Nearly two months into lockdown, cinephiles and casual viewers alike are beginning to exhaust their Netflix binging options. There’s only so much Tiger King, After Life or Too Hot to Handle episodes to mindlessly sit through.
Filmwise, Netflix deals in a very particular brand of cinema: glossy, mainstream releases aimed at a huge audience (over 15 million in the UK). There’s an ‘Independent’ section, but you’ll find few films that weren’t on the awards circuit or that feature unknown actors.
There are some great films on Netflix: You Were Never Really Here, Videodrome and Climax, to name a few. But you may be missing the spark of seeing a new film with fresh eyes, or the satisfaction of sitting through a season of carefully-curated gems.
There are plenty of Netflix alternatives in the UK that offer a different home viewing experience. That’s not to say Netflix isn’t without its merits – in fact, they’re producing some of the most exciting TV going. But these Netflix alternatives will help you keep up with new film releases (remember those?) and delve into some lesser-known titles you may have missed.
MUBI is the closest thing you’ll get to a cinema experience in lockdown. We all know the feeling of scrolling for hours on end through Netflix before giving up, overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choice on offer.
MUBI solves this problem by only showing a handful of films at a time. Each day, a new film is added to the site, and you have 30 days to watch it. This creates a more curated film programme and feels more like an ‘online cinema’ rather than a streaming service.
Go to MUBI for exclusives like Ema or Jonathan Glazer’s new short, The Fall. You’ll also find mini-seasons. Following the release of Portrait of a Lady on Fire, the ‘Focus on Céline Sciamma’ strand is currently showing Water Lilies and Tomboy.
Curzon Home Cinema
Miss keeping up with new cinema releases? If so, the ‘In Cinemas Now’ section of Curzon Home Cinema is a great resource. It’s not quite the same as settling down in front of a giant cinema screen in a dark, smartphone-free zone. But it’s the best way to stay on top of some of 2020’s best new offerings.
You can catch up on quietly devastating #MeToo drama The Assistant. Or why not try queer coming-of-age film Moffie – a brutal depiction of a gay man’s experience of compulsory military service in South Africa.
There’s also a number of ‘Collections’ to try. To coincide with the release of Who You Think I Am, the ‘Love Gets Dangerous’ collection features eight tales of “seduction, murder, betrayal, double-crossing,” including Lady Macbeth and more.
The BFI Player is pretty much everything you could ask for in an online streaming service.
For just £2.50, you can rent new and acclaimed releases from the past few years. Current highlights include Georgian queer romance And Then We Danced, plus Agatha-Christie pastiche (and the most fun film of the past year) Knives Out.
Not only that, with a subscription you can get access to cinema classics. There’s a new Japan 2020 season, where you can delve into a diversity of Japanese cinema. You can also catch Cannes Film Festival winners and nominees you may have missed.
Perhaps most impressively, there are lots of free features and shorts to watch as part of the BFI archives. If you’re stretched for time, you can dive in and out of shorts from the past 120 years of British cinema. There’s even an ‘NHS on Film’ strand celebrating the National Health Service.
Film 4 often gets overlooked. However, you’ll find “great films you know, great films you don’t” all for free.
Highlights include Oscar-winning Moonlight and Attack the Block, which features John Boyega’s breakout performance pre-Star Wars. The selection isn’t huge, but similarly to MUBI, this takes away the pressure of scrolling through Netflix for hours on end.
There are also some neat little collections. The ‘FilmFear’ strand includes black-comedy Sightseers and Border, which was one of the most innovative and strange films of the past year.
The selection isn’t limited to Film 4-backed UK releases, either. The ‘World Cinema’ section includes French DJ-drama Eden (which has one of the best film soundtracks of the past decade) and Iranian animation Tehran Taboo.
Production of new films may have halted, and major releases may have been pushed back, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t new and exciting cinema to explore at home. With these UK Netflix alternatives, you can keep up with new releases and curate your own lockdown viewing list.