Alternative streaming services to make the most of lockdown


By Samuel Vickers, First Year, German and Russian

Seen everything worth watching on Netflix? Seen everything not worth watching on Amazon Prime? Unsurprisingly, there are actually a wealth of alternative streaming services to be found online, beyond the world of iPlayer, Netflix and Amazon.

There are countless ‘upmarket’ streaming services; though you won’t find Season 12 of The Big Bang Theory (20017-19), these services can offer a great selection of indie and mainstream films. Each service offers a slightly different way of enjoying film but for each kind of film lover, one of these will surely be a good fit.

Mubi - £9.99/month

The Portrait of a Girl on Fire became the first female-directed film to win the Cannes 'Queer Palm' | IMDb / Arte France Cinéma

Mubi has a consistently higher standard of film than those on Netflix; the catch is that it also has far fewer. This is partly due to the fact that Netflix produces a lot of its own films - occasionally worth watching - and partly due to the fact that they are fundamentally cornering different areas of the market - it is very rare that a film appears on both platforms.

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With a ‘cult-classic’ selected every day, Mubi can be a good platform for discovering new directors and with just as many foreign language films as English, there is strong global representation. Mubi also provides a somewhat less wide-ranging archive which, though still varied, cannot compare to the archive offered by BFI Player - see below. Netflix’s own productions not-withstanding, Mubi definitely offers the most new releases, the soonest after cinematic release: i.e. The Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019).

With fewer films being released at the moment this is not as important but very attractive for rural film fanatics and those less able to access a cinema. Mubi is the only streaming service on this list that offers every single one of its films as an available download; typically a delightful bonus, although, again, during lockdown perhaps less valuable.

With just as many foreign language films as English, there is strong global representation

BFI Player - £4.99/month

Taxi Tehran is a docufiction film about subverting norms and finding loopholes around the rules in place | IMDb / Jafar Panahi Film Productions

The cheapest on this list, the BFI streaming service is brilliant value for money. With a wide range of newer releases available to rent, and an incredible archive of 20th Century film and Foreign Film, the BFI streaming service boasts a few often-overlooked gems that no other streaming service can. Particular recommendations include Short Term 12 (2013), Bait (2019), Taxi Tehran (2015) and Paris, Texas (1984). As well as a healthy assortment of Jean-Luc Godard, Luis Buñuel, Federico Fellini and Wim Wenders.

The other exclusive service the BFI can offer is its ‘Kermode Introduces’ series, which has short introductions from Mark Kermode, typically providing some background on the production context and brief criticisms of the performances. They are all films that he is both passionate and, as per usual, extremely knowledgeable about, as part of his BFI Choice of the Week series.

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Some of these films, though not always altogether enjoyable, have a value that lies not in entertainment but a more academic approach to film. For the cinema buff trying to widen their knowledge, there’s nothing to beat BFI Player; for the film fan looking for something new every night, BFI Player has the best selection.

For Londoners, it is also definitely worth joining the BFI’s ‘Under 25’ club; tickets to all normal screenings for only £3.00!

Some of these films, though not always altogether enjoyable, have a value that lies not in entertainment

Curzon 12 - £65.00/year (£5.40/month) or: Free as a Student

Paris, Texas is a bittersweet encapsulation of love, loss, and family - finding oneself has never been more beautiful | IMDb / Argos Films

With four free tickets, this membership has already almost paid for itself. A lot of the benefits of this membership only apply if one lives near to a Curzon cinema - the online service is limited and really only the cherry-on-top of a primarily cinema based package.

The randomness of the Curzon 12 films also include one or two attractive choices and certainly offer an opportunity to explore new films. The monthly list is curated to have a wide variety of films, typically with at least one or two foreign films, a few from the archive and some more recent releases.

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If you are lucky enough to live near a Curzon cinema, the student membership is extremely valuable, allowing its holder access to: special members only previews, no booking fees, money off tickets, discounted food and drink and discounted rentals on Curzon Home Cinema. This membership is best suited to the casual cinema fan looking to expand their tastes and who - ideally - lives a suitable distance from a Curzon cinema!

Arte - Free!

Captain Marvel (2019) Brie Larson stars in Short Term 12, a heartwrenching story of the families we make ourselves | IMDb / Animal Kingdom

Finally, it is worth noting Arte, a free streaming platform that is specifically for Foreign film and French and German television. Despite being primarily a News platform, Arte offers an impressive 430 feature films/year, as well as countless documentaries and opera. Arte’s selection is largely foreign film, but can be a great jumping on point for those less familiar with Herzog or Fellini, and an invaluable tool for students of Modern Languages.

The randomness of the films also include one or two attractive choices and certainly offer an opportunity to explore new films

None of these services offer the entire package, but used in conjunction with each other, and more mainstream services like Netflix, there is no reason the cinema fan in lockdown cannot access an astonishing range of titles and directors.

Featured: IMDb / Jafar Panahi Film Productions

Which streaming services are you making the most of in this unprecedented cinematic period?