Streaming movies and shows has changed how and when we consume media. Previous generations were restricted to watching programs at certain times on specific days because they didn’t have any other choices. Today, we can not only choose what we want to watch but we can choose how to watch it and when. This shift is thanks to streaming services like Netflix and Prime Video.
These are what we consider to be the top 12 streaming services:
- Amazon Prime
- Sling TV
- HBO Max
These streaming services don’t work everywhere, unfortunately. However, using a VPN, you can sometimes gain access to these services, even if they aren’t available in your country just yet. One such a VPN-provider is ExpressVPN.
Are you tired of paying for expensive cable or satellite bills? Maybe you’re trying to cut down on the number of streaming services you’re using at one time. No matter what the situation, we’re here to help you sort out your TV and movie watching needs with this guide of the best video streaming services.
We’ve made sure to include both paid and free options so you can pick the services that work with your needs. We’ll also go over the pros and cons and give you a summary of what you’re getting with each service when you sign up. Next, you’ll find a section that will guide you in picking the best service for your tastes, as well as some information on using a VPN with streaming services. We wrap up by answering some frequently asked questions.
We should note that not all of these services will be available in every part of the world. This potential limitation is where a reliable VPN service might help, but we’ll get more into that later in the article.
That’s enough for the introduction. Let’s get started with our list of the top 12 video streaming services you can sign up for today!
Livestreaming vs On-Demand Services
Video streaming services can be broken down into two categories; livestreaming and on-demand streaming.
Livestreaming is basically the same as what you would get through a cable or satellite provider with the primary difference being that the service is used through the internet instead. Livestreaming providers also use an app on streaming devices for their service rather than a physical receiver. With livestreaming, you’re connecting to content at a specific time on certain channels.
On-demand streaming is what most people think of when it comes to video streaming services. These include options like Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, and Prime Video. On-demand streaming means you can pick what you want to watch whenever you want to watch it. As long as the program is available on the service you can view it at your leisure.
To help you identify which of the providers below are livestreaming and which are on-demand, we’ll include a label indicating what type of service the listed item offers to its users.
The Top 12 Video Streaming Services
The following list of streaming services is sorted in no particular order. So even though Netflix is listed first, that doesn’t mean we think its better than Hulu or Disney+. We know that everyone’s tastes are different so we’ve gathered together what we consider to be the best video streaming options for you to enjoy.
Netflix – Best overall streaming service
On-demand streaming service starting at $8.99 per month.
Netflix is the streaming service that changed how we watch movies and shows. With its wide selection of original programming and ever-growing library, Netflix is the most popular streaming choice in North America. The service rotates movies and shows in and out of its library frequently, which means you may lose something you were planning on watching but can also discover something new to watch.
You can watch Netflix on nearly any device, which makes accessing the service when you want it more convenient than other options. The different tiers also mean you can choose the plan that works best for your budget and needs.
The recommendations from the service are unmatched by other streaming services and can be a great way to find new shows and movies to enjoy. You can also create multiple profiles on your account, which helps Netflix’s algorithm find the programs best suited for your tastes.
On the downside, the monthly cost can be expensive, especially if you don’t use Netflix enough to justify the price tag. Also, depending on where you live in the world, your library may not have the program you’re looking for due to geographical restrictions. Lastly, there are a bunch of movies and shows you may not know are available because they’re never included in your recommendations.
|Huge selection of shows and movies to watch||The starting price is expensive compared to other services|
|Easy to use interface on any device||Shows and movies come and go frequently|
|Multiple plan options||Can be hard to stumble across movies outside of the recommendations|
|Powerful recommendation algorithm|
|Up to five different profiles|
Disney+ – Best option for families with young children
On-demand streaming service starting at $6.99 per month.
Disney+ is one of the newer streaming services available and is home to a collection of classic Disney movies and shows. This service also includes a number of original programs aimed at children and families. On Disney+, you have access to five different categories including Pixar, Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic. This variety makes it a great service for people who aren’t just looking for traditional Disney content, especially with the inclusion of Fox properties like The Simpsons.
You also have the option to download movies and TV shows so you can watch them offline at a later date. Disney+ is available on streaming devices like Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, and Smart TVs. Additionally, you can access the streaming service on your browser, smartphone, tablet, and select gaming consoles.
The limitations of Disney+ include some gaps in the program offerings. We’ve also noticed that some shows are listed in the wrong viewing order (the new DuckTales show being one such example).
|Not too expensive when compared to other services||Missing some titles that seem like they should be included|
|A lot of family-friendly original programming||Some shows are listed in the incorrect viewing order|
|Large selection of classic movies|
Prime Video – Great value with Amazon Prime
On-demand streaming service starting at $8.99 per month.
Prime Video is available in two different options. The first is a standalone Prime Video subscription which costs $8.99 per month and only gives you access to the streaming library. The second option is an Amazon Prime account that includes Prime Video with a number of other perks. An Amazon Prime account costs $12.99 a month or can be purchased once a year for $119.
You can stream Prime Video on multiple devices like your computer, your smartphone, and streaming devices. The streaming service just introduced profiles that help you personalize your viewing experience based on recommendations from Prime Video.
While Prime Video may not have the most intuitive interface, it does have a lot of movies and shows to pick from in its library. The inclusion of excellent original programming is also a nice addition to the service, as is the new profile feature.
Some drawbacks to the streaming service include a sometimes buggy user experience on its browser version, as well as Amazon running ads for its programming before your stream starts. There’s also a lot of extra content that’s blocked behind additional costs.
|Excellent original programming||Buggy and dated interface|
|Large selection of movies and shows||The extra content and channels cost more|
|Included with Prime membership||Not available on all platforms|
Hulu – Best service for replacing cable
On-demand streaming service starting at $5.99 per month.
Live TV with on-demand streaming for $54.99 per month.
Hulu is one of the better choices if you’re trying to get rid of your cable/satellite service because of how many streaming options are available. Not only can you choose on-demand streaming but you can also subscribe to their live TV service. With their live TV streaming, you get access to more than 60 channels which includes sports, entertainment, and news.
While the service starts at $5.99 a month, you’ll have to pay $11.99 for the ad-free version. There’s also an option to add Enhanced Cloud DVR and an Unlimited Screens package for $19.99 both or $14.99 each. Other additions include the mentioned live TV for $54.99, HBO for $14.99, and Showtime for $8.99.
The biggest drawback to Hulu is that the cheapest streaming plan makes you watch commercials. Also, if you’re interested in older TV shows you may notice some gaps in the seasons available through the streaming service.
|Affordable on-demand streaming compared to other options||Have to watch commercials|
|Large selection of TV programs||Older TV seasons may have gaps in library|
|Currently airing and full TV season access of shows||Live TV option can be expensive|
Sling TV – Best live TV service
Live TV streaming service for $30 per month.
Sling TV is a live streaming TV service that provides cord-cutters with an option outside of cable and satellite that they can use to watch their favorite channels. The service is available in two plan options which include the Orange plan and Sling Blue. While the $30 cost is the same in both plans, the channels you get in each is different. If you don’t like what each individual package has to offer you can combine both together for $45 a month.
There are also add-on channels available for purchase. These add-ons include Sports Extra, Comedy Extra, Kids add-on, News add-on, and the Hollywood Extra. While the Sport Extra package is $10 per month, the rest of these packages are $5 per month each. You can also add premium channels to any plan such as Showtime, Starz, and Epix.
Some things to keep in mind with Sling TV is that all of the add-ons can quickly add up in cost. If you’re spending a lot in extras, you’d be better using a different service like YouTube TV because it offers more for around the same amount of money. Also, this service is only available in the U.S. which means you’ll need to use a VPN to access it outside of the country. Just remember that the server you connect to in the U.S. will dictate what programming you’ll have access to and at what time through the Live TV service.
|A lot of programming options||Can be expensive if you start adding on packages|
|Cheaper than cable||On-demand content is limited compared to other options|
|No contracts||No original content available|
|Great for ESPN fans||Only available in the U.S.|
HBO Max – Best service for HBO exclusives
On-demand streaming service for $14.99 per month.
HBO Max is home to some of the most renowned and awarded shows available. These shows include Curb Your Enthusiasm, Barry, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, The Wire, Silicon Valley, Watchmen, and Veep. You can also watch Friends, South Park, Rick and Morty, and The Big Bang Theory on HBO Max. In addition to this TV selection, you can also find the latest films from WarnerMedia and other popular movies on this service.
HBO Max can be streamed on Apple and Android phones, smart TVs, and gaming consoles like the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4. You can also use a Chromecast to stream the device to your TV.
HBO Max is only available in the U.S. at this time and can’t be used on Roku devices or through Amazon Fire TV. If you live in the states, it’s worth checking out because of how much programming is included in the monthly cost. Just keep in mind that 4K content isn’t available on the service yet. You also can’t get Audio Descriptions because it isn’t supported on HBO Max.
|A wide selection of movies and shows||Not available outside of the U.S.|
|High-quality original programming||Can’t use with Amazon Fire TV or Roku|
|Access to HBO exclusive shows||More expensive than other options|
Crackle – Best free streaming service for TV and movies
Free on-demand streaming service.
Crackle is a free streaming service that has a library of on-demand movies and shows. Like other streaming services, the library changes often with movies and shows coming and going from Crackle’s offerings. If you decide to use Crackle you’ll need to get used to the commercials they run during the programs which support the streaming service.
You can access Crackle on mobile devices, browsers, gaming consoles, media streaming devices, and select TVs. All of the content on Crackle is also available to stream in 720p.
Because it doesn’t cost anything there isn’t a reason you shouldn’t check out what Crackle has to offer. The service has a surprising amount of programs available to stream, as well as some original content for you to watch.
Aside from the commercials, the biggest hurdle with using Crackle is the dated interface that provides limited recommendations and fewer movie categories when compared to Prime Video and Netflix.
|Free streaming service||You have to watch commercials|
|A large variety of programs||Shows and movies come and go often|
|Original content||Limited availability outside of U.S.|
Peacock – Best free streaming service for NBC programming
On-demand streaming service starting with a free plan option.
With Peacock, you have the option of three different plans to choose from when you sign up for the service. These include a free plan that is ad-supported and includes around 13,000 hours of content and a Premium plan which also has ads but includes 20,000 hours of content along with some live sports. The final option is Premium Plus which gives you everything from the premium plan but removes all the ads.
You can watch Peacock through the app on Android and iPhone devices, as well as gaming consoles and media streaming devices. You can’t watch Peacock on Amazon Fire TV or Roku devices at this time, although that may change in the future.
Peacock is a newer streaming service by NBC that has a number of plan options for you to choose from depending on what you’re interested in watching. The parental controls are a nice option for families with young children who use the service.
Some limitations of this newer service include no option to download programs for watching offline at a later time, as well as no 4K streaming support. There’s also no original programming available on Peacock because it currently only pulls from the NBC library.
|Parental control options||Gaps in the library (Friends, Seinfeld, and The Office)|
|Three tiers to choose from||Not many original shows|
|Live sports||No 4K streaming support|
|Popular NBC programs like Parks and Recreation and King of Queens||No download option|
|Limited availability outside of North America|
YouTube TV – Best cable replacement with DVR support
Live TV streaming service for $64.99 per month.
YouTube TV has a large selection of news channels, entertainment options, and live sports available through its service. Some of the channels you gain access to with a YouTube TV subscription include CNN, Fox, FX, and ABC. You can also add channels to your plan if you’d like more options. These additional packages include NBA League Pass, HBO Max, and Showtime.
You can stream YouTube TV on mobile and streaming devices, as well as on smart TVs and gaming consoles. The interface is easy to navigate and reliable, especially when compared to other live TV streaming options available.
YouTube TV is one of the best traditional television alternatives you can find. This is mostly thanks to its extensive selection of channels and add-on options, as well as the benefit of unlimited cloud DVR storage. Just remember that the cloud storage will keep your recordings for a maximum of nine months before deleting them.
Some potential drawbacks to YouTube TV are the cost of the service and the limited availability outside of the United States. Also, the add-on packages can make your monthly bill expensive if you include too many of them.
|Unlimited cloud DVR storage||Add-ons can get expensive|
|Six accounts under one membership||The monthly cost is pricey|
|Live sports and news channels||Limited availability outside of the U.S.|
|Large network selection|
Tubi – Best free streaming service for movies
Free on-demand streaming service.
Tubi is another free streaming service that provides on-demand movies and shows through an ad-supported platform. The service has a number of popular movies available through its service, as well as select TV shows. Tubi’s interface has a clean design that’s easy to use, as well as a search function that works well to find specific movies or shows in their library.
Tubi can be streamed on mobile devices and web browsers. If you have a Chromecast you can cast Tubi from your phone to your TV. Other streaming devices include Roku, Apple TV, and Android TV. Smart TVs can also access the app, as well as gaming consoles.
Just like with Crackle, there’s no reason no to see what Tubi has to offer with its free streaming service. While the TV selection is limited, there are a number of movies available to stream. Tubi also has parental controls and an ever-rotating library of programs.
A couple of downsides of Tubi include the lack of a download option for watching programs offline and a resolution cap of 720p. However, if there’s a certain movie you’re looking for, Tubi is a great free option to watch it on.
|Free streaming service||Limited TV programming|
|Large selection of movies||720p streaming resolution cap|
|Easy to use interface||No download option|
|Parental controls included|
Shudder – Best horror streaming service
On-demand streaming service for $4.75 per month.
Shudder is the go-to place for horror movie fans who are interested in streaming those hard-to-find classics. The platform also has a lot of recent releases for users to enjoy. You can find a wide selection of movies and shows to choose from, with some being original programming.
You can watch Shudder on all streaming devices and smartphones. It’s also available on browsers and Smart TVs. The service is completely ad-free and comes with a 7-day free trial.
Of course, if you don’t like horror you shouldn’t even consider Shudder as an option. Also, there is no download option for offline viewing so you have to have an internet connection to use the service.
|Low monthly cost||No download options|
|Perfect for horror lovers||Gaps in the content library|
|Large selection of hard to find movies|
Crunchyroll – Best anime streaming service
On-demand streaming service for $7.99 per month.
Anime fans will find a lot to love about Crunchyroll’s library. With over 1,200 options to choose from, Crunchyroll is the place to go for anime shows like Attack on Titan, One-Punch Man, and Hunter X Hunter. There’s also some original programming included with the service.
There are two plans available through Crunchyroll, a free account that has ads and a paid one that doesn’t. You can use the service on streaming devices, smartphones, gaming consoles, and through your browser.
Crunchyroll doesn’t have a download option, making it impossible to use offline. Also, the interface can be difficult to navigate and is more dated than some of the other options on this list.
|Great for anime fans||Ads on the free tier|
|Original programming available||No offline downloads option|
|Two tiers available||The interface is dated and hard to navigate|
How to Choose a Video Streaming Service
When it comes to picking a video streaming service there are some things you need to take into consideration. These factors include how often you’ll be using the service, what programs you want to watch if you’re using the service with your family in mind, and what budget you have to work with.
If you don’t plan on using the service much then a free option may be better than a paid subscription. You can also take advantage of any free trials available to make sure the service has what you want on it and works well for your needs.
You should also think about what subscription level works best for your situation. If you have more than one person in your house using the service, you may need a more expensive plan that lets multiple people stream videos at the same time. Another option is to choose a streaming service that lets you access the library from different addresses, essentially letting you split the cost with people outside of your home.
Another thing you should think about is what other bonuses you get for choosing one service over another. For example, Prime Video is included with your Amazon Prime membership which comes with a number of perks of its own.
How to Stream Video Using a VPN
Getting access to a video catalog from another country is one of the most popular reasons people use a VPN. Because of geographic restrictions on websites and applications, a VPN is the only way you can watch another country’s TV and movie selection.
To get started, you need to sign up with a VPN provider. Once you have your account set up, all you need to do is select the country that has access to the program you want to watch and connect to one of the servers. A good VPN provider to stream content with is ExpressVPN.
- Very easy to use VPN
- Perfect for anonymous browsing, downloading, and streaming (i.e. Netflix)
- 3000+ servers in 94 countries
Once you’re connected to the server in the other country, you should be able to log in to your account on the streaming service and see that country’s selection of videos.
Of course, there are other reasons you may want to consider using a VPN when streaming videos online. These benefits include protecting your personal data, enhancing your security, and gaining access to your normal video streaming library when traveling.
How to Handle a Slow Connection when Using a VPN to Stream
There’s nothing worse than settling down to watch a movie or TV show and running into buffering or connection issues. One of the biggest concerns people have when using a VPN to stream video is that the VPN will slow down their internet connection, resulting in an unpleasant viewing experience.
Some reasons this might happen include a slow internet speed, a large distance between your location and the VPN server, and/or busy VPN servers.
If you’re dealing with a slow internet speed you can talk to your internet provider to see if there are any technical fixes they can recommend or to find out if there is a better plan you should be on that allows for faster internet speed.
When it comes to the VPN service, you typically get what you pay for in terms of quality and reliability. It’s important that you choose your VPN provider carefully because the quality of their service has a direct impact on your ability to stream videos online.
There have never been so many ways to stream movies or shows and with traditional TV continuing to decline, companies are thinking of more ways they can get into video streaming. This potential for more services only increases the number of options you’ll have in the future to watch your favorite programs.
If you still have some uncertainties about streaming services you should check out these common questions to see if they answer your concerns.
The following streaming services have a free trial offer so you can check out what they have to offer; Crunchyroll, Sling TV, Shudder, Peacock, Amazon Prime, Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu, and YouTube TV.
Crunchyroll, Netflix and Amazon Prime offer a 30-day free trial. Sling TV, Shudder, Peacock, HBO Max, and Hulu with Live TV gives you a 7-day trial to test out their services. YouTube TV is currently offering an extended 14-day free trial.
If you want to watch programs that are only available in another country you need to use a VPN. This is one of the most popular reasons for using a VPN as it allows you to access that country’s library of movies and TV shows. Geographical restrictions on other types of videos, like some locked videos on YouTube, can also be streamed by using a VPN to connect to a country where the video is not restricted.
You can use prepaid credit cards to sign up for streaming services instead of a traditional credit card if you prefer. The only difference between this type of payment and a traditional credit card is that you’ll need to remember to pay for next month’s service before your plan expires.
You can also use a gift card designed for the service, such as a Netflix gift card, which will give you a certain number of months included in the cost.
While the most popular streaming service is still Netflix, other competitors are quickly gaining momentum. This includes Prime Video and Disney+. Free streaming services are also increasingly preferred over paid options. These free services include Tubi and Crackle. Other popular choices are HBO Max and Sling TV, although both of these are only available if you live in the U.S. or use a VPN.
If you own a model that isn’t a smart TV you can still stream videos on it through a couple of different options. The first choice is to buy a streaming device like an Amazon Fire Stick or a Roku Media Streamer. These media boxes will let you access streaming services and watch them on your TV through an HDMI input. Another option is to use a Google Chromecast to cast the streaming app from your phone to your television screen. You’ll also need an HDMI input on your TV to connect the Chromecast.
YouTube TV is a streaming service that provides a mix of live TV with on-demand movies and shows. This service also has a DVR feature that lets you record programs so you can watch them at a later date. YouTube TV uses YouTube’s interface and is available for streaming across a number of different platforms. YouTube is a video-sharing website that lets you watch videos, as well as create channels and engage with communities.