8 of the best Netflix alternatives for film fans – and (nearly) all have free trials

Screenshot of Shudder interface

Netflix and Amazon Prime Video may be the couch potato community's favourite all-round video streaming subscription services (and for good reason). But while the mainstream (pun intended) players have firmly cemented themselves into TV-binging culture, and inevitably offer something for everyone with their tens of thousands of titles, TV and movie buffs with specific tastes could be better served by more niche alternatives. What's more, the bigger services are jacking up monthly subscription costs, removing content, introducing ads and, in Netflix's case, stopping any kind of account sharing, even between family members.

So, if you're a self-proclaimed cinephile, horror connoisseur or Disney fanatic, dream of a more studiously curated catalogue, or are simply looking to try something fresh and less restricted, perhaps one of these rival services better deserves your direct debit. And even if you decide they don't, you can get over 11 weeks' worth of free-trial binging on your journey to discovery.


Black-and-white screenshot of MUBI

Hands up if you’ve ever spent half an evening trawling through Netflix trying to decide what to watch, only to then not bother watching anything out of time-wasting frustration. OK, hands down. There’s a slimmer chance of that happening with MUBI, the cinephile's choice of streaming service.

The catalogue used to only ever be 30 films strong at any time – every day a film dropped off and a new one was added, with each film having a 30-day lifespan. That concept still applies to 'Film of the Day', but the curation has now expanded to include many (although not too many) more titles – not least as MUBI has growin into a film production company too.

The catalogue itself won’t likely feature Zac Efron-starring rom-coms or the latest Marvel movie. With the service priding itself on showing – in their words – ‘forgotten gems’, ‘festival-fresh cinema’, ‘cult classics’ and ‘award-winning masterpieces’, the titles are somewhat obscure. And all the better for it. It's the ideal service for someone who wants to find something new and challenging, while still having a few recognisable titles to hand; it's the best service with which to dip your toes into alternative and independent cinema.

MUBI states that it will provide HD and 4K versions of classic movies where possible. However, for many movies this option doesn't exist. Newer content is better served though, as most options stream in high definition. The bonus: no ads.

Pay £7 / $5 more per month in the UK or US and you also get a cinema ticket every single week for a release of MUBI's choice at a supporting cinema – who said streaming and cinemas couldn't live in harmony? 

  • Who is it for? The more discerning film watcher who knows (or wants to know) their Jean-Luc Godard from their Gaspar Noe. 
  • How much? From £11.99 / $14.99 / AU$12.99 per month, or £95.88 / $119.88 / AU$107.88 per year paid annually; 7-day free trial
  • What can you play it on? Android, iOS, Web, Apple TV, Apple Vision Pro, NVidia Sheild, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Roku, Google Chromecast, plus Samsung, LG and Android TV-powered Sony TVs


Screenshot of Shudder's home interface

Essentially a Netflix for horror aficionados, Shudder is the ‘home of the best horror films from around the world and beyond the grave’. With a vast catalogue of, ahem, killer content, this screaming – sorry, streaming – service is the best place on the internet to binge the unhinged, and especially great for keeping up with the latest genre releases fresh from the festival circuit.

It's got a vast supply of TV shows and movies ranging from low-budget indie features to original programming and, of course, classic horror flicks like Hellraiser and The Wicker Man. Shudder is a must-try streaming service for fans of the genre – especially around Halloween; maybe just have a cushion ready to hide behind.

There are thematic collections (because of course you want a ‘Comedy of Terrors’ section to point you to nazi zombies and thousand-year-old imps) as well as guest curations from horror film icons. 

There’s even a seven-day free trial for new subscribers who want to test their nerves first, though Shudder is much cheaper than many other streaming services around anyway. This goes a long way in excusing the lack of 4K streaming; in fact, Shudder appears to max out at 720p, which is a shame save for when playing the grainer titles!

  • Who is it for? Horror hounds, scream queens… anyone who likes their chills as much as their thrills.
  • How much? £4.99 / $6.99 / AU$6.99 per month; or £47.88 / $71.88 / AU$69.99 per year paid annually; 7-day free trial
  • What can you play it on? Android, iOS, Web, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Xbox One, Samsung Smart TV

The Criterion Channel

The Criterion Channel logo graphic

(Image credit: Criterion)

If you're a film enthusiast, the likelihood is you'll have come across Criterion before. It's the organisation behind the Criterion Collection, a series of home video releases that includes some of the most pivotal films in cinema history, usually accompanied by a selection of special features and commentaries from directors, actors and producers. 

The Criterion Channel is a streaming service version of this idea, collecting over 1000 movies from acclaimed directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch, Ingmar Bergman, Michael Hanneke, Werner Herzog and many more. Each film holds significance, whether it's a treasured Hollywood classic or a niche Art House flick lost to time. This service is a must for self-proclaimed film buffs, as you can either scratch the surface of classic and contemporary films or dive deep into the decades of film history.

The Criterion Collection supports 4K HDR but only for mobile and desktop streaming, which is an odd choice considering mobile devices are far and few between. However, you can enjoy 1080p high-definition streaming elsewhere, and considering most of the content on the platform is quite old and won't support a 4K resolution anyway, this is by no means a deal breaker.

The one catch is that it's exclusive to North America right now, however, there is an option to put your email down to request that it be bought over to other regions, and if all else fails, you can always use a VPN to access it. 

  • Who is it for? Cinephiles, specifically fans of classic art-house cinema, who value a constantly updated catalogue.
  • How much? $10.99 per month, or $99.99 per year paid annually; 7-day free trial
  • What can you play it on? iOS, Android, Web, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Android TV, Xbox One, Samsung Smart TV

Disney Plus

Screenshot of Disney Plus interface

(Image credit: Disney)

Disney Plus (Disney+) offers a rich catalogue of films and TV shows from Disney and its subsidiaries – Lucasfilm, Marvel, Pixar and National Geographic, as well as a slate of new Disney+ Originals. The arrival of Star in February 2021 brought a more mature, adult-friendly 270-film and 75-show (and counting) angle to the service too.

Opt for the pricier Disney+ Premium tier and the majority of titles are presented in the best video and audio technologies available today – 4K, HDR10, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. And the fact you can download these titles in their full resolution onto a compatible tablet or smartphone is arguably one of the best-value features of Disney+, considering the cost of individual 4K movies to rent or buy.

In the UK and US, Disney has now introduced a cheaper tier below the Standard and Premium options... but it is ad-supported, with four minutes of adverts playing per viewing hour.

With quality Disney Originals and plenty of exclusive theatrical releases incoming, Disney Plus is so far living a happily ever after in the competitive streaming world.

  • Who is it for? Disney lovers, of course! Of all ages.
  • How much? From £4.99 (with ads) / $7.99 (with ads) / AU$13.99 per month, or £79.90 (no ads) / $139.99 (no ads) / AU$139.99 per year paid annually; free trial only during limited periods
  • What can you play it on? Web, iOS, Android, Chromecast, Apple TV, Xbox One, PS4/PS5, TV (Samsung 2016 and later, LG (2016 and later, Android-based Sony and Sharp), Roku, Android TV, Amazon Fire and Fire TV, Sky Q, Xbox One/Series X

Flix Premiere

Screenshot of Flix Premiere interface

Self-labelled ‘the best of independent film’ with a 'passion for indie gems and undiscovered filmmakers', Flix Premiere brings films fresh from festivals to your front room. Think winners and nominees at Berlinale, TIFF, SXSW, Cannes, AFI and others.

This is another service that opts for quality over quantity – there are hundreds as opposed to thousands of titles, but most have been released within the last few years. Every weekend a ‘premiere’ of a brand-new title is added, too, with many appearing for the first time ever in a given territory. Which reminds us: Flix Premiere is currently only available in the UK and US. 

With its recent expansion into distribution, the service shortens the bridge between the video streaming service and cinema experience more than most. It has claimed the theatrical and online exclusive rights to Milcho Manchevski’s Bikini Moon, and allows users to register for priority access to upcoming theatrical ‘red carpet’ premieres in London, Los Angeles and New York.

You can download titles or set up screening parties for group viewing. It lets you gift movies to friends, too. Aww.

  • Who is it for? Indie cinema fans looking for festival gems and fresh flicks.
  • How much? £5.99 / $6.99 per month, or £17.99 / $20.99 per six months; 30-day free trial
  • What can you play it on? iOS, Android, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Sony, Samsung and LG TVs

Apple TV+

Screenshot of Apple TV+ interface

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple TV+ is still probably a second subscription service as opposed to a primary one considering its appeal lies mostly in its modest (in number), high-quality Apple Originals. That said, the catalogue has grown considerably from the 17 titles it launched with in late 2019 due to an increase in Apple productions as well as licensed content from third parties.

Apple Originals are certainly gaining traction in the TV and film industry, with its Ted Lasso drama picking up multiple trophies including four Primetime Emmy Awards. For All Mankind and Little American are also particularly strong in our opinion. Apple TV+ was the first streaming service to win an Oscar for Best Picture, with CODA taking home a trio of golden men at the 94th Academy Awards.

Apple has also got into sports. Friday Night Baseball is a live broadcast of Major League Baseball (MLB) games on Apple TV+, while Apple has now also bought global over-the-top streaming rights to Major League Soccer (MLS), offering free games as well as a discounted subscription to whole season viewing for Apple TV+ subscribers.

With anyone who has bought an Apple device since September 2019 being given a free 12-month subscription and everyone else being offered a seven-day trial, there is ample opportunity for people to check out Apple’s offering for free.

  • Who is it for? Apple fans who are curious to get in on the company's lavishly produced, big-budget exclusives, or MLS and/or MLB sports fans.
  • How much? £8.99 / $9.99 / AU$12.99 per month; 7-day free trial
  • What can you play it on? iOS, Web, Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Google TV, Samsung, LG, Sony, Vizio, Hisense and Panasonic TVs, Xbox, PlayStation, Sky, Xfinity, Telstra, Verizon


Screenshot of Docsville interface

Nerd alert! Documentary-dedicated subscription video service Docsville – the brainchild of former editor of the BBC’s Storyville, Nick Fraser, and producer Lawrence Elman – is a godsend for anyone whose TV watching is fuelled by an insatiable thirst for knowledge.

Mostly comprising documentary films with the odd docuseries, short, and bitesized anecdotal ‘pop up’ clip, the catalogue is a fountain of knowledge that serves anyone wanting a mere trickle from it while they wait for the kettle to boil, or those with 90 minutes to sink their teeth into something meatier. The interface is pretty basic, but the ‘what’s new’ and ‘most popular’ sections are good places to start to prevent browsing boredom.

  • Who is it for? Non-fiction nerds interested in learning about everything from history to politics, music to art.
  • How much? £3.99 / $3.99 / AU$7 per month, or £39.99 / $29.99 / AU$70 per year paid annually; 7-day free trial
  • What can you play it on? iOS, Android, Google Chromecast, Web. Amazon Fire TV, Roku, and Android TV coming

Arrow Player

Arrow Player

(Image credit: Arrow Films)

The home of cult classics and a B-movie lover's wet dream, Arrow Player is an impressive digital showcase of World Cinema, with a back-catalogue of independent, classic, art and horror films ready and waiting to be tucked into. 

The ever-expanding British label and distributor is notably an advocator of the physical world, with its impressively steady release of cult cinema – the new, the old and the remastered – on Blu-ray and DVD, and while you don't get the same striking graphic artwork and audiovisual technology compatibility in the digital format, you do get the curation quality. And, let's face it, the value and convenience.

  • Who is it for? Fans of cult cinema, including B-movies and video nasties.
  • How much? £4.99 / $6.99 per month, or $49.99 / $69.99 per year paid annually; 14-day free trial
  • What can you play it on? iOS, Android, Web, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Xbox One, Samsung Smart TV


The best media streamers you can buy in 2024

6 must-watch Netflix TV shows and movies with stunning 4K and Dolby Atmos

24 of the best film scenes to test surround sound

The best films of 2023 to test your TV or home cinema system

Becky Roberts

Becky is the managing editor of What Hi-Fi? and, since her recent move to Melbourne, also the editor of Australian Hi-Fi magazine. During her 10 years in the hi-fi industry, she has been fortunate enough to travel the world to report on the biggest and most exciting brands in hi-fi and consumer tech (and has had the jetlag and hangovers to remember them by). In her spare time, Becky can often be found running, watching Liverpool FC and horror movies, and hunting for gluten-free cake.

With contributions from
  • cobraBLACK
    Disney has quite a lot of films now from its subsidiaries.

    Apple is terrible - I have a free trial right now and it has good things (The Problem with Jon Stewart, Mythic Quest, The Morning Show) but most of the content costs extra. And most of the stories in Little America are boring!