Kanopy: The free FilmStruck alternative

In last week’s article about FilmStruck alternatives, I didn’t go into detail about Kanopy – the free streaming service you can access through your library card. The problem was that my card is with the Alameda Public Library, which doesn’t qualify.

Soon after I posted that article, I discovered that I can get a library card from any other California city (thanks Brian and Vicky for the information). I now have another card from the Berkeley City Library, and with it, a subscription to Kanopy. The San Francisco City Library also supports the streaming service.

Kanopy offers a huge selection of streaming films, including a significant number of Criterion offerings, and you don’t have to pay for it. As I write this, the Classic Cinema page has 570 films, including 50 from The Criterion Collection. In fact, Classic Cinema’s “Most Popular” section appears to be almost entirely Criterion. The first eight listed, as I write this, are Seven Samurai, The Battle of Algiers, L’Avventura, Rashomon, Breathless, , Cleo from 5 to 7, and Bicycles Thieves (the links are to my articles on these films). Other Classic Cinema sections include Oscar Winners and Nominees, American Cinema, Drama, and French Cinema.

But unlike FilmStruck, you don’t get extras. No commentary tracks or other supplements to help you appreciate what you just saw.

Kanopy lets you stream relatively new films from the independent distributor A24 Films. These include Lady Bird, First Reformed, Moonlight, The Florida Project, and Ex Machina.

And its not just the independents. Paramount is currently letting Kanopy stream 86 of their films. These run from recognized masterpieces like Sunset Boulevard to best-forgotten works such as Cheech & Chong’s Still Smoking. Kanopy doesn’t just offer theatrical films. But then, Paramount has placed some 400 of their films on free Youtube.

Kanopy doesn’t just stream theatrical movies. It also offers TV series (mostly PBS documentaries), work training videos, and other sorts of moving images.

When you get something for free, there’s always a catch. With Kanopy, the individual libraries can limit how many movies (or shorts or TV episodes) you can view. Berkeley allows me seven a month, which is reasonable. But if you play a video of any kind, and don’t stop in the first five seconds, that’s one less movie you can see that week.

If you use it carefully, Kanopy offers a fantastic selection of films.

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