Since the introduction of social distancing measures, Google searches for BFI Player have shot through the roof. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the British Film Institute’s video on-demand streaming service, which originally launched in October 2013. If the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus aren’t cutting it for you at the moment, here’s what you need to know about BFI Player − and how to sign up for a free trial.
The first thing you should note is that BFI Player isn’t a mainstream streaming service. It’s for the more, ahem, discerning film fan, and its library largely comprises independent titles and arthouse cinema. BFI Player is also only available in the UK.
You can tune on on a wide array of devices, such as computers, phones, tablets and TVs, and you can cast it too.
BFI Player’s films fall into one of three categories: free, subscription, or rental.
BFI Player Free
The free films are all marked by a green label, and you don’t need an account to watch these. The BFI says most of them were shot in the UK, and there’s a strange mix of professional and amateur productions, and feature films, shorts, news segments, ads, films from cultural and academic institutions, and international films from the archive.
You might not find your next favourite film here, but there’s plenty of opportunity for escapism. You can browse BFI Player’s Free films here.
BFI Player Subscription
Subscription films are marked by a gold label, and you need to subscribe to BFI Player in order to watch these.
A subscription costs £4.99 per month, but BFI Player offers a 14-day free trial. However, if you sign up to BFI Player via Amazon, you can get a 30-day free trial instead.
“In Subscription, we aim to present the best in classic arthouse cinema and contemporary classics, many representing landmark moments in film,” is how BFI describes its subscription library.
And if you don’t know where to start, you can be guided by Mark Kermode, who has filmed introductions to specific films in the section, “each one probes the making and meaning of the film, and explains why it’s essential viewing”.
You can cancel your free trial or subscription at any time by firing up the BFI Player website and going to the Account/Subscription section.
You can browse BFI Player’s Subscription films here.
BFI Player Rental
BFI Player’s Rental films are marked by a red label, and they include the latest releases.
When you rent a film, you’ll have to pay a one-off fee, even if you’re a BFI Player subscriber. BFI members, however, can get a 15% discount.
Once you’ve paid, you’ll have 30 days to start watching the film, but as soon as you hit play, you have 48 hours before it automatically disappears from your library.
If you start watching a Rental film but don’t finish it before the cutoff time, you won’t be able to get a refund.
“In Rentals, we do offer the best of the latest releases, but we also prioritise films from our UK festivals, such as the BFI London Film Festival, and BFI Flare − which also represents our diverse audiences,” is how BFI describes its collection of Rental films.
You can browse BFI Player’s Rental films here.
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