Netflix Alternatives: What Is Kanopy?

Even though Netflix has utterly dominated the video streaming market for years, their recent decline in quality content has started to weaken its position as king of the content streamers.  Not only is there demonstrably less content on the streaming platform, but many of their best movies and TV series are starting to disappear, only to be replaced by their rather hit-and-miss library of original content.  At the same time, a great many competitors are rising up to supplant it as America’s favorite streaming service: either by offer the broad content that Netflix is increasingly disinterested in (ala Hulu) or by focusing in on under-served niches that Netflix has failed to provide for (like CrunchyRoll or Shudder).

Kanopy is one such service, although it’s one that not many people are likely familiar with.  Despite being around for the past decade, it’s one that I’ve only started hearing news of over the past several days.  Rather than providing its services to the general public, Kanopy is an education-themed streaming service that works exclusively through libraries, schools and other public institutions.

And despite being explicitly “educational” — basically a curse word within entertainment-seeking circles — the service provides a vast number of interesting, varied and, most importantly, fun films that virtually anybody can sit down and enjoy.  Ranging from global classics like Bicycle Theives (1948) and Breatheless (1960) to comedies like Modern Times(1936) and The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared (2013) to animated features like It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012) and The Secret of Kells (2009) to horror movies like Let the Right One In (2008) and Black Christmas (1974).  It includes vast collections of documentaries, TV series and even a sizable portion of the esteemed Criterion Collection.

If you have access to it, it is certainly bound to be one of the best options available to you, as it includes more than just a little bit of everything.  You get everything from the latest offerings to silent-era masterpieces.  They cover films both foreign and domestic, belonging to virtually every genre and aesthetic preference.  It’s a great way to ease into the admittedly imposing Criterion Collection (and its proprietary streaming service, FilmStruck) as well as a way to dive into learning something new about the world.

While perhaps not as large or easily accessible as other, comparable services, it’s focus on educating its subscribers makes it perfect for everybody from especially curious children to life-long learners in their twilight years.  It’s absolutely worth checking out, especially if your local library or school has already signed up for it.  After all, there are only so many times that you can watch Bill Nye Saves the World and still learn something new.

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