If the early aughts marked a Golden Age of television, with prestige one-hour cable dramas like Mad Men and Breaking Bad ushering in a new standard for small-screen programming, then what we’re in now could be seen as a sort of Golden Binge Age. Though cable has surprisingly clung to life despite huge changes in how we consume television and movies, it’s clear that streaming is the way of the future with streaming giants Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video releasing hundreds of original shows a year in addition to full seasons of older shows. Even the old guard of internet service providers are starting their own versions, such as Spectrum Streaming.
As we wait to see if (or, rather, how) Disney+ will disrupt the streaming competition later this year, there are many smaller (and cheaper) streaming services to invest your time and money in that aren’t The Big Three.
CBS All Access (opens in new tab)
Price: $5.99/month (limited commercials) or $9.99/month (commercial-free)
Who knew your parents' favorite network would become one of the best all-around streaming services for original content? To be able to watch CBS All Access–only shows The Good Fight, Star Trek: Discovery and The Twilight Zone (2019) is worth the price alone, not to mention you'll get access to tons of other CBS mainstays, such as NCIS and Big Bang Theory, as well as live TV. Maybe you can even share your password with Mom and Dad for once?
Price: $7.99/month or $79.99/year
Though Netflix has significantly upped its anime offerings in the past year, it still doesn't hold a candle to Crunchyroll. The premier anime streaming service is the perfect place to start if you're just dipping your toes into anime or if you've been an anime fiend for years. Its selection of classic series (Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, for starters) is top-notch, and it’s equally great for discovering new ones, including some of this year's best shows: the delightfully weird but heartfelt Sarazanmai, Dragon Ball Z sequel Dragon Ball Super, the charming and action-packed My Hero Academia, and, from the creators of One-Punch Man, the bonkers-hilarious Mob Psycho 100.
Price: $6.99/month or $69.99/year
Unlike us greedy Americans who produce 10–22-episode seasons of television—and a lot of it—the Brits are a little more reserved, and it shows in the quality of their programming. BritBox, as its name suggests, allows you to stream the best BBC and ITV have to offer, and though their seasons (or, as they’d say, series) are short, they’re chock-full of quality. Enjoy Classic Doctor Who, the mystery drama Life on Mars (of which we made a pale imitation) and plenty of Shakespeare and comedy specials. One of the best parts is you’re sure to find something new and different every time you log on.
Brown Sugar markets itself as a streaming platform that hosts “badass cinema,” and it’s hard to argue with that. Featuring black movies, commercial-free and uncut, many of which are blaxploitation films, Brown Sugar is a uniquely niche take on what a streaming service can—and should—be. You’ll find fun action flicks like Foxy Brown and the Black Cobra series alongside everything from rom-coms to awards shows. You can get a whole month of content for less than the price of a Starbucks drink, so...you really have no excuse not to at least check it out.
Shudder (opens in new tab)
Price: $5.99/month or $56.99/year
In case you haven’t noticed, horror is having a bit of a renaissance. Between The Conjuring Universe; remakes of classics like Carrie, Pet Sematary and Child’s Play; and indie films like It Follows and Hereditary rewriting the rules of what a horror flick can look like, it’s a good time to be a fan of all things spooky and bloody. And streaming service Shudder has that in spades. Enjoy horror staples like Sleepaway Camp and Hellraiser in addition to newer, critically admire films Revenge, Mandy and Summer of ‘84. But maybe the most exciting and unique offering is its 24-hour, 13-movie marathon The Last Drive In With Joe Bob Briggs and the regular Friday night double features starring the horror personality.
Price: $10.99/month or $99.99/year
After popular movie streaming service FilmStruck shut down in November 2018 (RIP), there was no great, easy way to stream important classic movies anymore, as the service had housed more than a thousand Criterion films. But thanks to an outspoken group of A-list actors and directors who signed a letter addressed to Warner Bros. Picture Group chairman Toby Emmerich, the Criterion Channel rose from FilmStruck’s ashes to the delight of cinephiles everywhere. The new service comprises more than 1,000 Criterion films whose release years range from 1917–2018, and it features the work of such notable directors as Ingmar Bergman, Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut and Federico Fellini as well as modern greats, including Alfonso Cuarón, Noah Baumbach and Steven Soderbergh. You can find a whole list of its streaming films here.
Price: Free with a library card
With over 30,000 new and classic films available to stream commercial-free, Kanopy might just be the best free streaming service out there. All you need to get started is a valid library card from a library that’s connected to Kanopy (many libraries are, but not all, so call your local ones and ask about Kanopy). Access to a bunch of free movies PLUS a bunch of free books to read? Win-win.
Price: $4.99/month or $39.99/year
As a kid, there were few things more thrilling than waking up early on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons. With Boomerang, you can relive that joy anytime, any day for a very reasonable price. You'll find old-school favorites Looney Tunes, Popeye, Scooby-Doo and Bugs Bunny alongside newer favorites Courage the Cowardly Dog and Bunnicula to suit any cartoon mood. Might we suggest skipping weekend brunch and hosting a cereal 'n' 'toons day instead?