Why the ‘Criterion 24/7’ Livestream Is the Best Way to Find a Movie to Watch

Remember how you used to turn on the TV late at night and flip through the channels to see what was on? Remember when you’d stumble across a movie halfway through and get sucked in? Maybe you don’t, because you came of age alongside the streaming revolution, which granted you the ability to watch exactly what you want to watch, when you want to watch it (or at least to scroll endlessly looking at algorithmically generated suggestions of things a computer thinks you might want to watch). The Criterion Channel streaming service is looking to recreate a bit of that sense of cinematic kismet with the launch of Criterion 24/7, a new livestream available to all of its subscribers. The livestream shows random selections from the streamer’s vast catalogue of classic and contemporary films, from high-minded arthouse fair, to cult gems, to the best of world cinema, one after another. You can tune in at any time and find yourself smack in the middle of a silent horror film, or something from the French New Wave, or maybe an unjustly derided Razzie winner.

Subscribe to The Criterion Channel to gain access to Criterion 24/7 and the entire film catalogue.

You won’t know exactly what you’re in for—there’s no set schedule, no grid telling you what’s on or what’s coming next—and that’s the fun of it. I’ve long considered the Criterion Channel the best streaming service for cinephiles because of the strength of its curation and the sheer variety of films on offer, but paradoxically, I often have trouble finding something to watch on it because there is so much there I want to see, and all of it is so different. Criterion 24/7 takes my choice out of the equation, and it’s delightful. Last night I couldn’t fall asleep, so I opened up the livestream on my phone (via the Criterion Channel app) and wandered into a silent film about the history of witchcraft. Because I am the kind of person who reads r/criterion, I immediately recognized it as Häxan, a Swedish quasi-documentary from 1922 that I’d actually been meaning to watch for years. And now I’ve seen a good chunk of it—and since I have access to the entire catalogue via my subscription, I can always go back and watch from the beginning. While drafting this article, the tail end of 1992’s The Player and the beginning of Jackie Chan’s Police Story played in the background—two more films from my endless watchlist. If you can’t figure out what’s on, you can skip backward in the feed by up to 90 minutes, which will hopefully allow you to go back far enough to catch the title, or at least give yourself a little more context.Death to algorithmsMy favorite thing about Criterion 24/7 is that there’s no algorithm involved. Criterion isn’t showing me random selections from my watchlist, or movies it thinks I might like to see based on what I’ve watched before, or read about online, or that feature a product it thinks I might like to buy based on a banner ad I accidentally clicked on once. The livestream is the same for everyone, bringing a sense of community into your solitary streaming experience.

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(As Musical Lettuce Man put it on X, “The more people watching Chungking Express the better.”)The service has only been around a few days, and I’m not the only movie geek loving it. The reactions from the Letterboxd crowd have been predictably enthusiastic. The only downsides of note at this point are that the stream isn’t captioned (though any films not in English do have subtitles), and that I can’t sit around and watch it all day.

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