Free movies through Bobst: Navigating NYU’s wide range of streaming services

As competing streaming services become more expensive, it’s hard to know which ones to choose. Consider checking out the myriad of free streaming databases available through Bobst.


Aaliya Luthra

Instead of subscription-based streaming services such as Netflix and HBO Max, NYU community members also have the option to stream films through video databases provided by Bobst Library. (Staff Illustration by Aaliya Luthra)

Nicolas Pedrero-Setzer, Arts Editor

As new streaming services like compete against old titans like Netflix, NYU students struggle to decide what service serves their taste in media and budget best. 

Luckily, Bobst offers multiple databases with a treasure trove of movies that students can access for free. Rather than stretch their wallets thin by subscribing to multiple streaming services or trying to keep track of all the passwords and logins they have accumulated from acquaintances over the years, students should look into browsing the films they can access for free while at NYU on the following databases. To access NYU’s streaming libraries, you may need to sign in to your NYU account and be connected to the university’s internet network or use the NYU VPN service. Some services are restricted to faculty, staff and currently matriculated students.

Alexander Street

ProQuest’s Alexander Street houses multiple film collections exploring everything from Civil Rights in America to Digital Dentistry. The service is meant to encourage scholars to explore historical narratives through media. Films like Camilo Restrepo’s  “Impressions of a War” offer a multifaceted look at Colombia’s ongoing drug war while “Good Bye Lenin!” presents a comedic look at post-reunification politics in Germany. Hosting collections from multiple contemporary film distributors such as Grasshopper Films and Sony Picture Classics, Alexander Street also allows viewers to find some popular, albeit difficult-to-find films, like Satoshi Kon’s anime classic “Paprika” and the films of Spanish arthouse darling Pedro Almodóvar. [


Digitalia Film Library carries documentaries and feature films from around the world. When it comes to documentaries, Digitalia offers a great variety of artist portraits such as “Andrey Tarkovskiy: A Recollection” on the Russian director and “JAAR, the Lament of Images” on the father of famous FKA Twigs collaborator and electronic producer Nicolas Jaar. In terms of feature films, Digitalia hosts a great collection of revolutionary Cuban cinema. Some of these films include “Memories of Underdevelopment,” “The Adventures of Juan Quin Quin ” and “Death of a Bureaucrat.” Additionally, Digitalia provides users access to rare films by auteurs such as famed French director Claire Denis’ “Towards Mathilde” and Chilean surrealist Raúl Ruiz’s “City of Pirates.” []


It is only natural that, as an academic institution, NYU owns access to multiple documentary streaming services. Docuseek is one of them. Docuseek represents an accumulation of multiple documentary catalogs belonging to distinct distributors such as Icarus Films, Bullfrog Films and the National Film Board of Canada. The streaming site does a great job of sorting all of its films into specific categories such as “Anarchism,” “Israel / Palestine,” “Kung Fu” and “Visual Anthropology.” Docuseek also features calendar-pertinent films. This month’s “Spotlight on Black History” is a great example of this, as it puts under-viewed documentaries exploring the aforementioned theme on viewers’ minds. In highlighting films like John Akomfrah’s “Seven Songs for Malcolm X,” Joanne Grant’s “Fundi: The Story of Ella Baker,” and Stewart Bird, Peter Gessner, and Rene Lichtman’s “Finally Got the News” as part of the same program, Docuseek demonstrates its commitment to informing viewers about history through multiple perspectives. As such, Docuseek is a fantastic tool for researchers who want to delve into a specific topic from various angles. []

Film Platform

Film Platform is an academic hub for documentaries from around the world. The platform offers a wide variety of historical documentaries like “Shoah,” Claude Lanzmann’s treatise on the Holocaust, and “Tropicália,” Marcelo Machado’s record of 1960s Brazil. Film Platform also offers access to newer documentaries like Oscar-nominated filmmaker Sam Pollard’s “MLK / FBI” and Cullen Hoback’s investigation on QAnon, “Q: Into the Storm.” The wide-ranging selection of documentaries available through Film Platform does have a drawback, seeing as the website occasionally lags upon loading titles. That being said, the streaming site is a great place to survey evolving documentary trends as well as to revisit historical moments through film. []


Kanopy is the holy grail of film collections, containing free access to the Criterion Collection, Cinema Guild,  Arbelos Films’ catalog, Milestone Films’ Library, Kino Lorber’s Essential Collection, Strand Releasing’s Collection and more. It guarantees viewers access to the best selections from contemporary independent distributors. The streaming service is the go-to location for cinephiles looking for something new or a way to catch up on some old classics they might have missed. Some titles on Kanopy include Béla Tarr’s seven and a half hour historical epic “Sátátangó,” Eiichi Yamamoto’s psychedelic, water-colored, NSFW anime “Belladona of Sadness,” and political activist and novelist Jean Genet’s only film “Un Chant D’ Amour,” a somber vision of gay love that was not avaialble in the United States until recently due to censorship laws. []

NYU Stream

NYU Stream is the Wild West of NYU streaming sites. The website acts as a repository for community-uploaded media and thus contains all sorts of wonders ranging from lectures to incredibly rare feature films. NYU Stream hosts a great variety of films featured on syllabi across campus such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s sci-fi epic “World on a Wire” and Akira Kurosawa’s “The Hidden Fortress.” In fact, NYU Stream has several of Kurosawa’s films, as well as most of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s filmography and the recently released Disney animated film “Encanto.” You never know what you will find on NYU Stream and that’s what makes it exciting since bumping into a film you’ve been looking for all over the place always offers a jolt of joy. []


In spite of its funny name, Swank contains one of the best film collections on campus. The site acts as a mine of curated independent, international and Hollywood films. For this very reason, it’s probably the only site where you will be able to find “Shrek,” “Salo,” “Altered States” and Godard’s “King Lear” nestled together. The incongruous selections might be a bit alarming, but rest assured that Swank showcases a democratic selection of well-curated films; this means anyone can enter the website and find something that suits their taste. []

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As with any library, the possibilities for movie-watching are endless via NYU’s several film databases. Even more exciting is the fact that most of the aforementioned sites are ever-evolving, updating new content at varying times. Although said fact might be a bit overwhelming in the same way a never-ending watchlist is, having access to the streaming sites listed above will at least allow you to access a whole new dimension of films for free.

Contact Nicolas Pedrero-Setzer at [email protected].