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Best Streaming Services for Movie Lovers
A brief guide for movie lovers who hate movie theaters
Do you love movies but hate the movie theater experience? Then this is the guide for you, couch grouch.
These are our picks for the best streaming services for movie lovers.
What are the best streaming services for movie lovers?
- : Best overall
- : Best cinematic universes
- : Best free streaming plan for movies
- : Best old-school video store vibe
- : Best for aspiring directors
HBO Max: Best overall
If you want just one streaming service to feed your cinephilia, we recommend HBO Max.
HBO stands for Home Box Office, and HBO Max really delivers on that name by offering the most reliable catalog of quality films from the past and the present while catering to the broadest range of audiences in terms of age and genres. Whatever your age or interests are, there will be a movie for you on HBO Max. That's why when I'm in the mood for a movie I haven't seen before, I almost always start with HBO Max first.
HBO Max's biggest edge might be its selection of new and prestige movies. If you're waiting for the latest blockbuster to appear on a streaming service, chances are it's going to be on HBO Max. (Unless you're waiting for Top Gun: Maverick, which is expected to stream on Paramount+ after a longer theatrical window.)
HBO Max includes a variety of hubs, and I think movie lovers will especially want to check out the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) hub. Like its name suggests, TCM provides a rotating lineup of films that are universally regarded as classics. This is where you'll find your film noirs, musicals, and westerns, even some silent movies, but it's also the hub for newer classics like The Da Vinci Code. (Yes, The Da Vinci Code is considered a classic, and that doesn't make me feel old AT ALL.)
HBO Max is also the Batcave of streaming services—it's the digital home of Batman and the rest of the DC Extended Universe. While recent DC movies like Joker, Justice League, and The Batman have rightfully earned a reputation for a more adult-focused approach to superhero movies, it's worth remembering that DC has a substantial catalog of kid-friendly animated movies too.
Prices and plans
HBO Max costs $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year for its ad-supported plan and $14.99 per month or $149.99 per year for its ad-free plan.
|HBO Max (With Ads)||$9.99/mo.||View Plans|
|HBO Max (Ad-Free)||$14.99/mo.*||View Plans|
|HBO Max (With Ads) Annual||$99.99/year||View Plans|
|HBO Max (Ad-Free) Annual||$149.99/year||View Plans|
Before subscribing, check to see if you already have HBO Max
But before you sign up for a new HBO Max subscription, you should check to see if you already have access through your cable provider or another service that includes it.
HBO lists these main service providers who include free HBO Max access with certain plans:
If you are a subscriber of one of the services above, double-check with them to see if you get HBO as part of your package.
There are lots of other ways you might already have access HBO Max without signing up for a subscription. Check out this complete list of HBO Max providers from the HBO Max help center to learn more.
Disney+: Best cinematic universes
On Disney+, you'll find Disney movies, Pixar movies, Star Wars movies, Marvel movies, and Muppet movies. Those are pretty much the main cultural pillars of modern American society, which makes Disney+'s movie catalog "impressive … most impressive," to quote the Sith lord formerly known as Anakin Skywalker.
If you picked just one streaming service for movies, Disney+ would be a solid choice simply because of these five mega franchises. In fact, if the majority of your household movie lovers are actually minors, then we might recommend Disney+ over HBO Max as the top choice.
But its greatest strength could also be its greatest drawback. Outside of these five cinematic universes, there just aren't a lot of great movie options in the Disney+ catalog. You'll need to switch over to its sibling service Hulu if you want a more diverse selection of films.
Prices and plans
Disney+ costs $7.99 a month or $79.99 for a year, and we think the Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ bundle is one of the best streaming deals out there.
Peacock: Best free streaming plan for movies
Peacock offers a lot of the breadth and depth of selection that movie lovers look for. In that regard, it's like HBO Max (discussed above) or Hulu (discussed below). There is something for everyone here, and that goes for kids too.
But what it offers that HBO Max and Hulu don't is a free plan. More on that in a second.
Peacock is the streaming home of Universal films, so if you're a blockbuster hunter, then there are two T Rexes here: the Jurassic Park (now World) and The Fast and the Furious properties live on Peacock. But you'll need to pony up for one of the premium plans to stream the newest releases.
Universal is streaming its new films on Peacock 45 days after the theatrical release (again, you'll need the premium plans to watch them). For example, I just watched The Northman last night, and it's still in theaters where I live. I was so glad I could pause it at will because that movie is INTENSE. I felt the same way about Eggers' first film The Witch.
I'm on the ad-free plan, but if you're just looking for a basic ad-based streaming service that's free AND had a ton of movies, Peacock is the way to go. There are limitations with the free Peacock plan, but I believe the quality and selection of the films is better than the other free movie services.
Prices and plans
Peacock comes in three plans: Peacock (free), Peacock Premium ($4.99/mo.), and Peacock Premium Plus ($9.99/mo.).
Hulu: Best old-school video shop vibe
We spend so much time talking about Hulu in the context of TV series, live TV, and live sports, but I admit that I was sleeping on Hulu's movie selection until I started writing this article.
When I started poking around Hulu's movie library, it gave me a real sense of nostalgia for the old-school video shop experience. Like a Blockbuster Video, the movie selection here is vast but very mainstream. Hulu stocks crowd-pleasers, eminently rewatchable movies. Everything boasts bright packaging and familiar stars.
The first thing I noticed (and liked) was the number of movies available. That's key for movie lovers—we've seen a lot of movies already, so we need a broad selection to make a streaming service worth it.
The next thing I noticed was the breadth and depth of the library. Like HBO Max, there are movies for every age range and from every genre. If you're looking to watch movies with the whole family, Hulu has plenty to choose from.
Hulu is the streaming home of 20th Century Fox Studios, so you'll see a fair amount of prestige films in the mix here too. Of course, that means a lot of Oscar-worthy fare:
- Slumdog Millionaire
- Black Swan
- Little Miss Sunshine
- The Shape of Water
So if there are so many great movies on Hulu, why didn't I put this at the top of the list?
Well, the blockbusters are a wee bit lackluster. They feel like the kinds of movies I used to see in actual video shops back in the day.
The major franchises you'll find on Hulu are Alien, Predator, and Die Hard. I grew up in the '80s, so I love those movies, but it remains to be seen if they remain relevant with today's crowd.
Hulu really shines if you like offbeat, indie comedies like Palm Springs or Fire Island. If those sound like your jam, then Hulu's Original films might be right up your alley. These are the types of mid- to low-budget comedies that we rarely see in the theaters anymore.
Prices and plans
Hulu has two plans, and the difference is ads or no ads—Basic has limited ads and Premium has zero ads.
If you're watching a movie, the ad experience is pretty mild—usually just 120 seconds before the film starts. Sadly, no previews.
Just bear that ad experience in mind when considering that the Basic Plan is just $7 per month and Hulu Premium is $12.99 per month.
The Criterion Channel: Best for aspiring directors
If you love world and art house movies—you know, the kind of films that coffee-guzzlers in black berets would call "cinema"—then you must check out the Criterion Channel. Though if you really do love movies, we suspect that you probably already know about Criterion.
For those who haven't heard about it, the Criterion catalog of films (known as the Criterion Collection among movie nerds) is … well, I'll let them describe it:
So, yeah—it's extensive.
It's probably my personal favorite streaming service for watching movies because it has everything you would need to watch to qualify for an advanced degree in film history. I especially love all the French and Japanese films. These are just a few of the world cinema classics that even casual movie lovers may have heard of:
- Seven Samurai
- Paris, Texas
- The Seventh Seal
- Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
But it can be overwhelming. If we think of streaming services as ski runs, this one is definitely a black diamond—for experts only. That's why I put it at the bottom of the list—it's awesome as it is, it caters to a very specific taste.
Prices and plans
The Criterion Channel costs $10.99 per month or $99.99 for an annual subscription, which is actually quite the bargain when you consider that buying a single Criterion DVD will run you more than that. For example, the newly released 4K UHD edition of Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity is around $40 on its own!
One to watch: Paramount+'s future looks great for movie lovers
Paramount+, which used to be known as the CBS All Access streaming service, is just ramping up its content offerings, but it already has a pretty stellar stable of movies to watch.
The Paramount back catalog includes crown jewels like the Indiana Jones and Star Trek franchises and most of Martin Scorsese's films. Paramount+ will also be the streaming home for new Paramount productions like the previously mentioned Top Gun: Maverick and the fifth Indiana Jones film.
This is a streaming service that movie lovers should keep their eye on.
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