The service also recently shuttered its digital magazine, though its editorial division still posts regularly, including interviews and reviews of current theatrical releases.
What’s on it? Roughly 6,000 movies, over 80% of which are exclusive to the site, curated by Fandor's staff into finely differentiated subsections (Coming of Age Comedy, Chalk Animation) and special programs (Soundtracks to Live By, 30 Is the New 20). The options are deliberately outside the mainstream, like the 1975 blaxploitation thriller Sheba, Baby with Pam Grier, and the 1991 New Queer Cinema classic Poison.
About once a quarter, Fandor will also offer original scripted and nonscripted series to US audiences, including Barber Shop, a Belgian docuseries set in different international barber shops, and The Principal, an Australian limited drama series, coming this September.
How much is it? $10/month or $90/year
How can I watch it? Desktop, iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Channels, Sling TV
Where can I watch it? US, Canada, and UK via Amazon Channels only
What is it? This service, part of the popular New York–based film festival, boasts a limited selection of features that are specially curated by boldface names like musician Wyclef Jean, director Cary Fukunaga, and actor Ruth Negga.
What’s on it? The service includes roughly 150 films (about a third of which refreshes every month), but many of those options should be familiar to serious movie fans, like the Pedro Almodóvar thriller Bad Education, the Eddie Murphy comedy Coming to America, the Banksy documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, and the coming-of-age classic The Graduate. (Similar to Tubi TV, there's also a section named Movies Not On Netflix Or Hulu.)
How much is it? $4.99/month
How can I watch it? Desktop, iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, smart TVs (Samsung), Amazon Channels, Sling TV
Where can I watch it? US only
What is it? This is yet another service for movie buffs, with a strong competitive edge: It draws from the deep libraries of quality cinema paragons Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection.
What’s on it? The basic package offers roughly 500 films, refreshing 10 films every week, that stretch from the 1910s to the 2010s. Certain films are broken out into special programming selections, like Coming Home (1996's Beautiful Girls, 2010's Tiny Furniture) and Tales of Revenge (1994's The Crow, 2003's Old Boy), as well as retrospectives for major filmmakers (Satyajit Ray, Ingmar Bergman).
For an additional fee, subscribers can also access most of the 1,100-plus films in the Criterion Collection — though not (alas!) Criterion's editions of Wes Anderson's filmography, or (alas?) Michael Bay's.
How much is it? $6.99/month; $10.99/month with Criterion Channel; or $99/year with Criterion Channel
How can I watch it? Desktop, iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV (with the promise of PS4 and Xbox One access soon)
Where can I watch it? US only
What is it? Not to be confused with Tubi TV, this service features a highly selective offering of global cinema, operating almost like the digital version of a refined international film festival. It also has its own digital-only film publication, Notebook.
What’s on it? Thirty films, with a new one added each day and lasting for exactly 30 days. Some selections are a part of a cohesive series, like recent career retrospectives for directors Mike Nichols, Agnès Varda, and Luis Buñuel, or highlights from the Cannes Film Festival.
Like Amazon and Netflix, Mubi has also moved into limited theatrical distribution for a highly limited number of films, most recently the Cannes prize-winner The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki.
How much is it? $5.99/month
How can I watch it? Desktop, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, PS4, PS3, smart TVs (Samsung)
Where can I watch it? Globally
FOR SOME SPECIALIZED VIEWING
From horror to family friendly fare.
What is it? The folks at AMC Networks created this service, and as the name suggests, it focuses on horror.
What’s on it? There are a bounty of classic titles like The Wicker Man (the 1975 Christopher Lee version), John Carpenter's 1975 thriller Assault on Precinct 13, and 1986's phantasmagoric Hellraiser. All the films are separated into sanguinary sections like A Woman's Touch (2011's We Need to Talk About Kevin), Flesh Eating Frenzy (1979's Cannibal Holocaust), and School's Out...Forever (2001's The Devil's Backbone).
There are also a handful of TV shows, like the '80s horror anthology Tales From the Darkside, and shorts, like 2015's perfectly titled He Took His Skin Off for Me. 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.
How much is it? $4.99/month, or $47.88/year; but Shudder.TV is free
How can I watch it? Desktop, iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Xbox One
Where can I watch it? US, Canada, UK, Ireland
Urban Movie Channel
What is it? BET founder Robert L. Johnson created this service, which focuses on entertainment made by and for black Americans.
What’s on it? Around 250 movies (roughly 60% of which are exclusive to UMC), featuring actors like Mo'Nique and Isaiah Washington (2015's Blackbird), Garcelle Beauvais and Leon (2013's And Then There Was You), and Jay Ellis (2016's Like Cotton Twines). There's also a selection of stand-up specials from comics like Kevin Hart, Gary Owen, and D.L. Hughley. And if you are morbidly curious about the disastrous Nina Simone biopic Nina with Zoe Saldana (which was released theatrically by Johnson's RLJ Entertainment), that is available here too.
There are currently just 10 TV series available on UMC, but one of them is the first season of the indelible reality show Braxton Family Values, and UMC says it plans to more than double its TV options this year as the service moves more into original content.
How much is it? $4.99/month or $49.99/year
How can I watch it? Desktop, iOS, Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Channels
Where can I watch it? US only