And the best bargain is getting something for free. Even better — it’s ad-free.
Kanopy started operating in Australia 18 months ago but lacks the marketing power of its bigger-name counterparts such as Netflix or Disney+ so it doesn’t have a high profile among the streaming masses.
But it has a catalogue of great movies that more than rivals Netflix or Stan – in fact, you’ll often find some titles are only available on Kanopy.
It’s not the only free streaming platform but its advantage over SBS On Demand is that it’s ad-free, and it’s way better than Tubi in that it’s not populated by unwatchable B-movies that are more akin to porn knock-offs but without the porn.
HOW TO JOIN NOW
Membership to Kanopy is tied to, all of things, your library card.
That’s right, you need to join your local council library or university library to access Kanopy. Not all councils are signed up to Kanopy but you can check if yours is here.
You know how your library had that small selection of VHS (and then-DVD) tapes that you could borrow? This is the 21st century version of that, and there are no waiting lists for Fern Gully to be brought back.
Once you have your library card number and password in hand, you can sign up for a Kanopy account and off you go.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Participating libraries pay Kanopy a licence fee for access to its platform but there’s no cost to you (other than through your council rates).
Most libraries will set a monthly limit to how many movies you can stream.
For example, the City of Sydney council has a limit of five movies (or credits) per member. When you start playing a movie, you have three days to finish it, after that, if you play that film again, it’ll use up another credit. Once you use up your monthly credits, you’ll have to wait until the next calendar month. Unused credits don’t roll over and you can’t purchase any additional credits.
But there is a loophole – if you’re a member of two different participating libraries, such as the University of Melbourne and City of Melbourne, then you’re allowed to use credits allocated by both libraries. Children’s and educational content has no limits.
Like Netflix and other streaming apps, Kanopy is compatible on desktop browsers, mobile phones, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, selected Android and Samsung smart TVs, Telstra TV and Chromecast.
There is another catch. Sometimes – usually towards the end of the month – you may see a message that says access is limited by your library and you can’t watch anything. That means your library has probably exceeded its budget (libraries pay for each title that is watched) and you’ll have to wait for the next calendar month when it resets, even if you have unused credits.
RELATED: The movies to look forward to in 2020
WHAT YOU CAN WATCH NOW
Kanopy has an impressive and curated library of films, focusing on acclaimed independent movies, foreign language movies or hidden gems. In other words, you won’t find any mindless Michael Bay blockbusters here, but you might find your new favourite.
New titles are frequently being added but here are some of the best films on Kanopy right now.
Good Time: Before you plunge into the mad world of Uncut Gems, check out the Safdie brothers’ previous flick. It stars Robert Pattinson as Connie, a bank robber whose brother gets nabbed after a dye pack explodes during a job. In order to secure the bail money, Connie will do anything.
Lady Macbeth: Florence Pugh is the hottest star in movies right now, so make sure you’ve seen her breakout performance in the hauntingly confronting Lady Macbeth where she plays a young woman married off to a cold and uninterested older man in a deal for worthless land.
Colossal: A genre-defying black dramedy with a clever twist, Anne Hathaway plays a screw-up alcoholic with a bizarre connection to a Godzilla-like monster on the other side of the world.
Boy: Taika Waititi’s tender and droll Kiwi movie is centred on 11-year-old Boy, obsessed with Michael Jackson, living with his grandmother and trying to impress a girl at school. When his father returns looking for his lost money, Boy is desperate to have a relationship with his old-man. It has Waititi’s signature blend of humour and heart.
Only Lovers Left Alive: One of seven Jim Jarmusch films on Kanopy (the others include Paterson and Mystery Train), this hypnotic and languid story about two centuries-old vampires stars Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston.
Brooklyn: A sweeping historical story, Brooklyn stars Saoirse Ronan as a young Irish woman who arrives in New York City in the 1950s and finds herself torn between the pull of Ireland with the possibilities of her new home.
Meek’s Cutoff: Set in the mid-19th century, this smart western from director and indie darling Kelly Reichardt follows a group of settlers whose two-week journey west turns into an unexpected ordeal of survival.
Blue Valentine: Derek Cianfrance’s drama features Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling as a young couple whose marriage is on the brink, with the film oscillating between when they first fell in love and how it all falls apart.
Animal Kingdom: The Australian thriller from director David Michod follows a merciless Melbourne crime family and launched the international careers of Jacki Weaver, Ben Mendelsohn and Joel Edgerton.
Amour: The multi-award winning French film by renowned filmmaker Michael Haneke is a beautiful treatise on love, ageing and grief. Emmanuelle Riva became the oldest Oscar Best Actress nominee for her role in Amour.
The Salesman: A young married couple in Tehran find their marriage strained after a violent assault. The Salesman, which won the Foreign Language Oscar, is a social critique on family, gender and revenge.
Stories We Tell: Canadian filmmaker Sarah Polley’s deeply personal documentary about her family’s history involving a secret affair is a riveting and powerful film.
Wake in Fright: This classic 1971 Australian film was considered “lost” for many years, until a copy was found in a vault in the US in the early 2000s. It tells the story of a city schoolteacher stranded in an outback town who throws himself into days of gambling, drinking and a bonkers kangaroo hunt.
Blue is the Warmest Colour: The 2013 Palme d’Or-winning queer love story is considered one of the best films of that year. Starring Lea Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos, this French film is the story of two women and their bond from their teen years through to adulthood.
Umberto D.: A classic of the Italian neorealist movement, Vittorio De Sica’s 1952 movie is the story of a poor, retired government worker who is about to be evicted from his rental unit.
Mon Oncle: French comedy filmmaker Jacques Tati was a huge fan of Buster Keaton and that love of slapstick comedy is threaded through all of his works, including Mon Oncle, which in addition to being hilarious is also a scathing critique on modernity.
You Were Never Really Here: Maybe you think Joaquin Phoenix was amazing in Joker, but the foundations of that performance was laid in Lynne Ramsey’s psychological thriller where Phoenix plays a traumatised and violent mercenary who’s hired to recover a kidnapped girl.
Carol: Todd Haynes’ adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt is a sensual and urgent love story between two women – one a glamorous older woman (Cate Blanchett) and the other an aspiring photographer working in a department store (Rooney Mara).
The Wolfpack: This fascinating documentary by Crystal Moselle reveals the story of seven children homeschooled by their parents in their small New York City apartment. The kids had effectively been locked inside but everything changed when one of them decides to go for a walk.
The Babadook: Jennifer Kent’s terrifying horror film received scant attention in Australia until it became an international hit. Starring Essie Davis, the Adelaide-set story is about a widowed mother and her six-year-old son who are haunted in their home.
Girlhood: Celine Sciamma is winning plaudits all over for her passionate film Portrait of a Lady on Fire, but her previous movie, Girlhood, is well worth a watch. Starring Karidja Toure as a teenage African teenager living in a disadvantaged area of Paris, Girlhood looks at conceptions of race, gender and class.
Frances Ha: Directed by Noah Baumbach and co-written by Baumbach and Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha is a charming coming-of-age story about a dancer looking for her place in the world.
Phoenix: A German drama starring Nina Hoss, Phoenix is the story of a concentration camp survivor who has a facial reconstruction because of a bullet wound. When she returns to Berlin after the war, her husband is convinced it’s someone else.
Heathers: One of the defining 80s teen comedies, Heathers is a pushback on the sentimentalism of John Hughes by making its lead characters damaged souls with a violent and anarchic streak.
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints: David Lowery’s crime drama stars Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara. When the couple are caught for illegal activities, Bob takes the blame and goes to prison. Four years later, he breaks out and promises to reunite with his family but there are three bounty hunters on his trail.
I Am Not Your Negro: Directed by Raoul Peck, this documentary is based on writer James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript about the history of racism in the US. It recounts the lives of Baldwin’s friends including Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.
Originally published as Free streaming service that’s actually good