It’s Saturday night. You’ve been scrolling through Netflix for the last 29 minutes looking for something to watch, but nothing’s catching your eye. It’s a stupid issue we’ve all dealt with, but there’s a solution. Several solutions, in fact—services designed to take the guesswork out of what should I watch tonight?
The Streaming Service Conundrum
In the age of the internet, streaming services have transformed how we watch TV and movies. Having an on-demand catalog of movies at your fingertips gives you a lot more choices in what you can watch.
All this choice, however, comes with its own problems. With an endless sea of content to watch, how do you decide what’s worth your time and what isn’t? How do you find things you’ll enjoy or that’ll resonate with you?
When you have so many choices, you start making snap judgments about how good a movie is based on its cover photo or two-sentence description. This causes people to disregard large amounts of movies and shows that, if given a proper try, might end up being their new favorite. You shouldn’t judge a movie by its cover, but when you’re flipping through Netflix looking for something to watch, it’s hard to resist.
Even still, there are ways to combat this information overload. Film recommendation sites, critic reviews, and online cinephile communities all can provide an outside opinion to help you narrow down that massive catalog—and they’ll do it based on your own personal preferences, not just which movies have cool covers with sexy fonts.
Check Film Recommendation Sites and Use Advanced Search Techniques
If you find yourself aimlessly scrolling through Netflix unable to find something to watch, there are websites that can help narrow your search to find things that match your interests. They pull data across multiple streaming services, from critic reviews, and from audience ratings to rank and sort the vast sea of content. Some will even pick out a movie for you based on film suggestions you enter.
Here are some great ways to search for new things to watch.
- JustWatch: JustWatch is one of the most comprehensive search tools for streaming services. This site searches through more than 85 services from Netlflix and Youtube to HBO and iTunes. After searching for a show, the site will show you information about it and everywhere you can find it.
- Flickmetrix: This search website compiles the catalogs of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Searches can be done by year, genre, average rating, and even the number of critic reviews. The site also allows users to create watchlists, mark favorites, and recommend movies.
- Date Night Movies: This is a unique website for when you can’t agree on what to watch with someone. You both input something you like or want to watch, and the site will suggest alternatives related to both options.
- What Movie Should I Watch Tonight: This is another website that lets you browse movies from the Netflix and Amazon Prime Video catalog at the same time. You can search titles by genres, service, and for recent shows even by year.
- Netflix-Codes: Netflix search functions aren’t always the greatest, and the categories it divides movies and shows into can be broad. All titles on Netflix are given special sub-genre codes that divide movies into more specific categories. These are hidden from the user, but if the code is typed into the search bar, it brings up the hidden category.
Read Critic Reviews and Film Ratings
When a movie is still in theaters, you’ll hear about how well it’s doing at the box office and whether or not it’s getting good reviews. After movies are moved to streaming services though, the ratings aren’t always displayed in front of you. There are thousands of titles to watch, and you only have so much time. Reading critic reviews and paying attention to ratings is a good way to weed out shows and movies you won’t enjoy.
Here are some popular review sites to check how movies are being received.
- IMDb: IMDb is one of the biggest databases of movie reviews and rating lists. The site is filled with information on box office statistics, awards, and film events. It is the one-stop-shop for finding information on films and shows.
- Metacritic: Another popular website that offers a similar function to IMDb, Metacritic compiles critic reviews and audience ratings that give movies and shows a score between 0 and 100. The site also has reviews on video games and music.
- Rotten Tomatoes: Rotten Tomatoes is the last of the three main movie-review sites. Movies are rated on a scale of 0 to 100, but if a show is rated below 60, it’s considered rotten. If the movie is above 60, it’s considered fresh. This makes it easy to make quick judgments about the quality of a movie or show, which can be either a good or bad thing depending on how you’re using it.
Join an Online Community
It can be hard to find a new movie to watch when you have absolutely no idea what you’re in the mood for. If you’re looking for more personalized suggestions, there are online communities for discussing and suggesting movies and TV shows.
Here are a few places you can go to talk about your love for movies and get suggestions on what to watch next.
- Reddit: As always, Reddit communities are a great place to find people with like-minded interests. r/movies is filled with cinephiles who love to discuss movies and related news. Many other movie subreddits focus on specific areas of film. r/moviesuggestions is a subreddit where you can get personalized suggestions for movies from other users on the site. There are also subreddits for specific genres like r/horror, r/documentaries, and r/warmovies.
- MovieChat: A website that lists movies in an IMDb-like format for discussion, MovieChat lets users create threads on the specific movie page (instead of the Reddit structure where posts are organized by time posted and popularity). Users also copied over old IMDb forum threads before it was discontinued.
- Movie Forums: This site is a smaller forum for discussing movies. It isn’t as active as the other two forums, but it still has a community of avid cinephiles willing to discuss and rate movies as they come out.
Journey Outside of Your Comfort Zone
Now, there are thousands of titles to watch from the major streaming services, but if you want to try watching movies not made by large production companies, you check out an indie film streaming service like Sundance Now or IndieFlix. These services show movies and shows that might never get a full theatrical release or prime time viewing slot but which are still made with the same passion and talent as many big-name productions—just usually not with as much money.
Also, if American television just isn’t doing it for you anymore, you can check out BritBox, which lets you stream thousands of shows from our friends across the pond. Crunchyroll gives you access to tons of anime and Japanese dramas.
Of course, if you’ve run out of things to watch online, drive-in and dine-in movie theaters both offer a unique spin on the movie-watching experience. At a drive-in, your car becomes your theater while you watch a movie projected on a large outdoor screen.
If you want dinner and a show, dine-in theaters serve more than just popcorn and candy. You can get a full menu’s worth of food brought directly to your seat while you lean back and enjoy the movie.
Many local theaters will also hold special events where they play older movies and cult classics. Moviegoers will dress up and make a night out of it. Who wouldn’t want to dress up and watch the quote-along version of The Princess Bride?
Libraries are another underutilized way to watch movies and TV shows. Plenty of libraries are stocked with copies of all the latest flicks that can be rented out like an old school video rental store. And best of all, they’re totally free—you just need a library card.
You always have new things to watch whether you’re streaming online, visiting your local theater, or still using cable. There’s so much content out there, try to search a little harder before starting The Office over for the eighth time.