7 best streaming services for binge-watching films if your local cinema isn't reopening yet

David Phelan
iStock/The Independent

At times like this, the need for something to watch is more important than ever.

There are plenty of channels, from terrestrial to cable to satellite, but the biggest change to watching habits has been the move to streaming services.

First of all, there’s the amazing flexibility: you’re not tied to a broadcast schedule or even to a TV – streaming services have apps for laptops, tablets and even phones, so your daily commute (when those return) doesn’t mean you can’t keep up to date with that series you’re enjoying.

Streaming services are smart enough to know how far you got last night watching the latest episode of Better Call Saul on TV, and when you open the smartphone app in the morning, it’ll pick up from exactly that point.

The ability to watch what you want, when you want has contributed to the success of streaming services.

Plus, there are usually no adverts to interrupt the shows. Now more than ever, the binge-watch has changed our viewing habits.

Of course, there’s also the small matter of the programming. As well as access to a range of not-quite-the-latest movies, streaming platforms thrive according to how captivating their shows are.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Disney+

How to watch: Compatible TVs, PC, Apple iPad, Android tablet, Amazon Fire tablet, smartphone, Apple TV (4th gen+), Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Sony PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Roku​
Price per month: £5.99
Price per year: £59.99
How many screens: Four
Downloads possible? Yes
4K available? Yes
Free trial? Seven days
Standout shows: The Simpsons, Star Wars, The Mandalorian, Marvel, Pixar and Disney movies

The new streaming service from Disney has a huge range of desirable content, including Pixar movies, Marvel movies and series, Disney’s own TV shows and spin-offs and Disney+ originals like the Lady and the Tramp live-action film. There’s also National Geographic.

The price is keen and the interface extremely simple and enjoyable to use with a banner of featured content and titles grouped into categories to aid search. If you have a compatible TV, you can watch directly using the Disney+ app (some Samsung and LG TVs have the app already with more coming) but there are also apps for almost every streaming device and games console.

If you have a 4K television, some of the content is available at this higher resolution and in various formats, plus there’s surround sound technology available in some cases. Disney+ is undeniably successful, with more than 50 million subscribers worldwide in a very short time.

Buy now

Sky On Demand

How to watch: Sky Q, PC, Apple iPad, Android tablet, Apple and Android smartphones, Xbox, PlayStation, NOW TV box
Price per month: Varies according to channels
Price per year: Varies according to channels
How many screens: Not specified
Downloads possible? Yes
4K available? On TV only
Free trial? No
Standout shows: Succession, Game of Thrones, Westworld, Chernobyl, Save Me, Brassic

Much of Sky’s output is broadcast programming, beamed to you via a satellite dish. But there’s also a significant number of movies and programmes which are only available to download or stream, either on the Sky box or via the Sky Go app, which also permits live streaming of some Sky channels.

This is Sky TV on demand, and some content is available in 4K resolution through the Sky Q box only. There are around 1,000 hours of content from various Sky channels including a lot of box sets.

Buy now

Netflix

How to watch: Compatible TVs, PC, Apple iPad, Android tablet, Amazon Fire tablet, Apple and Android smartphones, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Sony PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Roku​
Price per month: From £5.99 per month
Price per year: N/A
How many screens: Varies according to plan
Downloads possible? Yes
4K available? Yes
Free trial? No
Standout shows: The Crown, Better Call Saul, Ozark, Tiger King, Making a Murderer, Sex Education, House of Cards, Narcos, Fargo, Grace & Frankie, Stranger Things, Roma, The Irishman, After Life

Netflix has a massive range of movies and series, including many Netflix original programmes or ones that are exclusive to the platform.

There are three plans: Basic at £5.99 a month, which means you can only watch on one screen at a time, and there’s no high definition (HD) content, only standard definition. The standard plan is £8.99, and you can watch on two screens, with content available in HD. Premium costs £11.99 a month and lets you stream on four devices at the same time, with movies and programming available in HD or even 4K.

There’s no free trial in the UK, though like most services here you can cancel at any time. The Netflix interface is similar to Amazon Prime. Both are straightforward and the main issue is deciding what to watch. Drama doesn’t get much better than The Crown, and the current hit documentary, Tiger King, is compelling viewing.

Buy now

Amazon Prime Video

How to watch: Compatible TVs, PC, Apple iPad, Android tablet, Amazon Fire tablet, smartphone, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Sony PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Roku​
Price per month: £7.99
Price per year: £79
How many screens: Three
Downloads possible? Yes
4K available? Yes
Free trial? 30 days
Standout shows: Star Trek Picard, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, Treadstone, Modern Love, Sneaky Pete, The Boys, American Gods, The Grand Tour

At first glance, Amazon Prime looks more expensive than some services. However, Prime Video is part of the full Amazon Prime package, which includes free next-day delivery on a huge number of products. Plus, the range of programmes on offer is very wide, with a huge number of must-watch titles from light comedy to sci-fi.

It’s also easy to rent or buy other titles, including the latest movies. The interface is easy to use and effective. Searching for the title or genre you want is simple, though sometimes the range of options available can be overwhelming.

Buy now

Apple TV+

How to watch: Compatible TVs, PC, Apple iPad, Android tablet, Amazon Fire tablet, smartphone, Apple TV (4th gen+), Amazon Fire TV Stick, Google Chromecast, Sony PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Roku
Price per month: £4.99
Price per year: £49.99
How many screens: Six
Downloads possible? Yes
4K available? Yes
Free trial? Seven days
Standout shows: Amazing Stories, The Morning Show, See, Mythic Quest, Dickinson, For All Mankind, Servant

Apple’s own programming service is very competitively priced. In fact, if you buy a new iPhone, iPad or Apple TV streaming box among others, you get your first year’s subscription for free. The Apple service is based on a number of original series and movies, and although this started from a low number, it is growing. It works through the Apple TV app, which is superbly easy to use, and folds in other channels, including catch-up services like BBC iPlayer.

Most, if not all, the Apple TV+ originals are made in 4K resolution, so everything looks lush and detailed. Like Prime, Apple’s TV app provides access to thousands of movies and shows which are available to buy or rent.

Buy now

Quibi

How to watch: Apple and Android phones
Price per month: £7.99 a month
Price per year: £95.88
How many screens: N/A
Downloads possible? Yes
4K available? No
Free trial? 90 days
Standout shows: Survive, Most Dangerous Game

The very latest streaming service is Quibi (pronounced kwibbee) which is short for “quick bites”. As such, it’s designed to be watched on your phone and all programmes are short and under 10 minutes. The cleverest thing about the app is that the content adjusts to fill the screen depending on whether you’re holding your phone in landscape or portrait orientation.

Of course, the shortness of the productions is just ideal for the commute or downtime when your drinking partner is late, but neither arrangement is quite where the world is just now. Still the generous three-month free trial may be enough to get viewers hooked. Though only on phones for now, Quibi aims to be available on TVs in the coming months.

Buy now

BritBox

How to watch: Compatible TVs, PC, Apple iPad, Android tablet, Apple or Android smartphone, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast​
Price per month: £5.99 a month
Price per year: £71.88
How many screens: No limit
Downloads possible? Not yet
4K available? No
Free trial? 30 days
Standout shows: Doctor Who, Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, Peep Show, Happy Valley, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Downton Abbey, Broadchurch, Prime Suspect, Absolutely Fabulous, Fawlty Towers, Little Britain

As the name indicates, this is the home of British content, offering more British boxsets than anyone else, the company claims.

Excluding children’s content, there are 289 boxsets of British shows here, versus Netflix’s 162. The programmes on offer are so far classic shows (including more than 600 episodes of Doctor Who) but original programming will follow. Like other services, there are no adverts, which makes a change from watching the original seen on ITV, Channel 4 or Channel 5. There are parts of the interface that could do with improvement, like the A-Z screen which takes time to navigate.

Buy now

The verdict: Streaming services

There are so many streaming services available now, there’s a near-guarantee that you’ll find something to watch, though subscribing to all of them isn’t cheap. Disney+ has the best back catalogue of any service, with every Pixar and Disney movie coming to the service for sure. Beyond that, it’s a toss-up between Amazon Prime and Netflix. Both have unmissable programming, though the additional lure of free one-day deliveries of purchases from Amazon is appealing.

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