Unless you are an unemployed immortal, you will never be able to watch all the movies and TV shows available on the many streaming services that exist today. So how do you decide what to watch in your free time when there is a never-ending list of entertainment to consume?
With so many options it can be difficult to decide what to watch. Here are some tips to use when answering that important question: What should I watch tonight?
(Note: When it comes to streaming services, I only have experience only with Netflix, so that is the basis for these tips but they can be modified to fit other services).
- Have a plan. When deciding what to watch, I often have a movie picked out, something I’ve been wanting to see for a while. I’ll go through my list and if nothing else sounds good, I default to my first pick. When I don’t have a movie in mind, there are other methods.
- Watch what you know. People in the film industry make a lot of content. If there’s a director, writer, actor, producer you like, find their films and watch them. Of course, don’t be afraid to find something new too.
- Rate movies. Netflix lets you rate movies and this is a good way to get suggestions. By rating a movie with a thumbs up or down, the movie recommendation algorithm can direct you to the next movie or series. The trick is to rate only the shows you really love or hate. This will give you more accurate recommendations, movies that more closely resemble your favorites. If you films you find mediocre, Netflix will suggest more “meh” films. Also, searching for films by genre will sort the films you’re more likely to love at the top and less likely to enjoy at the bottom. This means you don’t have to scan through all 25 rows of action comedy to get to the type of film you prefer; you can just stick with the top three to four rows. Also, if you rate a film with a thumbs down it will remove the movie from your recommendations.
- Know your source. Most services are now producing their own original content, which means they’re pushing for you to watch their movies and TV shows. When you’re looking for suggestions, they’ll offer their content first at the top. Keep this in mind as you search for things to watch so you can see what all your options are versus the stuff they want you to see.
- Be careful what trailers you watch. So, you’re out on the internet and some ad pops up or you see a trailer for a new show or movie and you watch it and think, “Oh wow, that looks so good,” only to find it exists only on a streaming service you don’t have. You then find yourself pining after something you can’t watch unless you cough up the cash for another streaming provider. Only watch trailers for films you already have access to (if you can help it). Ignorance is bliss; you can’t miss what you don’t know is there.
- If you don’t like it, don’t watch. The wonderful thing about streaming is you don’t have to pay extra (usually) for films or shows. If you’re 45 minutes into a movie and you’re just not feeling it, turn it off without guilt. You’re not wasting money, so don’t waste your time. However, be sure to give everything a good chance before giving up (30 to 45 minutes for a film and five episodes for a series is my usual limit).
- Read and watch. Check what everyone else is watching. What films or shows are buzzing on social media? Streaming services don’t have a box office, so checking social media trends is the closest thing to seeing how many people are watching. The show may or may not be good, but you’ll be part of the conversation.
- Use Inland 360. Check out the weekly streaming column that dives into new releases for the week. The online version at inland360.com includes additional shows, with trailers and links to the streaming providers. Chances are if a film or TV show isn’t worth mentioning in this sizable list, it’s probably not worth watching.
- Don’t be afraid to settle. When you have time to watch a movie or show, you want it to be good, not a waste of time. It’s not a bad thing to go back and watch an old favorite. It’s your entertainment and your free time, you should be able to enjoy it.