On these long, cold days of winter -- and with the menacing Nemo headed for the East Coast -- many of you are probably planning on curling up with a loved one and a laptop to watch a movie or two on Netflix's streaming section. But once you cycle through the classics -- "Office Space," "Oldboy," the first two seasons of "Arrested Development" -- you might find yourself desperately searching for another Instant movie or television show to make your frigid, bed-ridden hours pass by just a little bit more quickly.
If Netflix's recommendations are getting stale, I've collected seven websites you can visit to find some fresh inspiration and flicks you otherwise might not have have found on the service. Because, really, how many times can you re-watch "Breakfast at Tiffany's" before you're ready for something new?
1. A Better Queue
A new website called A Better Queue has turned heads with a gorgeous, clean design and intuitive interface that makes finding new Netflix options a joy. The site is simple and brilliant: It combines the Netflix Instant library with Rotten Tomatoes ratings, so that you can sort movies based on their Tomatometer score. (The higher the score, the better the ratio of professional reviewers who liked the movie). You can set filters based on movie genre, minimum Rotten Tomatoes score and year of the movie's release, and A Better Queue will display your results in a Pinterest-like pinboard grid.
2. RottenTomatoes Netflix Filter
Speaking of RottenTomatoes: Did you know the venerable critical aggregator has its own section devoted to helping you find movies to watch on Netflix? Though not as pretty as A Better Queue, RottenTomatoes can sort streaming Netflix movies based on Tomatometer score, release date, genre and MPAA rating; you can also search within RottenTomatoes by actor or director. From your results, you can either add a movie to your Instant Queue or play it immediately, with RottenTomatoes linking you straight out to the Netflix site.
The Holy Grail of Netflix sites is probably InstantWatcher. It's got an encyclopedia's worth of information about movies streaming on the 'Flix: new movies, the most popular movies, movies that are expiring soon (get on it!), New York Times critics' picks, as well as filtering via genre, RottenTomatoes or Netflix rating, MPAA rating and more.
It ain't the most well-designed website out there -- in a lot of ways, it recalls the halcyon Internet days of 1999 -- but it is likely the most robust set of information about Netflix's library out there. GIve it a shot and make sure you really explore the space.
Another simple, well-made website that brings a lot of sorting options to your search for the perfect Netflix streamer. You can filter by genre, rating or Netflix star count; or you can head into the excellent Lists section, which shows you Netflix Instant movies that made various critical countdowns, including AFI's 100 Best Movies and Roger Ebert's Movies You Must See Before You Die.
5. The Pivot View
If you're looking for an external Netflix utility that'll make your eyeballs pop out of your head, try the neat-o Pivot View of Netflix Instant Titles. It offers a huge grid of movie posters (which can be filtered by genre, rating, cast member, director and more) that you can flip through and drag around in almost any direction. Zoom in, zoom out, maybe find a new TV series to binge-watch.
It's not the most efficient way to find your next title, but Pivot View sure does look cool. You can try it here.
WhichFlicks is another cool, grid-based website to sort your Netflix recommendations. Again, you can filter by rating, genre, cast members and RottenTomatoes or Netflix scores, and you can also add iTunes, Redbox or Amazon filters, if you're willing to search outside the 'Flix.
7. Streaming Soon
A specialty site, Streaming Soon mainly exists to let you know which notable titles will be arriving to Netflix in the coming weeks or months, as well as which streams have just been added. It also has a (great!) section of the most highly-rated titles currently streaming on the service.
You can't rank or organize or filter anything on StreamingSoon, but you can see an automatically-updating list of the highly-regarded movies on Netflix. Treat yourself to some cinema!
Did we miss a site that has driven your discovery of brave new Netflix titles? Let us know in the comments. And if you're totally over Netflix, and have truly watched every good movie and television show on the service to the point of boredom, remember that you can always try Crackle, Amazon Prime, Fandor, Hulu or any number of other alternatives delivering streaming titles straight to your warm, warm bed.
Don't Watch A Movie Without Rating It
When you finish a show or movie on Netflix, the site requests that you give it between one and five stars, based on how much you enjoyed it. You're not being asked to rate that content for kicks, or so that you can later reminisce about how much you liked a certain film: Rather, Netflix has spent many years improving its recommendation engine, even offering a $1 million prize for anyone who could up the accuracy of Netflix recommendations by 10 percent. At this point, the Netflix recommendation engine is pretty darn accurate -- it takes into account your own ratings as well as the viewing habits of those similar to you. Basically, the more films you rate, the more you're likely to enjoy a Netflix recommendation. If you constantly find yourself frustrated that there's nothing on Netflix, take a half hour or so and knock out a few hundred ratings on the "Taste Profile" section of the site, and make sure you've filled in your genre preferences, too. Finally, if Netflix persists in recommending a title that you're just never going to watch -- for me, that would be "The Lincoln Lawyer" -- remember that you can click on the "Not Interested" button on any film's homepage and it will disappear from your recommendations page while simultaneously smartening up your future recs. (For an in-depth look at the Netflix recommendation engine, and how it works, I recommend this post on Netflix's official blog.)
Don't Fly Blind
Leaning on Netflix's recommendations alone ensures that you'll discover some good flicks; if you're really committed to shaking all the leaves from the tree, however, you're going to need some backup artillery. There are several excellent extensions that you can add to your favorite browser to augment your Netflix experience and increase your chances of sniffing out a great new film. An extension like "Rotten Netflix," for example, inserts little Rotten Tomatoes scores beneath every movie poster on the website, so that you can instantly know how a movie fared with critics. Similarly, the "IMFlixDB" extension displays a movie's IMDB ranking on a white bar above the Netflix homepage and gives you quick access to that film's information page. The ever-prodigious members at Reddit use the wisdom of crowds, meanwhile, to constantly vote up streaming movies that you might otherwise miss. It's a super-active community with consistently high-quality recommendations: Check it out here.
Don't Let A Film Disappear
Another Netflix specialty website is InstantWatcher, a clean website that allows for easier movie search than you'll find on the Netflix homepage. And while many outlets toast InstantWatcher for its quick and robust search functionality, we like it because it also lists the notable films that will disappear from Netflix Instant soon. There's even a Twitter feed that does nothing but tweet out the names of soon-to-be-expired Netflix movies. There is no worse feeling, in the whole entire world, than sitting down to watch a movie you've had in your Netflix queue only to discover that the movie has disappeared. Don't let it happen to you again.
Don't Be Afraid To Quit
One of the really nice things about a Netflix subscription is that you pay month-by-month; it's not like a cell phone contract where you're locked in for two years and you have to pay an exorbitant fee if you want to get out early or cancel service. With Netflix, you can quit for one month and come back the next: Netflix will save your queue and ratings for up to two years so that if you do come back, you don't really have to start over. So, if you're taking a vacation, or studying for the LSATs, or going to prison, just cancel your account and save yourself the $8 for as long as you need. Or, if you are one of our Olympian Netflix bashers from above, go ahead and try life without the 'Flix for a month or two and see how you do. Your account information will be waiting for you when (or if) you return; and, hey, if you do, now you have plenty of new ways to find the excellent movies and TV shows you might have missed while in exile.