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Need Netflix help? Sites that help your movie search

Updated on December 2, 2013

Millions of eyes are focused each month on Netflix, but many are blind to how to find THE right movie on the streaming service

The face by Martin Howard; CC BY 2.0 via wikimedia.org. Logo is in the public domain. Photo editing by TDowling
The face by Martin Howard; CC BY 2.0 via wikimedia.org. Logo is in the public domain. Photo editing by TDowling

With Netflix you can watch as many streaming movies and TV shows "as you want for a fixed $8 a month. For less than the price of a single movie ticket, you can watch movies until your eyeballs fall out,” quips David Pogue, New York Times technology columnist.

Netflix’s streaming service drastically changed how we watch TV and movies on a variety of screens — television, computers and mobile devices.

It opened the door to greater freedom of choice for the average viewer whether she’s sitting at home in front of her TV or if he’s on the road and watching on his smartphone.

The company says it’s “the world's leading Internet television network with more than 36 million members in 40 countries enjoying more than one billion hours of TV shows and movies per month.”

Netflix definitely has an extensive library of movies and TV shows to choose from (3,000 movies and 20,000 TV episodes, according to findthebest.com). But Netflix doesn't make it easy to pick out a video like you used to when you could stroll down the aisles of a video store. Unless you know the exact title that you want to see it can be a daunting task to locate a good movie to watch.

There are several websites that come to your rescue. You can use them to "filter" the type of movie you'd like to see. Most of these sites are linked to Netflix. That means if you’re signed-in to Netflix you can jump to its site and immediately stream your selection or add the flick to your queue.

I’ve located five websites that supplement what Netflix provides on its site. I’ve divided these third-party sites into two groups: "New Netflix Offerings" and "Filtering Netflix Selections." I also ranked each one from 1 star (poor) to 5 stars (excellent).

►NEW NETFLIX OFFERINGS

HackingNetflix publishes weekly listings of the Netflix’s latest releases. The site promises that its unusual name has nothing to do with teaching you “how to lie, cheat or steal from Netflix,” according to the About page. The website’s creator, who has been obsessed with Netflix since 2003, came up with the name because he considers himself a “hack” writer.

It’s very simple to use. Just make sure you go to the “streaming releases” usually listed second each week. Then click on the name of the show and you’ll jump right to Netflix ready to watch or add to your queue. 3½ Stars

Screen capture of InstantWatcher
Screen capture of InstantWatcher

InstantWatcher is the least attractive website of the bunch. But it’s good for looking up new offerings on Netflix.

This site provides so many ways to sort Netflix movies and TV shows it’s a bit mind boggling. You can view listings without or without box images, by genre, New York Times critics' picks, etc. I suggest you limit your time on this site to looking for new titles or popular new titles on InstantWatcher.

The website actually has two groups of filters. You’ll find “New” and “Popular/New” listed on a red bar across the top of the page. Below the red bar is another group of categories labeled: “Go directly to.” In this section you’ll find: High Definition” and “Television,” among others.

NOTE: Click on images to see a clearer version.

You then have to deal with a series of radio buttons: ”Normal,” “Synopsis,” “Minimal” or “Box Art,” plus others! All this may be too much for some who don't want to play with all the radio buttons and would rather use HackingNetflix to locate the new offerings on Netflix. 3 Stars

Edited screen capture of RottenTomatoes
Edited screen capture of RottenTomatoes

►FILTERING NETFLIX SELECTIONS

RottenTomatoes is the best. It provides the most information of all these third-party sites.

You can easily view the movie’s stars, a brief synopsis and the movie trailer. Most RottenTomatoes users are probably unaware that they can get a filtered view of Netflix movies on its site. That’s because RottenTomatoes hides Netflix Streaming in an inconspicuous spot. You’ll find it under DVD at the top of the webpage.

Once you click on Netflix Streaming a list appears. The left “editing” column starts out with the default settings of 100% on the Tomatometer and all the checkboxes checked. You can change all these settings. Slide the Tomatometer right to edit out movies with lower rankings. And only check the boxes for the genre or type of movies you’re interested in.

Understanding Rotten- Tomatoes' Tomatometer

RottenTomatoes.com has a list of critics they consistently use to evaluate each movie.

“The Tomatometer measures the percentage of Tomatometer critics who recommend a certain movie — or the number of good reviews divided by the total number of reviews,” according to the website.

A Fresh red tomato denotes a good review. A Rotten green tomato denotes a bad review.

In order for a movie to receive an overall rating of Fresh, the reading on the Tomatometer must be at least 60%. Otherwise, it is Rotten.

Using sliders, you can sort by release date and MPAA rating, or in the text boxes at the bottom you can type a favorite actor and/or director. This changes the list of movies in the right column. You can also sort the list on the right by either Tomatometer or Release Date. These two selections are located on the top, right.

Alongside each movie’s poster (or DVD box image) you’ll find its stars and a brief synopsis. Just below that you’ll find a link to its trailer (if one is available). I like the convenience of watching the trailer. It gives me a taste of what the movie is about.

There are also two buttons below the movie’s synopsis reading “Play” and “Add to Queue.” Click on “Play” and you’ll jump to Netflix ready to watch the movie online. Select the other and a pop-up window appears informing you this movie was added to your Queue. (The pop-up allows you to move the movie to position 1 or delete it from your queue if you made a mistake.)

If you want to read more about the movie on RottenTomatoes, click on the movie’s poster or click "More" at the end of the synopsis. 5 stars

Edited screen capture of A Better Queue
Edited screen capture of A Better Queue

Crackle is a free alternative

Crackle provides free streaming of a limited number of movies and TV shows. It’s ad-supported, so expect programs to be occasionally interrupted by commercials.

You have the option to register or not on this site owned by Sony. Once registered you can create a Watch List of your favorite shows.

Crackle’s package of movies includes “Pineapple Express,” “Mr. Deeds” and Bill Murray in “Stripes.” And Crackle carries such TV shows as “Good Times,” “Steinfeld” and “Married with Children” plus a few newer hits like "Dexter" and "Homeland."

A Better Queue does a very good job and uses a very clean, clear display.

On the left of the screen is a trio of sliders you use to select the Tomatometer Rating, Number of Reviews and Years. Below them is 20 Genre check boxes.

Make your selection on the left and the filtered selection of movies appears on the right. It does not include a synopsis for each movie.

Click on the movie poster and you’ll jump to Netflix’s webpage for that movie. If you click on the tomato you’ll jump to RottenTomotoes’ webpage for that movie and if you click on Add to Queue a pop-up (like the one above) informs you that the movie was added to your Netflix queue. 4 Stars

Which Flicks? is trying to do too many things and as a result it’s not easy to operate.

On the top of the screen are three tabs: “Home” “Browse” and “Upcoming.” The latter doesn’t work for Netflix. “Home” defaults for movies in theaters. I found that “Browse” works best if you want to search for Netflix streaming movies.

On the left of the screen is a series of categories. As you click on each one, pull down windows reveal either sliders or a pop-up group of check boxes. It makes for a rather confusing mix.

Make sure you check Netflix at the top left, because it also has check boxes for “In Theaters,” “Amazon,” “iTunes” and others, in addition to “Netflix Instant.”

When I finally made all my selections, I found Which Flicks? was very slow before it displayed a list of movies on the right. When it did, I moused-over a movie and its rectangle grew to include a button labeled “More Info.” However, I never could click it, because the rectangle changed whenever I tried to position my mouse over “More Info.” This is a poorly designed site. 2 Stars

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    • starbright profile image

      Lucy Jones 3 years ago from Scandinavia

      This is handy. Thanks for sharing.

    • My SciFi Life profile image

      My SciFi Life 3 years ago from London, UK

      Cool - didn't know about these sites ... I'll definitely give them a whirl as I agree finding something on netflix wastes a lot of the time you want to spend watching something on netflix! :P

    • TDowling profile image
      Author

      Thomas Dowling 3 years ago from Florida

      Thanks for the nice comments, Starbright and My SciFi Life!

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