How to Get the Most from Netflix

How to Get the Most from Netflix

If you’re one of the large number of people who enjoy streaming movies and TV shows from the popular Netflix service, here are some tips to get the most out of it. One of the biggest challenges is ferreting out the content that most appeals to your tastes. We’ll give you tips for finding content as well as tips for maintaining your privacy, avoiding spoilers, and more.

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Upflix is a powerful app that helps you find what you want to watch and then opens the movie in Netflix or adds it to your queue. It has 90 categories, and once you select a category, you can then sort the videos according to their ratings on Netflix, IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, or Flixster. You can also search for specific titles, actors, or directors.

Search Netflix’s hidden categories

Netflix has over 200 hidden categories, such as Dramas Based on Real Life, Teen Comedies, Tearjerkers, and Quirky Romance. To see the movies in one of these hidden categories, go to www.netflix.com/browse/genre/###, and replace the ### with the specific code for the hidden category that appeals to you. Websites that maintain a list of codes can be found here and here and here.

Note that this tip will only work on the Netflix website via a web browser, and not via the Netflix app.

Use web guides

What’s On Netflix claims to be the largest Netflix fan site. It offers daily updates of the latest movies and TV shows. The What to Watch section offers roundups of various types of movies, and the Top Lists offers “best of…” lists in specific categories. The Last Chance area lists those titles that will be leaving Netflix at the end of the month.

AllFlicks lets you search Netflix by filtering their current offerings based on a variety of criteria: range of years, genre, type of show (movie, TV show, documentary), Netflix rating, and IMDb rating. The site also lists the most popular content and Netflix originals. A randomizer lets you make a random selection.

Instantwatcher has a powerful search function that lets you sort Netflix content in an amazing number of ways. Filters include average rating, range of years, runtime, type (movies, season, series, episodes), streaming quality, MPAA rating, NY Times Critics’ Pick, Rotten Tomatoes rating, Oscar nominees, Oscar winners, audio language, and more. Other areas of the site include New, Expiring & Upcoming, Popular New, Popular, and Highest Rated. The site also has a button with each listing that lets you add a movie or TV show to your queue.

Wioflix lists only those movies that are ranked the highest on Metacritic, IMDb, and Rotten Tomatoes. The lists are updated every week. Other areas of the site include New on Netflix and Random Pick. However, this site may include films not available in your country.

Flicksurfer is among the best websites for discovering Netflix content. It’s extremely easy to use and offers an amazing array of filters. Most importantly, it lets you filter by region, so you only see content that’s actually available to you. Other filters include movies or TV shows, genre, date added, IMDb rating, Rotten Tomatoes rating, Netflix rating, and Average rating. You can also search for a specific title, director, or cast member. The advanced filters include date range, Oscar winner, Oscar nominee, Golden Globe Winner, Golden Globe nominee, language, and more.

The NetflixBestOf subReddit that offers up a list of shows and movies that you might not otherwise have considered.

Add useful browser extensions

You can enhance your Netflix experience by adding extensions to Google’s Chrome web browser — including avoiding spoilers.

Flix Plus is a Chrome extension from Lifehacker that adds 22 tweaks to improve your experience on the Netflix website. These tweaks include hiding spoiler images and text, adding customizable keyboard controls, showing IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes ratings, and tinting or fading shows you’ve watched, rated, or are listed multiple times. Read more about it on Lifehacker.

NEnancer is a Chrome extension that adds ratings from IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, gives the ability to show and hide rows, and shows trailers for the movies.

Netflix Queue Sorter is a script rather than an extension, so it’s a bit more tricky to install. It works with Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Safari. It gives you more options for sorting My List on Netflix’s site, including star rating, genre, title, length, year, format, availability, playability, language, and more. You’ll first need to turn on Manual Ordering in your settings by going to www.netflix.com/MyListOrder.

Maintain your privacy

If you’ve watched movies or shows on Netflix that you’d rather not have anyone else be aware of, here are some tips for maintaining your privacy.

Set up and then delete a second profile. Netflix lets you have up to 5 profiles. You can set up one of those for watching content that you’d rather not have anyone else know about. Then when you’re done, you can simply delete this profile. 

Delete your watch history. Your viewing history will influence what shows up in the Netflix suggestions when you do a search. And if you’re in the company of others, that could be embarrassing. You can selectively delete items in your watch history by going to www.netflix.com/WiViewingActivity and clicking on the X.

Control streaming quality and data usage

It may be useful to manually set the streaming quality. If it’s set too high, you may experience pauses and buffering, or you could use up too much data if you’re streaming via your cellular data service. Unless you've downloaded Netflix tv shows or movies to watch offline, you'll want to be aware of data usage. 

Adjust bandwidth in settings. You can also adjust your data usage by going to www.netflix.com/hdtoggle and selecting the level of quality.

Adjust bandwidth while watching. If your video starts pausing and buffering while you’re watching on a computer, you can use keyboard commands to quickly lower the resolution. On a PC, press Shift+Alt, and on a Mac Shift+Option+Click. Then in the hidden menu that appears, under Stream Manager you can make the adjustment. (You can also use this menu to synchronize voice and video if it’s gotten out of sync.)

Manage your Netflix preferences

Netflix makes recommendations based on your viewing history and your indicated preferences. If you do some tweaking, you can get recommendations more suited to your tastes.

Use a separate profile. Netflix lets you create up to five profiles, so be sure to take advantage of that if multiple people are using your account. Otherwise Netflix’s recommendations will also reflect their tastes. Go to www.netflix.com/EditProfiles.

Rate everything you watch. Be sure to use the site’s five-star rating system, as this helps Netflix get a better sense for what you like.

Keep your account secure

Checking account access. You can see what devices have been accessing your account, their location, and their IP, as well as the specific date and time by going to www.netflix.com/accountaccess. Be sure to check this if you suspect someone else has been using your account.

Sign out of all devices. If someone has been accessing your account that you may or may not have given permission and you’d like to kick them off, go to www.netflix.com/ManageDevices and sign out all devices. It may take up to 8 hours to take effect on all profiles and all accounts.

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Jim Karpen holds a Ph.D. in literature and writing, and has a love of gizmos. His doctoral dissertation focused on the revolutionary consequences of digital technologies and anticipated some of the developments taking place in the industry today. Jim has been writing about the Internet and technology since 1994 and has been using Apple's visionary products for decades.