Instead of spending your time watching sitcoms on Netflix, why not watch educational and intelligent videos? These free apps are Netflix alternatives for learning and becoming smarter.
Even though you can find some fantastic documentaries on Netflix, the streaming service is about entertainment. But the human brain needs its workout like the human body. Instead of watching something for 15 minutes, why not watch something to make you smarter? These apps and sites will help you learn more about the world around you, real stories of people in it, and much more.
1. Little Dot Studios (Web): Collection of Non-Fiction Video Channels
Most people haven’t heard of Little Dot Studios (LDS), but you might already be familiar with some of their work. LDS runs one of the best network of YouTube channels dedicated to non-fiction videos and edutainment.
Their channel list includes Real Stories, Wonder, Spark, Real Life, Real Families, Real Crime, War Stories, Tonic, Perspective, On the Move, Business Stories, and several others who focus on informative videos. This includes both short stories as well as feature-length films and documentaries, all of which are free to watch on their YouTube.
Some channels have a section for LDS’s original works too, but no matter what, you’ll get new documentaries and features every week. For example, Real Stories uploads at least three videos per week, while others have varied schedules. Pick the genre of channel that you find most interesting, and you’re guaranteed a rich resource of viewing.
2. Brut. (Web, Android, iOS): Bite-Sized Videos of Daily News and New Learnings
Brut is a global news media company that makes short videos about current events and things you need to know. You must have already seen some of their videos on social media, as forwards or reshares. If you like those, the Brut app is a much better place to follow them.
Every day, Brut puts out five new videos about things around you that you need to know about. You can also set your available time (5, 10, or 20 minutes) to get video recommendations, browse by topic (economy, health, science, etc.), and popularity. Brut has different versions for the USA, UK, France, Spain, India, and Mexico, so choose your setting accordingly. Each video has its own comments section to discuss it with others. And of course, there’s a powerful search engine.
What makes Brut’s videos special is the high quality of editing. Using a combination of background music, overlaid text, and other visual tricks, these short and snappy videos offer a fast way to learn something new in a fun and entertaining video. You can also save videos for later, but given how short they are, you’ll get through them in the first watch anyway.
3. Google Zeitgeist (YouTube): Short Talks by Famous People
You may have heard of Google Talks, which is a bit like TED Talks held on Google campuses. But not many have heard of Google Zeitgeist, a similar alternative for TED Talks by people who are changing the world.
Zeitgeist videos are often small clips under five minutes, from a longer talk with a speaker. These bites are the perfect “brainy snack” to learn from a successful person imparting their wisdom. Zeitgeist is now hosted entirely on YouTube, so you can use awesome YouTube tools and tips to stream them however you want.
The list of speakers includes entrepreneurs, CEOs, storytellers, scientists, and other influential people. You’ll find names like Malcolm Gladwell, Pharell Williams, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
4. Documentary+ (Web, Android, iOS): Hand-Picked Collection of Documentaries
Documentary+ is a new streaming service launched in 2021 with one aim: to become the Criterion Channel for documentaries. It’s available across platforms, including Roku and Apple TV, as an app much like Netflix and others. It’s easily one of the best places to watch documentaries for free online.
The catalog is a varied collection of English and non-English documentaries, each with a clear description. You can browse through categories like classics, true crime, science and nature, festival darlings, music, sports, icons, adventure, shorts, etc. The Learn Something category is excellent for those looking for brain food, but hey, most documentaries leave you smarter than before.
The best part is Documentary+ is completely free to watch, with occasional ads, and you don’t need any subscription. You’ll find some fine, award-winning non-fiction films like Finders Keepers, Elder, Hairat, Born Into Brothels, and Motherland.
5. Blogging Heads and Meaning of Life (Web): In-Depth Conversations About Life-Changing Topics
Journalist and author Robert Wright and his co-founders at BloggingHeads.tv (BHTV) invented the term “daivlog” for their creations. The website is a place for two people to discuss issues of politics, current events, science, and other intellectual pursuits. Each diavlog is a video chat between two people, going in-depth in various aspects of the topic.
Each video gives you two options: play the full chat or play certain sections as clips. The site helpfully breaks these long diavlogs into major segments, which you can click to skip directly to. You can also download any video as MP3 if you want to.
Blogging Heads has a sister site, MeaningOfLife.tv, in which the diavlogs center around philosophy, social sciences, theology and religions, and life in general. The format is the same as BHTV, but on a smaller scale.
BHTV has been around for over 15 years and has cultivated a robust community in these years. If you register for either site, you can engage with other listeners to further discuss the topic. Often, the comments section is as intellectually stimulating as the video itself, so don’t miss out on that.
What About Paid Streaming Videos?
The five options in this list are all free alternatives to Netflix for those looking for smarter videos to watch. But as you know, Netflix isn’t free, so why not look at a few paid streaming services for learning too?
Recently, the famous Discovery Channel started an app called Discovery+ to stream their educational videos anywhere. And for some time now, CuriosityStream has been the best streaming service for documentaries and informational videos. There are several other such services online, like Magellan TV and The Great Courses, even for specialized subjects like history or science. Search around and you’ll find something that fits your interests.