If you’re a fan of the classics - from old timers like Swing Time to blockbusters like the original Godzilla franchise - then you may be eyeing up The Criterion Channel. The Criterion Channel is the streaming alternative to The Criterion Collection, a selection of some of the most important classic and contemporary films from worldwide cinema.
Of course, this isn’t useful to anyone outside of America, as the site’s geoblocking stops users from other countries from trying to access content. So whether you’re a US citizen trying to access the service from abroad, or you’re based internationally and want to get a fix of some of the best movies on demand, you won’t be able to stream if you’re not in the country.
... or will you? There is actually a way around this roadblock that can be applied to any other US-based streaming service. From Hulu to Netflix US or HBO, you can bypass blockers and consume all of your favourite shows and movies from across the pond.
We do however stress that there is a disclaimer: this is against The Criterion Channel’s terms of service, as it violates the platform’s content licensing agreements, so proceed at your own risk.
Use a VPN to watch The Criterion Channel
Our only real recommended way of watching The Criterion Channel from abroad is via a VPN (virtual private network) service. It’s straightforward and relatively easy to set up on any PC/laptop.
To recap for those who don’t know, a VPN will assign you a different IP address which will allow you to browse the internet anonymously. Your IP address is a virtual footprint of what you do online, and is therefore a way that you can be tracked. For this reason, many internet dwellers use a VPN.
However, VPNs are also capable of making a website believe that you’re accessing content from a different country. It does this by assigning you a country’s IP address; in this instance, you would require a US IP address.
If you’d like a full explanation on what VPNs are and what they do, then read our full VPN explainer for more.
Which is the best VPN for The Criterion Channel?
There’s a lot of different VPNs to choose from for watching The Criterion Channel, ensuring that they offer a range of servers in the US and have decent speeds and bandwidth allowances.
Our personal recommendation right now would be NordVPN, which currently has over three thousand servers available and good pricing in comparison to some of its competitors. ExpressVPN would follow as a close second, but does come in a little more pricey than the former. If you’d like a broader overview of all the different VPNs out there, take a look at our best VPN for streaming ranking.
It’s important to note that no VPN is fool-proof. The Criterion Channel may recognise that you’re using a VPN and block your access to content. In that case, we suggest trying out a few different servers within the VPN, and with a bit of luck one of them will work. Even if it doesn’t work on that particular day, you should try again at a later date as new servers do become available.
You can also access free VPNs if you want to save on those pennies, however be warned that they come with caveats, including data/bandwidth caps, lower speeds and limited server options. All of these things may slow down your viewing experience, or potentially stop you from accessing the channel entirely.
Free VPNs are also not as secure with your browsing history and data as the paid options are, so we would highly recommend investing that extra cash into keeping your experience fast and secure!
How to watch The Criterion Channel with a VPN
Once you’ve selected your preferred VPN of choice and have gone onto the account sign up page, the next steps are relatively straightforward.
You can either choose from the monthly plan which is currently priced at $10.99 (plus tax is $13.19), or commit to an annual subscription which will set you back $99.99 (plus tax is $119.99). As far as we can tell there doesn’t seem to be any issues when paying with a UK based debit card. Plus, you also get a 14-day free trial, so you can explore the library of films before you commit. Please note that The Criterion Channel do take a $1 holding charge when you sign up.
In terms of personal details, you only need to enter your name, email address and payment information. You also have the option to opt in or out of any marketing emails from the company. Once you’re signed in you’re free to browse as many high-brow movies that take your fancy. We tested the site using NordVPN and had no issues with streaming.
Are there alternative subscriptions for this type of content?
If going down the VPN route sounds like a bit too much work for you, then there is another way to get your fix of the best in cinema. The British Film Institute (BFI) have their own subscription service, BFI Player, which offers classic and cult films from across the decades, as well as the newest releases on the UK indie film scene.
Try out the service for 14 days free of charge, and after that subscribe for £4.99 per month. You’re free to cancel at anytime.