Netflix Brings Back the Mixtape (for Movies)

If you're old enough, you'll remember those days in high school when you could show your love by gifting a mixtape (or CD) of music that you created for the object of your affection. Netflix has launched the 2016 equivalent—Flixtape. A Flixtape is a playlist of six movies that are based on a theme, mood, or message that can be shared on social media or sent to your beloved, friend, or family.

Flixtapes are created on the Flixtape website . Separate from the Netflix website, you are taken through three steps to create your own flick mix. First, create a title for the Flixtape mix. Flixtape automatically picks three movie/TV shows that match the title you chose for the mix. You can keep the suggested titles or replace them with other films or TV shows and you can add up to three more titles for a total of six shows in the Flixtape playlist. Once you have put together your mix, you can customize the cover page and share it with your beloved or with friends. Recipients need to have a Netflix account or be part of your plan to watch the Flixtape. (A Netflix representative assured me that it is not illegal to share your account name and password but you can't sell it.)

When creating a Flixtape mix, you can either “Make Your Own” or choose one that is “Made for You.” While Made For You implies that these would be special categories based on your watching habits, I checked with a few friends. The categories were the same for all of us including a friend whose film tastes are quite different than mine. Made For You categories include “The Family Reunion Flixtape” with Bloodline, Gilmore Girls, and Family Guy, “The Couch University Flixtape” (documentaries) “The Besties or Frenemies Flixtape,” “The Mom and Pop Flixtape,” “The Kiss and Tell Flixtape,” and “The Summertime Flixtape” that includes Grease and Moonrise Kingdom.

The Make Your Own option lets you create a unique mix by choosing a title for the Flixtape. It then matches films to the title. I chose to name mine “action-packed films" with the expectation that I would get Schwarzenegger films or Rambo. Instead, it suggested Ties that Bind, Knocking on Heaven’s Door, and Flower Girl —not exactly action films, at least in my book. I tried a few other titles with the word “action” but no true action films came up. I had better luck when I searched for "action & adventure" on the Add Movies screen. Results included Black Hawk Down and Pirates of the Caribbean —and a couple of gentle action/adventure movies—The Princess Bride and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. A catchier title might get better results.

I named my next Flixtape "Date Night." The suggested list included Night at the Roxbury, Star Trek, and Goon (a movie about Hockey). Not exactly what I had in mind. I clicked on the plus button to see more recommendations and got White Chicks and Trailer Park Boys: Countdown to Liquor Day. I’m not sure who Flixtape thinks I’m dating (Larry the Cable Guy?), but these don't come close to matching up with what I would expected for a “Date Night” movie. Two of the recommended titles did work for me, though: Chasing Amy and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I guess Netflix just has a different take on what sort of movies to watch on a date.

If you can't think of a title for a Flixtape, you can hit the “inspire me” button under the “Make Your Own” option. Each time you click the button it cycles through a number of ideas. I chose “Edge of Your Seat TV” and then hit the "start" button to populate the mix, which brought up House of Cards, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead—all excellent series but I'm not sure I'd be on the "edge of my seat" watching them.

Of course, you have the option of creating a personal customized Flixtape mix with specific movies. Create a name for the Flixtape, search for the titles you want by name and substitute them for the Netflix's suggestions. I searched for Back to the Future, Meet Joe Black, and Rumor Has It —films I know are available on Netflix—but they didn't come up under Flixtape. It’s possible that there are licensing issues that prevent these movies from being added to a Flixtape but, whatever the reason, it limits your ability to create the Flixtape you want to make. Users have also complained about not being able to add a specific episode of a TV series to a Flixtape mix.

Once you've settled on titles for a Flixtape mix, the next step is to create a cover. You can edit the title of the Flixtape by adding the name of the recipient as well as your name. You can also decorate the cover page by selection "stamps," such as popcorn, a heart, a cowboy hat, etc. Unfortunately, the stamps scroll unpredictably making it hard to choose the one you want for each corner.

You can share your Flixtape on Twitter or Facebook or message/email a link to your beloved or friend.

Flixtape is a fun idea with potential. I can imagine creating a “Movies We Should Watch Together” mix and sending it to friends. But Netflix has some bugs to fix before Flixtape will truly embody the self-expression of the original mixtape.