I'm no Luddite, but I am kind of a picky cheapass, which is my main excuse for not signing up for Netflix until, oh, last week. It was the Watch Instantly option that finally pushed me over the edge—not a new feature by any means, but I'd recently heard enough friends singing its automatic, unlimited praises to give it a try. And now? Now I feel like I will one day look back on my life as two distinct eras: Pre-Netflix Watch Instantly (I'll call it PNWI) and Post-Netflix Watch Instantly (I'll call it PNWI…oh , uh, let me get back to you on that). If you're still dragging your feet about Netflix too, it's okay. Don't feel ashamed. Just trust me on this: You need it, and here are five reasons why.
The price can't (legally) be beat.
You could definitely download most of these movies and TV shows for free somewhere else, but $8.99/month gets you 1 physical DVD at a time and and unlimited access to instant streaming. That's not a lot of money and a whole lot of movies, folks. If you watched, say, three movies a week each month, that rounds out to about $0.75 per flick. Three quarters! You can't do anything with three quarters except, like, choke on them. Seems more than a fair price for a reliable, guilt-free, high-quality stream, doesn't it?
You can watch what you want, when you want (mostly).
A few years ago, I gave Blockbuster's version of Netflix a try—it was around the same price but had an option to exchange DVDs at the physical store (how quaint, right?). I certainly watched a lot of movies during that time, but they were rarely the ones I actually wanted to see. Invariably, on days I was in the mood for something, say, dark and cerebral, the disc that came in the mail would be some Hayley Mills movie I'd added to my queue in a fit of nostalgia weeks before. I mean, I love The Parent Trap with all my heart, but when all I really wanted was to watch The Third Man (pictured above), it was just a bummer. With the Netflix DVDs you run the same risks, of course, but with Watch Instantly you can pull up the exact movie you want to watch, hit play and get right down to business, avoiding the jarring tyranny of the queue. (Not everything is instantly streamable, but your chances are still pretty good.)
But really, you don't even have to know what you want.
Don't skip over all the "taste preference" questions Netflix poses when you first sign up. Fill it all out accurately and the site will generate for you a weirdly accurate slate of suggested titles, with the option to rate ones you've already seen and knock out any you're definitely not interested in. Rating can get kind of addictive—I think I've spent more time furiously clicking star buttons than actually watching movies so far—but it only makes the auto-generated choices smarter (though I probably exploded a few servers by giving both The Third Man and The Parent Trap five stars). If you're not sure what you want to see but know you want to see something good, go for anything with four or five red stars under it—based on your taste preferences, that's something the magical little Netflix bots think you'll probably love.
Criterion Collection digs it, too.
In late December, the purveyors of some of the finest films ever slapped on DVD added thirty-five titles to the Watch Instantly library, including Cleo from 5 to 7, Jules and Jim and a whole shitload of Kurosawa. You'd be hard-pressed to find those at your local Blockbuster, if it even exists anymore, but Netflix has your arty-farty back.
It's coming soon to a Wii near you.
There are already a ton of devices through which you can stream Netflix, including TiVo to the PS3, and it was recently announced that the Wii will be joining the ranks sometime this spring. But you don't even need anything fancy—your laptop will work just fine, so long as it's a PC or an Intel-powered Mac (a reliable Internet connection helps, too, unless you're unfazed by buffering delays).