Poll: Which Streaming Subscription Service Do You Use to Watch Silent Films?

It’s a new year and I have been hearing about many people evaluating their entertainment services and deciding which ones to keep and which ones will get the old heave-ho. I think silent movies deserve to be part of the conversation because, hey, that’s what we do here.

In the United States, the two most popular options for streaming niche films are FilmStruck and Fandor. I prefer Fandor because of its larger selection and fantastic browsing capabilities. (By the way, this post is not sponsored by anybody except the wonderful folks who back me on Patreon.)

There are many silent films available on YouTube and archive.org, of course, and many archives are also making their holdings available for anybody with an internet connection. What I’m interested in is the stuff you have to pay for. Is it worth it? Do you like it? Would you recommend it to others?

The poll will be open for one week.

Please feel free to chime in with more details in the comments! I am sure other readers will value some real world feedback. Also, readers from outside the United States, please be sure to share your local options. Finally, feel free to make some wishes and discuss what your ideal silent film streaming service would offer.


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30 Replies to “Poll: Which Streaming Subscription Service Do You Use to Watch Silent Films?”

  1. I have the annual subscription to FilmStruck, but definitely need to get in on Fandor. I’m always on the lookout for what’s available on Netflix (poor selection of classics overall) and Amazon Prime, too.

    Physical media is still a big deal with me, so I’ll purchase something after streaming it if it really hits me.

    1. Same here. I want to have movies I love available to me always and physical media is still the best way to accomplish that. (Silent fans are right to be paranoid.)

      1. I buy mostly DVD or Blu Ray and get rarities(?) from You Tube or wherever some archive might have them available to download. If a DVD or Blu Ray later came out, including those by private people Kickstarter like Grapevine(I buy heir DVDs and upgrade to Blu Ray too), Ben Model, Niles Museum and John Bunny and I buy books. I also have a number laserdiscs releases of silents. Those I mention are easy to buy from but one I have dealt with is difficult with errors in delivery or what I get and impossible to get final satisfaction(I won’t mention the name but I got a Blu Ray that had the right label etc and the DVD was correct but the Blu Ray content was of a different set of shorts that I already had anyway). Others never reply or say I will hear but never do. I wonder why they bother. I enjoy factual footage, no matter how short or long from way back before 1900 even. The disappointment is so many still surviving films stuck in world archives and not being made available to us.

  2. There’s one called Kanopy that focuses on documentaries and historical films. They have a decent selection of silent movies, mostly super famous ones, but they have a few offbeat ones too. I get Kanopy through my college but I think you can get it through Chromecast and Roku and stuff like that too. It’s pretty cool!

      1. If I’m not mistaken, Kanopy requires a college student ID or your local library to be a registered participant. It’s basically FilmStruck without the membership fee, as they have a large number of Criterion Collection films.

  3. There are hundreds of silent films available on Youtube, though admittedly they are of wildly varying quality. I watch these through the Youtube app on Roku.

    1. Yes, some are from national archives and acclaimed accompanists, some are VHS copies with MIDI scores. That’s why I wanted to focus on the paid services. Are they worth the money?

  4. I will stream the really odd silent film on youtube, I have FilmStruck (non-silent film BritBix and AcornTV). Mostly, I am an older person and like my physical media. So I buy blu-rays and dvds to support all the wonderful people releasing silent films.

  5. I have Fandor. I also had Filmstruck for a while but when I got into the silent library it did not take long to go through what I wanted to see which primarily was the Japanese silents. After I finished those films I canceled the service. I know this probably does not count but I stream TCM because I cut the cord about a year ago and went with SlingTV. Even though I have Fandor and TCM, most of my silent viewing comes from DVDs/Blu-Rays.

  6. I have LOTS of videotapes recorded off TCM and AMC’s old show “Silent Sunrise” that I still watch. I do have some DVDs.

  7. Since silents have been so difficult to get for so long (very few released on VHS – at least in Europe) it is wonderful to collect them and own a copy (DVD/Blu-Ray) to create a kind of personal library. Streaming is so elusive.

  8. Speaking of physical media. I wonder if folks on the site would enjoy pictures of fans shelves? I have seen this done on hardcover comic sites where they have 100s of pages of photos of peoples collections.

  9. I don’t use any streaming service. I prefer DVD and Blu-Ray. I have been reading that the streaming services will bring the end of DVD and Blu-Ray (which I hope is not the case). I don’t know if the steaming services leaves film titles up for an unlimited time or for a limited time and then rotate titles., But I know with DVD and Blu-Ray, I can watch a film anytime I want. I have over 100 silent films on DVD and Blu-Ray in my collection and that number is growing.

    1. Most streaming services rotate titles, which can lead to extreme frustration when something you love is here today and gone tomorrow. I still primarily use them as previews for the physical copy.

  10. I have Amazon Prime, mainly because I order so many books that it’s worth the fee to get free shipping, and the fact that they have movies to stream is kind of a nice extra. Not the greatest selection, but not bad, either. I’ve never seen a silent on Netflix (I must not be looking in the right place) but it is a good source for a lot of early seventies movies, which is another one of my areas of interest.I personally prefer to buy the movies on DVD and Blu-Ray.

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