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The Criterion Channel (US)

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Calling all cinephiles and serious film buffs: I have the best movie streaming site for you. I know, I know, this phrase gets thrown around a lot these days, especially with new premium streaming services being launched all the time. Every site, as is the dictate of marketing, would have you believe that they are the best movie streaming site on the web. But how many of these sites actually focus on only curating the best movies on their platforms?

The philosophy that drives many of the most popular movie streaming sites – you know, the usual suspects: Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, etc. – is one of content. In other words, these sites are primarily focused on the number, the quantity, of movies and TV series that they have to offer members. Netflix is the prime example of this, seeing as they have been on a path towards creating a library of solely Netflix original content for quite some time now. But where are the streaming services that make quality their number one concern, letting that take precedent over quantity?

Thankfully, there are at least a couple movie streaming sites out there that are designed for people like you and me, people who see film as not merely a means to entertainment, but an art form. This, in my opinion, is a grossly overlooked characteristic required of the best movie streaming sites on the market today. And the Criterion Channel truly deserves its place toward the top of that list.

The Criterion Channel is so much more than just the best movie streaming site (arguably, at least) for serious film buffs and cinephiles. Since regarding film as an art is at the heart of this streaming service’s mission, the Criterion Channel goes out of its way to offer a more educational, handcrafted, thematically cohesive streaming experience. Whereas most movie streaming sites merely provide users with a library of titles to stream on-demand, the Criterion Channel goes the extra mile, providing plenty of unique and fascinating features. If movie streaming sites could be analogized to food, Netflix would be McDonald’s compared to the Criterion Channel’s one of a kind artisanal experience.

If you’re still with me, then there is a good chance that the Criterion Channel could be the best movie streaming site for you. If you love the classics, the experimental, art-house, or top-tier Hollywood and international films, then this streamer was made for you.

Design

The best movie streaming sites understand that the streaming experience goes beyond merely providing a large library of high-quality films. The Criterion Channel is the perfect example of this. Even though this site doesn’t necessarily break with tradition too much in terms of site design, it does provide an intuitive, sleek, and dynamic user experience. And, frankly, if you ask me, that is all a movie streaming site design needs to do.

The site definitely borrows from the familiar layouts of sites like Netflix and Hulu. Hey, if it isn’t broke, no need to fix it, right? At the top of the page, you will find a large banner that carousals featured films and suggested collections to check out. Unlike many other sites, this banner doesn’t automatically carousal through its many titles, it allows you to click through manually, going at your own pace.

Below this, as is tradition, you will find a series of category-specific, horizontal menus stacked atop one another. Each, of course, comes with its own side-scrolling function, resulting in a streamlined and low-maintenance browsing experience. The less clicking back and forth into multiple pages that a movie streaming site requires of the user, the better.

One feature, though, that the Criterion Channel offers (and is all too often missing from movie streaming sites) is a responsive information bubble that appears beside each film thumbnail when you hover your cursor over it. Quickly and conveniently get a glimpse into who directed the film, when it came out, who stars in it, and the synopsis. Once again, you should not have to click on a movie until you are fairly certain that you plan to watch it.

All in all, the Criterion Channel’s site design is every bit as easy to use and easy on the eyes as I would expect from a premium movie streaming site such as this one. Very much in line with its branding, the Criterion Channel site is classy, informative, and interactive.

Content and Features

The Criterion Channel really shines when it comes to its unique and compelling content and features. As I touched on earlier, this streamer is only concerned with the highest-quality films ever made. Filmmaking is an art, remember, according to the people behind the Criterion Channel. So, if you are looking for a movie streaming site for the newest Marvel movie or cash cow rom com, this is not the one for you.

However, if you want to watch urgent contemporary cinema and timeless classics, the Criterion Channel might just be the best movie streaming site you’ve never heard of. Here’s what the Criterion Channel has to say about their content, in their own words: “Enjoy continuous access to Criterion’s streaming library of more than 1,000 important classic and contemporary films, plus a constantly refreshed selection of Hollywood, international, art-house, and independent films from major studios and dozens of independent distributors. Go deep with the Criterion Collection’s archive of special features for context that no other service can match.”

The Criterion Channel offers an experience that is unparalleled. It is exceedingly rare in the age of streaming to find a movie streaming service that provides a unique way to interact with and discover new content. With a membership to the Criterion Channel, though, you will enjoy handcrafted spotlight series featuring select directors, actors, genres, and themes. You will

also be able to partake in occasional ‘moviegoing experiences’ via personally curated watchlists created by the likes of Berry Jenkins, Mira Nair, or Guillermo Del Toro. Or you can always craft watchlists of your own, for a fully personalized cinematic exploration.

But perhaps the most inspired feature that sets the Criterion Channel apart from the rest of the best movie streaming sites out there is its educationally oriented content. Additional content takes the form of a “15-minute-a-month film school” where you will learn the principles of filmmaking, Observations on Film Art videos, as well as the Tuesday short + feature and the Friday double bill.

The Criterion Channel is not just the best movie streaming site of its kind, it is also an excellent resource for education, criticism, and a way to enjoy the thrill of going to the cinema without leaving the comfort of your living room.

Mobile and Desktop Experience

This movie streamer keeps getting better and better. In addition to an excellent desktop and mobile browser experience, the Criterion Channel app is also available on nearly every device. If you prefer to use the high-rated mobile app, you can do so on your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet.

Furthermore, the Criterion Channel also has impressive apps for plenty of smart TVs. Enjoy one of the best movie streaming experiences available on Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, or Xbox One.

Pricings and Plans

Given everything that the Criterion Channel has to offer, I think that it is very fairly priced. It’s true that it is not the cheapest movie streaming service on the market, but it is also not the priciest. For only $10.99 per month, with 1,000+ movies and tons of extra content and features, I believe that the Criterion Channel will pay for itself in no time. There is also the option to pay for a full year upfront if you wish to save a little money. Get a 12-month subscription for $99.

In case you are not sold on the Criterion Channel right away, it also offers a generous 14-day trial period. Why not just give the Criterion Channel a shot and see if it is, in fact, the best movie streaming site for you. If not, just cancel and you lose nothing!

Suggestions that I have for the Criterion Channel

There may be only one big downfall with this streamer. That would be the fact that it is only currently available in the United States and Canada. I know that international streaming contracts and global expansion is a very complex and expensive process, but it would be ideal if the Criterion Channel were available to a broader audience – especially considering how beneficial and inventive the content and features.

Likes & Hates:
1000+ classic and quality contemporary films
Plenty of unique, useful, and personalized features
Cross-platform availability
Only available in the US and Canada