There's no denying we are completely spoilt for choice when it comes to on-demand TV shows and movies these days. There is more content than ever and it's all available whenever and wherever we want, at home on TVs and laptops, or on the move on your mobile, thanks to the rise and rise of streaming video apps and services. The only problem is which one(s) to choose.
It's an increasingly crowded market. Netflix may have piled on the subscribers in recent years but it is now up against very real opposition from Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus (and many, many more). And that's before we even mention the rising costs of the different tiers available as well.
The best streaming services offer TV and films in better-than-ever picture and audio quality – with 4K, HDR and Dolby Atmos – and deliver a huge choice of feature-length films, TV series, documentaries and more, bolstered by an increasing amount of original content developed to drive streaming subscriptions.
So which are the best streaming services for TV and movies? Read on for the pros and cons across the top popular services.
How to choose the best video streaming service for you
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With so much choice available these days, how do you choose? You can't subscribe to every single streaming service (if you can, we envy you); not only will the costs add up, but trying to find what you want to watch will also become unwieldy.
The first hurdle is pinpointing what kinds of TV shows and movies you like watching the most. Prefer Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar films? Disney Plus is a no-brainer. Love plenty of original content across the globe and a ridiculous amount of choice? Netflix is still the king of new 'content'. Looking for big-budget blockbuster fare? Amazon Video is a prime choice. Prefer limited but high-quality original shows? Apple TV should be your go-to.
You can also opt to subscribe to two services on the regular, for example, while dipping in and out of another's subscription depending on when a new show you're looking forward to will premiere. It's one way of keeping costs down, but without missing out on a great new show (or film).
All services offer varying tiers of subscription, from basic standard to top-tier 4K/Dolby Atmos quality. If 4K/HDR picture and Dolby Atmos audio are a must (and you have the relevant kit to enjoy this stunning performance), then it's definitely worth singling out the service that offers you the best picture and audio performance. Each service also details sharing plans and limits, which is handy if you're in a multi-person household and share your subscription with friends and family (just beware of the Netflix password crackdown).
There are cheaper ad-supported tiers popping up as well to counter the rising costs of each subscription, but there's a decision to be made on whether you're happy to suffer through ads in place of an uninterrupted 4K picture. The choice is yours.
The House of Mouse has gatecrashed the streaming party, taking some of the shine (and content) off Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
Not only does it have a vast back catalogue of Disney classics (think Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin, Dumbo etc) but also modern classics like stage show sensation Hamilton and smash hit Frozen II.
Oh, and there are also vast offerings from Disney's subsidiaries Lucasfilm (i.e. all the Star Wars films and shows), Marvel, Pixar, National Geographic and Star (where a huge array of older TV shows and movies are available).
Quite a proposition. But what of the actual service itself? It's very good indeed.
There's plenty of 4K HDR content to enjoy, and you can download it all to your device to enjoy on the go. Audio technologies 5.1 and Dolby Atmos are part of the package, and the service is a cinch to get to grips with. It supports a wide range of devices too, from web browsers and smartphones to tablets, streaming dongles and games consoles. All of which gives plenty to enjoy, and not just for the kids.
A standard monthly subscription to Disney Plus starts at £7.99 ($10.99 / AU$11.99), while it has also recently introduced an ad-supported tier for a cheaper $7.99 monthly cost in the US only (for now).
Read the full review: Disney Plus
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What is there left to say about Netflix? It has a huge selection of original content, including Squid Game, Bridgerton, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, Stranger Things and many more.
It's a doddle to use, available on almost any device (including streaming sticks, smart TVs and games consoles) and it's now so ubiquitous that some TVs' remote controls even have a dedicated Netflix button.
You're not left wanting when it comes to picture quality, either. There's plenty to watch in 4K and HDR, and it supports 5.1 and Dolby Atmos surround sound audio. You can download shows and films to your mobile device to watch on the go, too.
Subscription plans start at £4.99 ($6.99 / AU$6.99) per month for an ad-supported tier in Full HD 1080p quality, the basic £6.99 ($9.99 / AU$10.99) tier for standard-definition streams, but it's worth paying £10.09 ($15.49 / AU$16.99) for the Full HD streams (without ads). Access to 4K streams has been rising since 2021, and will now set you back £15.99 ($19.99 / AU$22.99) per month for the top Premier subscription. It's pricey, but overall we think that's still good value for the amount and quality of performance you get.
Read the full: Netflix review
Amazon Prime Video is another great-value service you'll find built into a wide range of TVs and mobile devices. There's plenty of TV and cinematic treats to binge on, including over 100 seasons of TV shows in 4K (many are also available in HDR/10+). Amazon's roster of 'original' content isn't quite as compelling as Netflix's, but there is still plenty of choice, including The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, Bosch and Reacher.
Unlike Netflix, Amazon doesn't charge extra to access 4K content. The £5.99 ($8.99) per month option grants unlimited access to the Prime Video catalogue. Or shell out £8.99 ($14.99 / AU$9.99) per month for Prime Video with full Amazon Prime Membership (ad-free music streaming, free one-day delivery, etc).
Or you can pay £95 ($139 / AU$79) for annual Prime membership with access to music, video, free delivery and more. (In Australia, you can't subscribe to just Prime Video without full Amazon Prime.) There's a rumour of a cheaper ad-supported tier incoming, too.
Whether you want an hour's entertainment or a long-haul marathon, Prime Video will slake your thirst. That said, if you're not already part of the Amazon ecosystem, Netflix is the better all-rounder.
Read the full Amazon Prime Video review
Apple's offering doesn't hope to replace Netflix or Amazon Prime Video as your main streaming service, but rather is pitched as an add-on to either. The content is, typically for Apple, very glossy, slickly produced and mostly family-friendly. But seeing as it's all created by Apple (with no third-party offerings in sight), there's nowhere near enough of it to meet your watching needs as your only subscription.
While prices have risen since launch, you can subscribe monthly for £6.99 ($6.99 / AU$9.99). Still, it's affordable, atypically for Apple. This is even more true if you buy a new Apple device, as you'll get 12 months of free access to the service. Thankfully it's available beyond just Apple devices, with some brands of streaming sticks (like Roku) and smart TVs (like Samsung) also supported.
Picture and sound quality are superb, and the big-name talent onboard (Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Aniston, Oprah...) is undoubtedly a draw, too. There have been more new shows that have cut through the pop cultural consciousness recently – Ted Lasso, Slow Horses and Severance to name a few. Apple has said it's going for quality over quantity, but still, we can't help but wish there was more to watch.
Read the full review: Apple TV Plus
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