Netflix is a wonderful service and I was pretty much a satisfied customer with only a few complaints about lack of selection (I have recently searched their database and discovered that they have really filled out their independent and obscure film selection, so I admit that my dissatisfaction is much less valid at this time). Nonetheless, I left Netflix because one day, while Googling, I stumbled upon GreenCine. I took a look at their catalog and found quite a few titles that were on my "Netflix doesn't have" list, but what really caught my attention was their "about" page: here was an online DVD rental service that was dedicated to not only diversity in film selection, but to community and charity as well.

GreenCine is based in San Francisco, and while they don't have as many distribution centers as Netflix (in fact, they only have one as of this writing), they have a wide variety of titles (anime enthusiasts especially love GreenCine), excellent customer service, and a thriving little online community. And a portion of your membership fee goes to support the arts (albeit in San Francisco, making the rewards for someone living in Miami a bit harder to appreciate; however, it's nice to know that some of my money is going to a good cause instead of contributing to the proliferation of pop-up ads).

The opportunities to participate in the GC community are three-fold: (1) they have a public discussion forum (where people discuss topics both related and unrelated to film, play "Guess That Movie" games a la "20 Questions", and make suggestions to improve the site - and management responds almost instantaneously); (2) member reviews (each member has the opportunity to review any film in the catalog, and feedback is given in an Amazon-esque "was this review helpful to you?" manner); and (3) member lists (every title has a button that you can use to add it to one of your lists, which can be public or private; members can vote on the quality of the public lists on a scale of 1-10, which separates the very informative ones carefully crafted by knowledgeable cineasts from the "Movies I Want to See" types).

GC editors post film-related news on their front page every day, along with "The Daily Five" list of 5 movies related to a similar theme. The site features the occasional informative articles on such topics as regional film festivals, specific movies and artists, or genres (the current one is about Bollywood). There is also a private message system for members.

While there are opportunities to interact with the system at Netflix, I have found that getting computer-generated suggestions isn't as reliable, predictable, or fun as getting recommendations from real people whose tastes and interests I have come to understand. That's probably why I continue to subscribe to GreenCine despite the 3-4 day travel time between my home and their office when I could decrease it by a couple of days via a Netflix regional distribution center. I guess one way to compare the two services is that Netflix is kind of like a department store while GreenCine is more like a boutique cum co-op.

The pricing structure is similar to that of its competitors:

  • 2 out plan: 2 DVDs checked out at once · $15.95/month.
  • 3 out plan: 3 DVDs checked out at once · $21.95/month.
  • 4 out plan: 4 DVDs checked out at once · $26.95/month.
  • 5 out plan: 5 DVDs checked out at once · $31.95/month
  • 8 out plan: 8 DVDs checked out at once · $41.95/month.

Just in case a disclaimer is necessary: I don't work for GreenCine, I'm just a happy customer.

If you want to check it out:

(Editor's note: The above price structure is out of date. The plans offered and their current prices can be found at