How to find hidden gems streaming on Netflix


Netflix's new speedtest app is a keeper.
Photo: Netflix

Bruce Springsteen once lamented that there were “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On),” and it’s only gotten worse. How do you find something good to watch in an era where Amazon, iTunes, HBO/Showtime, and a ton of network-specific apps and online sites threaten to overwhelm your screens, big and small?

It’s not as easy as you’d think, either, especially if you have more than one person controlling the remote.

I’ve gotten less happy to let Netflix choose what I watch these days and have tried to found new ways to see hidden treasures that might not end up on the main home screen.

Here are our suggestions on how to find the buried treasure on Netflix.

Rate the stuff you like (or hate)

The more you rate, the better Netflix gets.
The more you rate, the better Netflix gets.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Netflix uses its own magic algorithms to decide what to place into your recommendations. If you watch a lot of superhero shows, like apparently I do, Netflix will drop more of them into your home page. If, however, you rate all the superhero shows you like, Netflix will take a little more care to recommend things that you actually like, versus showing you things you really do not like, even if they’re in the superhero genre, for example.

To rate Netflix shows or movies, simply bring up the main details page on your Mac and then click on the star rating you’d like to give that show or movie. The stars will turn yellow and you’ll see your rating “stick” after you click on it.

Try some different rating sites
Several sites exist that give you updated recommendations on which Netflix shows are currently streaming that you’ll like. Several of them even have a button on the page to add to your Netflix My List watchlist, like the ones from Digital Trends, Metacritic, and Stuff, while others, like the lists from A Good Movie to Watch, do not. Complex and Paste Magazine’s 100 best lists each have a mini review, as well, to help you decide.

Play Netflix Roulette

Find a random video to watch with Flix Roulette.
Find a random video to watch with Flix Roulette.
Photo: Flix Roulette

Flix Roulette is a great site that will give you a random show or movie to watch based on your own twisted preferences. If you’ve ever wanted to just pull up something random on Netflix, this is the site for you. You can give the randomization a little direction, too, choosing directors, actors, or even keywords to get something really specific as well as random. If you’re burned out on the same old crap from the Netflix home screen, this is the place to go.

Stick with the new stuff

Jaded movie watchers might just want to pull up anything htat’s new to the Netflix service, and there are three sites that will help with just that. Instant Watcher is a straightforward list website that pulls up the new hotness from Netflix and lets you sort it according to your own interest, while What’s New on Netflix adds summaries and ratings from various regional Netflix sites, like the U.S., U.K, and Canada to make sure you find the perfect new video to satisfy your tastes. For even more up-to-the-minute info, check out Netflix USA to focus on additions to the Netflix catalog from only the last five days or so.

Finding a good video that’s streaming on Netflix can be a chore, but at least now you have several tools to choose from when you’re looking for something more specific than the stuff on the home screen. Enjoy!