Five Must-Have Roku Genre Channels
It’s fantastic how much great genre content that little box has unlocked for me beyond the big three, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu. Having those services is beginner-level Roku usage. What I want to get into, right now, are the real gems for any genre fan. These are the channels you may not have installed on your Roku but you should totally should. These are, objectively, the best channels you can install to get the most out of your little magic content-box as a genre-fan. We’re talking grindhouse, horror, thriller, import and action content. Additionally, I will stress that these channels are not tied to existing cable packages and channels. These channels are like a good hammer; these channels do one thing, and do them well. These things are sex, violence, horror, and science fiction.
Hey, I am not claiming that these are high art.
So, what are the must install Roku channels? The following list is not in any specific order. These entries do not feature private channels, so you should be able to search for these in your Roku easily. Or you can click the Roku download link associated with each entry.
Do you remember the Sci Fi channel (now SYFY) circa the late 90s and early 2000s? If you do then you probably remember how great that channel was. There wasn’t as much in the way of original programming as the channel was based around reruns, but oh what a collection of material the channel had assembled. Comet TV is basically that classic period of the Sci Fi channel that you can access with your Roku. Unlike a lot of the channels that we’ll be looking at in this article, this is quite literally a TV channel. There is no library to pick and choose from, and content is run on a set schedule. This makes sense because Comet TV is quite literally a streaming feed of an actual antenna channel. What this means for you is that it lets you relive those pre-DVR days of tuning in at just the right time to catch a favorite show, like Mystery Science Theater 3000. Comet TV is lacking in functionality besides the stream (with commercials) but does feature an accessible schedule you can look at within the Roku channel. Naturally you can always check their schedule and featured shows and movies online as well.
What to watch
Due to the changing movie schedule I’d be better off talking about the scheduled TV shows of which Mystery Science Theater 3000 reigns supreme. Comet TV shows a wide variety of movies from classic SF and horror to cult films, so you’ll generally find something worth watching week to week. Comet TV’s strength lies in the scheduled shows, however. For classic fun stay up late for Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot. You can never go wrong with Stargate Atlantis, either. Even better, Comet TV runs The Outer Limits (1959) and the 1990s revamp of the classic series.
Pluto TV is like having a free cable subscription. Granted the quality is comprised of free material and supported by ads (which you had better get used to, this is the model of Roku channels in general). Pluto TV boasts 100+ live TV channels, though in truth these channels are just free streaming services. Some of which are based on the video content of websites such as Nerdist and IGN played in a constant stream. Thankfully there are enough channels here that you are likely to find something to your taste. Ironically, you have even more channel options available on the Pluto TV website than you do in the Roku app itself. If you are serious about cutting the cord, Pluto TV becomes a must have channel because of the sheer variety of “cable” style content it makes available to you over an internet connection.
What to watch
There really is too much to account for here. These channels alone should have exactly what you’re looking for: MST3K, Rifftrax, Anime All Day, Shout! Factory TV, Flicks of Fury, Horror 24/7, The Asylum (of Sy Fy original movie fame), and Crime Network
Shout! Factory TV
Shout! Factory TV is the first of the library-style Roku channels we’re covering. You can think of Shout! Factory TV as a mini-Netflix where you are given access to a library of material that is periodically refreshed and updated. The material on Shout! Factory TV is curated by the company as streaming options for their giant library of DVD publications of genre-driven entertainment. Like all of these channels, content on this channel features ads before the movie and/or show, and then periodically within the show itself. If you don’t have a Roku, fret not, you can watch all this material on the Shout! Factory TV website as well.
What to watch
MST3K and Rifftrax are always worth a watch (notice a trend?). Beyond that you have TV shows and films you can explore of different genres. In the mood for horror? Try John Carpenter’s Body Bags, Werner Herzog’s take on Nosferatu, the classic exploitation film Cannibal Girls, or all of the films in Elvira’s Movie Macabre. After some action films? Shout! Factory TV has a large collection of Jackie Chan films including Crime Story, City Hunter, and Police Story 1 & 2. If you are down for science fiction I cannot recommend A Boy and His Dog enough, and as a bonus they even have a commentary-track version! For your serialized SF fix, consider the Doctor Who spinoff K9, based on the 4th Doctor’s robotic companion or the supermarionation-classic Thunderbirds. For the real diehards you have access to every episode of the computer animated classic Reboot. Lastly, for a spy/espionage fix, Patrick McGoohan’s Secret Agent is a great ride.
Blue Mermaid Theater
We’re getting to the real hardcore content here. This the first of several very, very niche channels filled with stuff you won’t see on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video. These films range from complete trash to cult content (at best), but as a genre fan you gotta appreciate the rough stuff. This is generally not high quality stuff, but it’ll change your life This is the kind of stuff I live for on my Roku and I’ve spent my fair share of bleary-eyed 3 AMs watching subtitled Japanese eroge action films. We’re getting into the real niche stuff where weird low budget films, grindhouse cinema, and questionably sourced documentaries are on offer. There is also softcore porn. Look, I am not gonna judge you, so watch what you want. That is why we have these channels. The channel suggests that new content is uploaded every Monday.
What to Watch
If you are into surrealism, the silent film Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog) was a collaboration between Spanish director Luis Buñuel and artist Salvador Dalí. It’s pretty disturbing and not for the faint of heart. While we’re talking silent film, consider 1922s Haxan: The History of Witchcraft Through the Ages. A real delight is the classic Kurosawa film Rashomon. Wow, we didn’t even need to dive into the really iffy stuff here. There are also a few classic Django films, among other Spaghetti Westerns.
Of the various pulpy Netflix-lites on this list, Midnight Pulp is the one that has the most professional sheen to it and is a legitimately great channel I’ve subscribed to periodically from month to month. Yes, it is a channel that asks you to pay for more material, but beyond getting an ad-free experience, it also opens up some more quality films. It also has it’s fair share of sleaze as well, so it is definitely not a chanel for the kids. You can learn more about Midnight Pulp at the website.
What to Watch
If you are a Pulp+ subscriber you can watch the modern-classic Donnie Darko. Even if you’re not subscribed there is some fantastic content including one of my all time favorite horror films, Suspiria. If you want to watch the original Oldboy you can do just that. Other treats include the classic horror film Black Sunday, Blind Woman’s Curse, 13 Assassins, and anime such as Dagger of Kamui, Otaku No Video, and Riding Bean. You also have the complete run of Bubblegum Crisis and Bubblegum Crash as well.