Netflix puts thousands of films at your fingertips, yet for some reason the right movie always seems just out of reach. Post-modern scholars might posit that this having everything/wanting nothing dilemma leads to a uniquely millennial form of moral bankruptcy (aka “Netflix and chill”), but armchair philosophy and sex rouses aside, almost everyone has at some point felt damned to an eternity of browsing.
Luckily, we here at Thrillist.com have developed a fool-proof nine-step system to guarantee Netflix success. Follow us down the rabbit hole, friend. Freddie Prinze, Jr. is waiting for you.
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Welcome back to your own personal limbo of aspirational media! Taking a spin through your derelict selections is a comforting reminder of your excellent taste, but for some reason none of those ambitious arthouse films, documentaries on stuff you should already know, or Jim Carrey vehicles seem to scratch your cinematic itch. There's clearly some stuff in here that you added just so potential guests think you're classy, but you're not exactly looking to watch a harrowing Polish abortion drama alone after three beers. Maybe X-Files? Naw, keep on browsing!
Step 2: See what's trending
What's everyone else watching? The answer is 30 Rock, but also a hip new comedy special, not-HBO TV shows, and Quentin Tarantino films. Also a bunch of random British sci-fi crap and some kids' stuff you kind of want to check out, but feel weird about. Since you march to the beat of your own indecision, others' habits have no sway over you in your quest for the perfect thing to fall asleep to. Moving right along.
Step 3: Check out what's new
Finally, some fresh meat. There's a glut of movies to like in the new-release section, including all the movies you were too lazy to go see last summer, whatever the hell Dolph Lundgren has been doing recently, documentaries about shoelaces and serial killers, the first season of iZombie, the fourth (!!) American Pie movie... you're queue is getting fatter by the minute (just like the stars of American Pie!), but there's nothing here you're in the mood for at the moment.
Step 4: Use your memory
As an adult of distinguished cultural acumen, you have a greedy thirst for pop culture fluency, but you accumulate so many tight movie recommendations that they can be hard to remember. What was that screwball comedy with the great inside joke? Didn't a well-dressed acquaintance recently reference some canonical film noir? Isn't there a Die Hard sequel you missed? It wasn't the Samuel L. Jackson one that's for sure. God, this is going to drive you crazy. Maybe your previous viewing habits hold a clue...
Step 5: Let the algorithm do the work
Your memory failed you. But like Skynet, Netflix is a learning computer (also, is T2 on here? Because that would solve everything...) and it has tons of ideas for you. Very, very specific ideas. Because you accidentally clicked on A Nightmare on Elm Street last week, how about a selection of Dream-Based Psychological Dark Comedies About Horny Teenagers? But shit's just all over the place. Yeah, you've watched Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, so it'd make sense to recommend The Layover. But House Hunters International? Ghost Adventures? Why have you been staring at these selections so long?
Step 6: Search, blindly
Typing anything into a smart TV with a regular remote is like dialing a rotary phone without any of the fun noises. Efficiency and sound effects be damned, you're capable of pulling a discrete film title out of your brain, so now's the point where you spend an angry 30 seconds typing it in. With any luck autocomplete will come to your aid, but odds are whatever you want to see isn't in the system, or is only accessible to people trapped in the year 2005, which is to say, subscribers still receiving DVDs in the mail. Your only hope of watching Down to You with that delightful Freddie Prinze, Jr. is to wait five days for it to arrive at your mom's house.
Don't go Kill Bill 1 on a Netflix stockholder (ooooooh, is Kill Bill on here?!). Calm down and return to the comforts of your queue. The process of rejecting hundreds of totally decent, critically acclaimed films brings catharsis. Plus, there's so much more in here now that you added all those new Vibrant and Mind-Blowing Intergalactic Space Operas based on the fact that you once mentioned Flash Gordon in fleeting conversation with a stranger (is Netflix listening to me?!). At this point, really, any moving picture will do, and these were the ones that you originally at least showed interest in. The only choice is to...
8. Rewatch some garbage
The fraudulent pageantry of browsing for something new has come to a close. The truth is out there, but for now, just settle for X-Files, just like you always planned.
9. Fall asleep within 13 minutes, tops
Those soothingly spooky synths, Mulder's mumbly acting, and slow-burn plot development make for a lullaby so effective it feels like conspiracy, especially since you've just spent four hours looking at the Netflix menu without blinking. Unless the Monster of the Week is something truly special (Lord Kinbote, we're looking at you!), you're not even going to make it to the first time that Mulder asks Scully if she can just walk away after everything she's seen. She couldn't, and neither can you... because you've passed out asleep.
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Dan Gentile is a staff writer at Thrillist. He someday hopes to Netflix and chill. Follow him to on-fleek tweets at @Dannosphere.