You don’t need Netflix, you have a better, free* alternative

For some time now, I’ve been hooked on trying to consume all the ClassicsTM in time to be considered cultured. For some reason the deadline in my head is 30, which still seems a lifetime away, but there are just oh so many classic films out there.

Even just a few years ago it seemed like one of the best purchases to assist in this aim was Netflix, with a library of content so massive you could never hope to watch everything. But I, like many people, have more recently noticed the Netflix bucket has a bottom, and the water in it is shallow indeed. With each newcomer to the streaming scene, that water spreads out and gets shallower. And it’s not like any newcomer unearths a trove of heretofore unencountered films that capture the heart and mind, belonging to some ancient tradition that has been lost to time.

No, instead the cinematic canon is spread thin among the purchasers of streaming rights, and each attempts to paper over their deficiency of offerings with a smattering of cheaply-produced content, the binging of which distracts us from the idea that we haven’t had a properly satisfying meal of cinema recently. We finish a season of Friends and rejoice that our platform now has the rights to The Office, and convince ourselves that the treasure trove no longer exists. An upwards trend on the cycle of relinquishing rights and purchasing rights is all we can hope for.

But what if I told you (as Morpheus said to Neo) that such a trove actually does exist? What if, in fact, you already have a subscription to this trove, you’ve just never thought to make use of it?

I tell you that trove does exist, and you purchase it with your semesterly tuition. Friends, I tell you the very UQ Library contains within it a collection of classic films that puts every streaming giant to shame. Yes, that’s right, the same website where you hastily look for tangential sources that you can make a vague gesture towards in your last-minute essay can also double as an entire replacement for Netflix.

I’ll refer here to ten classic films which, although they are randomly selected, are also in the exact order as they appear on IMDb’s Top 10 list by user rating: The Shawshank Redemption, The Godfather, The Dark Knight, The Godfather: Part II, 12 Angry Men, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Pulp Fiction, Schindler’s List, Inception, and Fight Club. Do you know what they all have in common? They are all (led by white males, but also) available on the UQ Library website.

Do you know how many are on Netflix? Just one (Dark Knight. At least at the time of writing this). Admittedly, Netflix did also host Shawshank and Godfather at some point over the past twelve months. But, as a streaming service, they are so fickle, and willing to serve their own needs for subscription renewal, rather than your own quest for edification at the temple of culture. Are we going to go gently into a world where our chances of catching classic cinema are congruent to whether our streaming platform has them this month, and us grabbing it with both hands before it disappears back into the ether? Do you want to live in that world? I don’t.

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