Kanopy review

Kanopy highlights

  • Free for members of participating libraries and institutions
  • Get access to 30,000+ titles
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Kanopy streaming review

What is Kanopy? Kanopy is a streaming service that lets viewers access classic movies, documentaries and indie films for free. All these videos are ad-free, so you won’t get any annoying ad disruptions in the middle of watching them. This makes it vastly different from other free streaming services that make money from the ads they run within their programming. The only catch is that you need a library card or a valid college credential to access the service.

Founded in 2008, Kanopy was originally an Australian-based service, which then expanded to the U.S. market in 2012. It has since struck up partnerships with 4,000 academic institutions and public libraries. Between October 2018 and January 2019, it saw a 162% increase in new users, as it became the go-to streaming destination for cinephiles after the closure of Filmstruck.

Kanopy plan


Kanopy
Monthly priceFree
Free trial lengthN/A
Number of titles 30,000+
Number of simultaneous streamsN/A
Cloud DVR storageNo
Ad-free experienceYes
Access to Kanopy KidsYes

How to get started on Kanopy

With so many great things on offer, you might be curious to learn how you can get started with Kanopy and whether you even qualify for access in the first place. One thing to note is that Kanopy only makes its content accessible to participating educational establishments and public libraries. So you need a membership through one of its partners to access the Kanopy library.

Here’s a closer look at how you can get started on Kanopy:

Your library card

To start streaming on Kanopy using your library card, first make sure your membership qualifies for the service. That means checking if your library belongs to the Kanopy program.

Go to the library finder tool on the Kanopy website and type in your city, library name or zip code. This will bring up a list of all participating libraries relevant to your location or close by.

If your library comes up on the list, select it, and you’ll get a prompt to enter your library card number. You’ll have to create a pin or password. Enter the necessary details and follow the instructions on the screen to begin streaming on Kanopy using your library card.

If you don’t find your library among the list of participants, you can submit a request for it to get Kanopy.

Your university

To start streaming on Kanopy through your university, go to the university finder tool on the website. Then enter the name of your college or university. If your college or university is a participant in the Kanopy program, you’ll find it in the dropdown suggestions. Click on it, and you’ll get a prompt to access Kanopy using your college or university login.

Hit the button to “log in” to your respective institution then enter your college user ID and password to get started. Then follow the instructions on the screen to start streaming on Kanopy.

If your institution doesn’t appear to be a participant in the Kanopy program, click on “can’t find your university?” The service is always on the lookout for new partnership opportunities. 

Device compatibility and apps

Besides the website, you can also stream Kanopy using phone and TV apps. Kanopy works with several devices, including:

What to watch on Kanopy

Kanopy’s expansive content library is every cinephile’s dream, with thousands of critically-acclaimed movies and informative documentaries in multiple genres. With your Kanopy membership, you get access to both popular films and underrated hidden gems from different parts of the world. Here are some Kanopy movies to check out:

Classic cinema

The Kanopy classic cinema collection has iconic hits and cult favorites from the twenties through the eighties, featuring some of the most renowned filmmakers during those periods. Watch classic movies based on timeless stories such as A Farewell to Arms, Cinderella, Gulliver’s Travels, Peter Pan and Sherlock Holmes. Or binge on classic horror and thriller movies that shaped the industry, including House on Haunted Hill, Night of the Living Dead and The Little Shop of Horrors.

You can even find a decent selection of movies from the most iconic names in filmmaking, such as Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplin, Dennis Hopper and Satyajit Ray.

Comedy

The Kanopy library also features a robust lineup of comedy content from both classic and contemporary cinema. It lets you stream popular and niche titles, including Boy Meets Girl, Down to the Bone, How to Kill a Zombie, The Kid, The Terrible Thing of Alpha-9 and White Rabbit to name a few.

Documentaries

Kanopy’s biggest appeal is its extensive collection of informative and educational documentaries in a variety of categories, including art and entertainment, nature and environment, politics, society and sports. Watch some of the most captivating stories through titles like Chasing Portraits, Growing Native, Looking for Alfred, Teslafy Me, The Pollinators and When Giants Fall.

Drama

The Kanopy drama collection features critically-acclaimed movies from different parts of the world, including Australia, Kenya, Germany, India, Mexico and the UK. Get access to titles such as Beach Flags, Fluffy, Kinematograf, King of Peking, Lady Bird, Las Vacas Con Gafas, Little Feet, The Safe House and Tucked.

Kanopy Kids

In addition to the hard-hitting and controversial titles, Kanopy also offers a selection of content just for kids. This collection features animated storybooks, movies and shows that can reinforce valuable learning topics and help kids develop social and emotional skills.

Independent cinema

For lovers of indie films, Kanopy offers an impressive lineup of content from independent filmmakers, mainly tackling controversial, albeit essential topics. It features titles such as Jonas and the Sea, Lalo’s House, Lords of Chaos, River of Grass, The Color Wheel, Wreckers and Yamasong: March of the Hollows.

LGBTQ Cinema

In addition, Kanopy curates content that specifically explores LGBTQ experiences and stories. Some of the most popular titles in this section include Borstal Boy, Hurricane Bianca, The Surface, The Watermelon Woman and We Once Were Tide.

User experience

When it comes to user experience, Kanopy doesn’t fall too far behind leading streaming services. The biggest highlight is the ability to stream free content without any ad disruptions. Other than that, it offers a straightforward user interface that’s easy to navigate and understand.

Kanopy segments content into genres while highlighting the most popular titles on the home screen. While this promotes easy content discovery, you also have the option to look for what you need directly using the search bar. If you find something you like, you can easily add it to your watch list to access later.

In the media player, Kanopy offers quite a few customization options, especially for the captions. You can create customized captions by changing the font family, size, text color and opacity and more. And the smooth and straightforward interface extends across all available platforms.

One thing to consider, however, is that some libraries may set a monthly limit on how many videos a member can watch. In these cases, you’ll get a certain number of play credits each month. And you use up one play credit for every video regardless of length, although this doesn’t apply to content from the Great Courses or Kanopy Kids sections.

Note that any unused play credits will disappear at the end of the month. But if you have a membership with multiple libraries, you can add them all to your Kanopy account to receive more play credits.

At the time of writing this post, Kanopy doesn’t specify the number of simultaneous streams it allows per account.

Kanopy features you’ll love

Free to use

Kanopy partners with universities and libraries so that people with a valid library card or college credentials can access the content for free. Participating institutions and libraries pay for the service on a per-view basis. Note that this also means Kanopy won’t be available to those without any of these memberships.

Get access to 30,000+ titles

Kanopy has a massive collection of content in a variety of genres, including several independent titles. It gives you access to over 30,000 classic movies, documentaries and indie films from different parts of the world.

Enjoy an ad-free streaming experience

Kanopy allows viewers to stream videos without annoying ad disruptions. This is impressive, especially considering how the service is free for qualified viewers.

Create clips and playlists

Being targeted at educational institutions and libraries, Kanopy comes with a few features intended to help with the learning process. For instance, it allows you to take an excerpt from a video to share with your class. It even comes with a playlist feature that lets you curate different clips or movies to share with others.

The takeaway

With thousands of ad-free critically-acclaimed movies and informative documentaries, Kanopy satisfies every type of cinephile’s needs. So it’s worth a try, especially since you don’t have to pay anything for the service. But you do have to be a member of a participating library or educational institution to qualify.

Jacqueline Zote

Jacqueline Zote is a digital marketing and entertainment writer who makes regular contributions to Sprout Social and Recreation Insider. Her interests range from pop culture and mythology to social activism. When she’s not writing, she goes on food adventures and binges on crime drama. Her short fiction has been published by HarperCollins Publishers and Zubaan Books.