Looking for ways to watch shows and movies online? Maybe you’re thinking of signing up for a new streaming service. Or maybe you’re feeling the pinch and trying to find a free alternative in the wake of ever-increasing subscription prices. Thankfully, as the streaming marketplace has gotten more crowded, more and more options have sprung up, meaning there are plenty of options available to suit all budgets and interests.
We’ve got info on a range of free and paid streaming services that offer some of the biggest and best movies and TV shows to keep yourself and your family and friends entertained. It’s worth noting that there are way more services out there than we could list below, so it’s definitely worth investigating whether there’s something else that may better suit your needs. The cheaper end of the spectrum in particular has become more and more competitive. Not only are there plenty of free streaming solutions out there, but many of the premium services now also offer cheaper, ad-supported supported membership plans.
Free Streaming Services
Freevee (Previously IMDb TV) is a free, ad-supported streaming service that you can find on a range of devices owned and operated by Amazon.
The service offers thousands of premium movies and TV shows in its ever-evolving lineup. Alongside free, ad-supported streaming TV channels (known as FAST channels), you can find a lineup of popular shows and movies across a range of genres. Plus, Freevee also has its own TV Originals like Bosch: Legacy, Judy Justice, Jury Duty, and the Australian soap opera, Neighbours.
You can find Freevee within the Prime Video app, though it’s also available as a standalone app on all Amazon Fire TV devices, iOS and Android mobile devices, PlayStation 5 games consoles, on many smart TVs and you can also stream Freevee titles on the web.
2. Pluto TV
Pluto TV is a free streaming option that’s best used for live TV viewing. Although the Paramount-owned platform does have a decent catalog of on-demand movies and shows, you’ll find way more stuff to watch on its many live, always-on channels.
Typically, these channels are themed around particular shows, genres or brands from Paramount’s back catalog. So, you’ll find channels for Baywatch, CSI and Kitchen Nightmares to reality TV, MTV and Star Trek plus news networks, light entertainment, comedy, anime, sports highlights and more.
It also couldn’t be much easier to get started, as you don’t even need to sign up for a Pluto TV account to get watching, though users who do sign up for a free account will gain extra features, such as the ability to designate favorite channels.
3. The Roku Channel
The Roku Channel app is found on all Roku-enabled devices, though you can also pick up the app on mobiles and tablets and access it on the web.
As with the other free services on this list, The Roku Channel is an ad-supported streaming app that puts plenty of shows and movies within easy reach, with both on-demand and live channels available on the platform.
Notably, Roku often offers the premiere episodes of prominent, prestige cable shows for free (with the option of adding paid add-on subscriptions to the requisite channels should you wish to continue watching). Otherwise, it’s home to a rotating slate of licensed content from a range of major broadcasters and it boasts a selection of exclusive originals. Roku’s also acquired all of Quibi’s micro-programming shortly after the ill-fated service shut down in 2020.
As with Pluto TV, would-be viewers don’t even need an account to start watching and can enjoy what The Roku Channel has to offer as a guest.
Paid Streaming Services
Netflix is practically synonymous with streaming at this point. After starting out life as a mail-order DVD rental service (a service that’s due to be “sunsetted” in the fall), the platform has grown to become one of the biggest huge names in the entertainment world.
Netflix is home to hugely popular original shows like Stranger Things, Bridgerton, The Night Agent, and The Crown, Oscar-winning movies like Marriage Story, All Quiet on the Western Front, and Mank, plus thousands of other TV shows and movies to suit all audiences.
Along with all their originals, the service boasts a huge roster of older shows and movies, from all kinds of genres. And with the Netflix algorithm working hard to serve up fresh recommendations and new releases coming practically every week, you’re bound to find something to watch every time you open the app.
After launching its ad-supported membership option in 2022, there are four main Netflix plans to choose from. These range in price from $6.99 a month all the way up to the Premium package, now costing $19.99 each month.
5. Prime Video
Like Netflix, Prime Video boasts a large library full of TV shows and movies. There’s tons of entertainment available to Prime subscribers, including a growing range of exclusive content. Think big-budget shows such as The Rings of Power or Citadel, movies featuring big-name actors like Colin Farrell (Thirteen Lives), Viola Davis and Ben Affleck (Air). There’s an expanding slate of sports on Prime too, from Major League Baseball to the PGA tour and even professional pickleball, there’s something there for every taste…
And, if Prime Video’s offerings aren’t quite enough to sate you, there’s also the option of building out your entertainment package with Prime Video Channels, allowing you to add services like Paramount Plus, Showtime or Starz to increase your content offering.
And if that’s not enough entertainment already, the Prime Video storefront is also one of the places you can rent or buy the latest and greatest movies once they’re available at home; rental prices typically sit around the $20 mark.
If you’re not already a Prime member, it’s $14.99 a month or $139 a year, though there’s also the option of just signing up for Prime Video itself for $8.99 a month.
6. Apple TV
If you’re a longtime Apple customer, you might once remember renting and/or buying movies via iTunes, but a couple of years ago Apple decided to replace iTunes with separate apps for entertainment, audiobooks, podcasts and music, folding movies and TV shows into the Apple TV app (Windows users continue to have access to iTunes).
Branded “the ultimate way to watch TV”, the Apple TV app is where you’ll find all the things you’ve purchased via iTunes along with thousands more blockbuster movies and TV shows of all genres available to rent or purchase.
The app offers a highly curated experience that’s available on all kinds of devices and enables you to add additional streaming services as Channels to build out your own personal viewing experience, without the need of downloading additional apps (similar to Prime Video). And for as little as $6.99 a month, you could gain access to the growing slate of impressive Apple Originals by signing up for Apple TV Plus, the company’s in-house streaming platform.
Max is Warner Bros. Discovery’s new streaming service that bundles what used to be HBO Max with the vast array of shows and documentaries from Discovery Plus (the latter continues to exist as a standalone service).
As a platform, Max isn’t too different from its predecessor — it’s still home to all the best shows from HBO’s catalog — along with new and old Warner Bros. movies, except it now comes with the entire catalog of Discovery Plus content on top.
Previous HBO Max customers have access to their migrated watchlists and viewing history and can access the service for the same price as their current subscription. Meanwhile, new subscribers have the choice of three plans; Max with ads for just $9.99 a month or $99.99 annually, an ad-free plan for $15.99 a month/$149.99 annually, or the souped-up 4K streaming plan, Max Ultimate, which will run you $19.99 a month or $199.99 a year.
Originally launched as a digital video rental service, Vudu has become a sort of middle ground between free and paid streaming services. That’s because this Fandango-owned service doesn’t just offer up an impressive library of movies and TV shows for viewers to rent and buy at comparable prices to other services; it’s also home to plenty of ad-supported content that you can enjoy without spending a dime.
Once you’ve signed up for an account, you’ll have access to over 10,000 movies and episodes of TV shows, for free. Although they won’t be the most recent must-watch shows or latest blockbusters, there’s still plenty to watch.
If you want to watch the current movies and TV shows, you’ll have to stump up some cash. One-time rental prices for older content typically range from as little as $0.99 to $5.99, with newer (just-released) movies ranging from $4.99 up to $24.99. Individual episodes range from $1.99-$2.99, with whole seasons typically costing between $16.99 and $43.99.
9. Disney Plus
Disney Plus has quickly become one of the most popular streaming services in the market thanks in no small part to the fact that the House of Mouse owns so many big-name properties. The Disney Plus library comprises all sorts of shows and movies from the Disney Vault along with new exclusives from Disney brands such as FX, ABC, Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and National Geographic, among others.
Thanks to the introduction of an ad-supported plan in 2022, access to Disney Plus starts from $7.99 a month, with the ad-free experience costing $10.99 a month or $109.99 a year. Value hunters should also strongly consider whether they’d be better off signing up for a Disney Bundle.
The Disney Bundle subscription folds Disney’s proprietary streaming service in with Hulu and/or ESPN Plus (depending on which plan you opt for) and could be a great way to snap up family-friendly entertainment along with plenty of live sport and even more great content from Hulu.
Martin is a writer for What To Watch, focusing on guides to streaming services, like Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus and HBO Max and news and features on the latest movies and TV shows.
Some of his favorite shows are What We Do In The Shadows, Bridgerton, Gangs of London, The Witcher, Doctor Who, and Ghosts. When he’s not watching TV or at the movies, Martin’s probably still in front of a screen playing the latest video games, reading, or watching the NFL.
- Lisa GerstnerEditor, Kiplinger Personal Finance magazine
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