How to watch
If you enjoy wondering aloud to yourself how filmmakers were able to make a movie at all, 1988’s almost wordless tale of two bears trying to survive the Canadian mountains was somehow shot with real, expressive bear “actors,” despite the film being a work of fiction. A cross between a stunningly photographed nature documentary and a brutal folktale, The Bear gets right to the uncompromising conditions out in the wild, where human beings are portrayed as just as savage—and just as merciful—as the beasts they hunt. Clever editing and Jean-Jacques Annaud’s directorial vision hide all the seams in the movie’s magic tricks, allowing us to fall in love quickly with these majestic bears and the all-too-human emotions they seem to be expressing.
Kanopy is an on-demand streaming service that schools and public libraries all around the US offer students and members for free. All you have to do is enter the details of your participating institution and you can start watching as you please. Because of the academic nature of the platform, Kanopy makes sure it streams only the most essential and important content available, which could mean hard-hitting films like Moonlight, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Lady Bird, Dogtooh, Memento, and Howard’s End for certain viewers, or The Adventures of Paddington, Richard Scarry, and The Monster Math Squad for even other, younger viewers. There are also storybooks, documentaries, and educational programs available to watch as Kanopy makes sure to cater to every learner regardless of leaning or age.
Peacock is a streaming service owned by NBC, with options for paid subscriptions as well as a free plan. The free plan offers about 13,000 hours of ad-supported content, with the option to upgrade to premium for more access to content. The premium options include two plans: $4.99 a month or $50 a year for ad-supported; $9.99 a month or $100 a year for ad-free. With both premium plans, you’ll get access to the full catalog of 2,000 movies and shows, including every episode of the original NBC series. You’ll also get next-day access to all the new episodes of ongoing NBC shows, and early access to talk shows such as Late Night with Seth Meyers and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on the air night. You can stream Peacock on Apple devices like the iPhone and Apple TV, Google devices like Android phones and Chromecast, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles. But there is still no app available for Roku or Amazon platforms.
You can buy nearly everything on Amazon, including movies and TV shows. Amazon’s video storefront (not to be confused with its on-demand streaming service Amazon Prime) allows you to either rent or buy thousands of titles, including new releases, blockbuster hits, niche indies, and international gems.
You’ll have to sign in using your Amazon account to start renting or purchasing, and Amazon allows you to redeem gift cards, promo codes, and points if you have them upon checkout. Like most video stores, Amazon gives you 30 days to start watching a rental and 48 hours to finish it, while unlimited access is granted to purchased titles. Lastly, you should know that a rented title is only viewable on one device, so sharing options will be limited.
iTunes is one of the oldest media apps currently in use. While many people know it as a music player, iTunes has since evolved to offer digital movies and TV shows for rent or sale. The bigger and newer releases can cost up to $20 to purchase, but iTunes also has past hits, modern classics, award-winning pictures, and even local films you can rent for as low as $2. Purchased films and TV shows are available for as long as the studio allows them to be, but rentals are a different story. Once you’ve rented a particular title, you have up to 30 days to start watching it. And after you start watching it, you’ll then have 48 hours before it expires. iTunes comes pre-installed on Apple devices, but it’s also available on Windows PCs and Android Smart TVs.
Despite its wobbly start in the streaming sphere, Peacock now has a growing and respectable catalog of titles to its name. It’s home to critically acclaimed shows like Poker Face and movies like Tar, not to mention a whole host of reality shows and sports events. But perhaps the greatest edge Peacock has over its competitors is that along with its on-demand content, it also features a solid lineup of live TV channels, many of them for free.
Peacock’s premium tier, often referred to as Peacock Premium, has channels like Hallmark, Fallon Tonight, SNL Vault, NBC News, Premier League TV, WWE, Dateline 24/7, and Below Deck.
Google Play Movies & TV, or simply Play, is a video-on-demand store that allows you to rent or purchase various films and TV shows online. A rental can cost as low as $1 (these are usually TV movies and old films) while purchases can cost up to $20 (these are often blockbusters that are fresh from theaters). Play lets you watch on most major streaming devices, but you have to remember to log in with the same account you used to purchase the titles. On your smartphone, you can access the titles via the Google TV or YouTube app, while on your smart TV, you can use access them via the Play, YouTube, or Movies Anywhere apps. You can also watch them via the Play website but do take note that Play doesn’t offer HD and 4k viewing on PCs.
Vudu is an on-demand streaming service that allows users to rent or purchase more than 200,000 new releases. Founded in 2007, it’s one of the first companies to offer digital films in HD. Vudu’s main strength is its ease of access and jam-packed catalog of movies and TV shows, but it also boasts free content, which they run on ads. In 2020, media and ticketing firm Fandango acquired Vudu and merged both companies’ streamers into one. They decided to keep the Vudu name because of its large and loyal customer base.
YouTube’s Movies & TV storefront (not to be mistaken with YouTube TV) allows you to rent and purchase thousands of films and TV shows. You can pick from the latest blockbuster releases, foreign films, award-winning staples, beloved classics, and even pre-order titles that have yet to be available elsewhere. A big draw here is that YouTube is already everywhere—it’s a tab on your browser, an app on your phone, a channel on your smart TV—so renting, purchasing, and later on accessing a title is as easy as entering your credit card or PayPal details. And as a bonus, YouTube also has a lineup of free movies it lets you watch with ads. Granted, they’re not as big or new as their rentable titles, but there are gems like Moonstruck and Cooley High hidden in there somewhere.
Now, some things to note before heading to the storefront: you must be 18 years or older to watch these titles, and while buying a movie or TV episode allows you to access them indefinitely, you have only 30 days to start viewing a rental. Once you’ve started watching it, you usually have about 48 hours until it expires, but this can vary per title. YouTube also allows playback in HD and 4k, but these features are currently unavailable on web browsers.