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Beyond Netflix and Hulu: 4 worthwhile movie streaming services

Lincoln Spector | May 20, 2014
The four services featured here don't offer the huge libraries you get from the big players. But they do provide something else: they're curated.

Consider just one genre: Westerns. You won't find official masterpieces such as Stagecoach and The Searchers here. But you'll find the original Django and plenty of other "spaghetti" westerns (Fandor prefers to call them Italian westerns), recent independents like Meek's Cutoff, and several B movies starring The Cisco Kid.

Fandor has a huge and extensive selection, but it's not entirely unique. If you already subscribe to both Hulu Plus and Netflix, there's a good chance that you can already see many of the same things Fandor has to offer, though not all of them. You won't find as many silents, as many shorts, or as many oddball films on the other sites. (And with Hulu, much of what you find will have commercials.)

When it comes to browsing tools, Fandor beats any other streaming service I've tried. You can browse genres, of course, but you can also pick a country, or look for films that played a specific festival. And there are other ways to narrow your search. You can, for instance, look for American-made westerns filmed between 1930 and 1965, running between 70 and 120 minutes.

And if you really can't decide on anything, you can go to the Fandor Channel and see what's playing.

What do I recommend? Buster Keaton's Southern feud comedy, Our Hospitality, the Mexican drama The Violin, and the very dark (and sexually explicit) comedy of over-protective parents, Dogtooth.

For a specialty service, Fandor offers plenty of ways to watch. It has a Roku channel, plus Android and iOS apps that support Chromecast. Some Sony devices support it, as well.

So far, I've recommend two $10-a-month services. Now for something completely free—well, almost completely.

There's no monthly fee for SnagFilms; a free membership gives you access to the service's large selection of foreign and independent films, plus a smattering of old Hollywood. Here you'll find foreign films that received little or no exposure in the US, many of them part of the respected Global Lens Collection. But you'll also find exploitation movies, sex comedies, and Bollywood productions.

But some of the films available on the SnagFilms website are missing from what the service offers on Roku, Android, and other apps. That's because they're actually streaming from Hulu (the free version) or YouTube. SnagFilms simply embeds the streams on its site. These tend to be better-known independent films like Slackers and The Puffy Chair.

But the real SnagFilms collection plays on the apps as well. These are usually lesser-known, but still worth watching. Check out John Sayles' early science fiction comedy, The Brother from Another Planet. Also consider The White Meadows, an allegory from Iran that got its director arrested. If you want some old-fashioned Hollywood, there's the screwball comedy My Man Godfrey.


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