The Streaming Guide: Which service is best for you?


Graphic by Sydney Lawson

As time goes on, streaming becomes more popular and other forms of film-watching grow outdated. With so many options on the market, how do you know which services are the best pick for you?

Ian Lloyd, Staff Writer

It has never been easier to find content to watch without leaving the house. The evolution of streaming services over the last decade has produced a mountain of content that will keep you satisfied for multiple lifetimes. Beloved classics, obscure oddities and streaming exclusives are available at the touch of a finger, without having to even get off the couch.

That being said, it’s also more confusing than ever to find exactly what you want. With hundreds of different services, it’s becoming more difficult to discern which is the best option that will give you everything you want to see while staying on budget.

Here is a brief(ish) guide on streaming services: which you should keep on your radar, and which have programs tailored to your interests.


Netflix ($15.49/month)

Netflix defined what streaming services could be and contributed a lot to making the user interface as convenient as possible. However, with the rise of competing services, Netflix now relies on its original content. More often than not, Netflix Originals are disappointing. The movies they produce fall flat and so many shows are made and then canceled after a season or two when they fail to find an audience. Netflix was once the peak of streaming content, but now it’s an overpriced service we hold onto because we feel obligated.


Amazon Prime Video ($8.99/month)

Amazon has a weird system with its Prime service. Everything is on the same menu, so even if a show or movie isn’t included with Prime Video, it will show up for rent or through another service. This can be disorienting, with one small click leading to a purchase of something that you may have thought was already included in your subscription. Prime Video is also a dumping ground for thousands of bad films, so this service is a minefield of varying quality unless you know what you are looking for.


Hulu ($12.99/month)

Hulu has the perfect balance of good and bad. It excels in TV shows, housing great classics and releasing episodes that drop on cable at the same time. However, it doesn’t really have a great collection of films or original content. It’s fairly cheap and is available in bundles with Spotify or Disney+, but it has advertisements that we turned to streaming to avoid in the first place. Overall, if you get the service from a sweet bundle, Hulu is worth having around whenever you might need it.


Apple TV+ ($4.99/month)

Perhaps one of the most understated of the big streaming services is Apple TV+. It doesn’t have the biggest selection of originals, but of the slim pickings is some quality entertainment that has stayed relevant for quite a while. Not only that, but the service is one of the cheapest out there, and you get half a year for free if you have recently purchased a new Apple device. This platform had a rocky start, but it is definitely one to keep an eye on.


Criterion Channel ($10.99/month)

This is secretly the best streaming service out there. The Criterion Collection has been preserving important and necessary films for decades, and its streaming service is just another way for them to deliver the finest films directly to you. With collections that bring you films alongside their special features, interviews and contextual short films that show the overall importance of any given film, the Criterion Channel is the perfect streaming platform for aspiring film lovers who want to learn more about the craft of cinema.


Crunchyroll ($7.99/month)

For those with more than a passing interest in anime, Crunchyroll is the best place to watch the less popular, harder to find shows. While definitely aimed at the more enthusiastic fans of Japanese animation, it has a grand selection that is difficult to get ahold of otherwise. Finding decently-priced, physical anime box sets is like trying to find the holy grail, so this streaming service is perfect for anime fans who hardly watch anything else.


Disney+ ($7.99/month)

You know exactly what you’re getting with Disney+. It has the most complete collections of Marvel projects, Star Wars content and most importantly, Disney Channel original movies. Its exclusive shows and films are unoriginal and rely heavily on pre-existing content, but that’s exactly what this audience is looking for. However, if you are wanting to break out and watch something less familiar or safe, I would suggest a different service.


Paramount+ ($9.99/month)

Paramount+ is one of the newest streaming platforms on the scene, and it is definitely having trouble finding its footing. It’s another service that holds the rights to some great shows and films of old. However, it doesn’t have the best track record of original content, with most of its exclusives flopping after the first few episodes. Paramount+ is a perfect service to grab a free trial for, watch everything you’re interested in and then cancel your subscription before getting charged.


Peacock (Free or $9.99/month for premium)

NBC’s streaming service, Peacock, is surprisingly good. As one of the many services to take away some of the leading programs on Netflix, Peacock has been doing well for itself as a service that can be used for free, for a more limited selection of content. The selection is nothing to sneeze at, hosting collections of famous movie franchises and even new blockbuster releases, dropping on the service right when they hit theaters. It’s not one of the best services on this list, but it might be worth your consideration.


Shudder ($5.99/month)

Sticking to one genre can often sink a streaming service, but Shudder’s wide selection of horror, thrillers and grindhouse classics elevates the service to the best of the best. It’s a gold mine for horror enthusiasts of all kinds. It has specific collections of subgenres within subgenres that will recommend the perfect film for anyone who wants a good scare. Whether you are into intense gore, supernatural spooks or cheesy goofs, Shudder will have something for you.


Kanopy (Free)

An absolutely essential streaming service. Drop whatever you are doing and sign up for Kanopy right now. It’s free, and you can use your local library card to gain access to a ton of free movies. Don’t have a library card? Well, no sweat — you can also log in through USI and get instant access for being a student. It’s not the place to look for newer releases or the most popular films, but Kanopy has a great selection of niche indie cinema and hundreds of quality documentaries.


HBO Max ($14.99/month)

Even with the current crisis Warner Brothers is experiencing right now, HBO Max is a wonderful buffet of different types of media. There are classic films, a wide array of foreign cinema, tons of superhero media, some of the best cartoons from the past few decades and some quality original productions. The downside is that HBO Max has started a precedent of removing exclusive content you cannot find anywhere else. This is a hugely irresponsible decision that has turned the idea of art into company-owned content that can be taken away at a moment’s notice.


Honorable Mentions:

Arrow is the weird cousin to the Criterion Channel that houses sleazier obscure films that hold significant places in film history. Broadway HD is exactly what you would expect: a streaming service for musicals, a genre that happens to be a huge blindspot for movie lovers, so this is a great place to look around. MUBI is a service that excels in curating highly regarded cinema straight to you, with a new film added every single day. Finally, CuriosityStream is the best place for documentaries of all kinds, and at $2.99 a month, it is insanely cheap to subscribe.

The bottom line is, you should really examine the types of services you spend your money on. If you haven’t touched one in months, maybe it’s time to let go and try something else. It sounds cheesy, but you should broaden your horizons and chase the media that looks interesting to you rather than the mediocre content everyone is talking about on any given week.