The Criterion Channel Review

What is The Criterion Channel?

Movie fanatics will be in their element with a choice of more than 2,000 titles and behind the scenes access to their favorite films through The Criterion Channel. In addition to enjoying movies on demand and via live streams, subscribers can find out more about the films they watch with comprehensive features such as directors’ takes. 

The Criterion Channel launched as a standalone service in November 2018. It broadcasts live movies and will be available on WarnerMedia’s new on-demand video streaming platform, HBO Max, when it launches in May 2020.

The Criterion Channel’s content library has classic and contemporary movies, which include a range of Hollywood films in addition to art-house, independent, and international movies from major studios and more niche distributors. In addition to this strong choice of content, the channel also offers an archive of special features that it claims provides “context that no other service can match.”

The Criterion Channel plans and pricing


The Criterion Channel
Monthly price $10.99/mo.
Annual price $99.99
Number of titles 2,021
Offline downloads Yes
Original content No
Streaming quality 540p to 1080p
Live streaming Yes


The Criterion Channel supported devices

The Criterion Channel is available across phones and tablets, several streaming devices, and can be watched on web browsers. Subscribers can enjoy its content library across the following devices:

  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Android phones and tablets
  • Android TV
  • Apple iOS phones and tablets
  • Apple TV
  • Roku media streamers and operating systems
  • Web browsers: Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox

What to watch on The Criterion Channel

The Criterion Channel is home to a wide range of art-house, classic, independent, and mainstream movies. The channel breaks its content library down into the following categories:

  • Action/adventure
  • Anime
  • Avant-garde
  • Comedy
  • Crime
  • Documentary
  • Drama
  • Fantasy
  • Film Noir
  • Horror
  • Musical
  • Romance
  • Samurai
  • Science Fiction
  • Silent
  • Thriller
  • War
  • Western

The Criterion Channel is packed with classic movies, including the original 3:10 to Yuma from back in 1957, 1948 hit Anna Karenina, one of the greatest Western movies of all time in John Ford’s Stagecoach, and Alfred Hitchcock’s wrong-man thriller The 39 Steps, which has since been made into a popular theatre play.

Subscribers will find a host of movies from some of the best of directors in history, including several Jean-Luc Godard films, such as 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her and Breathless, Werner Herzog, whose films include Aguirre, The Wrath of God and Nosferatu the Vampyre, and David Lean’s Brief Encounter, Great Expectations, and Oliver Twist. Viewers can also enjoy Orson Welles classics Chimes and The Complete Mr. Arkadin

Other top selections on the channel include a mass of Ingmar Bergman movies such as The Seventh Seal, around 20 Charlie Chaplin movies, including The Gold Rush and The Great Dictator, several Akira Kurosawa movies such as Ikira and The Seven Samurais, British filmmaker Mike Leigh’s Naked, and George A. Romero’s horror classic Night of the Living Dead.

The channel also features early movies from now big-name directors. For example, subscribers can enjoy The Dark Knight and Interstellar, director Christopher Nolan’s debut movie Following and short film Doodlebug, 2009 film Daddy Longlegs by Uncut Gems co-directors Josh and Benny Safdie, and Guillermo Del Toro’s Mexican horror film Cronos

The Criterion Channel is also home to a wide range of international movies. These include 2018 Australian movie All These Creatures, 2009 Danish film Antichrist, Russian science fiction in the form of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker from 1979, a story of changing Japanese society in Yasujiro Ozu’s 1953 movie Tokyo Story, and Edward Yang’s epic modern masterpiece Yi Yi from 2000. Another intriguing option is Lady Snowblood, a movie directed by Toshiya Fujita that was a major inspiration for Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill

The Criterion Channel features

The Criterion Channel subscribers can watch on up to three simultaneous streams. Users can download content on Android and iOS devices, which enables them to watch movies on the go. Storage is reliant on the amount of space available on their phone or tablet and they have up to 30 days to watch a downloaded movie and 48 hours to finish it once they have begun playback.

The channel does not reveal its streaming resolution level but lets subscribers choose between low, medium, and high-quality image quality. Some movies offer subtitle options — available by clicking the CC button in the lower right corner of the video player.

Subscribers gain access to spotlight features on actors, directors, film genres, and themes. There are also offerings like the channel’s 15-minute-a-month film school, Observations on Film Art, the Tuesday Short +, and Friday double-bill features, which bring viewers insight from moviemakers like Barry Jenkins, Guillermo del Toro, Kelly Reichardt, and Mira Nair.

It is easy for subscribers to find their favorite films and discover new content thanks to The Criterion Channel’s useful search capabilities. These include a film categories section. Users can also filter content by decade, director, country, and genre. Curated content also includes regular lists like Recent Collections and Newly Added, as well as more specific The Criterion Channel options such as 21st Century Filmmakers, Adventures in Movie Going, Art-House America, Criterion Editions, Directed By, and Women Filmmakers. Users can add content to My List to save it for later viewing.

The Criterion Channel offers a 14-day free trial for viewers to test out its service. It requires that new users provide a credit card and the service takes a $1 authorization hold charge.

The final cut

The Criterion Channel is very much a network for movie connoisseurs, offering up a range of art-house cinema, classic movies, and relatively obscure films that are unlikely to be discovered on other popular streaming services. It provides a substantial content library of more than 2,000 movies in addition to information about films and directors.

The channel’s price point of $10.99/mo. is a little more expensive than other streaming services like Amazon Prime Video ($8.99/mo.), Hulu ($5.99/mo.), and Netflix ($8.99/mo.) — but the extra cost is probably worth it for movie aficionados. Signing up for an annual membership reduces the monthly fee to just $8.33/mo. The service offers a 14-day free trial for new subscribers.  

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