Best online film streaming services
Have you tried to rent a film from your local Blockbuster recently? Good luck!
If you hadn’t noticed, the way we watch films and TV is changing. Many people now consume as much video content on youtube and other online services, as they do on traditional TV. Online film streaming services offering instant movies and tv series are becoming hugely popular. Sky plus and Tivo boxes have revolutionised the way we watch mainstream television.
The best online film streaming services have come on leaps and bounds in recent times, to the point where they are now commissioning their own high quality TV series, or resurrecting old favourites.
Here’s our run down of the best online film streaming services.
Best online film streaming services – Paid
Netflix is an absolute beast in the US, and in the last year or two has thrown down the gauntlet to Lovefilm in the UK.
Its streaming only service is available in the UK for only £5.99 a month, and $7.99 in the US.
You aren’t going to get the latest blockbuster movies on Netflix, but you will get access to a large back catalogue of movies and some great TV series. Not only that but Netflix have change the game forever by commissioning their own TV series. The US version of House of Cards featuring Kevin Spacey has been a roaring success, as has the long awaited fourth series of the fantastic Arrested Development.
Undoubtedly, other hits will follow. This is what puts Netflix amongst the best online film streaming services.
Available through PS3, XBox 360, Wii, phone, PC, tablets, Mac, Smart TV’s, set top boxes and some DVD and Blu Ray players.
Why should you get Netflix:
- Unparalleled TV selection including Breaking Bad
- Original and exclusive content like House of Cards and series 4 of Arrested Development
- Some good recent indie films including Holy Motors and The Kid With a Bike
Lovefilm offer a choice of packages from streaming only for just £4.99 a month, to more comprehensive packages involving a combination of streaming service and Blu Ray discs, DVDs and games by post.
Sticking to the streaming, Lovefilm probably has a better selection of films available to stream than Netflix. If you include the disc by post option, then there is no comparison. Lovefilm offers a far wider selection. Of particular note is the big selection of kids films they have recently added, including lots of Disney classics like Dumbo and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. This is a genre less well served by Netflix.
On the TV front, Lovefilm doesn’t have perhaps as strong a selection as Netflix right now, but it is improving fast. Whilst Lovefilm is already one of the best online film streaming services, with Amazon buying Lovefilm, you can bet that they will have ambitious growth plans.
PS3, XBox 360, Wii, phone, PC, tablets, Mac, Smart TV’s, set top boxes and some DVD and Blu Ray players.
Why you should get Lovefilm:
- Big film library including a wide range of indie films
- Great TV content like Sons of Anarchy,Vikings and The Walking Dead
- Access to a huge library of content via disc by post
- You’ve got young kids
Blinkbox is part owned by Tesco and is focused on providing the latest DVD releases via online streaming. If you want to watch Lincoln, Jack Reacher or Life of Pi, and you don’t want to pay a subscription fee, then this is where you come.
You simply pay for the content that you use. This makes Blinkbox one of the best online film streaming services from a pay per view perspective. New releases tend to be priced at £3.49 for rental. Older titles are priced at £2.49.
TV episodes and series can be purchased to view online, but not rented. So you’d have to shell out £19.99 for series 4 of Breaking Bad for example.
Available through PS3, XBox 360, phone, PC, tablet, Mac, Smart TV’s, Set top boxes and some DVD and Blu Ray players. Not currently available on Nintendo Wii.
Why you should get Blinkbox:
- Access to the latest movie blockbusters
- Pay only for what you use
- You’re interested in films rather than TV
Now TV is a bit different to the others. It offers you the viewer, the opportunity to buy either a movies or sports pass. A movie pass costs £8.99 a month for the first 3 months, then reverts to £15 a month.
If you want a sports pass this only last for 24 hours and costs £9.99.
With Now TV movies you do get access to the latest movies, before they are available on Netflix or Lovefilm. Essentially you get full access to the library of Sky On Demand films, but as part of a subscription, rather than paying for individual films. If you’re watching 5 or more films a month, this could be more cost effective than paying to stream individual movies.
Available through PS3, XBox 360, phone, PC, tablet, Mac, Smart TV’s, and set top boxes. Not currently available on Nintendo Wii.
Why you should get Now TV:
- Unlimited access to the latest blockbuster movies
- You want to watch a lot of movies
- You are desperate to see a big sporting event. You don’t have Sky Sports and the pub is closed!
The Best Online Film streaming services – Free
In addition to the subscription based, and pay per view service there are some decent free services out there.
Hulu is a free service offering TV and movie content. Hulu also offer Hulu plus – a subscription based streaming service featuring TV shows like Modern Family, Community and Family Guy.
Like Netflix, you aren’t going to get the latest movies here, but they do have a growing catalogue of less recent films. If you’re based in the US then Hulu is definitely worth a look.
Indie Movies Online offers a selection of independent films that you can watch for free. You don’t even need to register. Just browse the section, find the movie you want to watch and stream it.
You probably aren’t going to find many familiar titles here, but you’ve got a couple of hundred films here, spanning various genres.
Available in the US, UK and elsewhere.
Crackle is another site offering free movies and TV for streaming. Again, no registration is required and you can search for movie titles or actors.You will find some slightly more familiar titles here, but where you do they are likely to be older films.
Crackle also features some original content, including an ongoing series by comedy legend Jerry Seinfeld – Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
Youtube has a number of free movies available. If you search for “free movies” on youtube, you will find various lists of free to watch films. There is a wide selection, but obviously not as well catalogued as some of the other sites.
You will also find lots of dubious links that purport to be something they are not, such as supposed links to the latest films in the cinema right now.
The future of online streaming
Online streaming services are still in their infancy in real terms, and it will be interesting to see how this market develops.
Netflix have made a bold step by commissioning their own exclusive content. This may prove tobe the way to grow their market share and cement their position as one of the best online film streaming services.
There seems little doubt that streaming is the immediate future of the film and TV industry, but no one provider has sown this up yet. What would happen if Facebook or Google entered the fray I wonder?
Best online film streaming services – the verdict
If you already have satellite or cable TV, then you may decide that paying an additional subscription fee is something you don’t want to do. Both Netflix and Lovefilm do have some good TV content however, and they can be a great way to catch up on those iconic series you missed.
If you’re a real film buff, then a combined Lovefilm subscription might be your best bet right now. If you want to watch the latest movies, but are a lighter user, then Blinkbox or even itunes can facilitate that, without the need for subscription.
If you want comprehensive coverage then combining Blinkbox for recent releases, with Lovefilm for depth is probably the way to go. And don’t forget the free services.
There are some good offers out there right now. Netflix and Lovefilm both offer free trial, so its worth checking out both to see which suits you best. Blinkbox are currently offering a £5 bonus when you deposit £1. Now TV are offering the first three months for just £8.99.