The question of what movie to watch is a loaded one. The list of movies to watch bends to the will of passwords you’ve acquired for various streaming services whether your own or from a generous friend or family member.
Most streamers have a staple service — the one that’s been solidified into our monthly budget like bills and rent (probably Netflix for most people in the UK). But your reliable option probably doesn’t have every single film you want to watch, especially when titles are constantly flip-flopping which service they call home.
marks 2018 as the start of the streaming wars. Since then, the streaming service market has been an ever-evolving car crash. Disney+ came out in 2019, followed by HBO Max and Peacock in 2020, and then Discovery+ arriving and CBS All Access turning into Paramount+ in 2021. This isn’t even counting any niche platforms that were also introduced in such a short time.
In a way, the branching out makes sense. More and more networks and media conglomerates are deciding that they want the rights to their own stuff rather than letting Netflix and Prime Video rake in the subscription fees. But for the viewer, keeping track of which libraries are worth yet another £5 to £10 a month often leads to shamelessly begging an acquaintance for their password.
Unfortunately this isn’t a long-term solution to your streaming woes, so we’ve broken down the advantages and disadvantages of each app — both generally and for specific fandoms — to help you find the best site for you.
The difference between streaming services and live TV services
Platforms like Sling TV, fubo TV, and DirecTV offer an assortment of channels for a monthly free. While these are great for catching sports, TV shows, or the news as it airs, it’s probably not a necessary investment for movie watching.
Unless you’re trying to catch, say, an old school movie marathon, but then again, many of those films can probably be found on a streaming service.
What to look for in a streaming service
The number of movies (and whether those movies actually pique your interest) is a given piece of criteria, as well as price. But some other factors can help set similar platforms apart:
Concurrent stream allowance — Despite a few streaming platforms threatening to crack down on password sharing over the past few years, pretty much every mainstream streaming service allows at least two simultaneous streams at once. This means that a handful of people in different households can use the same login info and watch at the same time. Large families or friend groups who plan to share an account should probably opt for a service that allows at least three devices streaming at once.
Free trials — It’s always nice to preview a service out before you commit. In that week-long(ish) period, you can browse the full library, test the 4K or HDR upscaling if you care about that, and get an overall idea of how smooth or laggy the interface runs. Every paid streaming service on our list offers at least five days of free play time — Disney+ is the notorious oddball that doesn’t.
4K and HDR support — People who have gotten used to binge-watching in regular HD on the TV they’ve had since college probably don’t care much about higher resolution viewing. Others can’t focus on anything but the indecipherable blobs. The latter group of people will have to be pickier about the apps they pay for — because while 4K TVs are common nowadays, . For instance, Netflix only unlocks 4K upscaling if you bump your plan to the most expensive one, and HBO Max only offers 4K for certain movies. This will require a certain internet speed, too.
Compatible devices — No one’s going to pay for a streaming service that’s impossible to access on their smart TV or device they use to access apps on their TV. Luckily, barring a few temporary caveats, most streaming services listed below play nicely with all that stuff. Unless specifically noted, you can assume that each app listed is compatible with the streaming interface of most big brand TVs, the main mobile operating systems (iOS and Android apps), media players (Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV), and gaming consoles (Playstation and Xbox).
How do you stream outside the UK?
Signing up for a VPN can open the door to a plethora of international shows and films that aren’t available in the UK. VPNs essentially allow you to make up your own internet rules by carving out a personal security tunnel in which you browse, stream, or game the way you normally would.
That security tunnel paves the way for location spoofing and getting around location-based roadblocks or censors. All decent VPNs offer a wide selection of servers based in multiple geographic locations. Picking one of those essentially tricks your ISP into thinking your device is based there, maneuvering around geoblocks and opening the door to international content, like another country’s Netflix library.
The case against pirated movie websites
VPNs and cybersecurity go hand in hand. When framing cybersecurity around movies, the conversation naturally leads to pirated movie sites. We’ve all used them, and admittedly, they’ve saved all of our asses once or twice when we couldn’t find the movie we wanted anywhere else. But they’re not as instantaneous as we give them credit for — not when you have to “X” out of five pop-up ads before the movie starts, plus any time you need to pause or fast forward. Not only does the experience just suck, but a misdirected click on an infected ad could get you sent to a website with malware waiting in the wings.
Malware spreading is much more likely if you actually download the movie or a whole app rather than watching in a browser, but still. are on their A-game knowing that the pandemic has people looking for stuff to watch to fill up their time.
Antivirus software is the obvious first line of defense here, but that doesn’t help with the clunky interface or volatility of these sites. Stuff freezes, audio stops working, and people’s words don’t line up with their mouths. Most pirated movie sites are shut down eventually, too, and frequently have to change their domain name to stay up and running. It’s just not a reliable setup, especially with apps like Tubi and Documentary+ out there. (Yes, Macs need to be armed with antivirus, too.)
What is the best streaming site for movies?
There are a lot of streaming sites with large libraries of movies, but not every service is going to be right for you. It’s important to consider everything outlined in this guide, and pick a service that ticks most of your boxes.
To help you make a decision, we have checked out everything on offer and lined up a selection of the very best streaming sites for movies. There should be something for everyone in this list, with popular services like Netflix and Prime Video making the cut.
These are the best movie streaming sites in 2021.
Lots of broad and specific categories to search by • Easy to make separate accounts for each user • App is clean, straightforward, and so easy to use
No free trial • Stingy with number of concurrent streams • Have to pay extra for HD and UHD
With over 3,000 new and old movies, it’s impossible to open Netflix and not find something.
NetflixThere’s a reason that the iconic buh bum sound just played in your head — Netflix is that widespread because it’s that good.
£5.99/month for Basic, £9.99/month for Standard, or £13.99/month for Premium
Max simultaneous streams:
1 with Basic, 2 with Standard, or 4 with Premium
To sum up the ins and outs for those who have yet to hop on the bandwagon, it’s the first place to check for that random movie you’ve been itching to watch.
A respectable subscription price gets you access to over 3,000 movie titles. This impressive range is amplified by critically-acclaimed Netflix originals.
Rare vault titles from the 1940s and on • Lots of original content, including Star Wars and Marvel spinoffs • Old Disney Channel original movies and shows • Family-friendly
Categorisation and search could be better • App is laggy on Vizio TVs
The definitive home for all things Disney has enough family-friendly content to reach infinity and beyond.
Disney+The combination of nostalgia and action between Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and vault classics is unbeatable.
Max simultaneous streams:
Let’s not kid here: It’s hard to beat the app that’s home to all of the Star Wars movies, all of the Marvel movies, and their spinoffs. Even for people who have never seen a single movie from either franchise, Disney+ is worth the cost for the pure nostalgia. From the princess movies to Pixar favourites to oldies from the vault to live-action remakes, it’s a must to have on hand.
The only part that’s not such a fairytale is the absence of a free trial.
Prime membership also includes free shipping and other Amazon perks • Lots of free movies, many of which are recent and relevant • Longest free trial by far
Free titles and paid rentals are listed together • Search feature brings up a lot of static
Almost 13,000 free movies come with a regular Prime membership, plus access to rentals still in cinemas.
Prime VideoAnyone who already pays for Prime shipping has access to one of the best streaming libraries on the market.
£7.99/month or £79/year
Max simultaneous streams:
Amazon Prime Video is simply an included perk of a Prime account. While Prime members will still have to pay to rent titles (like ones still in cinemas or freshly released), nearly 13,000 films are completely free.
The most annoying part is that free and paid titles are mixed together, and the browsing function can be generally chaotic.
Super specific subgenres for any mood • Shudder originals are so good • Non-stop streaming of handpicked movies on Shudder TV • No ads
Only one device can watch at a time • App not available on Samsung or Vizio smart TV platform • Some movies aren’t even available in 1080p
A horror-fans-only app that brings back old classics and introduces new cult favourites.
ShudderA must in the pocket of any horror fan, Shudder organises its scary-good selection of classics and originals with sick curation.
Max simultaneous streams:
Traditional movie categorisation doesn’t exactly apply to a streaming app where one genre is the focus, but Shudder’s curation is on point. Slashics, Zombie Jamboree, Trapped, and Serial Killers are just a few of the ultra-specific subgenres that streamline the search process.
Shudder also deserves kudos for its original films: Host and Revenge have quickly become cult favourites.
Original films get great reviews • Lots of concurrent streams allowed • No ads • 4K, HDR, and Dolby Atmos support
Library of original content only isn’t competitive with other libraries • Not available on Android
Apple does its streaming a little differently, with original films only and HDR + Dolby Atmos support.
Apple TV+Head to Apple TV+ for fresh original films and music docs featuring some pretty huge stars.
Max simultaneous streams:
Apple’s exclusive films deserve as much attention as its shows. Both a Beastie Boys and Billie Eilish documentary are there, as well as 2020 and 2021 titles with names like Tom Hanks, Anthony Mackie, and Justin Timberlike.
The allowance for six simultaneous streams (double what most services allow) and HDR support are rare instances of Apple being more generous than they have to be.