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Watch Movies & TV Online

Free streaming incl Netflix & Amazon

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Rebecca and Nick | Edited by Steve N

Updated 23 Jun 2016

You can watch movies and TV for free via online streaming sites, totally legally. The big sites usually offer free trials, so you can enjoy unlimited viewing of likes of Broadchurch and Breaking Bad for nowt – just make sure you remember to cancel.

If you don't mind paying for longer, you can then subscribe from £6 a month, and watch 100s of movies and TV box sets for less than the price of a bag of cinema popcorn and fizzy drink. This guide will take you through the big providers and how to watch the top TV box sets and movies (legally) for free.

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 films and TV shows 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 six key need-to-knows - or if you're ready to get started, jump straight to our our list of the top streaming services.

What 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.

This gives you 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 without a reliable internet connection and a hefty broadband data allowance.

Quick questions:

Is online streaming safe and legit?

How good is streaming quality?

What's the difference between streaming and downloading?

Watching online vs renting by post

Streaming movies or TV shows online is much quicker and more convenient than renting DVDs by post and it will typically work out cheaper too. However, it's always worth checking what's on offer before you sign up.

There are far fewer online DVD rental options than there used to be, but Cinema Paradiso and Lovefilm by Post* offer a huge choice of films, particularly new releases, and won't eat into your broadband limits - see full info in our Cheap DVD Rental guide.

Tart 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 up to 30 days or a month.

That means if you're quick, you can plough through scores of movies or entire TV 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. Do make sure you remember to cancel in time though to avoid paying.

Quick questions:

When shouldn't you tart?

Can I do it more than once?

Only 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 how much you're happy 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 a basic free site offers 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 you're already a Sky TV or Virgin Media TV customer, you're likely to have access to some on-demand content as part of your deal. This could include box sets or movies - see below for full info.

Quick questions:

Where can I find the exact show I'm looking for?

Does my digital TV package include any online content?

Never exceed your download limit - or risk hefty fines

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. But depending on your settings, your data usage could differ massively – watching HD Netflix for an hour could eat up 3GB of data, while Ultra HD will rinse 7GB per hour.

If you don't have enough, it's worth considering a package with totally unlimited downloads, as some providers charge £1.50/GB if you exceed your limit. See our Cheap Broadband guide for the best unlimited broadband deals.

How does my broadband data allowance work?

Why does my film keep stopping and starting (buffering)?

How to stream online movies to your telly

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

Connecting your PC to your TV

Watching via a games console

Basic free movie and TV streaming services

You can get free trials for a month or 30 days with several of the major subscription sites. But remember to cancel, or you'll start to pay.

If you're looking for a long-term free option and aren't bothered about the latest releases, then there are some legit free online streaming sites (often screening older movies and shows). The best we've found so far is Viewster.

Viewster

Free movies with ad breaks

Viewster

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.

You don't need to register to watch the free movies but you'll be subjected to around five minutes of adverts per two hour film. Viewster says it updates its service with new titles "all the time".

  • How many films: Over 12,000 films and TV programmes
  • What to watch: Laurel & Hardy, Superman, Looney Toons, Betty Boop

Any suggestions? Share them in the Online Movie Streaming forum discussion

Top subscription streaming services

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
Package price? £5.99/mth for Basic1 £5.99/month unlimited2 £9.99/mth for movies; £6.99/mth for TV; £2.99/mth for kids; £6.99/day or £10.99/wk for sports
HD titles available? No Yes, most titles in HD Yes
How many titles available? 2,500+ 1,000+ 1,000+
Can I watch new movie releases? No No Yes, up to 16 new titles added each month
Which games consoles can I watch on? Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4 Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4 Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4
1 Basic gives unlimited streaming, but not in HD. See below for other plans. 2 Or pay £79/year (£6.58/mth equiv) for Amazon Prime, which gives Instant Video and one-day delivery on eligible items. If you're a student, it's £40/year.

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.

Amazon Instant Video

Free 30-day trial, then £5.99/mth for unlimited films & TV

Amazon Instant Video* - Unlimited movies and some big box sets for £5.99/mth

Previously known as Lovefilm, Amazon Instant Video* has thousands of films and TV shows for you to stream instantly to your device but the selection of films included in the package is only a fraction of what you can get via the postal service.

It includes movies such as 99 Homes, The Imitation Game and Shaun the Sheep, plus TV shows such as Dexter, The West Wing, Top Gear, The Walking Dead and Vikings. However it doesn't include new releases.

How much? It costs £5.99 a month, though only content labelled ‘Prime’ is included. For everything else, you’ll need to rent out the episode (from £2.49) or series (from £6.99) separately. Alternatively, pay £79/year (£6.58/mth equiv) for Amazon Prime (£40/yr for students), which gives Instant Video plus one-day delivery on eligible items.

If you'd like to rent DVDs as well, you can do this through Lovefilm by Post - see Cheap DVD Rental for more info. If you're an Amazon Prime member you can receive four discs a month for £7.99/mth.

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, Roku boxes, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast.

Min broadband speed required? 2Mbps

Free 30-day trial:

Netflix

Unlimited movies & box sets, 1-month free trial then £5.99/mth

Netflix* - Unlimited HD films, but smaller selection

Already hugely popular in the US, online film site Netflix* launched in the UK in 2012. It has over 2,500 movies and TV shows available to watch instantly, with minimum subscriptions starting at £5.99 for unlimited viewing on one device.

The selection of films on Netflix is relatively limited compared to other services, but its back catalogue of TV shows is impressive. It includes shows such as Extras, Bates Motel, Episodes, and Breaking Bad.

How much: There are three different payment options: "Basic" (£5.99/mth) gets you the basic package which allows you to watch Netflix on one device, but not in HD. "Standard" (£7.49/mth) does give HD streaming, and also allows you to watch on two devices at the same time. "Premium" (£8.99/mth) allows ultra-HD streaming 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.

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 can I watch? Laptop/PC, smart (internet-connected) TV, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, Android/Windows/Apple tablets or smartphones, Chromecast, Roku boxes, YouView.

Min broadband speed required? 0.5Mbps

Feedback: Discuss Netflix

Sky Sports, Entertainment and Movies packages

Now TV* – Watch Sky TV without having Sky

In 2012, satellite TV giant Sky launched Now TV*. It's effectively three separate services, covering movies, TV and sports – you don't need a Sky TV subscription to watch any of them. You get a 14-day free trial with the Cinema, Kids and Entertainment passes, you'll then be charged full price unless you cancel.

The Sports Pass* allows customers temporary access to all Sky Sports channels. You have three options to choose from: the Day Pass which costs £6.99 for 24 hours, the Week Pass which is £10.99 for seven days or the Month Pass costing £31.99/mth for the first month although it'll renew automatically at £33.99/mth at the end of each month.

If you claim on Thursday 14 July you can get a free Sky Sports Day Pass, valid for use any day within a year see how you can get this offer.

If you watch sports regularly enough, it may be worth signing up to a digital TV sports subscription instead – full info in Cheapest Football On TV.

For lovers of new films, the Cinema Pass* is one of the most impressive film streaming options, with more than 1,000 films to choose from – so it's no surprise it costs a hefty £9.99/mth (and that's without TV). Currently it includes Straight Outta Compton, American Ultra, Trainwreck and more, with 16 new premieres a month.

The Entertainment Pass* costs £6.99/mth and includes 11 live channels not available on Freeview, including Sky Atlantic and Comedy Central, plus access to 250+ box sets, such as Billions and Sex and the City.

The Kids Pass* costs £2.99/mth and includes six live channels four of which aren't available on Freeview, including Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network.

How much is it? Following any promotional period it'll be £9.99/mth for movies, £6.99/mth for entertainment and £2.99 for kids. Now TV also offers the standard box for £14.99 and the Smart Box which lets you pause and rewind live TV, it costs £39.99 or 'free' with the Now TV combo. Both boxes connect to your set and your wireless broadband allowing you to stream directly to your TV.

How can I watch? Laptop/PC, selected Android phones, iPhones, iPads, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, YouView boxes, Roku boxes, Now TV box, Chromecast.

Min broadband speed required? 2.5Mpbs

The recently-launched Now TV combo gives you the flexibilitly of a monthly rolling broadband, line rental and the above TV streaming passes which you can scale up or down every month. There's an unavoidable £40 setup fee for standard unlimited broadband (£50 for fibre) but you'll be sent a Now TV router and a Now TV Smart box.

Packages start at £9.99/mth for 17Mbps broadband and the Entertainment pass but you'll have to pay £17.99/mth line rental on top of this. If you're after a longer term contract, going with another broadband provider and buying a Now TV pass may mean greater savings. See our cheap broadband guide for our top picks.

Top services to buy or rent new releases

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: TalkTalk TV (formerly Blinkbox), iTunes, Google Play, and YouTube.

These sites are much of a muchness pricewise. For example, a big release like Deadpool is around £3.50 on TalkTalk TV, Google Play and YouTube. If you're after a specific flick, quickly check 'em all. Here's the lowdown on the sites we checked out.

TalkTalkTV

Pay-per-view TV & movies from 99p

TalkTalk TV - for renting or buying recent releases

It claims to have more of the latest movies and TV shows than competitors, TalkTalk TV was called Blinkbox until it was acquired from Tesco - There's no monthly contract and gives access to over 7,000 titles. However, if you plan to watch more than one specific film a month, especially new releases, a streaming or Cheap DVD Rental subscription is probably more MoneySaving.

You can either buy titles and watch them whenever you want for an unlimited period of time, or rent them and watch within 30 days (once you start playing the video, you'll have 48 hours to watch it before losing access). Newer films are usually available to both rent and buy, while some older ones and most TV series you may only be able to buy. Unfortunately you can't filter out buy-only TV titles if you're just looking to rent.

Highlights of movies available for renting include London Has Fallen (£3.45), Kung Fu Panda 3 (£3.45) and How To Be Single (£3.45). With films, it typically costs £1 more to get the title in HD; with TV shows it varies. Shows to buy include Game of Thrones: Series 6 (£16.99/£22.99 HD) and The Big Bang Theory: Series 9 (£24.99/£34.99 HD).

How can I watch? PCs (running Windows 8.1 at least), Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, iPad or Android tablet, Chromecast. Unlike the other services mentioned above, TalkTalk TV also gives you the option to download the film to your tablet, smartphone or PC (not Mac) so you can watch it offline later. There are iOS, Android and Windows Phone apps for your device, you can also watch on 2 seperate devices.

Min broadband speed required? 2Mb

Running Windows 7 or older? You won't be able to download films to your PC if it's on Windows 7, Vista, XP or below. You'll lose any content downloaded before this change was made– your films just won't play and TalkTalk TV say you can't get a refund. If your computer has Windows 8.1 installed, you can still download films but you need to do so using the TalkTalk TV app.
itunes-logo

Stream films on your iPhone or iPod from 99p

iTunes

iTunes offers a massive range of over 85,000 films and 190,000 TV episodes, but you'll need to download its software and set up an account to stream films. There's no charge for this. Most big releases like Trumbo, Dad's Army and Joy are priced at £4.49. Some titles are priced at 99p but these tend not to be the latest releases.

Films are generally all in HD and no minimum broadband speed is required.

How much? 99p-£4.99

How can I watch? Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad and iPod touch or on your HD TV using Apple TV.

Min broadband speed required? No - you just need the latest version of iTunes.

Sky

Watch films from Sky Store on pay-per-view

Sky Store* - movies from Sky from 99p to £4.49

In December 2013, Sky opened up its Sky Store to movie lovers who don't subscribe to its services. With only 1,200 movies, it's a far smaller choice than iTunes and TalkTalk TV offer, but it does include the latest movies available to Sky subscribers. Once you press play, the movies are available for 48 hours. But 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.

Included are recent Hollywood blockbusters such as Room (£4.49) and The Revenant (£4.49), plus classics such as Annie Hall(£2.99) and Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (99p). Sky Store users have a similar choice to Now TV subscribers, but can use the service on a pay-per-view basis.

You can rent releases online as they become available on Sky for £4.49, 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 can I watch? PC/Mac, Now TV box, Sky box, Roku boxes, YouView.

Min broadband speed required? 2.5Mbps

wuaki

Pay-per-view TV and movies from 99p

Wuaki.tv - £1 movie rentals for EE customers

Wuaki.tv is a subsidiary of Rakuten (which owns Play.com, among other companies), and although not as big of a player as iTunes or Sky in the online streaming world, its presence in the UK grew substantially last year and it now has over three million users.

EE has replaced its 'Orange Wednesdays' cinema tickets offer (which has already ended) with £1 movie streaming via Wuaki.tv. This means all EE, Orange and T-Mobile mobile and broadband customers can watch one film in standard or high definition for £1 every week via the service.

To get the offer, text 'film' to 141 (texts cost 35p) during the week you want to watch your film to receive a promotional code via text. This can then be redeemed Monday to Wednesday for a payment of £1, and will allow you to watch it anytime within 48 hours of redeeming. For full info see the EE reveals online streaming offer MSE News story.

If you're planning on streaming a film anyway, the EE offer is pretty good as otherwise renting movies costs between 99p and £8.99 (HD typically costs £1 on top), with new releases at the top end of that scale. It's got all the major releases past and present you'd expect to see, including Zoolander No.2 (£3.45), Allegiant (£3.45) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (£1.49).

Wuaki now also includes some of the most popular TV to buy including shows from HBO and the BBC. Amongst the titles are Fargo Season 2 (£14.99/£18.99 HD) and The Knick Season 2 (£16.99/£22.99 HD)

How can I watch? PC/Mac, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Smart TV, iPhone, Android tablets and Chromecast.

Min broadband speed required? 3Mbps (5Mbps for HD)

Already paying for a TV package? See if you can get box sets on demand

If you already pay for a TV package, then rather than signing up for online streaming, you may be able to watch box sets on demand through your set-top box. Here's a summary of what each of the top providers offer:

BT: Add Netflix to your package

BT

BT TV at its basic level is essentially Freeview with catch-up – it doesn't come with a specific on-demand service. However, you can add Netflix to your BT package. Normally this costs the usual Netflix price – £5.99/mth for access on one device, £7.49/mth for access on two or £8.99/mth for access on four devices.

Sky: Access over 300 box sets with most packages

Sky

If you've got Sky's Family, Cinema, Sports or Complete package (NOT the Original or Variety package), you'll have access to Sky On Demand* (you'll need a broadband connection, check how to set it up), offering over 300 box sets through your set-top box, including The Affair, Modern Family and Catfish. If you're a Sky Movies subscriber, you'll also have access to Sky Movies On Demand, with more than 1,000 titles available to watch when you want.

What's more, you're not restricted to accessing the on-demand services through your TV. Sky Go allows you to watch them via a free app on a smartphone, tablet or laptop anywhere in the UK or Ireland, providing you've a working internet connection. Just download the app and log in using your Sky account details.

If you want an even wider choice, the Sky Store has more than 1,200 movies to rent though this content isn't included – prices range from 99p to £4.49 (HD).

TalkTalk: Boost your package with TV Boost

TalkTalk

Existing TalkTalk TV customers can upgrade their package with a TVBoxBoost*. This means you can watch hit US series like 30 Rock and Heroes, It usually costs £5/mth, but occasionally they run promotions so keep an eye out if you're already a customer.

Essentials TV offer

Given the selection of shows on offer though, for that price you may be better off getting a subscription to one of the paid streaming services above. TalkTalk customers can access Netflix via their TalkTalk YouView box. You'll need to subscribe to Netflix the usual way but remember you can try it for free for the first month. It's then £5.99/mth after that.

Virgin: On-demand box sets

Virgin Media

Existing Virgin Media TV subscribers have access to around 4,000 hours of content on demand through their TV box.

If you have a Virgin TV package which includes Sky channels, you'll also get access to Sky's on-demand content too. However, you may only get access to a portion of Sky On Demand – it depends which Sky channels you have access to. If you have Sky Movies, you'll also get Sky Movies On Demand.

Virgin Movies also offers a pay-per-view service, with more than 500 titles available from 99p. There's also Virgin TV Anywhere, which works like Sky Go and lets you watch TV on other devices.

If you take out one of Virgin's 'Big Easy Bundle'* subscriptions you'll also get a TiVo box through which you can access Netflix for the usual price – £5.99/mth for access on one device, £7.49/mth for access on two or £8.99/mth for access on four devices.

The savings over DVDs can be huge

If you've got unlimited broadband, forget box sets. Watching online is considerably cheaper – if you're tarting and get through them quickly enough, they're entirely free (if you remember to cancel in time).

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. It's then just down to how many hours you're willing to put in before this ends.

Here we've picked our top 10 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.

Our top 10 box sets - award-nominated plus our top picks
TV show Cheapest DVD/Blu-ray Cheapest retailer for
DVD/Blu-ray
Cheapest way to watch Cost of streaming No of hours
1. Breaking Bad
Complete series
£35*/£45* Amazon/Amazon Netflix 1mth free then £5.99/mth 49
2.

Suits 1-3

£14*/£20* Base.com/Base.com
Netflix 1mth free then £5.99/mth 31
3. Homeland 1-3 £20*/£24* Amazon/Amazon Netflix 1mth free then £5.99/mth 30
4. True Detective Series 1 £12*/£16* Amazon/Amazon Now TV Entertainment
£6.99/mth 8
5.

House of Cards 1-3

£14/£46* Zoom.co.uk/Amazon Netflix 1mth free then £5.99/mth 36
6. Dexter
1-8
£35*/NA Amazon/NA Netflix 1mth free then £5.99/mth 89
7. American Horror Story 1-3 £23*/£29* Zaavi.com/Amazon Netflix 1mth free then £5.99/mth 26
8. Sherlock
1-3
£14*/£25* Amazon/Amazon

Netflix

1mth free then £5.99/mth 13
9. The Walking Dead 1-4 £33*/£31* Amazon/Amazon

Amazon Instant Video (series 1-3 only)

30 days free then £5.99/mth 34
10. The Returned Series 1 £7*/£28* Amazon/Amazon Netflix 1mth free then £5.99/mth 7
Table last updated 23 June 2016. Please note prices and availability change frequently.

Remember, though, not everything can be streamed. For example, the Danish TV drama Borgen isn't on any of the main sites - so check what's available before you sign up.

How to complain

If you're not happy about your product or the service you receive, you should contact the company first. However, if you're still not satisfied, then...

Free tool if you’re having a problem

This tool helps you draft your complaint and manage it too. It’s totally free, and offered by a firm called Resolver which we like so much we work with it to help people get complaints justice.

If the complaint isn't resolved, Resolver will escalate for free to the relevant ombudsman or trade body.