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4 July 2022
Watch movies & TV online
Online streaming sites have become a mainstay of modern life, giving access to 1,000s of movies, TV shows and box sets. We take you through the big providers and how to stream as cheaply as you can – ideal as most of us are spending a lot more time at home right now. What's more, many of the big sites, including Amazon Prime Video, offer free trials, so you can enjoy the likes of Free Guy, Last Night in Soho and Sound of Metal for up to 30 days for free.
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 smart TV, 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, so make sure you'll actually watch the content before signing up – many offer free trials so you can try before you buy.
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 about 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 Prime Video 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 it plans 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.
That means if you're quick, you can plough through scores of movies or entire TV box sets 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.
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 and you can sometimes get streaming services added to your package – see below for full info.
Many smart TVs that are web-enabled use apps like smartphones and tablets and allow you to stream movies without having to connect your computer to another device. Netflix, Amazon Prime 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 compatibility.
What about games consoles?
All the newest games consoles are capable of streaming TV and films when connected to the internet (either via Wi-Fi or via an Ethernet cable straight from your router).
The streaming services available to you will depend on your console, but you can watch the biggies such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video on PS4 or Xbox One. However, you can't watch Netflix or Amazon Prime Video on Nintendo Switch, so it's best to check first if you plan on doing this.
If you're using your mobile, ensure you're connected to Wi-Fi or download the shows (via Wi-Fi) first via its app. If you must stream a show with mobile data, make sure your Sim has a generous data limit. Otherwise, you'll risk being hit with added costs.
As a general rule, you need a high (or unlimited) data 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 want the freedom to stream on mobile data, it's worth considering a Sim with totally unlimited data. Use our Cheap Mobile Finder to find the right Sim for you.
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 there are specific shows or films you want to watch, check which services have them, then weigh up what the best – and cheapest – option is for you.
To help you, there's a clever free online tool, JustWatch, which catalogues what shows and films are shown on different streaming services. It includes more than 20 in total – including free ones such as All 4 and BBC iPlayer.
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). You can also watch plenty of free box sets on Channel 4's catch up service All 4, and (if you have a TV licence) BBC iPlayer.
Channel 4's catch-up service has an impressive number of box sets available for free, and you DON'T need a TV licence to watch these online. They range from sitcoms such as Green Wing and The IT Crowd, to popular TV shows such as Derry Girls and Catastrophe.
You'll need to register (for free) to watch the TV shows and you'll watch adverts before and during each one. If you don't want ads, you can pay £3.99/mth for it's All 4+ service which you can cancel anytime.
The BBC's ad-free catch-up service includes films and TV shows which have been shown recently on its channels. Recently broadcast shows are only available online for a limited time (usually around 30 days).
The BBC has loads of new content to stream on iPlayer, as it attempts to keep pace with heavyweight streaming companies. These include classic box sets, such as all six series of popular 'bent copper' drama Line of Duty, plus Wallander, French & Saunders, Waking the Dead and The Missing.
This is all on top of its existing collection of box sets, including Fleabag, Luther and Sherlock.
It's worth noting you DO need a TV licence to use iPlayer. You'll also need to register (for free).
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.
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:
|All 4+||£3.99/mth (no ads)||14-day free trial to watch without ads||100s of box sets|
|Amazon Prime Video*||From £5.99/mth||30-day free trial||Popular films and TV, including Amazon Originals exclusives|
|Apple TV Plus||£4.99/mth||Seven-day free trial||Apple original film and TV series including The Morning Show and Dickinson|
|BBC iPlayer||Free – but you need a TV licence||N/A||TV series and films shown on the BBC, plus some online-only content|
|BritBox||£5.99/mth||Seven-day free trial||Dramas, comedies, films and documentaries from the BBC and ITV|
£4.99/mth or £49.99/yr
With Eurosport & more sports coverage: £6.99/mth or £59.99/yr
|Seven-day free trial||Wide range of reality shows and documentaries|
|Disney+*||£7.99/mth or £79.90/yr||No free trial||More than 1,000 Disney films and TV series|
|ITV Hub+||£3.99/mth (no ads)||Seven-day free trial||TV series and films shown on ITV, plus preview clips of some popular series|
|Mubi||£9.99/mth or £71.88/yr||Seven-day free trial
||30 hand-picked films a month|
|My5||Free||N/A||Shows and films from Channel 5, 5 Select, 5 Star, 5 USA and more|
|Netflix||from £5.99/mth||30-day upgrade to the package above||Thousands of shows and movies, including Netflix Originals|
|NOW Entertainment||£9.99/mth||Seven-day free trial||More than 300 box sets plus channels that aren't on Freeview|
|NOW Sky Cinema||£9.99/mth||Seven-day free trial||More than 1,000 films, with a new one every day|
Netflix first hit the UK in 2012, and it's quickly become the UK's most popular subscription streaming service, allowing you to watch 1,000s of films and TV programmes via the internet, on your TV or another screen. It boasts loads of well-known series, exclusive Netflix Originals such as Squid Game and The Crown, and a wide range of films including newer releases like Sweet Girl and Creed II.
We've a host of MoneySaving hacks to cut costs – including how to save up to £42/year and a trick to watch for just £3/month. See our Netflix hacks guide for more.
|No. of screens you can watch on at the same time||1||2||4|
|No. of mobile phones or tablets you can download to||1||2||4|
|Highest definition available||Standard||HD||Ultra HD|
Signing up 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, as you have to contact Netflix directly to cancel. It hopefully won't be an issue, but do double-check your bank statement if you cancel (see Regular Payments for a full guide).
Laptop, PC, smart (internet-connected) TV, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U, Android/Windows/Apple tablets and smartphones, Chromecast, Roku and YouView.
Sky can now bundle Netflix (Basic package) as part of its Sky Ultimate TV package, costing £27/mth for a minimum of 18 months. However, it's only in standard definition. If you want HD, it's an extra £4/mth which includes both Netflix (Standard package) and a range of its own HD channels, such as Sky One HD and Sky Atlantic HD among others.
Not just for kids, Disney's streaming offering Disney+* launched back in March 2020 and provides access to more than 500 films and 350 TV series, including Disney classics such as The Lion King, Snow White and Frozen, and every Pixar film, including Toy Story 4 and Finding Nemo. It also has the entire back catalogue of Star Wars and The Simpsons.
From launch, superhero fans will have access to more than 30 Marvel films, including Avengers: Endgame, Oscar-nominated Black Panther, and Guardians of the Galaxy. It also offers more than 50 Marvel series, including Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Marvel's Runaways.
As well as offering access to its classic animated movies, customers can watch brand new Disney originals, including The Mandalorian and Loki.
It costs £7.99/mth or, if you're willing to commit to the year, it's £79.90, which makes it slightly cheaper over 12 months.
PC, Mac, smart TV (Samsung and LG), iPhone, iPad, Android devices, gaming consoles (PlayStation 4, Xbox One), Amazon Fire tablets, streaming devices including Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast and Roku.
Sky Q subscribers can login to their Disney+ account via the apps section on their Sky Q box now and watch it on there, and by the end of April you'll be able to subscribe directly through Sky. You'll pay £7.99/mth and this will be added to your Sky bill.
If you're thinking of joining O2 or considering upgrading your current O2 deal, some of its contract phone and Sim-only plans now allow you to redeem Disney+. What's more, you'll get either three or six months for free depending on the deal you sign up to, followed by the usual £7.99/mth charge, which is equivalent to £4/mth over the 12-month period if you get six months' free, or equivalent to £6/mth if you get three months' free.
If you're already with O2 but not yet ready to upgrade, those who take out Disney+ will get £2/mth deducted from their bill, but won't get the six months free offer.
It's worth noting that new contracts, upgrading or out-of-contract pricing direct with O2 can be pricey – see our Mobile phone cost-cutting guide for how to save.
Amazon Prime 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 could get via the now-defunct postal service.
It includes movies such as Green Book and The Imitation Game, plus TV shows such as The Grand Tour, The Walking Dead and The Man in the High Castle.
The basic package, which just includes Prime Video, costs £5.99 a month. If you want all the other perks like one-day delivery, it's £7.99/mth, though only content labelled 'Prime' is included. For everything else, you'll need to rent out the episode (from 99p) or series (from £4.99) separately.
Alternatively, pay £79/year (equiv £6.58/mth) or £39/yr for students, which gives Prime Video plus one-day delivery on eligible items.
New customers who sign up online can get a free 30-day trial of Amazon Prime Video. Just cancel either online or over the phone before the 30 days are up if you don't want to continue – otherwise you'll be charged £5.99/mth or £7.99/mth depending on which option you opted for. If you opted for the yearly payment (£79), you'll be charged this at the end of the 30 days. 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. (See the Been charged for unwanted Amazon Prime? MSE News story for more info.)
NOW* – WATCH SKY TV WITHOUT HAVING SKY
In 2012, satellite TV giant Sky launched NOW*. In effect, it's five separate services, covering movies, entertainment, sports, kids and reality shows – you don't need a Sky TV subscription to watch any of them. You get a seven-day free trial with the Cinema, Kids, Entertainment and Reality show memberships – you'll then be charged full price unless you cancel.
All passes are free for the first seven days (except Sky Sports passes). After that time, you'll be charged the following:
Entertainment – £9.99/mth
Sky Cinema – £9.99/mth
Kids – £3.99/mth
Hayu (reality TV) – £4.99/mth
Sky Sports – £33.99 (monthly pass), £9.98 (day pass) or £5.99/mth (mobile pass)
NOW also offers its standard NOW TV Stick for £24.99, which lets you pause and rewind live TV (up to 30 minutes).
Its Entertainment Membership includes 13 live channels not available on Freeview, including Sky Atlantic and Comedy Central, plus access to 250+ box sets, such as The Flight Attendant and Your Honor.
The Sky Sports Membership allows customers temporary access to all Sky Sports channels. You have four options to choose from: the Day Pass which lasts for 24 hours, the Week Pass for seven days or the Month Pass. Or you can pay for the Mobile Month Pass – this gives you access to five Sky Sports channels on your smartphone.
For lovers of new films, the Sky Cinema Membership is one of the most impressive film streaming options, with more than 1,000 films to choose from. Currently, it includes Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw and more.
The Kids Membership offers six live channels, including Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network.
If you're into shows like Keeping up with the Kardashians, the Hayu reality TV streaming membership might be for you.
The recommended way is via one of its own streaming sticks. This connects to your TV via a HDMI socket, and your wireless broadband network allows you to stream direct to your TV. You can also pause and rewind (up to 30 minutes).
You can also watch it on a computer, smartphone or tablet, and you can hook it up to a TV via a console, set-top box (eg, YouView), HDMI cable or airplay box (eg, Apple TV).
You can register six devices per subscription, but only a maximum of two can be streaming at the same time.
Apple's first foray into streaming, Apple TV+ provides original content that is only available through its service.
Given that it's a relatively new service and the content is original, the amount of available content isn't currently substantial and there's no known favourites there. Shows like Little America, Dickinson and The Morning Show have been touted as the favorites and feature stars you may recognise like Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell.
The app also enables you to watch movies and TV programmes offline by downloading them to your device for a limited period of time.
You get a seven-day free trial, after which the app costs £4.99/mth to use.
If you've purchased any of the following – iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV or Mac – since 10 September 2019, you get Apple TV+ free for three months. However, you may have to act fast as you only have three months after first setting up your device to take advantage of your free period.
You can watch on any device that supports the Apple TV app, including all Apple devices (Apple TV, iPhone, Mac etc), smart TVs (Samsung and LG), Android devices, Roku devices and Amazon Fire TV sticks.
If you're using a Windows device, you can watch Apple TV+ via its web app, by going to its site and logging in.
Each account allows users to register up to 10 devices and stream video from four at the same time.
The BBC and ITV have combined forces in an attempt to take on big streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Launched in the UK in November 2019, it has over 260 box sets available to watch instantly, including the latest Spitting Image, Gavin & Stacey and Downton Abbey alongside old favourites like Faulty Towers and Only Fools and Horses.
Sign up and you'll get a seven-day free trial, then it's £5.99/mth thereafter. There's no contract, so you can cancel at any time.
Signing up involves setting up a recurring payment. This isn't as easy to cancel as a direct debit, as you have to login to your BritBox account to cancel. Hopefully it won't be an issue, but do double-check your bank statement (see Regular Payments for a full guide).
Alternatively, you can choose to pay annually (£59.99). If you opt for the annual payment, you get a seven-day free trial. By paying annually upfront, you save 16% over the year versus paying monthly.
Laptop, PC, smart TV (Samsung and Panasonic), Apple and Android tablets and smartphones, Chromecast and Netgem.tv. It was due to join YouView by the end of 2019, but it hasn't happened yet.
Have BT Broadband? New and existing BT Broadband customers can now get six-months of Britbox for free. After six months, you will be charged £5.99/mth. To claim six-months free, you can do this by logging into your BT Broadband account via this link.
Have BT TV? New and existing BT TV customers can get Britbox free for six-months. You can add Britbox to your BT TV set-top box and rowse and play BritBox content on your telly using. First you'll need to add Britbox to your BT TV account. You can do this via this link.
Note: You can't get Britbox on BT TV if you have one of the older H3 TV Boxes.
American giant Discovery's recently-launched streaming service specialises in reality TV shows and documentaries. Included in the package are reality shows including Gold Rush, 90 Day Fiancé and Ghost Adventures, as well as documentaries such as Ocean Giants and What Killed Maradona?
You get a free seven-day trial when you sign up, but unless you cancel, you'll be charged £4.99/mth after that. If you want to include sports channels such as Eurosport, it's £6.99/mth. Signing up involves setting up a recurring payment, which is tougher to cancel than a direct debit as you'll have to directly contact Discovery+. You can cancel it anytime as there's no contract, but do check your bank statements just in case payments keep being taken (see Regular Payments for a full guide).
You can choose to pay annually for £49.99 or £59.99 with sports. If you choose this option, you can still get the seven-day free trial. Although it's a bigger upfront payment, paying annually will save you almost 17% compared to the monthly option.
Laptop, PC, smartphone, tablet, Android TV, Apple TV, Samsung TV, Amazon Fire TV, or cast directly to your TV.
If you're a Sky Q customer, you can get Discovery+ free for 12 months, but you have to activate it first via your Sky Q box.
These sites are much of a muchness pricewise. For example, a big release like Tenet is around £5.49 to rent on both Google Play and YouTube. If you're after a specific flick, quickly check 'em all or use JustWatch, a search engine that helps you find which service provides the movie you want to watch.
Apple TV (also known as iTunes if you're using a Windows device), offers a range of over 85,000 films and 190,000 TV episodes, but you'll need to set up an account. There's no charge for this. Most big releases like Wonder Woman 1984 and Godzilla vs Kong are priced at £4.99 to rent. Some titles including Oldboy 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. If you rent a film, you'll need to watch it within 30 days (once you start playing the video, you'll have access for 48 hours).
If you're not too picky about what you watch, there's a 'film of the week' available to rent for 99p.
How much? 99p-£13.99
How can I watch? Any Apple device via the Apple TV app, Apple TV, PC (via iTunes), smart TV (Samsung, Sony and LG), Roku devices via its app store and Amazon Fire TV devices.
Sky Store is open to movie lovers who don't subscribe to its services. With around 5,000 movies and TV episodes, it's a far smaller choice than Apple TV and Now TV offers, but it does include the latest movies available to Sky subscribers. With rentals, 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 subscription could be more MoneySaving.
Included are recent Hollywood blockbusters such as Peter Rabbit 2 (£5.49) and Oscar-winning Judas and the Black Messiah is available to buy (£13.99).
How much is it? You can rent releases online as they become available on Sky for £5.49, while older movies start at £3.49. HD movies are available for Sky+ HD TV customers with a set-top box and cost £5.49 for the latest flicks.
How can I watch? PC, Mac, Now TV, Sky, Roku, smart TV and Chromecast.
The Google Play Store is a bit of a one-stop shop for TV shows, movies, music, e-books and audiobooks – it also serves as the 'app store' for users of Android devices.
In order to use the store you'll need to create a Google account, which is free to do.
The site offers a range of tens of thousands of films and TV episodes. Titles can be bought or rented.
Most big releases like Batman vs Superman are priced at £3.49 to rent. Some titles are priced at 99p, but these tend not to be the latest releases.
If you rent a film you'll need to watch it within 30 days (once you start playing the video, you'll have access for 48 hours). Meanwhile, any titles that you've bought outright can be downloaded on to up to five devices to watch offline and be kept forever.
How much? £1.99-£13.99
How can I watch? Mac, PC, Chromecast, Chromebook, smart TV (Samsung and LG), Android-enabled TV (Sony), Roku, Apple devices via the Google Play Movies & TV app, or on your HD TV using Apple TV.
Previously known as Wuaki.tv, Rakuten TV is not as big of a player as iTunes or Sky in the online streaming world, but it has over 400,000 users in the UK.
It's got all the major releases past and present you'd expect to see, including 007: No Time To Die (£15.99 to rent), Free Guy (£9.99 to buy) and The Courier (£9.99 to buy). Rental films are available in your library for 48 hours, and during this time you can watch them as many times as you want.
Rakuten TV now also includes some of the most popular TV to buy, including shows from HBO and the BBC. Among the titles are Game of Thrones (from £13.99) and True Detective (from £13.99).
How can I watch? PC, Mac, Xbox 360, Xbox One, smart TV, iPhone, iPad, Chromecast and Android phones and tablets.
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:
Sky can now bundle Netflix (Basic package) as part of its Sky Ultimate TV package, costing £20 upfront, then £26/mth for a minimum of 18 months. It's only in standard definition, but if you want HD it's an extra £6/mth and includes both Netflix (Standard package) and a range of its own HD channels such as Sky One HD and Sky Atlantic HD among others.
Sky's basic package now also includes access to its 500 box sets, including shows such as Succession, Modern Family, Twin Peaks and all of Game of Thrones. If you're happy with just its box sets, you can ask Sky to remove Netflix from your package.
If you're a Sky Cinema subscriber, you'll also have access to Sky Cinema 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 Republic of Ireland, providing you've a working internet connection. Just download the app and log in using your Sky account details.
BT TV at its basic level is essentially a NOW TV 'Entertainment Membership' with a box that can pause and record live TV. As it's essentially NOW TV, you also get access to over 300 box sets which includes all of Game of Thrones.
Unlike NOW TV, if you choose its basic Entertainment package it's £16/mth, but you're locked into a 24mth contract. Once you're on any of its 24mth packages, you're then able to add and remove package bolt-ons each month should you wish.
These one-month rolling bolt-ons include BT Sport, NOW TV Sky Sports Pass and Now TV Sky Cinema Pass.
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. 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 £3.99. 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 Bundles* subscription packages, you'll also get one of its V6 boxes 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.
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