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 have been available through a variety of other services in the past, including Hulu and FilmStruck, the Criterion Channel is the only place to stream them 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 also includes a variety of original programming that you won't find anywhere else.

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

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 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 own 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 select Sign Up in the upper right corner.

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

    The plan options bill either $10.99 monthly or $99.99 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.

    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'll be 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 even original content.

In addition to the main library of more than 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 based primarily around the home page and the All Films page. The home 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 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, plug the title directly into the search function 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.

    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 also have extras that you can watch.

    The Watch button on Criterion
  4. The film will start playing 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 also 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.