The best paid and free movie streaming sites in 2021
Ever since the Australian government started cracking down on file-sharing websites and BitTorrent clients like Popcorn Time and Putlocker, streaming movies for free has become a tad trickier Down Under.
We’ve all used one of these sites in our most desperate moments. Maybe that movie you wanted to see before the internet spoiled it for you was delayed in Australia (like John Wick or Midsommar), or maybe you just don’t want to pay for another streaming service. Both valid reasons but it’s fair to say, we should be paying for our movies and TV shows where we can. It’s just that paying for it can prove difficult in Australia.
There are plenty of great paid and free streaming services readily available in Australia (maybe too many) but each offers vastly different movie libraries. We’ve trawled through the movie collections offered by every streaming service and declared which are the best for streaming movies in Australia.
How we scored each service
1. Prime Video
Best site for streaming movies
When it comes to the sheer number of movies available, it seems you can’t go past Prime Video. Amazon’s streaming service had over 9,522 movies available when we last checked (up from about 5,000 last year). More importantly, it seems they are the movies people want to watch. In our Box Office analysis, Prime Video scored 3 out of 5, thanks to its inclusion of 2020 successes Bad Boys for Life, Sonic the Hedgehog, Dolittle, Little Woman and the Invisible Man, as well as the 2019 box office hit, Joker.
It also scored admirably in our search for popular movies. Out of the 50 most popular movies streaming in Australia, Prime Video had 11 titles in its collection.
Based entirely on its movie collection, Prime Video actually tied with Disney Plus for first place but it’s also almost half the price at $6.99 per month and comes with a raft of additional benefits associated with a Prime membership (like Prime Reading, Prime Music and Prime Shopping discounts). That leads us to the deserving runner-up, Disney Plus.
2. Disney Plus
Next best for movies
Disney Plus was no slouch in the movies department pre-2021. The only issue was, it only offered Disney movies. While that’s still true, the definition of a Disney movie has broadened to include anything from Fox, Lucasfilms and Marvel. These days it’s less a question of what Disney owns, and more a question of what it doesn’t. Still, whatever your feelings are about Disney steamrolling the entire entertainment industry, one of the knock-on benefits of Disney’s various acquisitions is the number of popular movies and all-time classics that are now available on its streaming service.
Disney recently added Disney Plus Star to its streaming service, a mandatory add-on that saw an additional 450 movies (and 155 TV shows) join the library. In our analysis, the huge content drop made all the difference to the Disney Plus movie collection, increasing its overall score dramatically. Star allowed Disney to include more mature content in its library. Movies like Deadpool, Jojo Rabbit, Alien, Kingsman: The Secret Service and Logan, transforming it from a niche family streaming service to a true competitor for Netflix and Prime Video.
It will come as no surprise that Disney Plus scored a solid 5 out of 5 for box office hits, considering the last three years of box office leader boards have been flooded with Disney-owned movies. More importantly, the sudden influx of content upped Disney Plus’s popular movie score to 5 out of 5 too. That’s the most important metric to consider here. It means that Disney Plus and Prime Video don’t just have a lot of movies but also the kind of movies people want to watch. The addition of Star has also done wonders for its TV show collection but that’s a story for another day.
We had to ding Disney Plus a couple of points for value when it increased its pricing (quite dramatically) but when you tally the amount of value that Disney Plus Star added to the service, it starts to make a lot more sense.
Best free movie streaming site
When we last reviewed our rankings for the best free movie streaming sites in Australia, Kanopy came out on top with flying colours. That still holds true. At last check, Kanopy house over 6,500 movies but more important is the type of movies you can find there. Out of nearly 7,000 movies on Kanopy, roughly 2,600 of those hold an IMDB score of 7 or above. That includes high-quality recent cinematic darlings like Moonlight and The Farewell as well as all-timers like Rosemary’s Baby and Glengarry Glen Ross. It’s also the only place you’ll find masterpieces like Kurosawa’s Rashomon or Tarkovsky’s Solaris, which is why it’s considered an invaluable resource for anyone studying film.
But therein lies the biggest problem (and catch) with Kanopy. It’s only free if your local library pays for it. To access it, you need an eligible library card from a library that pays for it. While it might be free to you, a subscription to Kanopy can cost your library a small fortune, and depending on what plan your library pays for, you might be limited to ten streams per month.
Those caveats make it hard to recommend to a broader audience. Kanopy’s competitor Beamafilm offers a similar service but also gives the general public the option to pay for a subscription. That said, paying for it means it no longer qualifies as a free streaming service. That’s why our next best pick for free movie streaming sites in Australia is the ad-supported SBS On Demand.
Next best free movie streaming site
Where Kanopy is free with a few strings attached, SBS On Demand is a bonafide free movie streaming service so long as you’re willing to put up with the ads. SBS On Demand might not have the biggest movie library out there (just shy of 600 movies at last check) but it does offer a curated collection of some truly outstanding movies. On the fresher side of its collection, there’s Taika Waititi’s touching comedy Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Lee Chang-dong’s thrilling Murakami adaption Burning, and Jessica Chastain’s high-stakes poker drama Molly’s Game. There are a few high-quality classics too, like The Graduate, Amelie and Once Were Warriors.
As you can probably tell by now, it’s not the sort of place you go for action-packed comfort viewing but it’s not all so serious. I mean, it’s got the Jackass movie but admittedly that’s a bit of a black sheep amongst SBS On Demand’s collection.
For paid services, Prime Video and Disney Plus now lead the way by a long shot. Still, there are other quality streaming options if you’re after the latest movies.
5. Foxtel Now
While it’s far from the first streaming service we’d recommend, Foxtel Now does offer a healthy selection of movies. It scored favourably for Box Office hits, with all the same blockbusters as Prime Video (Bad Boys for Life, Sonic the Hedgehog etc.) and then some. Birds of Prey and 1917 are two more huge films you’ll find on Foxtel Now.
The issue is, to get most of these movies you’re looking at $45 minimum per month ($25 subscription + $20 movies add-on) making it by far the most expensive way to watch movies on this list. At that price, Foxtel Now just doesn’t compete with most of the services on this list.
Netflix has a huge library of movies, many of which are original and exclusive to the service which counts for something. For its efforts, Netflix scored highly for movie library size but achieved average results when it came to Box Office blockbusters and popular movies. Netflix also ditched its free trial a while back, so even if you want to take it for a test drive, you’ll be paying $10.99 minimum from the jump.
Still, Netflix’s collection of movies isn’t to be underestimated. It has the action-packed John Wick movies if you fancy a bit of a revenge story, Jurassic World, Back to the Future and The Karate Kid for a bit of family fun, as well as every Lord of the Rings movie if you’re looking for a bookish binge.
Not including Disney Plus Star, Binge is the latest streaming service on this list. If you haven’t heard of it, Binge is essentially a more affordable way to access a portion of Foxtel’s content online. It starts at $10 per month for the Basic plan (Standard Definition streaming on one device) and goes up to $18 per month for the Premium plan (High Definition streaming on four devices) and there’s a two-week free trial if you want to try before you buy.
While its movie selection is nothing to be sniffed at, Binge truly shines in the TV department, with access to some of Foxtel’s premium HBO, AMC and FX TV shows, at a more affordable monthly price. Binge scored just shy of Netflix in our movie library analysis, scoring top marks for popular movies, about average for library size, and low for box office hits. This is odd, considering those same movies are available on Foxtel Now and iQ for a hefty fee.