Best streaming sites in the UK

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What movie do you want to watch next? This is a loaded question. The list of movies to watch bends to the will of passwords you’ve acquired for various streaming services (whether your own or from a generous friend or family member). Most streamers have a staple service — the one that’s been solidified into our monthly budget like bills and rent (probably Netflix for most people in the UK). But your reliable option probably doesn’t have every single film you want to watch, especially when titles are constantly flip-flopping which service they call home.

Wired marks 2018 as the start of the streaming wars. Since then, the streaming service market has been an ever-evolving car crash. It seems like a major service has dropped every year since, with the likes of Disney+ and Peacock launching relatively recently.

In a way, the branching out makes sense. More and more networks and media conglomerates are deciding that they want the rights to their own stuff rather than letting Netflix and Prime Video rake in the subscription fees. But for the viewer, keeping track of which libraries are worth yet another £5 to £10 a month often leads to shamelessly begging an acquaintance for their password.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a long-term solution to your streaming woes, so we’ve broken down the advantages and disadvantages of each app — both generally and for specific fandoms — to help you find the best site for you.

What’s the difference between streaming sites and live TV services?

Platforms like Sling TV, fubo TV, and DirecTV offer an assortment of channels for a monthly free. While these are great for catching sports, TV shows, or the news as it airs, it’s probably not a necessary investment for movie watching.

Unless you’re trying to catch, say, an old school movie marathon, but then again, many of those films can probably be found on a streaming service.

What are the most important features of a streaming service?

The number of movies (and whether those movies actually pique your interest) is a given piece of criteria, as well as price. But some other factors can help set similar platforms apart:

Concurrent stream allowance — Despite a few streaming platforms threatening to crack down on password sharing over the past few years, pretty much every mainstream streaming service allows at least two simultaneous streams at once. This means that a handful of people in different households can use the same login info and watch at the same time. Large families or friend groups who plan to share an account should probably opt for a service that allows at least three devices streaming at once.

Free trials — It’s always nice to preview a service out before you commit. In that week-long(ish) period, you can browse the full library, test the 4K or HDR upscaling if you care about that, and get an overall idea of how smooth or laggy the interface runs. Every paid streaming service on our list offers at least five days of free play time — Disney+ is the notorious oddball that doesn’t.

4K and HDR support — People who have gotten used to binge-watching in regular HD on the TV they’ve had since college probably don’t care much about higher resolution viewing. Others can’t focus on anything but the indecipherable blobs. The latter group of people will have to be pickier about the apps they pay for — because while 4K TVs are common nowadays, content available to stream in 4K isn’t yet. For instance, Netflix only unlocks 4K upscaling if you bump your plan to the most expensive one, and HBO Max only offers 4K for certain movies. This will require a certain internet speed, too.

Compatible devices — No one’s going to pay for a streaming service that’s impossible to access on their smart TV or device they use to access apps on their TV. Luckily, barring a few temporary caveats, most streaming services listed below play nicely with all that stuff. Unless specifically noted, you can assume that each app listed is compatible with the streaming interface of most big brand TVs, the main mobile operating systems (iOS and Android apps), media players (Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV), and gaming consoles (Playstation and Xbox). 

There are plenty of other things to consider when selecting a streaming service, but keeping these things in mind will help you get started.

How do you stream outside of the UK?

Signing up for a VPN can open the door to a plethora of international shows and films that aren’t available in the UK. VPNs essentially allow you to make up your own internet rules by carving out a personal security tunnel in which you browse, stream, or game the way you normally would. 

That security tunnel paves the way for location spoofing and getting around location-based roadblocks or censors. All decent VPNs offer a wide selection of servers based in multiple geographic locations. Picking one of those essentially tricks your ISP into thinking your device is based there, maneuvering around geoblocks and opening the door to international content, like another country’s Netflix library.

Should you consider pirated movie sites?

VPNs and cybersecurity go hand in hand. When framing cybersecurity around movies, the conversation naturally leads to pirated movie sites. We’ve all used them, and admittedly, they’ve saved all of our asses once or twice when we couldn’t find the movie we wanted anywhere else. But they’re not as instantaneous as we give them credit for — not when you have to “X” out of five pop-up ads before the movie starts, plus any time you need to pause or fast forward. Not only does the experience just suck, but a misdirected click on an infected ad could get you sent to a website with malware waiting in the wings. 

Malware spreading is much more likely if you actually download the movie or a whole app rather than watching in a browser, but still. Cybercriminals are on their A-game knowing that the pandemic has people looking for stuff to watch to fill up their time. 

Antivirus software is the obvious first line of defense here, but that doesn’t help with the clunky interface or volatility of these sites. Stuff freezes, audio stops working, and people’s words don’t line up with their mouths. Most pirated movie sites are shut down eventually, too, and frequently have to change their domain name to stay up and running. It’s just not a reliable setup, especially with apps like Tubi and Documentary+ out there. (Yes, Macs need to be armed with antivirus, too.)

What is the best streaming site for movies?

There are a lot of streaming sites with large libraries of movies, but not every service is going to be right for you. It’s important to consider everything outlined in this guide, and pick a service that ticks most of your boxes.

To help you make a decision, we have checked out everything on offer and lined up a selection of the very best streaming sites for movies. There should be something for everyone in this list, with popular services like Netflix and Prime Video making the cut.

These are the best movie streaming sites in 2021.





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