Just about everybody uses Netflix these days. When they’re not watching Stranger Things or Orange Is the New Black or House of Cards, your friends are probably all trying to figure out how to find their next favorite movie or TV show on Netflix. Unfortunately, this task is often easier said than done on a streaming service with a catalog as extensive (and tough to navigate) as Netflix’s.
A Netflix subscription gives you access to a staggering number of movies and TV series. But the platform, whether you access it on your computer, your smart TV, or even on your smartphone or tablet, isn’t always the best at enabling you to discover the shows or films that you might like, or surfacing recommendations that really seem tailored to your individual taste.
That’s why we’ve all spent evenings aimlessly scrolling through Netflix, hoping to stumble on a suggestion for a movie or a TV show that seems right for the occasion. But more often than not, Netflix’s lists of recommendations and suggested genres don’t quite seem to fit the bill. So you’re stuck either scrolling endlessly, texting a friend for some suggestions, or consulting Google for help.
Fortunately, there are a few easy ways to get better movie and TV recommendations on Netflix without wasting hours while you’re searching (just like there are some easy tricks to make binge-watching easier). Read on to check out our favorite ways to improve the quality of Netflix’s recommendations and to find the best content on Netflix.
1. Use your own Netflix profile
While it’s great to share Netflix with your roommate or your friends or your mom, you’ll want to make sure that everybody has their own profile. That way, Netflix won’t be confused about what to recommend when your roommate is watching horror movies, your mom is doing a deep-dive into the romantic comedies section, and all you want is something to hold you over until the next season of Stranger Things. To get Netflix to recommend the movies and shows that you — not your roommate or your best friend — want to see, make sure that everybody is using their very own Netflix profile.
You can create up to five profiles for a single Netflix account by hovering your mouse over the smiley-face icon for your account, and then clicking the option to “Manage Profiles.” The next screen will show you the existing profiles. (If you’ve been getting some pretty weird recommendations, there may only be one profile set up in your account.) From there, you can create new profiles for everybody who uses the account, including kid-friendly ones for any users who are under the age of 13.
2. Tell Netflix what you like to watch
When you create a new account with Netflix, it’s important to follow the platform’s advice and pick a few movies that you love. Those movies are what Netflix uses to create a homepage for you that’s personalized with content that Netflix thinks you’re going to like. You should also follow Netflix’s suggestions to personalize your account and let it know more about your interests. But if you’ve been using Netflix for awhile, there’s another way to tell Netflix what you like so you can get even better recommendations for movies and TV shows. Rating all of the movies and TV shows that you watch helps Netflix have a better grasp of how you like to be entertained.
As Yoni Heisler reports for BGR, there’s more to Netflix’s rating system than meets the eye — and that can actually help you get better movie and TV recommendations on the platform. Heisler reports that the rating you see on a movie’s splash page, for instance, isn’t the average of how all Netflix users rated a film. Instead, the ranking represents an average among users who Netflix has determined have similar tastes to yours. That’s because Netflix groups users with similar viewing tastes together in order to make its recommendation algorithm more helpful.
The recommendation algorithm looks at factors like the genres of movies and TV shows, your streaming history, your previous ratings, and the combined ratings of Netflix members who have similar tastes. As Netflix explains on its website, the ratings that you assign to the movies and shows you’ve watched help Netflix get an idea of what you’ll want to watch.
3. Be honest about your tastes
There are probably some movies that you don’t mind calling your favorites when hanging out with friends or meeting someone for a first date, but you don’t need to try to impress Netflix. When you set up a new account or profile, make sure that you tell Netflix about a few movies that you’d actually like to watch in your downtime. You can tell Netflix about the more intellectual tastes you have when you’re discussing movies and TV shows with your friends or your colleagues. But you should also be honest about the kinds of movies and shows that you like to watch when you’re hanging out by yourself.
That way, the next time you’re scrolling through Netflix on a solitary weeknight and you’re looking for something light or funny to watch, Netflix will have some relevant recommendations for you. The goal of getting more relevant recommendations is to get suggestions for the kind of content you want to watch no matter what your mood, so don’t feel bad about telling Netflix about some of the less intellectually-challenging comedies you like to watch when your day hasn’t gone so well.
4. Use Netflix’s secret codes to find the right movies
There’s an easy way to find exactly the kind of movie you’re looking for: use one of Netflix’s secret codes to find a hidden category. While everybody knows about general genres, like documentaries or dramas or action movies, Netflix has a system that actually goes much deeper than that. The platform actually categorizes movies into specific subgenres like “Campy B-Horror Movies from the 1960s,” or “Feel-Good Sports Movies for Ages 8 to 10,” or “Critically-acclaimed British Movies from the 1970s,” or “Korean-language revenge dramas.”
You can use Netflix’s secret codes to navigate to specific subgenres. You can discover movies that way, but even watching a few titles from super-specific categories is likely to help Netflix improve the recommendations it gives you in the future. When you watch (and rate) movies in the specific sub-genres that you really love, you’ll send a pretty strong signal to Netflix that you want to see more of those movies in your recommendations.
5. If all else fails: Resort to a third-party app
If you’ve tried all the steps above and still aren’t finding the kinds of movies or TV shows that you really want to watch, we have a final recommendation. It may be time to turn to a third-party app. There are plenty of apps that help you get more out of your Netflix subscription by finding better movies and TV shows than what Netflix is recommending to you.
Going somewhere other than Netflix for recommendations may not sound ideal, but it can work as a temporary solution. If you really need help discovering more of the kind of content that you want to watch, a third-party app can point you in the direction of that content. Since you’ll go back to Netflix to actually watch (and rate) those movies, you’ll be sending a signal to Netflix about the kind of content you want to view in the future. You can even use a third-party app to add a few movies to your queue, and in the meantime, Netflix is likely to learn from your streaming activity to offer you better recommendations in the future.