Congratulations, film lovers! You have something else you need to subscribe to! The Criterion streaming service, appropriately named “The Criterion Channel” launched on Monday. And it will give you all the Criterion Collection movies for the low low price of $10.99/month (or $99.99/year).
The Criterion Channel may sound familiar. Just last year, Warner Media shuttered its streaming service “Filmstruck” which replaced Hulu in 2016 as the bearer of the coveted Criterion Collection. For business reasons, Criterion and Warner split ways last October. But Criterion, recognizing the obvious streaming market for their product, ventured out on their own to create an exclusive streaming service for their 1,000s of excellent movies and bonus content.
For those of you who don’t know, The Criterion Collection is a curation effort began in 1984 “dedicated to publishing important classic and contemporary movies from around the world in editions that offer the highest technical quality and award-winning original supplements.” In practice, that means that this is a collection of the world’s absolute greatest movies. It is often the only place one can reliably find classics like Seven Samurai or the recently released Ingmar Bergman complete collection.
What’s truly great about the Criterion Collection is its lack of snobbishness. When someone starts talking about excellent movies, you expect Seven Samurai and Ingmar Bergman to enter the conversation. If you’re like me, you also expect impenetrable art films like Berlin Alexanderplatz, Rainer Fassbinder’s 15-hour cinema verite marathon. All these are included, sure, but the Collection also includes wonderful B movies shlock like the 70s surreal Japanese horror House (Hausu) or the Ralph Bakshi animated Conan clone, Fire and Ice. The Collection welcomes all who are worthy, regardless of awards or film school cred and largely blind to the country of origin.
The Criterion Channel is not just a collection of great movies. There are hundreds of pieces of special bonus content featuring everyone for Guillermo del Toro to M.I.A. The movies on the channel are also organized into interesting viewing experiences like Double Features and various other themed collections.
As someone who cut the cord from cable companies to save money and now finds myself up to my eyeballs in the financial death by a thousand cuts of $5-$10 subscriptions, I understand the urge to be skeptical of yet another exclusive streaming service. But if you’re a true cinephile, The Criterion Channel really is a must-have. Especially when you consider that their Blu-rays usually cost around $40 (unless you catch the annual Barnes & Noble half-off sale). That’s almost half a year of the streaming service. Or you can just sign up for the 2-week free trial and catch up on all the classics you need to be able to say you’ve seen so you don’t get weird looks at parties.
The Criterion Channel is available on criterionchannel.com or in app form through Apple TV, iOS, Amazon Fire, Roku, Android, and Android TV. I already have Blood Simple and Hausu cued up. What’s going to be your first watch?