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The student’s guide to streaming services

Written by Film

Whether you’re a casual film watcher or a series binger, having access to a quality streaming service is a great way to keep yourself entertained in between essays and lectures. With plenty of options to choose from, its important to find the best deal for you. Here’s a breakdown of the leading streaming services available in the UK!

Netflix

Probably the best known and most popular streaming service out there, Netflix is the streaming service that started it all. The platform boasts around 32,600 hours of content housed in a slick, easy to use service available to watch over multiple devices. It’s surprising to note that, despite its popularity, Netflix is actually one of the more expensive streaming services available to UK residents.

Image: IMDB

Its standard package, which includes HD streaming and the ability to be able to watch on two screens at once, is £8.99 a month. Netflix does offer a cheaper option; its basic package is £5.99 a month, but doesn’t include HD content. Its premium service, at £11.99 a month, adds the ability to stream in ultra HD and watch on up to four screens at once. One of the main appeals of Netflix is its original content, a lot of which are already household names, such as Stranger Things and Better Call Saul. Recently, Netflix has upped its game in the film world, producing modern greats like The Irishman (2019), 13th (2016) and Uncut Gems (2019).

With such a huge amount of content it’s hard to run out of things to watch, and an effective recommendation system means there’s always something to see. That being said, there are some big gaps, particularly when it comes to classic films, and there is an arguable lack of quality once you look deep into its catalogue, meaning you may end up just binging Gavin and Stacey yet again. 

Best value: Standard – £8.99/month

Amazon Prime Video

As Amazon continued to broaden its already considerable reach, it created Amazon Prime Video, the streaming offshoot of its Prime service. It is arguably Netflix’s main rival, boasting around 22,600 hours of content. Similar to Netflix, it includes both original Amazon produced content such as The Boys, All or Nothing and the Grand Tour, and licensed films and TV like The Office, The Walking Dead and Knives Out (2019).

The subscription itself is £7.99 a month, but there is a great student rate at £3.99

Unfortunately, many of the more recently released films and series are still only available via renting or buying (usually £4.49 for a film and £16.99 for a series) so if you want to watch big names such as Parasite, Chernobyl, or Succession then you’ll have to fork out extra. The subscription itself is £7.99 a month, but there is a great student rate at £3.99. The big selling point of this is that an Amazon Prime subscription includes all of Prime’s services, from next day delivery to Prime Music. You will also have the chance to buy additional streaming channels, such as BFI Player or Shudder, and get all of your content in one place.

On top of all this, as well as film and TV, Amazon have recently acquired the rights to show Premier League games, setting it apart from Netflix. The only real frustration of Prime Video is its rather clunky and annoying menus, which are far less satisfying than Netflix’s.

Best value: Student – £3.99/month

BFI Player

For film lovers, the British Film Institute has its very own streaming service. To go alongside its free archive and rentals, there is a subscription service for £4.99 a month (which helps support the British film industry during these difficult times). This gives you access to some cinema’s greatest classics, from Bicycle Thieves (1948) and 8 ½ (1963) to Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) and Ringu (1998). As of September 2020 the subscription service offers 636 films, in addition to the 1942 available to rent and the archive of 11227 films, including a myriad of hidden gems from Britain’s early foray into filmmaking like Comic Faces from 1897.

BFI Player also features specially curated playlists such as Indie Japan and Black Stories, so you can explore every corner of cinema. As a bonus, BFI Player films often include an introduction from British film critic Mark Kermode, so you can gain insight from one of the best in the business. 

Best value: Standard – £4.99/month

Verdict: No TV and far fewer titles than a lot of other services, but it is an absolute must for film fans. 

MUBI

Much like BFI Player, MUBI is a film only service dedicated to film lovers. It’s slightly pricier with its subscription being £5.99 a month for students, and £9.99 standard (it also offers MUBI GO for £14.99 which includes a weekly cinema ticket), however it adds a host of extras to the streaming experience. The Notebook section is packed with extra features like interviews and articles, and the Feed is MUBI’s very own social media section that allows film lovers to come together and discuss their favourites.

It is very much a quality over quantity approach

The library of films is similar in style to BFI Player, featuring classics like Apocalypse Now (1979) and I Vitelloni (1953), as well as contemporary greats like Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) and Moonlight (2016).

Unfortunately, many of MUBI’s films are only available for 30 days due to licensing issues, but it is very much a quality over quantity approach, with there being a handpicked film of the day every day. Created by cinephiles for cinephiles.

Best value: Student – £5.99/month

Disney+

Packed with nostalgia, and full of family friendly entertainment, Disney+ features (almost) all Disney content available, including Disney Channel, Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, Disney Animation and even National Geographic. The subscription is £5.99 a month and you very much know what you get with it. The highlights are as big as they come with Avengers: Endgame (2019), Mulan (1998), The Mandalorian, The Simpsons and many more, from childhood classics to the latest Disney blockbuster.

Disney+’s biggest strength is also its biggest weakness

Make sure you also check out some of the lesser known titles though, such as documentaries Free Solo (2018) and Empire of Dreams (2004), and 90s superhero flick The Rocketeer (1991). It is worth noting for MCU completionists that Tom Holland’s Spider-Man films are missing due to Sony holding the licensing rights.

Disney+’s biggest strength is also its biggest weakness; it has all of your favourite Disney content in one place, but the bulk of its content is made up of film and TV that, if you are a Disney fan, you are likely to have already seen. 

Best value: Standard – £5.99/month

Shudder

At the other end of the spectrum is Shudder, a horror and gore filled streaming service for fans of scary movies. For £4.99 a month it offers classic and original content, including brand new series such as Wolf Creek. It’s packed full of hidden gems including some of the formerly banned Video Nasties.

There are also a load of cult classics as well as horror-comedies like Prevenge (2016) and Black Sheep (2006). Shudder’s better known titles are equally great, with highlights being It Follows (2014), Halloween (1978), Let the Right One In (2008) and Oldboy (2003).

Best value: Standard – £4.99/month

Final Verdict

There’s plenty to choose from in the current era of streaming services. If you’re a Disney nut or horror fanatic, then the choice for you is simple. For the rest, Netflix is always a good go-to, but the best value is without doubt Amazon Prime Video, especially considering the added bonuses that a Prime membership gets you.

Adding on a BFI or MUBI subscription to this still only totals the same as a sole Netflix account, and will give you access to a fantastic catalogue of classic films. Don’t knock free On Demand services either, BBC iPlayer has a host of great films, and UKTV Play offers hours of comedy box sets.

Just whatever option you go for, keep it legal, for now more than ever, the men and women working tirelessly to provide you with exceptional content deserve a helping hand. 

Last modified: 11th October 2020

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