How to Optimize Netflix

Netflix is an insanely popular site. It has become the default source of visual entertainment for our generation. That said the Netflix video database unwieldy. It is hard to find the best movies and is littered with mediocre content.

Getting the right price

Netflix is inexpensive. Generally, they charge $8/month. That seemed a bit high for me. I found 3 other households to share an annual 4-screen subscription, which is totally legal. That brought the monthly cost to $3/month. Split with my roommate I’m now spending $18 per year. That’s more like it. We still all have access to our own Netflix profiles and each of the four houses splitting the deal is able to watch simultaneously. I recommend you find a group to split your account. This is oftentimes a family, but friends or coworkers are good options, too.

Hacking your personal watchlist

There are two strategies I use to find good movies: crowdsourcing and personalized predictions. For crowdsourcing, IMDB.com, Rotten Tomatoes, and Metascore all do a good job. If you’re looking to delve into personalized movie suggestions, use Movie Lens. They generate personal predictions on movies based on your rating of what you’ve seen in the past. For those interested, here are my current top predicted movies. These I have not seen. Here is the dashboard they provide to analyze your ratings. Here are all 528 movies I’ve watched and rated. That’s 991 hours of movie watching. Yikes. I recommend you stop watching random movies and start choosing what to watch based on some algorithm. There is no reason not to tap into this data modeling.

Figuring out what to watch from the Netflix selection

First, get the Chrome extension NEnhacer. This improves the Netflix browsing experience by overlaying IMDB scores on movies. It’s a good method start to sorting through what to watch on your Netflix homepage. It helps eliminate the time-draining effort of opening new tabs for IMDB and other sites while browsing through the clunky Netflix user interface.

If you want to see the most popular high-rated movies on Netflix, use this IMDB list. No doubt this guy is one of the heroes of the internet. He compiles this updated list on IMDB of every movie and show on Netflix. This is eminently valuable. Use this list to see the top IMDB-rated movies currently in the Netflix database. With this list, you no longer need to rely on Netflix’s recommendations. These internal Netflix recommendations are undoubtedly biased to serve the needs of Netflix and guide you towards their own original series.

Coupling a MovieLens rating prediction list with this IMDB Netflix list will give you a clearer view of what is available on Netflix and which shows and movies are actually worth watching.

“Hacking Netflix” is a site that tracks what’s new on Netflix. Instawatcher is another cool site that streamlines your Netflix search and tracks what is trending on Netflix and Amazon.

Other movie options

Netflix is limited in its selection. These are other options that will be helpful in your movie search.

Without a doubt, the world’s largest, fastest, highest quality, and up-to-date movie database out there is the torrent world. Unfortunately, torrents are not only illegal, they deprive artists and film industry professionals of their due income. No matter how much many of us try to justify it, torrenting is wrong.

Your local library often has a large selection of DVDs. These are often cheap and offer much more flexible scheduling options than other DVD rental outlets. At my local library, I can grab any DVD from the entire county system. My local system has 28,000 DVD’s available for $1.50/week with the option to renew for free. Not bad.

Redbox is another, less ideal option. They feature newer popular titles. If you sign up for their email, they give you a ton of free codes. I never pay for Redbox movies. You get them for one night only. They make their money off overdue DVDs. Be very careful to return your DVD’s on time to any Redbox in the US. You don’t have to use the same one you rented from. Find one near you on the Redbox site.

Amazon Prime has a wide selection of movies for $10.99/month. This list can get you started on ranking those.

HBO NOW is an online streaming service for $15/month. That’s a lot of money for one channel. Here’s a good place to start that.

If you love movies like I do, these resources should help you make more educated decisions on which movies to watch from the sites you have access to. These aren’t meant to limit your options, but open your horizons to new movies you may have never heard of before. There is only a limited number of movie watching time in this life. Be smart about how you use them.