How to Use the Criterion Channel Streaming Service

Get your Criterion Collection film fix

A couple watches the Criterion Channel on a laptop.

Willie B. Thomas / DigitalVision / Getty

PRODUCT DISCLOSURE $

The Criterion Channel is a streaming service that provides on-demand access to the massive Criterion Collection. These movies have been available through a variety of other services in the past, including Hulu and FilmStruck, but the Criterion Channel is the only place you can stream them today. In addition to more than 1,000 classic films, the Criterion Channel also includes a variety of original programming that you won't find anywhere else.

What is the Criterion Collection?

The Criterion Collection started as a home video distribution company that focused on licensing what they considered to be some of the most important films. Today, the Criterion Collection consists of a variety of classic and contemporary Hollywood, international, art-house, and independent films.

In addition to licensing films for home distribution, the Criterion Collection restores older movies. It also pioneered features like the letterbox format and special releases that eventually caught on with other distributors.

At one time, the entire Criterion Collection was available for streaming through Hulu. It later moved to the FilmStruck service, which merged it with the similar Turner Classic Movies library. After FilmStruck shuttered in 2018, the Criterion Collection moved to the Criterion Channel streaming service.

In addition to the Criterion Collection library, the Criterion Channel also includes original programming and themed selections of classic movies to help you discover new gems.

How to Sign Up For the Criterion Channel

The only way to stream the Criterion Collection is through the Criterion Channel, and the only way to access the Criterion Channel is to sign up for a membership. The service includes a short free trial, after which you can choose to pay monthly or yearly for continued access.

Here's how the sign-up process works for the Criterion Channel:

  1. Navigate to criterionchannel.com, and click SIGN UP.

    A screenshot of the Criterion Channel website.
  2. Enter your billing information, select a plan, and click START YOUR FREE TRIAL.

    A screenshot of the Criterion Channel signup process.

    The plan options bill either monthly or yearly. If you choose the annual option, you will be automatically charged for a full year of membership as soon as your free trial ends.

  3. Click START WATCHING.

    A screenshot of the Criterion Channel billing page.

    Do not stop on this step. Due to the way the sign-up process works, you do not have a password yet. Move on to the next step to create your password.

  4. Click SET PASSWORD.

    A screenshot of the Criterion Channel site.
  5. Enter a password, and click Set Password.

    A screenshot of the Criterion Channel setup process.

    Be very careful when you enter your password. There is no confirmation field to verify what you typed.

  6. That's it; you're ready to start discovering and watching films from the massive Criterion Collection.

What Can You Watch on the Criterion Channel?

The Criterion Channel includes access to the entire Criterion library of more than 1,000 classic and contemporary films. It also includes about 350 shorts, interviews, mini-documentaries, and even original content.

In addition to the main library of over 1,000 Criterion Collection films, the Criterion Channel also rotates in classics from a variety of major studios and indies. These films come and go, unlike the main library, so you have to make sure to watch them before they disappear.

How to Use the Criterion Channel

The Criterion Channel has simple navigation options, and it's based primarily around the main page and the all films page. The main page provides a listing of popular films in a variety of categories, and the all films page allows you to sort the entire Criterion collection according to a variety of settings.

A screenshot of the Criterion Channel.

The all films page lets you look for films in a specific genre, search for particular directors, and even narrow your search down by decade or country.

If you know what movie you're looking for, you also have the option to plug the title directly into the search function that's available in the navigation bar.

Here's how to start watching a film on the Criterion Channel:

  1. Navigate to criterionchannel.com/browse and scroll down to view your options.

    A screenshot of Criterion Channel.
  2. Locate a film you want to watch, and click it.

    A screenshot of Criterion Channel.
  3. Click Watch.

    A screenshot of Rashomon on Criterion Channel.

    Many films include trailers, and some also have extras that you can watch.

  4. The film will start playing in the same window.

    A screenshot of Rashomon on Criterion Channel.

Original Content on the Criterion Channel Streaming Service

In addition to the main library of the Criterion Collection, and a rotating selection of films from other sources, the Criterion Channel also includes a variety of shorts and original programming.

A screenshot of The Criterion Channel's Ten Minutes or Less

Fans of the old FilmStruck service will recognize features like Ten Minutes or Less, Split Screen, Adventures in Moviegoing, and Meet the Filmmakers. These original series, along with behind the scenes footage, commentaries, and original documentaries round out the Criterion Channel's entertainment options.

Watching the Criterion Channel On Your Mobile Device or Television

The Criterion Channel app is available for phones, tablets, and even streaming devices.

You can obtain the Criterion Channel app for the device of your choice by following these links: