How to Use the Criterion Channel Streaming Service

Get your Criterion Collection film fix

The Criterion Channel is a streaming service that provides on-demand access to the massive Criterion Collection of important classic and contemporary films. While some of these movies were available through other services in the past, including Hulu and FilmStruck, the Criterion Channel is the only place to stream these films today. Here's an overview of the Criterion Channel service and how to sign up.

In addition to more than 1,000 classic films, the Criterion Channel includes original programming you won't find anywhere else.

A couple watches the Criterion Channel on a laptop.
Willie B. Thomas / DigitalVision / Getty Images

What Is the Criterion Collection?

The Criterion Collection started as a home video distribution company that focused on licensing what they considered to the most important films around. 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, such as 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 its Criterion Channel streaming service.

In addition to the Criterion Collection library, the Criterion Channel 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. 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, then select Sign Up in the upper-right corner.

    The Sign Up link on the Criterion home page
  2. To begin a 14-day free trial, enter your email, password, and payment details. Then, select Start Free Trial.

    The plan options bill either $10.99 monthly or $99.99 yearly. If you choose the annual option, you are automatically charged for a full year of membership when the free trial ends.

    Sign-up screen for the Criterion Channel
  3. On the Thanks for subscribing page, select Start watching.

    The Start Watching button on Criterion
  4. Start browsing, discovering, and watching films from the massive Criterion Collection.

    Go to your Criterion Channel account and cancel anytime within 14 days. If you don't cancel, you're charged either the monthly or yearly price immediately after the trial ends.

    Watching a film on the Criterion Channel

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 original content.

In addition to the main library of more than 1,000 Criterion Collection films, the Criterion Channel 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 those films before they disappear.

How to Use the Criterion Channel

The Criterion Channel has simple navigation options based primarily around the home page and the All Films page. The home page provides a listing of popular films in several categories. The All Films page allows you to sort the entire Criterion collection according to various filters and sorting possibilities.

Criterion Channe All Films sorting options

Search for films in a specific genre, look for particular directors, or narrow your search by decade or country.

If you know what movie you're looking for, enter the title in the search function in the navigation bar.

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

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

    Criterion Channel home page
  2. Locate a film you want to watch, and select it.

    Criterion Channel film list
  3. Select Watch.

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

    The Watch button on Criterion
  4. The film plays in the same window.

    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 includes a variety of shorts and original programming.

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.

How to Watch the Criterion Channel On Your Mobile Device or Television

Watch the Criterion Channel on your iOS or Android mobile device, as well as through a browser on your desktop computer. In addition, Apple TV 4 (and newer), Roku, and FireTV also have Criterion Channel apps.