You can watch movies and TV for free via online streaming sites, totally legally. The big sites usually offer free trials, so you can sit back and enjoy unlimited films and TV series such as Downton Abbey and Breaking Bad for nowt.
If you don't mind paying after a trial, you can then subscribe from £6/month, and watch 100s of movies for less than the price of a bag of cinema popcorn.
This guide will take you through how to do it, the top providers, how to watch movies (legally) for free and what to watch out for.
In this guide:
Watching online: the basics
Buying a new release movie on DVD can cost up to £15 - not cheap, especially if you only watch it once.
Yet for around £6 a month you could get access to unlimited film and TV online, including some new releases. And if you make the most of the free trials out there, you could end up glued to your couch for hours while paying nothing at all.
Here are our five key need-to-knows to run you through the basics - or if you're ready to get started, jump straight to our our list of the top streaming services.
1What is online streaming?
Streaming lets you watch films and TV online instantly. You don't download the content, but play it live on your device, such as a laptop or iPad, via your internet connection.
Its main boon is you get immediate access to a huge catalogue of films and TV series. It's not for everyone though. People who love to watch lots of specific new releases can be better off renting good old-fashioned DVDs. It's also not for those who want to watch something again and again (you don't get to keep it unless you buy it), or for those without a hefty broadband data allowance.
Is online streaming safe and legit?
All the streaming sites listed in this guide are 100% legal, including the free ones.
However there are plenty of websites online offering "free movie streaming" which aren't legal, and could put your PC/laptop at risk of viruses, malware and trojans. So it's important you know how to protect yourself, both from the security threats and the fine and/or prison sentence you could face for streaming an illegal movie.
We spoke to online security expert Graham Cluley to get his advice on online streaming:
Am I breaking the law if I stream movies online? "It's not breaking the law if the site has permission to stream the movie! It's all to do with whether the site has struck a deal with the movie company to reproduce their movie in streaming form," says Cluley.
What should I be looking out for when choosing a site to stream online content? "You're obviously going to feel more comfortable when visiting a site which has a well-established brand,' Cluley says.
Sites like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video (formerly Lovefilm) offer trusted, secure streaming services. But a quick Google for "free online movie streaming" brings up a host of illegal sites - nine times out of 10, if it's offering the latest releases for free, it's not legit. Cluley's advice? "Go with a well-established name."
What about viruses/malware? Is streaming safe? If you're using a big name service, like Netflix, it will be safe. But be vigilant and look out for phonies. "Hackers have in the past created websites which attempt to trick you into installing malware, on the pretext of being a video plugin," says Cluley.
"You should always run up-to-date antivirus software, and only download a Flash plugin, for instance, from Adobe's real website." The Flash site will tell you what version you have here.
What about pop-up blockers? "A site may ask you to disable pop-up blockers because it might prevent the playing of the video or because they plan to pop up adverts," says Cluley. "Either way, my advice would be to be wary of disabling such blockers."
For more info about protecting your PC/laptop, see the Free Antivirus Software guide.
How good is streaming quality?
Across the sites listed in this guide, quality tends to be pretty good. The resolution you're able to stream TV or movies at is most likely to depend on your broadband speed - the sites automatically match streaming quality to how fast your connection is.
But if you do have lightning-fast internet, then quality can vary by provider - Amazon and Blinkbox, for instance, offer resolutions of up to 720p (equivalent to HD), while Netflix and iTunes can provide 1080p (even higher quality).
Bear in mind that only certain titles are available in HD - it varies from service to service - and if you're renting a movie via pay-per-view, watching it in HD could cost you more.
What's the difference between streaming and downloading?
Streaming lets you watch directly via the internet, whereas downloading involves copying the file to your computer or device first.
As a general rule, streaming is for renting and downloading is for buying online. But there is a grey area - some services such as Blinkbox allow you to download rented films or TV shows. That means you'll be able to watch them without an internet connection - but you'll only be able to access them for a limited period.
2Watching online vs. renting by post
Streaming movies online is much quicker and more convenient than renting DVDs by post and it will typically work out cheaper too - but not always. If you want to watch a large number of new releases each month, for instance, renting by post might be a better option.
Online DVD rental companies such as Cinema Paradiso also offer a much wider choice of films, particularly new releases, and there's no hassle over broadband data limits. Lovefilm has now been revamped as Amazon Instant Video*, but Lovefilm by Post still exists. It costs £7.99/mth with no free trial. (If you have a membership to either Amazon Prime, the £79/year service combining Amazon Instant Video and free delivery on eligible items from Amazon, or Amazon Instant Video, the online streaming service for £5.99/mth, then Lovefilm by Post costs £6.99/mth).
If you think online DVD rental might be a better option, read our Cheap DVD Rental guide.
3Tart for months of free TV and movies
Many of the bigger online streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and Now TV's movies service, offer free trials for 30 days or a month.
That means if you're quick, you can plough through scores of movies or entire box sets completely free of charge, then cancel your subscription before the direct debit kicks in.
You can even try out the different services one after the other, giving you months of free TV and movies. Just sign up, grab the free trial, then cancel it and move on to the next.
When shouldn't you tart?
Tarting isn't for the forgetful, undisciplined or inattentive. If that's you, just choose the provider who offers the deal that suits you best. Bad tarts could end up with multiple direct debits dripping out for unused rental, or start paying for a service which isn't best for them.
Can I do it more than once?
Bear in mind many sites only allow you one free trial. It's fine to try out all of the different options, but if you want to sign up for a service you've already tried, check the T&Cs: many say you can't sign up again.
4Only pay for what you want to watch
If you are going to pay for a service, make sure you choose the one that best suits what you want to watch.
Consider how often you're planning to use it, whether you want the latest releases or a library of older films and TV shows, and of course how much you're willing to pay.
If you're not that fussed about watching the latest blockbusters and just want more choice of what to watch on TV, you may find that several basic sites which are entirely free offer more than enough. Equally, if you want the new releases but only watch once a month, pay-per-view might be your best bet.
If there's a specific TV series you're after, it's worth checking out our pick of 20 top box sets - must-watch shows such as Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey are often included in free trials, but some are only available on certain services.
What if I already have Sky?
If you've got Sky TV* and the Sky Movies package (£16 on top of the basic Sky subscription), you'll probably have more than enough films to watch. Also, if you've a Sky+HD box with Sky On Demand, you can break away from the TV schedule and watch whenever you want, while Sky Go allows you to stream Sky TV to your laptop or other device.
If you want an even wider choice, the Sky Store has more than 1,200 movies to rent with prices ranging from 99p to £5.49(HD).
There's also a range of TV boxsets on offer if you've got the Sky 'family bundle' for £22.25/mth including; Prison Break, Mad Men, 24, Hannibal and The Following.
What if I'm a Virgin customer?
If you're a Virgin TV customer on the M+, L or XL package, you'll have access to TV On Demand, a service offering access to a number of TV series and box sets. Some packages also include the Sky Movies Collection, with around 500 Sky movies on demand.
Virgin Movies also offers a pay-per-view service, with over 500 titles available from £3.99. There's also Virgin TV Anywhere, which works like Sky Go and lets you watch TV on other devices.
The Virgin on demand also has a number of TV boxsets to watch including; The Killing, Planet Earth, The Office and Doctor Who.
Before you start, a word of warning: ensure your broadband is fast enough and you've a generous download limit. Otherwise you'll risk being hit with added costs and constant buffering. As a general rule:
You need a high (or unlimited) download limit, or you could be slapped with gargantuan charges
For example, if you're going to watch four 90-minute films a month in standard definition, you'll need a download allowance of at least 6GB. If that still isn't enough, it's worth considering a package with totally unlimited downloads. See our Cheap Broadband guide for the best unlimited broadband deals.
Some broadband providers can charge up to £2/GB if you exceed your limit. Viewing just one 90min film will use around 1.5GB (more for HD films), so this could cost £4 in fines if you've exceeded your limit.
How does my broadband data allowance work?
Your broadband download allowance is a limit on the amount of data that can be transferred over your broadband connection.
Any internet use counts towards your total usage, whether you're actually downloading something or not. Even casual surfing or Facebook-ing will use up some of your allowance.
So, although you're not actually downloading a film when you stream, it will still use a large chunk of data. As a general rule:
A standard definition (SD) film of about 90 minutes will use about 1.5GB of data
A high-definition (HD) film of about 90 minutes will use about 3.5GB of data
It's important you keep tabs on how much you're using, as unless you have a totally unlimited broadband package, you may be hit with gargantuan charges for going over your limit.
Likewise, if you're routinely watching Netflix or Amazon Instant Video using a 3G mobile connection rather than wi-fi - for instance on your iPhone - you run the risk of exceeding your mobile provider's data allowance.
Why does my film keep stopping and starting (buffering)?
When streaming a movie, the data is sent to you bit by bit. As each bit arrives, it is processed by your PC (or other device).
The provider will try to send the data to your device as smoothly as possible, but if your broadband connection isn't fast enough to process it, the film will keep pausing while the connection waits for the next bit of data to be sent. This is known as 'buffering'.
Most services recommend a connection speed of around 2MB to prevent buffering (check your speed with a Broadband Speed Test). If you find your broadband can't handle streaming a film, there are a few things you can do to help speed up your connection:
If you pause the film, it will continue to be streamed. This will queue up more of the film, so when you hit play, it should run more smoothly.
Try switching from HD to standard definition (or 'normal resolution'). Streaming in HD requires more bandwidth so will slow down the connection, causing buffering.
Turn off any other applications that may be using bandwidth. Some applications, such as Skype or iTunes, are often running in the background and eat up vital bandwidth that you could be using to stream your film!
Also, if you (or someone else in your house) are downloading anything else, playing games etc, this will slow your connection speed and cause the film to buffer.
If you're watching on a computer that's using a wireless signal, connecting it straight to your router with an ethernet cable could make a big difference.
Because wireless signals travel through the air, they can weaken when they have to go through walls and furniture. So, if you're watching a film upstairs but your router is downstairs, the signal could be intermittent, causing the film to buffer.
It may also be worth talking to your internet provider to see if your connection speed is being reduced at all. Your provider can reduce your connection for streaming at certain times of the day or on certain days of the week.
If your broadband is still too slow to stream a film without it buffering, consider switching to another provider with a faster service. Full info in Cheap Broadband.
Traditionally, streaming is done on a PC or laptop via the web, but it's possible to watch on your normal TV as well, or even using your games console, smartphone or tablet.
Smart TVs - televisions which are web-enabled - allow you to stream movies and TV directly without having to connect your computer. If your TV isn't smart, you can still hook it up to your computer. It isn't too techy either...
Watching online movies on your smart TV
Many smart TVs, sets that are web-enabled and use apps like smartphones and tablets, allow you to stream movies without having to connect your computer to another device. Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and other sites have apps allowing you to access their content quickly and easily.
Some smart TVs can also connect to your wireless hub, allowing you to share content on your laptop, tablet and smartphone directly with your TV set. Check with the manufacturer of the TV or with the streaming site itself for compatability.
Connecting your laptop/PC to your TV
If you don't have a smart TV, there are two ways you can connect your laptop or PC to your TV.
If you don't want to turn your living room into spaghetti junction there are a number of ways you can watch online movies on your TV - whatever model you have.
TV streaming devices such as Roku, Apple TV, and Now TV connect to your set and your wireless broadband allowing you to stream movies and other content direct to your telly. Prices for the devices vary, with Now TV starting at £9.99 and Roku costing from £49.99.
Streaming via cables
If you don't want to shell out for a streaming device you can connect your PC or laptop to your TV the old fashioned way - using cables. We've created a little tool to help you find the right connections.
Before you do anything, make sure you have:
A compatible internet browser. When you sign up to an online streaming service, check what it needs you to have. Most won't play unless you're using a compatible browser.
For example, Amazon Instant Video suggests installing the latest version of either Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome or Apple Safari. You may also have to install the latest version of Microsoft Silverlight Player.
A new-ish PC/laptop. You should be running either Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, or, if you've a Mac, OS 10.3+. Almost all recent laptops and PCs come with one of these, so it shouldn't be a problem.
Now, find the right cable(s) for your connection:
First of all, you need to check what sort of connection you have on your laptop/PC:
If your TV and/or laptop have different connections to those shown above, ask for help on the Online Movie Streaming forum discussion, or in-store. It's likely cables will be cheaper online than in-store though, so don't be pressured into buying anything there and then. Use the MegaShopBot to compare prices.
Once you're set up with the right cables, you'll be ready to watch. Click the AV button on your remote (or 'input', as it's sometimes known), until you find the picture that's showing on your PC.
Watching via a games console
All the newest games consoles are capable of streaming TV and films when connected to the internet (either over wi-fi or via an ethernet cable straight from your router).
The streaming services available to you will depend on your console:
Which service can I use on my console?
|Streaming service||PS3||Xbox 360||Wii/Wii U||PS4||Xbox One|
|Amazon Instant Video|
It's important to note though that you may have to pay an extra subscription to access these services. For example, if you've an Xbox 360, you'll need the Xbox Live Gold membership, which costs £3.33/month, to use online Xbox services including gaming and streaming.
Combining this extra cost with a subscription service such as Now TV will mean your overall cost is higher. So watching via your console may not necessarily be the best route for you, unless you're already paying for these subscriptions for your online gaming.
If you've got unlimited broadband, forget box sets. Most of the big series are available online, and if you can watch them quickly, they could be free. Even if you pay the monthly charge, it'll almost certainly be cheaper than the box set.
Netflix offers a one-month free trial and Amazon Instant Video (which used to be Lovefilm) gives you 30 days free, as does Now TV with its movie-only package.
Now TV's entertainment package, which covers box sets, doesn't offer a trial and costs £4.99/month straight away.
After that, it's all about how much you're willing to watch. If you're happy to put the laundry to one side, let the dishes pile up and keep personal hygiene to a minimum, the savings could be huge. Even if you have a more socially acceptable box set habit - say, two hours a day - you should still be able to watch an entire series for free.
Here we've picked our top 20 box sets, based on awards nominations, bestsellers and some of our personal favourites. You can see how much you'd fork out to buy the DVD or Blu-ray, the cheapest place to watch it online and how long it'll take to get through.
Table last updated: Tuesday 29 July 2014 Please note prices and availability change frequently.
Our top 20 box sets
Award-nominated plus our top picks
|Tv show||Cheapest DVD/Blu-ray (a)||Cheapest retailer
|Cheapest way to stream||Cost of streaming||No of hours|
|£50*/£62*||Amazon/Amazon||Netflix||1 mth free then £5.99/mth||49|
|2.||Game of Thrones 1-3||£37*/£55*||Play.com/
|Now TV (ent)||£4.99/mth||26|
|£20*/£29*||Amazon/Zavvi.com||Netflix||1 mth free then £5.99/mth||20|
|4.||Downton Abbey 1-2 (a)||£18*/£22*||Play.com/Base.com||Amazon||30 days free then £5.99/mth||16|
|5.||House of Cards series 1 (b)||£11*/£13*||Base.com/Amazon||Netflix||1 mth free then £5.99/mth||20|
|£20*/£35*||Amazon/Zavvi.com||Netflix||1 mth free then £5.99/mth||39|
|£11*/ £27*||Zavvi.com/TheHut.com (Amazon)||Now TV (ent)||£4.99/mth||9|
|£15*/£19*||Play.com/Base.com||Netflix||1 mth free then £5.99/mth||13|
|9.||Call the Midwife
|£5*/NA||Tesco.com||Netflix||1 mth free then £5.99/mth||15|
|£35*/NA||Zavvi.com/NA||Netflix||1 mth free then £5.99/mth||89|
|£34*/£55*||Amazon/Amazon||Now TV (ent)||£4.99/mth )||34|
|12.||The Walking Dead 1-3||£24*/£30*||Amazon/Amazon||Now TV (ent)||£4.99/mth||15|
|13.||The Vampire Diaries 1-4 (e)||£32*/£36*||GamesSeek.co.uk/
|Netflix||1 mth free then £5.99/mth||60|
|£58*/£77*||Amazon/Iwoot||Now TV (ent)||£4.99/mth||59|
|15.||Modern Family 1-2 (f)||£15*/£14*||Play.com/TheHut.com||Netflix||1 mth free then £5.99/mth||33|
|£35*/NA||Amazon/NA||Netflix||1 mth free then £5.99/mth||44|
|£9*/NA||BBC/NA||Netflix||1 mth free then £5.99/mth||10|
|£14*/NA||Base.com/NA||Netflix||1 mth free then £5.99/mth||7|
|19.||Arrested Development 1-2||£35*/NA||Moviemail.com/NA||Netflix||1 mth free then £5.99/mth||27|
|£15*/NA||Amazon/NA||Amazon||30 days free then £5.99/mth||25|
|(a) Series 3-4 not online (b) Series 2 not available on DVD (c) Price of the combined box set, cheapest using Megashopbot.com, P&P included (d) Series 3 not online, price of 1 & 2 separately (e) Series 5 not online (f) Series 3-4 not online (g) Series 3 not online (h) Series 4-7 not online (DVD cost incl series 4)|
Remember, though, not everything can be streamed. For example the Danish TV drama Borgen and long-running American sitcom How I Met Your Mother aren't on any of the main sites - so check what's available before you sign up.
You can get free trials for a month or 30 days with several of the major subscription sites, including Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and Now TV's movies channel. But remember to cancel, or you'll start to pay.
If you're looking for a long-term free option and aren't too bothered about watching the latest releases, then there are a couple of well-known free online streaming sites. (These often screen older movies and TV shows though, and definitely not the latest Hollywood blockbusters).
If you're one of the 16 million people in the UK with a Tesco Clubcard, you'll get free unlimited access to new service Clubcard TV. It has a host of films and TV shows for all the family. Or simply register for a free Tesco Clubcard. Click for full info
Powered by its parent company Blinkbox, Clubcard TV offers hundreds of films and TV programmes which can be streamed instantly.
The service is completely free, but you'll have to watch ads in between each film and TV programme. Tesco says the ads will be personalised though, as they are tailored to what you buy when you use your Clubcard to shop.
For now, the service is only available on PCs/laptops and Android tablets. But there are plans to add it to more devices, including games consoles, tablets, TVs, Blu-ray players and set-top boxes.
Like a few of the other online streaming services, you'll need to download Silverlight Video Player to use the service.
How many films: 500+ films and 160+ programmes What to watch: The Shawshank Redemption, The Only Way Is Essex, Doc Martin, Man v. Food, Hell's Kitchen USA
Though it doesn't boast any Hollywood blockbusters, Viewster has a host of free films and TV shows, spanning action, thriller, war, horror, comedy, Bollywood and world cinema, including films from Turkey and Russia. Click for full info
No registration is needed to watch the free movies. You'll be subjected to around five minutes of adverts per 2hr film though.
Viewster says it updates its service with new titles "all the time".
How many films: 12,000 films and TV programmes What to watch: Laurel & Hardy, Superman, The Wanted, Ultimate Force (series 1)
Any suggestions? Share them in the Online Movie Streaming forum discussion
The streaming service that's right for you will depend on a number of things, such as how you're planning to watch, whether you want the latest releases or a library of older films, and of course how much you want to pay. Here's a quick comparison table to help you decide:
Online streaming services compared
|Netflix||Amazon Instant Video||Now TV (movies)||Blinkbox|
|Package price?||£5.99/month unlimited||£5.99/month unlimited||£8.99/mth unlimited||Pay-per-view, films from 99p|
|HD titles available?||Yes, most titles in HD||Yes, most titles in HD||Yes||Yes|
|How many titles available?||2,000+||1,000+||1,000+||10,000+|
|Can I watch new movie releases?||No||No||Yes, up to 4 new movies added every Friday||£3.49 pay-per-view per film, or £4.49 in HD|
|Which games consoles can I watch on?||Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, PS3||Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4||Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4||Xbox 360, PS3|
Below is a bit more information about each of the services, including what you can watch on each, how much it'll cost you, plus any current deals for signing up. Don't forget, you may be able to get cashback on top.
Amazon Instant Video (used to be Lovefilm) - Unlimited movies and some big box sets for £5.99/mthfree 30-day trial, then £5.99/MTH for unlimited films & TV
In February Amazon got rid of Lovefilm and created Amazon Instant Video*. It still has thousands of films and TV shows for you to stream instantly to your device.
It costs £5.99 a month, although only content labelled ‘Prime’ is included. For everything else, you’ll need to rent out the episode (£2.49) or series (£24.99) seperately.
If you'd like to rent physical DVDs as well, you can do this through Lovefilm by Post - see Cheap DVD Rental for more info. There are also combined DVD rental and streaming packages, eg £6.99/month for streaming and unlimited DVDs (one at home at a time).
- How much? Unlimited streaming from £5.99/mth
- New releases? Not at the moment
- How many? Thousands of titles incl Dexter & Twilight, some HD
- Min broadband speed required? 2Mb
- How can I watch? Laptop/PC, smart (internet-connected) TVs, Xbox 360, XBox One, PS3, PS4, Wii, Wii U, Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD, iPad, or on your TV (connect device to TV).
Free 30-day trial: New customers who sign up online can get a free 30-day trial of Amazon Instant Video. Just cancel over the phone before the 30 days is up if you don't want to continue - otherwise you'll be charged £5.99/month. This offer is ongoing.
The offer involves setting up a recurring payment, where you agree to let money be taken regularly from your credit/debit card. This isn't as easy to cancel as a direct debit if the company plays games. It hopefully won't be an issue in this case, but do double-check your bank statement
How good is it? The selection of films included in the package is only a fraction of what you can get via the postal service.
A taste of what's on offer: Included in the £5.99 package: The Impossible, Top Gear, The Bling Ring, Toy Story 3, Dexter, The West Wing, The Walking Dead and Vikings.
Feedback: Discuss Amazon Instant Video
Netflix - Unlimited HD films, but smaller selectionUnlimited movies & BOX SETS, 1-month free trial then £5.99/mth
Already hugely popular in the US, online film site Netflix* launched in the UK in 2012. For £5.99/month, you can access around 2,000 films and TV shows instantly.
- How much? Unlimited streaming for £5.99/month
- New releases? No
- How many? Thousands incl Breaking Bad & Hunger Games, some HD
- Min broadband speed required? 0.5Mb
- How can I watch? Laptop/PC, smart (internet-connected) TV, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, PS3, Android/Windows/Apple tablets or smartphones, or on your TV (connect device to TV)
How much: You pay a flat fee of £5.99/month to watch as many films and TV shows as you like. However, Netflix currently only features around 2,000 films and TV shows, compared to the new Amazon Instant Video (which has "thousands").
In May Netflix introduced three different payment options: £5.99/mth now only gets you the basic package which allows you to watch Netflix on one device. The middle package (previously £5.99/mth) is now £6.99/mth and allows you to watch on two devices at the same time. The third is £8.99/mth and covers four devices.
Free one-month trial: New customers who sign up online can get a free 30-day trial of Netflix. Just cancel online before the 30 days is up if you don't want to continue - otherwise you'll be charged £5.99/month. This offer is scheduled as ongoing.
The offer involves setting up a recurring payment, where you agree to let money be taken regularly from your credit/debit card. This isn't as easy to cancel as a direct debit if the company plays games. It hopefully won't be an issue in this case, but do double-check your bank statement (see Regular Payments for a full guide).
How good is Netflix? The selection of films on Netflix is quite limited at the moment, but its back catalogue of TV shows is impressive.
Netflix works on some Apple and Android mobile devices too, so if you're using wi-fi, you can watch what you want while on-the-go. Be warned though, if using 3G this could eat heavily into your download limit - check with your mobile provider first if you're unsure.
A taste of what's on offer: The Office, Alan Partridge, That Mitchell & Webb Look, The Hunger Games, The Cabin In The Woods, Breaking Bad.
Feedback: Discuss Netflix
Now TV - Watch Sky Movies and TV without having SkyFree trial, THEN £8.99/Mth FOR MOVIES - £4.99/MTH
In 2012, satellite TV giant Sky launched Now TV* . It's effectively two separate services. One is a movie streaming service which provides access to hundreds of films from Sky Movies on demand, available to watch instantly without a Sky subscription. The other's the entertainment package which offers 10 live channels and access to box set series like 24 and Modern Family.
Now TV also offers a TV streaming box which connects to your set and your wireless broadband allowing you to stream directly to your TV. The Now TV box* costs £10.
Now TV also offers pay-per-view Sky Sports - full info in Cheapest Football On TV.
- How much? Unlimited movie streaming 30-day free trial then £8.99/mth. Or for TV shows it's £4.99/mth for the 'entertainment pass' with no free trial.
- What's included? Around 800 films in the movies package. The entertainment package includes 10 live channels such as Sky Atlantic and Comedy Central, plus box sets like 24 and Modern Family.
- New releases? Yes, included in the movies package
- Min broadband speed required? 2.5Mb
- How can I watch? Laptop/PC, selected Android phones, iPhones, iPads, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, YouView boxes, Roku boxes, Now TV box.
The movie-streaming service has 800+ films to choose from - a decent chunk of which were in cinemas recently. Currently it includes The Dictator, Brave, Cassadaga and more, with 20 new premieres a month. For lovers of newer films, it's by far the most impressive of all the streaming services, so it's no surprise the long-term cost is more.
The entertainment package includes 10 live channels, from Sky Atlantic to Comedy Central, plus the ability to catch-up missed episodes and whole series from the beginning, including 24 and Modern Family.
How much? The movie-streaming service offers a 30-day free trial, then costs £8.99/month. You'll get unlimited streaming from a choice of over 800 films, many of which are new releases and aren't available on Amazon Instant Video or Netflix yet.
The entertainment package costs £4.99/month with no free trial.
Feedback: Discuss Now TV
There are several sites where you can pay to stream online movies or TV shows legally, some also let you download them to keep and watch again. These include: Blinkbox*, iTunes, Google Play, Film4oD and YouTube.
These sites are much of a muchness pricewise. For example, a big release like The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is £3.49 on Blinkbox, YouTube and Google Play. So if you're after a specific flick, quickly check 'em all. Here's the lowdown on the sites we checked out.
Blinkbox - For renting or buying recent releasesPay-per-view TV & movies from 99p + get £5 free account credit
A good option for light movie watchers, Tesco-owned streaming site Blinkbox* has no monthly contract. Just pay for programmes as you watch them. You can also buy titles too, as you can with iTunes. Blinkbox also powers the recently launched Clubcard TV.
- How much? On a pay-per-view basis, prices start from 99p
- New releases? Yes, typically £3.49 per film
- How many? Over 10,000 titles
- Min broadband speed required? 2.25Mb
- How can I watch? Laptop/PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, iPad, Android tablet or on your TV (connect device to TV)
How much: All content on Blinkbox is pay-per-view, and most recent releases cost £3.49. Older movies start from a competitive 99p.
How good: If you only want to watch the occasional film online, Blinkbox is competitive for pay-as-you-go films. However, if you want to watch more than one specific film a month, especially new releases, a streaming or Cheap DVD Rental subscription is probably more MoneySaving.
Unlike the other services mentioned above, Blinkbox also gives you the option to download the film to your PC so you can watch it offline later. You'll need to download the Blinkbox download manager if you want to do this.
Once the movie's finished downloading, you can watch it in Windows Media Player. You will be asked to enter your Blinkbox login details before you view the movie/TV episode.
A taste of what's on offer: Robocop (£3.49), The Monuments Men (£3.49), The Wolf of Wall Street (£3.49), Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (£3.49), Blue Jasmine (£9.99), 21 Jump Street (£2.49), Game Of Thrones (to buy, £1.89 per episode). .
Feedback: Discuss Blinkbox
iTunes Pay-per-view TV and movies from 99p
ITunes offers a massive range of 45,000 films, but you'll need to download its software and set up an account to stream films. There's no charge for this. Big releases like After Earth, Insidious and Much Ado About Nothing are available for £3.49-£4.49.
Films are available in HD and no minimum broadband speed is required.
- How much? £3-£5 to rent major new releases
- New releases? Yes
- Min broadband speed required? No
- What's available? 45,000 movies and 190,000 TV episodes
- How can I watch? Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad and iPod touch or on your HD TV using Apple TV
Sky Store - watch movies or TV shows from Sky on a pay-per-view basisWatch films from Sky Movies from 99p to £3.49
In December 2013, Sky opened up its Sky Store to movie lovers who don't subscribe to its services. You can rent releases as they become available on Sky for £3.49, while older movies start at 99p. HD movies are available for Sky+ HD TV customers with a set-top box and cost £4.49 for the latest flicks - they're not available to those watching on their laptop or PC.
- How much? £4.49 for the latest films, older and classic films from 99p
- New releases? Yes, included
- How many? 1,200 movies
- Min broadband speed required? 2.5Mb
- How can I watch? Laptop/PC, Now TV box, Roku and YouView
There are currently 1,200 movies to choose from, including recent Hollywood blockbusters. Sky Store users have a similar choice to Now TV subscribers, but can use the service on a pay-per-view basis.
How good is Sky Store? With only 1,200 movies, it's a far smaller choice than iTunes and Blinkbox offer, but it does include the latest movies available to Sky subscribers. Once you press play, the movies are available for 48 hours.
Like Blinkbox, if you want to watch more than one specific film a month, especially new releases, a streaming or Cheap DVD Rental subscription could be more MoneySaving.
A taste of what's on offer: The Godfather (£2.99), Forrest Gump (£2.99)
It's often possible to grab extra cashback on top when you sign up for an online streaming package. Yet to get it you need to sign up via a specialist cashback website rather than via the streaming service directly - this means you may not get the same incentives (vouchers, free trials etc) though.
Cashback websites use affiliate links to generate revenue, so if they get paid when you sign up, you'll get paid too. Unfortunately this cash is never guaranteed, as sometimes cashback sites don't "track" deals in progress. Therefore it's generally best to pick the right streaming service first, and view any cashback as an added extra.
To find out more about how these sites can pay you, and how you can make the most of them, read the full Cashback Sites guide.