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Modern streaming is sort of like the old cliché about throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. There’s a staggering number of services available, each one with its own library. These libraries are often slapped together based on what’s available through numerous licensing deals, rather than thoughtful curation. That’s why Mubi makes a strong minimalist alternative for cinephiles. The on-demand service puts obvious thought into each and every title it offers, and there’s always something new to discover.
Here’s everything you need to know about Mubi, from its pricing to how to use the service.
What is Mubi?
Rather than licensing thousands of movies at a time, Mubi offers a rotating collection of 30 titles that changes daily. Each movie is selected for its artistic merit across every genre, so subscribers get a little bit of everything. From cult exploitation films to international meditations on faith to harrowing dramas, Mubi curates a special movie club each month.
The service makes a big deal about when movies are leaving, incentivizing users to keep up and take risks. With its carefully curated movie selection, Mubi brings the arthouse cinema experience to your living room.
Variety over the course of film history is Mubi’s game, giving it a leg up on competing services. Netflix has a terrible selection of old movies. Amazon Prime has thousands of vintage oddities but few legitimate classics and its search features are sorely lacking. Hulu basically refuses to acknowledge that movies were made before 1970. While each of the big three services features international films, they’re largely horror or modern titles. International dramas often get ignored.
Mubi, on the other hand, combines Academy Award-winners like Amores Perros with Takashi Miike’s 2011 remake of Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai and 1969’s groundbreaking queer Japanese arthouse hit Funeral Parade of Roses. You’ll find Israeli films, early-2000s indie hits, international dramas, and experimental works from mainstream American directors. And that’s just in one month.
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Should you ever work through the 30 selections included with your subscription, you can rent additional Mubi movies. These bonus rentals spotlight indie titles and allow users to further explore the genres found in their monthly selections. Mubi also provides rental collections, gathering works from directors such as Werner Herzog, Philippe Garrel, and Krzysztof Zanussi.
Just like its streaming titles, Mubi’s movie rentals change each month. If you live in a town without a great video store or indie cinema, Mubi is a godsend.
How much does Mubi cost?
A Mubi membership costs $10.99 a month, with a free 30-day trial. Rentals range from $2.99 to $5.99. It works out to roughly $2.75 per movie, a reasonable rental rate at a video store without the hassle of returns.
How is Mubi’s video quality?
Video quality is one of Mubi’s strongest features. While the service doesn’t currently offer 4K streaming, the high-definition sources for its titles are stunning. Some of these movies date back decades, but each transfer is crisp and clear. Having seen only a bootleg copy of Funeral Parade of Roses on VHS in the late ’90s, I can attest that seeing it in beautiful HD is a treat. The clarity of the picture adds a level of depth that can’t be overstated, particularly on classic black-and-white titles.
Mubi is available on iOS, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku. That doesn’t mean Xbox, PS4, or other media player users are left out, though. If you use a media player that isn’t supported but has the Amazon Prime app, you can add Mubi using the Amazon Channels feature.
Interestingly, Mubi shines the brightest on mobile. Subscribers can download movies for offline viewing, putting Mubi on par with Netflix as a travel-friendly app.
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Is Mubi worth it?
For the average movie viewer, Mubi is probably a bit of a niche service. Many people view movies as a means of escape, and Mubi’s focus on heavy dramas and experimental films doesn’t always mesh with that. But if Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon’s focus on bluster over art has you feeling numb, Mubi is an incredible alternative. It’s a great way to discover the history of global cinema without breaking the bank.
If you’re looking for a deeper dive into movies you catch on Mubi, the service has plenty of material for you to read. The Mubi website features a fully functioning movie zine called Mubi Notebook, complete with thoughtful lists and articles to further your film education. It’s the sort of feature that makes you say, “That’s nice”—until you actually dive in and see how rich the content is. Mubi Notebook is smart, funny, and thoughtful. In an era where Netflix crowd-tests its movie descriptions based on your tastes, it’s refreshing to see a streaming service with a strong narrative voice.
For cinephiles, there’s only one real competitor: The Criterion Channel, which costs the same per month and opens the vaults of its deep catalog for streaming. The Criterion Channel offers 1,000 feature films, 350 shorts, and special weekly programming. That’s a staggering amount of cinema, and given that it’s Criterion, you know it’ quality. For film buffs who care deeply about the classics, Criterion Channel is probably a safer bet. But Mubi offers a world of discovery, and it’s at least worth testing for a month, especially considering you can do so for free.
If I still lived in a small town in Tennessee, I’d thank the heavens for Mubi. As a reviewer currently living in L.A., where I can find almost any movie, I’ll still hold onto my Mubi subscription through the end of the year. Part of the fun is seeing what the service recommends next, and if my first month with Mubi is any indication, I’m in for some pleasant surprises.
John-Michael Bond is a tech reporter and culture writer for Daily Dot. A longtime cord-cutter and early adopter, he's an expert on streaming services (Hulu with Live TV), devices (Roku, Amazon Fire), and anime. A former staff writer for TUAW, he's knowledgeable on all things Apple and Android. You can also also find him regularly performing standup comedy in Los Angeles.