Netflix may be among the most popular of streaming service sites, ranked high with others like Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, but there’s one audience these sites haven’t heavily catered to: classic film enthusiasts.
It’s a void that FilmStruck caught onto when it began offering movie streamers a repertoire of rare, classic, foreign, and independent movies in 2016. The streaming site is owned by Time Warner’s Turner Classic Movies and boasts hundreds of films dating back to 1917, including 600 newly-obtained films from Warner Bros.
In short, it’s a movie buff’s dream come true.
As someone with a limited knowledge of classic Hollywood films, I cancelled my $US7.99 monthly Netflix subscription and replaced it with a $US10.99 FilmStruck plan as an educational experiment.
Here’s how the two services stack up to each other:
The cost for a FilmStruck subscription is about the same as one with Netflix.
Netflix currently offers three plans: a basic plan with a monthly fee of $US7.99, a standard plan costing $US10.99, and a premium option for $US13.99.
FilmStruck’s most basic plan costs $US6.99 and includes the site’s Turner Classic Movies collection in its entirety, as well as archival TCM content.
An upgrade from that is what I have, a $US10.99 plan that features everything in the basic plan and also access to the Criterion Channel, an exclusive 1,000-movie collection of art house and classic flicks like Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver” starring Robert De Niro.
With the $US10.99 monthly plan, you also get access to rare Criterion bonus content, like actor interviews and trailers. Features like this is where FilmStruck really shines as a movie buff’s go-to streaming site.
There’s also a one-time annual plan that costs $US99.
The FilmStruck app performed just as well as the Netflix app.
Besides educating myself on Hollywood’s Golden film era, I downloaded FilmStruck to have something to do on my commute every day. I’ve got about a 30-minute bus ride to and from work, so on average I could finish a movie every two days.
The app was intuitive and movies streamed smoothly, which I didn’t expect. I had no trouble at all with glitches while watching a movie, even though I wasn’t connected to WiFi.
Another issue I was worried about having with FilmStruck was the app not remembering where I left off during a movie. Without fail, whenever I went back to my watchlist to start watching again, I didn’t have to scrub to a certain scene – it automatically started playing where I had stopped it previously.
The web version was a totally different story.
I tried watching a movie on my laptop one night and the website buffered constantly and was maddeningly slow. I gave up on using my laptop and stuck with my iPhone 6s. Watching movies on a small screen doesn’t bother me.
I don’t have Chromecast or Roku, but I imagine that would be the best way to watch it outside of the app.
Netflix’s browsing function is way more sophisticated than FilmStruck’s, but I still had a blast simply movie surfing.
FilmStruck’s home page is organised similarly to Netflix’s, with the user’s watchlist and browsing tabs in clear view. You’ll find genres, like Drama and Classic Hollywood, listed in block buttons, as well as a “Recently Added” category, a “Leaving Soon,” and a “Popular” category.
The problem with FilmStruck is that the site’s design and display doesn’t make it easy to navigate, and as far as how movies are separated into genres, there’s a lot of crossover, meaning each genre isn’t very defined.
For the most part you end up aimlessly browsing through FilmStruck’s gigantic stock of movies, which is honestly enjoyable in its own right.
It was overwhelming at first, but I ended up taking a few hours one night and looked through the entire alphabetized list of movies. I added any that I even remotely recognised, but had never seen, to my watchlist and proceeded to cross them off over the course of a few weeks.
These were the iconic ones, the critically-acclaimed films I’d just never taken the time to watch: “Casablanca,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” anything with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (there’s an entire collection devoted to the famous dancing pair), lots of Bette Davis, “The Red Shoes,” etc.
The site makes it easy to save the movies you want to watch. For example, you can hover over the icons for movies and press the “+” button to add it to your watchlist just like you can on Netflix.
But if you accidentally click into a movie’s description and then click back, forget it – the site will take you all the way back to the top of the screen and won’t direct you to where you left off browsing.
So overall, Netflix is a little bit more polished in how it categorizes and displays its movies.
FilmStruck’s limited range of genres made it easy to feel burnt out by the platform.
I love the costumes, dancing, and singing of classic Hollywood as much as the next person, but it wore me out after a while.
I didn’t know just how much until I’d seen the umpteenth ad on social media for the Netflix original movie “Set It Up,” a romantic comedy (sans top hats) released in mid-June. I wanted to check it out so badly that I caved and renewed my Netflix subscription. I realised how starved I was for modern-day cinema.
This is the biggest battle in which Netflix trumps FilmStruck. Nothing can beat the vast inventory of diverse movies and genres Netflix offers, even if those genres aren’t very extensive.
It’s worth noting that FilmStruck does include films outside of the classic Hollywood era in its repertoire, like “Blue Is the Warmest Colour” and “Requiem For A Dream,” but a lot of these movies have also been streamed on Netflix at one time or another.
You can grow tired of a certain genre on Netflix as well, but the difference is that you can switch over to an entirely different category, whereas it’s more difficult to do that on FilmStruck. It helps to recover from the disturbing content in Netflix’s “Black Mirror” by turning on something completely different, like “The Princess Diaries.”
Which is why Netflix is the reigning champion of streaming service sites.
FilmStruck is not a streaming service with a diverse archive for the masses, but rather for a niche community of film aficionados. It would work better as a supplement to Netflix, but for many who just want to commit financially to one streaming site, Netflix takes the cake as the best option.
I’m not ready yet to part with FilmStruck’s repository of classic films, but I’m not sure how long I’ll keep my subscription with the site either.
What’s certain is that Netflix has established itself so clearly as the best of the streaming services that it will always have my monthly dues.
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