Film and TV show streaming services have become increasingly important to the way that we want to consume our content in the UK.

As well as the free platforms from the country's major broadcasters, such as BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub, digital subscription, rental and purchase services have emerged to fill the hole left by those trading in physical media.

Why buy the latest Blu-rays or DVDs from the local store or online when you can have it streamed to you instantly? Sometimes even before the film has come out on either of the disc formats. That is progress.

And although 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays are starting to emerge, streaming services can also be the best way to get your fix of 2160p content.

There's only one catch we can see; there are now so many streaming services out there, which should you choose?

We hope to make that decision easy for you with our in-depth guide to the movie streaming services that are available right now.

www.netflix.com

In a nutshell: Netflix offers a wide selection of movies and TV shows, with several series being exclusive to the platform or even made and funded by Netflix itself.

Netflixnetflix-homepage
  • Original series: House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Daredevil and Jessica Jones
  • Original films: The Ridiculous 6, Special Correspondents, Beasts of No Nation
  • Will occasionally get recent blockbusters

Price:

  • £5.99 for one stream in standard definition
  • £7.49 for two screens simultaneously in HD
  • £8.99 for four screens simultaneously in HD and Ultra HD

Devices: 

  • PC and Mac through any internet browser
  • PS3 and PS4
  • Xbox 360 and Xbox One
  • Wii U and Wii
  • iOS and Android devices
  • Smart TVs
  • Select Blu-ray players from Samsung, LG, Sony, Panasonic and Philips
  • Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra
  • Roku
  • Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick
  • Apple TV
  • Virgin Media TiVo
  • YouView set-top boxes

For: Although there are one or two exceptions, the user interface of Netflix is standardised, offering a similar experience no matter the platform. Almost all of the portals also offer the ability to set up different profiles, meaning you can store favourite shows and films for future viewing, and get personalised recommendations for each member of the family individually.

A kids section is available as a different homescreen, which restricts the content accessible to just films and programming suitable for children. And the media that is on offer for kids or adults is varied and plentiful. Adaptive streaming means that (most of the time) you will be able to watch your selected show or movie immediately, with the quality improving as bandwidth is made available.

Most of the films and TV episodes are presented in HD, which means they are 1080p and have 5.1 surround sound where applicable.

4K video streaming is also available for some content, in HDR and Dolby Vision for supported devices - there is a dedicated strap on the Netflix menu for Ultra HD 4K content. You will also need a 15Mbps broadband connection minimum.

Against: If you're looking for the latest films, either those that have appeared recently on Blu-ray or DVD, or even made it to paid TV services, you will have to look elsewhere. In terms of movies on offer, there are some that are current - mainly those funded and made by Netflix itself - but most are two or more years old.

The UK version of the service has been criticised when compared to the US version, which has been around a lot longer. Thanks to content deals, it can be argued that the US service has a better array of movie content and several series of shows that many would love to be able to access in Britain. However, an interesting bonus is that when you travel to the States, you can access the local version over there on a mobile device using your UK account. The same with other regional versions of Netflix.

Another negative is that Netflix will remove films and TV series when the content deals expire, and with little or no warning. If you are halfway through a series of a particular TV show, for example, it is not unheard of for the series to be deleted from the service before you get a chance to watch the rest of the episodes. Other services do the same but will often have a section flagged as "soon to be removed" or suchlike.

Read: Netflix review: The leading light in home entertainment

www.amazon.co.uk

In a nutshell: Like Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video offers a subscription-based streaming service. The previous Lovefilm name continues as a postal disc-rental service, but is separate from the digital concern and it's only a matter of time before it is discontinued.

Amazonamazon-prime

It is possible to pay a monthly subscription for Amazon Prime Instant Video, but it also comes as a default extra for Amazon Prime subscribers. By doing so, you get a whole stack of Amazon-based incentives too. Another bonus is the addition of more recent movies to rent or buy digitally. They are available on all platforms and you can download them to a mobile device for offline viewing. Some of the Amazon Prime membership content can also be downloaded for offline viewing.

Price: 

  • £5.99 a month for access to just Amazon Prime Instant Video.
  • Free with Amazon Prime membership - £79/year
  • Varying prices for rentals and purchases

Devices: 

  • Roku  
  • PS3 and PS4
  • Xbox 360 and Xbox One
  • Wii and Wii U
  • Smart TVs
  • Blu-ray players from Samsung, LG and Sony, some Sony home cinema systems and Sony's Network Media Player.
  • PCs and Macs
  • iOS and Android devices
  • Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick and Fire tablets

For: With more of a heritage in the rental business in the UK, it seems that Amazon has a heads up over some competition in the quality of the films on offer. Although there might not be more films as such (although some reports suggest there are in number terms), the amount of more recent movies in comparison to Netflix is apparent. They are still plucked from the release window nearer the end of a film's cycle, but from a seemingly better pool.

Most of the content is presented in 1080p but is dependant on the device you use and some of them limit you to 720p - less for some mobile platforms. The adaptive streaming is similar to Netflix, in that it alters the bitrate of pictures depending on bandwidth.

Some devices, such as the company's own 4K Amazon Fire TV, the Nvidia Shield Android TV box and some Smart TVs, there is now the ability to watch some of its own and bought TV series in Ultra HD and with HDR video. Some movies also in the highest resolution format are available for rental or purchase.

The user experience for many devices has dramatically improved over time and although there are no profile options as yet, you can still mark shows or films for later viewing. They will then appear in a dedicated area of the start-up screen.

The Amazon tie-in also means that content especially commissioned in the US for its version of Amazon Prime Instant Video will also be exclusively available in the UK too.

The bonus of being able to purchase or rent more recent releases (as they come out for Blu-ray and DVD) adds an all-new element that creates a more complete package than Netflix. You can also download your purchased content and some Prime shows and films to a mobile device for offline viewing.

Against: Although there is now an app for Roku, there are still some gaping holes in support - Apple TV for example.

The content, while plentiful, does still suffer from the lack of current triple-A titles. Adding the buy or rent side of the service for more recent movies and shows helps, but does increase the cost further.

The lack of profiles for individual family members means that you will find your suggestions quickly filled with those based on siblings' viewing habits. If you have young children, that means you'll find a fair few kids movies and shows among the content recommended by the service for you. That said, it's not a major problem and you might find the odd animated film you might have missed otherwise.

Finally, on some devices, the user interface doesn't make clear the difference between subscription based Prime content and paid-for Instant films and TV shows. You often find something you want to watch immediately and realise that you'll have to pay for it separately.

www.nowtv.com

In a nutshell: The Sky-owned Now TV is a service offered by the broadcaster and provider for those without access to a satellite dish or want something more simple and flexible than a conventional TV package. It offers content to view live and on demand that would normally be broadcast by Sky on one or more of its many channels.

Price:

  • Sky Cinema Month Pass - £9.99 - all Sky Cinema channels and the entire line-up of films
  • Sky Sports Day Pass - £6.99 - all 7 Sky Sports channels
  • Sky Sports 7 Day Pass - £10.99
  • Sky Sports Month Pass - £33.99
  • Entertainment Month Pass - £6.99 - access to several channels not available on Freeview, including Sky 1 and Sky Atlantic
  • Kids Month Pass - £2.99 

Devices:

  • Now TV set-top box
  • iOS and Android devices
  • PC and Mac
  • Roku
  • Smart TVs from LG
  • PS3 and PS4
  • Xbox 360 and Xbox One
  • Apple TV
  • YouView boxes

For: With Sky being higher up the movie release window list, the films on offer through Now TV are excellent. Not quite in line with new Blu-ray releases, but not far behind. It is also speedy in use, with films playing quickly after selection, although that might not be as true with lower-speed broadband connections.

The service also uses adaptive streaming, meaning the bitrate can be altered depending on internet speed and its quality is very stable over a half-decent connection.

There are sections for content that is soon to be removed from the service, so you can ensure you catch up quickly before it is gone. And the sports pay-per-view option is really handy for those who want to catch a specific football match or golf tournament, for example.

Against: Picture quality is not on a par with some rivals as Now TV is not a Full HD service at present. This means that images are streamed in only standard definition or 720p at best, depending on the platform. They look better than a DVD but not quite Blu-ray quality.

The Now TV box and Now TV Smart box both support content up to 1080p and 5.1 audio, however Now TV content itself only streams to a maximum of 720p and without 5.1 audio.

Finally, while the movie line-up is incredibly impressive, the entertainment TV side of Now TV is not as expansive as found elsewhere. You are limited to the programming shown on certain channels, although the service does include box sets from some of its partners, such as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.

go.sky.com

In a nutshell: Sky Go is a live streaming and catch-up TV service predominantly for existing Sky TV customers. The content available depends on your TV subscription and there is an extra add-on that allows you to expand the offering to include offline viewing on mobile devices.

The Sky Q app also acts as access to Sky Go content, but adds the ability to download recordings to watch offline.

Price:

  • Free for existing Sky TV customers
  • Sky Go Extra for streaming on up to 4 devices and offline viewing - £5/month
  • Sky Go Extra free for Sky Multiscreen customers

Devices:

  • PC and Mac
  • Xbox 360 and Xbox One
  • PS3 and PS4 - Sky Go Extra required for games consoles
  • iOS and Android devices

For: If you are a Sky TV subscriber downloading and using Sky Go on your smartphone or tablet devices is a no brainer. Watching live sports when you're not at home, or downloading a movie to watch on a plane (with a Sky Go Extra add-on) are each enough for a recommendation on their own. Being able to also access a vast library of on-demand content to watch streamed to a device for no extra cost is an amazing bonus.

Consider too that, if you have a Sky Movies package, you will gain access to the same reasonably up-to-date library as those who subscribe to Now TV.

The apps for the numerous devices are intuitive and well presented and the streamed content is of a high enough quality for the screen sizes. 

Against: If you're not a Sky subscriber, Sky Go is no longer on your radar. Instead, you'll have to look at Now TV if you can only have paid telly over internet. And while the amount of devices supported by the Sky Go apps is growing, it is still limited so you might find your older handset not covered.

disneylife.com

In a nutshell: Although plenty of its films are available through other streaming services, including Netflix, Now TV and Amazon Prime Instant Video, Disney has also decided to offer its own subscription service. DisneyLife offers far more than just streamed versions of its movies or TV shows, though. It also gives access to a large library of age appropriate eBooks and music from its record label.

Pocket-lintDisneyLife

Price: 

  • £9.99/month

Devices: 

  • iOS and Android devices
  • AirPlay and Chromecast streaming 

For: Because it is run by Disney, the presentation and depth of content is very impressive. All the Disney classic animated films are available, as well as all of Pixar's output. Plenty of Disney archive material is available too, such as the entire Herbie movie series and the Pirates of the Caribbean flicks.

Plus, thanks to Disney now owning Star Wars, a whole load of content from the many cartoons, etc, is available too.

Box sets of TV shows for kids young and old are on offer. And all shows and films come with character information and other fun reveals.

All shows and movies can also be downloaded for offline viewing - for a car journey, say. And content is available in high definition (1080p) where available.

You can also set up profiles with parental controls for each member of the family - even the adults.

Against: Considering it is just for Disney content, £9.99 a month can seem like a hefty amount considering the price of the other subscription streaming services, but you do get the eBooks and music streams for that money.

It also needs to be made available on other devices. Considering it is relatively new though, that is something that is expected in time.

www.mubi.com

In a nutshell: MUBI is a movie streaming service like many others in that it is available across plenty of platforms and for a monthly subscription fee, but it concentrates on a curated list of cinematic treats you might not find anywhere else. This includes indie, cult and classic films and there is always a new movie recommended by the MUBI team to watch each day.

MUBI

Price: 

  • £5.99/month

Devices: 

  • PC and Mac
  • iOS and Android devices
  • PS3 and PS4
  • Sony Bravia and Samsung Smart TVs.

For: If you're looking for more niche films that have been hand chosen as they represent the great and good of cinema you've come to the right place. You can be sure that the movies on offer have been selected for their quality, be that a better known blockbuster or foreign language independent.

Wherever possible, the films are presented in HD although that also depends on your internet connection. Like many other services, the quality is adaptive so will be dependent on the size of your data pipe.

If you want to watch films while travelling, MUBI is also one of the rare services that lets you download them to iOS or Android devices for offline viewing, where they will be stored for a seven day period.

Against: The selection of films on offer on MUBI is much more limited than on many of its competitors, but it does offer a very different proposition and is therefore more niche.

If you're looking for superhero action films, for example, you will probably find a better range elsewhere.

As the service also aims to present details on every film made through an expansive movie database, some have questioned why not all films found are available to stream. However, there are few services available that offer such in-depth information for true fans of cinema.

www.talktalktvstore.co.uk

In a nutshell: Previously called Blinkbox, the service was acquired by TalkTalk and is now called TalkTalk TV Store. It is a movie and TV show rental and purchase service. There is no subscription option. Instead, you can rent or buy the latest films as they are released on DVD or Blu-ray to store in a digital locker and watch at your leisure.

Pocket-lintTalkTalk TV Store

Price:

New films 

  • £3.45 to rent in SD, £4.45 in HD - Rented films or shows must be watched within 30 days of rental, you then have 48 hours to finish watching them once started
  • £9.99 to buy in SD, £13.99in HD 

Older films

  • £2.45 to rent in SD version, £3.45 in HD
  • £6.99 to buy in SD, £9.99 in HD
  • TV shows cost from £1.89 per episode for SD, £2.49 for HD. Box sets are also available to buy outright. You cannot rent TV shows.

Devices: 

  • Xbox 360 and Xbox One
  • iOS, Android and Windows devices 
  • TalkTalk's Youview box
  • PC and Mac
  • Google Chromecast 
  • Smart TVs from Samsung and LG
  • Blu-ray players from Samsung and LG

For: Unlike many of the subscription services, TalkTalk TV Store offers the very latest movies as they come out on Blu-ray of DVD. And thanks to the Digital HD initiative from Fox Home Entertainment and other studios, you will often find blockbuster content that hasn't even been released on disc yet.

Against: It may feature the very latest films, but if you want to watch whole series of shows or several movies a month you could run up a weighty bill. Some of its TV shows on offer are also available on subscriptions services like Netflix or Amazon Prime Instant Video, for example, so are not as cost effective as watching them for the set monthly fees they charge. You're not contracted by TalkTalk though, so at least you can control what you spend and when you spend it.

HD content is only offered in 720p at present and with stereo sound, much like Now TV. And some devices can't play content in HD at all at present.

www.wuaki.tv

In a nutshell: Wuaki.tv is a Rakuten company, the same overarching firm that saved Play.com from administration a few year's back and owns the Kobo family of eBook readers. It has a strong reputation in its homeland of Spain already and has made considerable waves since its launch in the UK.

Price:

New films

  • £3.45 to rent in SD, £4.45 in HD
  • £9.99 to buy in SD, £13.99 in HD

Older films

  • £2.45 to rent in SD, £3.45 in HD
  • £7.99 to buy in SD, £8.99 in HD

TV shows can only be bought outright. Their prices vary, costing about the same as a DVD or Blu-ray box set. 

Devices: 

  • Xbox 360 and Xbox One
  • iOS, Android and Windows devices 
  • EE TV
  • Smart TVs from Samsung, LG, Hisense Panasonic and Philips
  • PC and Mac 
  • Humax Freesat boxes
  • Google Chromecast

For: Wuaki.tv offers a decent selection of film and TV shows, although its decision to cease the subscription side of the business makes it a direct competitor to many other rental and purchase digital content services, rather than something a bit different.

Against: Wuaki.tv lost its unique position as offering subscription and purchase services side-by-side when Amazon Prime Instant was launched, and that has probably prompted the closure of its Selection service.

The HD stream quality is dependent on each video, Pocket-lint has been told, which means it could be presented in either 720p or 1080 (interlaced or progressive, we're not sure). Both come with with stereo audio though, much like TalkTalk TV Store's. Others already offer surround sound.

Also, only certain devices are capable of displaying HD content at all: Smart TVs, Chromecast, Windows devices and consoles, basically. Other tablets and computers are unable to stream HD content at present. 

In a nutshell: Apple's digital media store is well established and it has a lot of experience with selling standard definition and HD movies and TV shows. It offers a vast selection to rent or own, which can then be played through Apple products or a PC.

Price: 

New films

  • £3.49 to rent in SD, £4.49 to rent in HD
  • £9.99 to buy in SD or HD 

Older movies

  • £2.49 to rent in SD, £3.49 in HD
  • £4.99 to buy SD, £5.99 for HD.
  • TV shows can bought as a collection on a series pass and as individual episodes in SD and, more often than not, HD. SD shows start at £1.89, while HD episodes start at £2.49. 

Devices: 

  • PC and Mac
  • iOS devices
  • Apple TV

For: iTunes is well established and has, perhaps, the greatest collection of content available thanks to partnerships with just about every studio, major and minor, and broadcaster. Its system is robust and easy to use, and the devices it is compatible with mostly have the service integrated into their systems.

Its HD content is offered in Full HD 1080p and 5.1 surround sound where applicable. You can also chose to play back or download content in 720p if you do not feel your internet connection is speedy enough. Some older devices will have this as their default anyway, such as Apple TVs before the third generation.

Unlike many other services, you will be able to play iTunes content through a digital AV adaptor and HDMI cable plugged into a TV. Your TV will need to have HDCP enabled for HD content though. They also work over Airplay, but you might as well use the Apple TV to play them instead in that instance.

Against: Movies and shows bought and stored in Apple's iCloud are locked within that ecosystem. Apart from on a PC running the iTunes desktop client, all other means of watching content require Apple hardware of some kind. If you decide, for example, that you want to move from iPhone or iPad to Android for your next purchase, you'll not be able to access the films and programmes you've bought on your new device.

play.google.com

In a nutshell: Like Apple, Google has its own digital content store. It's mainly for Android device owners, but is available on a far greater selection of devices than Apple's iTunes thanks to the open source nature of the platform itself. It offers both standard and high definition content, but has a more limited selection available, certainly when compared to its main competitor. Again, any films or shows you purchase will be stored in a Google digital locker.

Price:

New movies 

  • £3.49 to rent in SD, £4.49 in HD
  • £9.99 to buy in SD, £11.99 in HD

Older films

  • £2.49 to rent in SD, £3.49 in HD
  • £3.99 to buy in SD, £5.99 in HD
  • TV shows vary in price and are available mostly as individual episodes or in series packages. Overall prices depend on how many episodes there are in a series, but episodes start at £1.89 each for SD, £2.49 for HD,

Devices:

  • iOS and Android devices
  • Android games consoles
  • Smart TVs
  • Google Chromecast
  • PC and Mac
  • Roku

For: Google's digital store is simple and uncomplicated to use. It is also managed and maintained by one of the largest organisations in the world, so you can be pretty sure your content is not going to magically disappear.

The vast array of Android-powered devices also ensures that you should be able to play your films or telly programmes on any screen you like. You can also watch content on a television through a HDMI cable connected to your Android device if it supports it.

Most films are also presented in 5.1 surround sound, which is more than some other services offer. And you can store content locally for offline viewing.

Against: Unfortunately, the service also has a smaller library of movies and shows available than iTunes. say. This is growing, but Google Play is still in its infancy in comparison to some of the more established rivals.

The library size is more apparent with rental than purchase. There are many films you can't rent at all.

There are other movie and TV streaming services out there that are accessible by UK users, but they tend to be offered as an additional benefit to existing subscribers, and limited to mobile devices only, such as Virgin Media's Virgin TV Anywhere.

It's worth mentioning though that Virgin TV Anywhere now supports Sky Sports and Sky Movies as part of its live streaming offering. While you don't watch those streams through the app itself (rather through Sky's alternatives) your Virgin Media account details allow you to log into the respective apps if you subscribe to the relevant TV packages.

Virgin TV Anywhere is a great free service for its TiVo box subscribers that offers streamed live TV and on demand content online through browsers or via dedicated iOS and Android apps. The apps can also control customers' TiVo boxes, including switching channels, setting recordings, browsing through the EPG and even managing the existing recordings on a box.

We've also not included the Microsoft Movies & TV (formerly Xbox Video) service, PlayStation Video or the Sky Store as they are all restricted to certain systems and devices. It's worth checking them out though if you use Windows or an Xbox console, a PlayStation console, or Sky platforms and Roku respectively.

If you know of any other UK service you think we should include, please let us know in the comments below. This feature is designed to be updated as and when there are changes to the streaming services featured or new ones appear.