Streaming services have changed the way we watch TV shows and movies. We no longer have to wait until a certain date and time to watch something that tickles our fancy; there's plenty available to watch on multiple devices, wherever we happen to be.

The only problem is, with so many subscription services and places to rent or buy digital content online, which should get your hard earned cash?

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

Netflix

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 made and funded by Netflix itself.

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Price:

  • £5.99 per month for one stream in standard definition
  • £7.99 per month for up to two screens simultaneously in HD
  • £9.99 per month for up to four screens simultaneously in 4K HDR/Dolby Vision

Devices: 

  • PC and Mac through any internet browser
  • PS3 and PS4
  • Xbox 360 and Xbox One
  • Nintendo Wii U
  • iOS and Android devices
  • Smart TVs
  • Select Blu-ray players from Samsung, LG, Sony, Panasonic, Philips and Toshiba
  • Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra
  • Roku
  • Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick
  • Apple TV
  • Sky Q
  • Virgin Media TiVo
  • BT TV
  • 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 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 with a different, dedicated 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 need a 15Mbps broadband connection minimum for 4K.

Netflix also offers the option to download movies and TV shows to your mobile device, so you can watch them offline. Android users can even download content to a Micro SD card, so the only real limit to how much you can download depends on how much storage you have. 

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 is slightly curtailed 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.

It's worth noting 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.

Amazon Prime Video

www.amazon.co.uk

In a nutshell: Like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video offers a subscription-based streaming service. It too makes a large amount of TV shows that are exclusive to the platform and has content deals for shows made abroad but can only be found on Amazon Prime Video in the UK.

It is possible to pay a monthly subscription for Amazon Prime 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.

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Price: 

  • £7.99 a month for access to just Amazon Prime Video
  • Free with Amazon Prime membership - £79 per year
  • Varying prices for rentals and purchases

Devices: 

  • Roku
  • Nvidia Shield TV
  • PS3 and PS4
  • Xbox 360 and Xbox One
  • Nintendo 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 Stick, the Nvidia Shield TV box and some Smart TVs, offer the ability to watch some of Amazon's own and bought TV series in Ultra HD and with HDR video. One or two also have Dolby Vision support if your TV is compatible. Some movies are also available in 4K to rent 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 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: 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.

Now TV

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.

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Price:

  • Sky Cinema Month Pass - £9.99 per month for all Sky Cinema channels and the entire line-up of films
  • Sky Sports Day Pass - £7.99 for all Sky Sports channels for 24 hours
  • Sky Sports 7 Day Pass - £12.99
  • Sky Sports Month Pass - £33.99
  • Entertainment Month Pass - £7.99 per month for access to several channels and TV box sets
  • Kids Month Pass - £3.99 

Devices:

  • Now TV Smart Stick and Smart Box
  • iOS and Android devices
  • PC and Mac
  • Roku
  • Smart TVs from LG
  • Selected Blu-ray players from LG
  • Google Chromecast
  • PS3 and PS4
  • Xbox 360 and Xbox One
  • Apple TV
  • YouView boxes
  • EE TV

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. This means 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 Smart Stick and Smart Box devices both support content up to 1080p and 5.1 audio (the latter up to 4K), however Now TV 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.

Sky Go

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. If you subscribe to Sky Q, that's a better option for you, perhaps.

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Price:

  • Free for existing Sky TV customers
  • Sky Go Extra for streaming on up to 4 devices and offline viewing - £5 per month
  • Sky Go Extra free for Sky Q experience (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 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 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.

If you have Sky Q, the dedicated app for that service is likely a better bet anyway.

DisneyLife

disneylife.com

In a nutshell: Although plenty of its films are available through other streaming services, including Netflix, Now TV and Amazon Prime Video, Disney offers its own, kid-centric 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.

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Price: 

  • £4.99/month

Devices: 

  • iOS and Android devices
  • Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick
  • Amazon Fire tablets
  • Nvidia Shield TV
  • Apple TV
  • Smart TVs by Samsung
  • PC and Mac
  • 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 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, £4.99 a month might 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 - not least Smart TVs from brands other than Samsung.

MUBI

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.

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Price: 

  • £7.99/month (£1 for first three months)

Devices: 

  • PC and Mac
  • iOS and Android devices
  • Apple TV
  • Smart TVs by LG, Samsung and Sony
  • Blu-ray players by Samsung and Sony
  • PS3 and PS4

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 does let 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. 

Rakuten TV

www.rakuten.tv

In a nutshell: Previously called Wuaki.tv, Rakuten TV is now named after the owning company. It is the same overarching firm that owns the Kobo family of eBook readers. It is a movie and TV show rental and digital purchase store, rather than an "all-you-can-eat" subscription service.

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Price:

New films

  • From £3.49 to rent
  • From £8.99 to buy

Older films

  • From £2.49 to rent
  • From £6.99

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
  • Roku
  • Google Chromecast

For: Rakuten TV offers an excellent selection of film and TV shows, including all the very latest releases. It also offers some of them in up to 4K HDR, including Dolby Vision. It also supports Dolby Atmos surround sound.

It also, interestingly, allows you to buy Rakuten Super Points that can be traded for film rentals or purchases. That way, parents can credit their Rakuten account rather than use cash payments for content.

Rakuten is also keen on promotions, so you can often find vouchers and codes for free film rentals through several reward schemes, such as Three's Wuntuu application for its own customers.

Against: It's not as famous as rival services, such as Apple and Google, and sometimes doesn't have similar films ranged in 4K, for example.

That said, it is available across formats and you can purchase and rent films on LG TVs, for example, without having to use a separate device. 

iTunes

In a nutshell: Apple's digital media store is well established and it has a lot of experience with selling movies and TV shows. It offers a vast selection to rent or own, which can then be played through Apple products or a PC. It also has one of the largest libraries of 4K HDR/Dolby Vision movies around.

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Price: 

New films

  • From £4.49 to rent
  • From £9.99 to buy

Older movies

  • From £3.49 to rent
  • From £4.99 to buy

TV shows can bought as a collection on a series pass and as individual episodes. Prices vary.

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, while 4K HDR content is plentiful and can come with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, to boot.

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.

Google Play

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 also offers content in up to 4K HDR, but has a more limited selection available, certainly when compared to its main competitor.

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Price:

New movies 

  • From £3.49 to rent
  • From £9.99 to buy

Older films

  • From £2.49 to rent
  • From £5.99 to buy

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.

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

It has a decent library of 4K HDR films available.

Against: Unfortunately, the service also has a smaller library of 4K HDR movies and shows available than iTunes. say. It is also yet to adopt Dolby Vision or Dolby Atmos technologies.

Other streaming apps

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 and the latest version of TalkTalk TV.

Sky also has its own app for Sky Q customers that offers streaming, plus catch-up and on demand content based on your TV subscriptions. You can also download and watch your recordings on the go.