What Should I Watch Tonight: 7 Tips to Find a Good Movie

Is Netflix decision fatigue a real thing? If the internet has anything to say about it, then the answer is yes. Finding a movie or a TV show to watch night after night when that’s one of your main sources of entertainment can get more and more difficult over time. But, the question “What should I watch tonight” doesn’t need to go unanswered in a heap of frustration. We have some tips to help you find that next great movie or show.

Whether you’re watching on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, or some other streaming service, try some simple steps to make the decision-making process easier.

  • One easy way to cut down on decision time is to keep a list of shows you want to watch.
  • Also, try setting a timer.

Read on for our other top tips.

Why is it so hard to pick a movie on Netflix?

Netflix decision fatigue is a real problem for some people, but it doesn’t just happen on Netflix. Since most cord cutters tend to subscribe to multiple streaming services, the problem of having too much to choose from gets worse with every service we add to the mix.

The main problem is that there is truly an amazing amount of wonderful programming available to us at a very reasonable price. With so much content to consume and a limited amount of time to consume it, we almost start to panic trying to decide what TV show or movie to start with.

And, this can happen each and every night. It’s exhausting.

Netflix has even introduced Play Something in an effort to combat this known problem. Here’s what they say about it on their site:

There are times when we just don’t want to make decisions. A Friday evening after a long work week. A fridge full of food but nothing jumps out. A family movie on a rainy night where no one can agree. We’ve all been there.

Sometimes you just want to open Netflix and dive right into a new story. That’s why we’ve created Play Something, an exciting new way to kick back and watch.

So, are we about to get stuck in an endless loop of clicking “Play Something” now, Netflix?

Let’s take a look at some other options.

1. Keep a running list of the shows you want to watch

This is number one on the list for a good reason. It’s the same reason that the best streaming services offer some type of “watch list” to keep track of movies and shows you want to watch. As you browse, you’ll come across things that aren’t exactly right for the current mood, but that you definitely want to fit in at some point.

Keeping your own watch list, whether on your phone, in Evernote, Notion, a Google Doc shared with the family, or even on paper, can be a great way to consolidate these other lists into one useful resource.

You can even put certain movies and TV shows into different categories based on who would watch them and when. Keep a family list as well as one for content to watch after the kids go to bed for instance.

Start by checking through your main watch list before ever turning on the TV. You may solve your problem before it even starts.

Shows that end up on this list will most likely be ones that you really want to watch since it takes more effort to put them here than it does to simply click a button on your remote to put them into your Hulu Watchlist. You can also see content across multiple streaming services a lot easier this way.

2. Decide tomorrow’s selection today

You might even want to set a “menu” for the week if you’re brave enough to try that.

For some families and individuals, making choices like this in a batch rather than every time they sit down at the TV can save tons of time. This entirely depends on your personality.

For example, one year my daughter, on the day after Halloween, decided what she wanted to be for Halloween next year. She was six. There was no possibility of her sticking with that decision for 364 days, or so we thought. One year minus a day, she ran around as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, just as she had planned twelve months before.

I definitely don’t have that kind of forethought. But, choosing tomorrow’s movie today is something I can work with. 

We’re also big fans of planning the weekend’s movies throughout the week. The anticipation is wonderful, and it gives us time to get DVDs from the library if they aren’t available on the streaming services we’re subscribed to. We’re able to save a decent amount of money by doing that.

Even if you only save a bit of time doing things this way, planning feels more productive. It also removes some of that overwhelming decision paralysis feeling. You’re a lot less likely to end up watching something just because you’re tired of scrolling through options if you plan ahead.

3. Set a timer

I know, this one sounds a bit like a throw-away suggestion, but hear me out.

This tip, in combination with the list tip above, is gold.

If you have a good list of shows and movies that you know you want to watch, but still have trouble deciding from, a little bit of extra pressure might be all you need. This is especially valuable if you’re including your kids or even multiple roommates, in the decision. 

When there are multiple opinions all vying for the rights to what will play on the shared screen for the evening, a five-minute timer can work wonders. 

Start by deciding as a group what type of movie or show you all want to watch. Sci-fi, period-piece, comedy, decide that first. Then, once you’ve got that narrowed down, open up your master watch list and make a decision in X minutes. You choose.

You can make this as strict or loose as you want. You can also make it a game or just have it be something there in the background to hurry the process along so you don’t end up running into bedtime or going too late in the evening if people have to work the next morning.

4. Let a different person choose each night

Another way to combine these tips is to let someone different make the final choice each night.

This also works really well with families, especially those with children. If you can go from your list of family-approved options, and then let one family member make the final decision, no one ends up feeling left out. 

You can also easily turn this one into a game. Open your family list, set your timer, and if Judy (or whoever is choosing that night) doesn’t make a choice before the timer runs out, they “lose a turn” and someone else gets to pick.

Just be careful if you have kids that don’t work well with that kind of pressure. Make it fun, not stressful.

5. Watch an entire franchise or series

If you can find a TV show or a series of movies that your whole family or group of friends loves enough to watch over several nights, or even weeks, this can be a great way to cut down on scrolling time and decision overwhelm.

When my family was watching The Mandalorian, there was no question what we were watching each evening after dinner. When we discovered Gortimer Gibbons and Just Add Magic, we had lots of programming to get through with virtually no decision time in the evening.

If you can find something that you like enough to commit to for a while, the lack of decision requirements is awesome.

It doesn’t have to be a TV show; however, a great movie franchise will do very nicely as well. It’ll take a while to get through the whole Marvel franchise, and watching them in chronological order is pretty fun.

Even shorter series, such as Harry Potter and Star Wars, can help a lot. Find a few of them and space them out for some variety.

6. Do a book/movie comparison series

If you’re also a reader, this is loads of fun!

I think it’s easier these days for kids to find books that have become movies, and I know our kids loved the experience of seeing those worlds come to life. They also love criticizing what fell short and why. Seeing how someone else interprets the written word can be super educational, for kids and adults.

There are the obvious choices, Harry Potter again, and The Chronicles of Narnia are great options. But, if you’re creative you can find any number of books that have been made into movies.

Here are a few to get you started:

By Neil Gaiman

James and the Giant Peach
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

…and SO many others by Roald Dahl

Little Women (very popular in our house)
By Louise May Alcott

City of Ember
By Jeanne DuPrau

The Hobbit
The Lord of the Rings series

By J.R.R. Tolkien

The Percy Jackson series
By Rick Riordan

A Wrinkle in Time
By Madeline L’Engle

I’d also recommend checking into some of the classics like Sense and Sensibility and Wuthering Heights. You can get several movie adaptations out of each book with many of these classic literary works.

For those of you (and me) who are interested in science fiction, there are some really fantastic options; however, you will almost certainly find fault with the movie over the book. 

Start with the Blade Runner / Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep comparison if you haven’t experienced those. Both are great in and of themselves.

7. Limit your subscribed services

Lastly, there’s another easy way to cut down on your problem of too many options. Simply cut down on your number of options.

When we have so many streaming service subscriptions that we don’t know what to choose from, they become much less useful and valuable in our lives. If you limit yourself to two or three services at a time, you’re much more likely to find something to watch from a smaller pool of options.

Across the internet, it seems to be normal for people to have right around six streaming service subscriptions at any one time. But if you think about how much time you devote to watching each one, you’ll probably agree that you aren’t getting a very big bang for your buck.

One of the great things about living a cord cutter lifestyle is that you’re able to choose what comes into your house much more easily. And, one of the benefits of using streaming services is that they make it very easy to start and stop a subscription.

Getting away from the lengthy contracts of a cable company means that you can pay for a month or two of Hulu, and then pause it while you watch Netflix for a couple of months.

Give this system a try. It can work very, very well.

So, what are you watching tonight?

Hopefully, these tips will help you cut down on the wasted time that you could spend enjoying a great movie, TV show, or book. Or, possibly even some time chatting with your friends or family.

It’s not that there isn’t enough content for us to choose from, it’s just that there’s far too much. Take ownership of your time. Limit the amount of time you spend scrolling through options, getting annoyed, and bickering with loved ones. It just takes some planning and some decisions before you start watching TV.

And if you’re still stuck, check out our suggestions for great family shows on Amazon Prime.

Let us know if any of these tips helped you or if you have any questions or suggestions in the comments below.

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