Netflix and Amazon Prime might be the big hitters when it comes to video on-demand (VOD), but navigating through their vast libraries can be a bit bamboozling – particularly if you’re looking for something specific.
Fortunately, the web is full of specialist platforms delivering niche film and TV titles from around the world. Fancy something terrifying? There’s a horror service for that. How about anime or British cinema? There are great outlets for those, too. Fire up your streaming devices, grab some popcorn and allow us to guide you beyond Netflix and Amazon to a handful of alternative SVOD (Subscription VOD) services.
Like your films to pack a terrifying punch? Shudder might be the service for you, offering ‘screams on demand’ with ghost stories, slasher films and tense thrillers. Their library houses everything from all-time classics like An American Werewolf in London to Hammer horror chillers, cult curios and short films. The service also runs a 24-hour streaming station, Shudder.TV, and has its own line of exclusives you won’t find anywhere else.
You can get started with a free seven-day trial, after that it’s £4.99 a month or £47.88 for annual membership. Available territories are the UK, Ireland, US and Canada.
An on-demand service for pure cinephiles, Mubi is home to classic Hollywood, independent and foreign cinema stretching back to the 1930s. The difference here is the films are carefully curated by Mubi’s movie buffs, with a new title being introduced every day and subscribers getting a month to watch them. Expect to see a wide selection, including Battle Royale, Starman and Mr Smith Goes to Washington.
Mubi, which is available in more than 200 territories, offers a seven-day free trial and a £5.99 per month subscription fee.
Emerging in the early 70s, the blaxploitation movie carved out a niche in American cinema, producing films for urban black audiences like Shaft and Foxy Brown. The genre began to recede in the late 70s, but its legacy lives on in cinema (see Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown) and contemporary hip-hop culture.
Thanks to the on-demand service Brown Sugar, you can now watch classic blaxploitation films uncut and advert free. The platform, which is only available in the US at present, promises ‘a black explosion of hot chicks, cool cats and cult classics’ for $3.99 a month after a seven-day free trial.
Fans of anime and Asian dramas need to bookmark Crunchyroll, a streaming service with a library of more than 1,000 titles. A 14-day free trial (after that it’s £4.99 per month) will unlock the doors to the Attack on Titan animated series and the recent TV version of Death Note. The latter is getting a glossy, big-budget Netflix remake later this year.
Crunchyroll extends beyond just being an outlet for on-demand video – it’s a full service catering to anime and manga enthusiasts, with latest news, an online store and a lively discussion forum all rolled into the same website.
If you’re on the hunt for British and world cinema then BFI Player has a library of great films, ranging from critically-acclaimed offerings like Arrival and I, Daniel Blake to free shorts documenting the history of the UK. BBC reviewer Mark Kermode is even on-hand to deliver introductions to stand-out titles like The Elephant Man and Brief Encounter.
A £4.99 per month subscription (after an initial 30-day trial) will open up a library of hundreds of films and give members a discount on renting titles.
Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection are the brains behind this on-demand platform for art house, foreign and cult films. The vast archive not only features greats like The 400 Blows and a hefty Akira Kurosawa collection, but also something that’s died out with the rise of streaming: bonus features. The Coen Brothers dissecting their directorial debut Blood Simple with video marker pens is the kind of cinephile catnip lying in wait.
FilmStruck is currently only available in the US, and runs three different subscription tiers: the standard $6.99 per month, $10.99 to include the Criterion Channel and $99 a year to make a $30 saving. A 14-day free trial might just be enough to whet your appetite.
Hotstar is the home of film, TV and sports in India – and it’s so popular it’s outpacing Netflix and Amazon Prime in the territory. Launched just prior to the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2015, it rocketed up in the app download charts and has been growing quickly ever since. The service offers a mix of free and subscription-based content, including films from Bollywood superstars Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor.
Although Hotstar is only available in India, its parent company Star India is owned by media giant 21st Century Fox and plans are reportedly afoot for the service to go global in the near future.
Everyone’s done it. Fired up a film or TV show then drifted off into a slumber before it finishes. That’s never ideal, but if you do happen to be looking for a screen-based sleep aid then Napflix is the answer.
Completely free and available via Napflix.tv, it’s billed as a siesta video platform housing ‘the most silent and sleepy content selection to relax your brain and easily fall asleep’. Videos include a 30-minute game of Tetris, a clip of rain drizzling against a window and a burning log fireplace.