What is Mubi? A Streaming Alternative to Netflix, Hulu and More.

Once upon a time, we were promised a movie lover’s utopia: a streaming universe where any movie you could want would be available at the click of a button. But with each passing year, that promise feels more like a pipe dream. The high-profile subscription streaming services (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Max, Hulu and others) have slowly decreased the volume of their cinematic catalogs to spend more heavily on original films. (They’ve now taken to deleting those originals, or not streaming them at all, for tax benefits.)

So what’s the serious cinephile to do? Those who are looking for more than shrinking libraries and perpetually shuffling titles are increasingly casting their eyes — and subscription dollars — toward the specialty services that offer more offbeat and niche movies. Each month, we’ll spotlight these services: what makes them unique, what kind of bang you’ll get for your buck and what some of their best titles are.

We begin with Mubi, which is one of the older streaming services, beginning in 2007 as the Auteurs and partnering with the Criterion Collection the next year as a video-on-demand platform. Now a subscription streamer, Mubi sells itself with one simple promise: “We show the best of international cinema.” But in this instance — as opposed to, say, the year-end awards race — “international cinema” is an all-inclusive label. The service showcases a robust variety of films, from America and abroad, mainstream and independent, award-winners and exploitation flicks, classics and new releases.

The only real qualification is quality; Mubi is wide-ranging, but it’s also well curated. For several years, the service was on a ticking clock programming plan, adding one new movie every day, streaming it for 30 days and then removing it. It kept its library vibrant, but caused anxiety for some viewers (and critics) who didn’t want to miss films before they were removed; it has since become a less time-sensitive format, with titles spending much longer in its regular collection, though films are still rotated in and out frequently. Regardless of the turnaround, the selection is wide — a Mubi representative pegged its current library at more than 750 titles. That’s less than Netflix or Prime, yes. But, key difference, they’re all worth watching.

Among the more permanent selections are Mubi’s own releases. In recent years, the company began acquiring well-received films on the festival circuit, for both theatrical distribution and streaming, including Park Chan-wook’s riveting “Decision to Leave,” Ira Sachs’s sensuous “Passages” and Aki Kaurismaki’s “Fallen Leaves,” which won the Jury Prize at Cannes.

Alma Poysti, left, and Jussi Vatanen in “Fallen Leaves,” from Aki Kaurismaki and streaming on Mubi.Credit…Malla Hukkanen/Sputnik
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