Netflix is great. Really great. Amazon Prime Video is too. But there are other video services out there.
If these big names don’t tickle your particular filmic fancy, you might have thought that streaming services simply aren’t for you. But that’s just not true. There are loads of other options you might not have heard of, which might deserve your streaming spends – and a couple of our picks won’t even cost you a penny.
Some are more movie focused, with an emphasis on a specific genre, and others place a spotlight on TV shows or documentaries. If you’ve ever muttered the phrase: “there’s nothing on TV”, prepare to eat those words, sharpish.
Related: Best TV 2020
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- Price: £5.99/month (5 devices, 2 screens)
- Compatibility: iOS/Android, Mac/PC, Sony & Samsung smart TVs, Apple AirPlay, Google ChromeCast, Amazon Fire TV, PS3, PS4
Mubi is one of the more established streaming alternatives out there. It was founded in 2007 (operating for three years under a different name) with an aim to bring visionary movies from around the world to an audience that lives and breathes film. In its own words, “popular doesn’t always mean good”.
A film is handpicked daily and remains in Mubi’s catalogue for 30 days, meaning at any one time you have a choice of 30 films for your monthly subscription. It’s limited compared to it’s competition, but it’s carefully curated and filled with films you may not find anywhere else.
You’ll find films both classic and new, big budget and small, subtitled and English speaking. Some you’ll know, many you won’t, then you’ll get to discuss it all with other Mubi users afterwards.
The streaming quality is something Mubi has said it has worked on, and that we can vouch for – it’s HD streams are crisp and stable, even with older films.
It might not be for everyone, but if you’re really into your movies, it’s a great way to discover more.
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- Price: £4.99/month
- Compatibility: iOS, Android, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Xbox One
Put simply, Shudder is a streaming service dedicated to scaring the bejesus out of you.
Its catalogue is made up of horror, thriller and suspense movies and TV series, sourced from around the world. Of course, the selection is limited by genre, but horror fans will have a field day with its selection.
The scales tip towards there being more English-spoken films, but you’ll find subtitled options too. Movies and Series are separated out into their own sections, plus there’s a curated “Collections” section, which groups movies together by theme.
Sections like “Hexes and Ooh!”, “Psychos and Madmen” and “Flesh Eating Frenzy” were on offer at the time of writing, but they’re changed regularly depending on the season and films available.
Streaming is only available in 720p, with some older films only streaming in a maximum of 480p. They might not look the best on your 55-inch 4K TV, but on a tablet or laptop they look just fine.
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- Price: £4.99/month
- Compatibility: iOS/Android, Mac/PC, AirPlay
If the name didn’t give it away, the BFI Player is a streaming service from the British Film Institute (BFI), showing a curated selection of arthouse cinema and contemporary classics.
You can rent newer films for a one-off payment, and even watch a good selection of archived films for free, but the monthly subscription tends to cover classic cult films, with regular exclusives to boot.
There’s a focus on British and European releases, but international films are included on occasion too, with film critic Mark Kermode on hand to give a weekly pick from the catalogue.
The majority of films are available in Full HD and stream very cleanly, though it does use adaptive streaming to adjust the quality downwards if your connection is poor.
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- Price: £3.99/month, £19.99/6 months, £39.99/year
- Compatibility: iOS/Android, Mac/PC Sony, Samsung & LG TVs, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV
You might have seen Flix Premiere as an app on your smart TV and dismissed it as an also-ran, but you shouldn’t. It’s filled largely with exclusive and award-winning movies plucked from film festivals around the world.
Granted, it’s not got the sprawling catalogue of Netflix – there were around 130 movies on it at time we looked at it – but movies are added and replaced weekly, with each one given its own “premiere” showing, sort of like the cinema.
The majority of the films are recent, from the past couple of years, and tend to be English spoken, though there are a few international titles too. You are able to search by genre or by actor, plus there’s a free monthly digital magazine that digs deeper into that month’s film additions too.
All films are available to stream in Full HD, with the ability to notch it down to help slower connections.
A very affordable way to watch something a little different.
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- Price: £4.99/month
- Compatibility: iOS/Android, Mac/PC, Amazon tablets, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV
Whether you’ve got kids or you’re just a big kid yourself, DisneyLife is a streaming service packed with Disney films and TV shows, alongside a wide selection of singalong music and books.
That means more than 400 Disney movies and 4000 TV episodes in on demand, plus a live stream from Disney’s three TV channels as well.
Don’t forget, Disney isn’t all about cartoons. While all the classics are there for your nostalgic pleasure, you’ll also get films like Pirates of the Caribbean and Saving Mr Banks, plus Marvel’s animated series and some great Pixar shorts. There’s no sign of Star Wars just yet, though…
All of this is all available in HD quality, with a rather generous allowance of watching on up to four devices at the same time. You can even download content for offline viewing later, and set up different accounts for all the family.
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- Price: £3.99/month
- Compatibility: iOS/Android, Mac/PC, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast
Now for something completely different. If you know your TOWIE from your MIC and your KUWTK from you LAHH, HayU is the streaming service for you.
For those of you less au fait with reality TV, that’s what we’re talking about here – a hub of all the best (and worst) reality shows from the UK and US. All 3,000+ episodes of them.
A nice touch is that US-based shows hit HayU at the same time as they hit TVs in the States, which is handy, as even Sky and cable channels are usually a little way behind.
Of course, for every great reality TV show, there are a whole load of terrible ones (I’m looking at you, Denise Richards: It’s Complicated). But if reality TV is your thing, you’ll find plenty to binge on here.
All shows are available in 1080p Full HD should your connection allow, and you can download up to 25 episodes at a time for offline viewing too.
Get Now: HayU for £3.99 per montth
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- Price: Free
- Compatibility: iOS/Android, Mac/PC
Snag Films offers over 10,000 movies and TV shows, available to stream for free. Yes, free. The only snag (sorry) is that you’ll probably have to put up with adverts placed throughout.
It’s sensibly done though, and not hugely invasive – sometimes you might not see any, other times you might get a couple thrown in somewhere in the middle.
Perhaps it’s biggest issue is that picture quality isn’t the best. There’s no specific information on what it streams at, but the majority of films I watched seemed to be no better than 720p. Older films were, understandably, even lower still.
The selection of films is a bit hit and miss too, with many older and lesser known titles instead. It’s easy to browse through the genres though, so it’s always worth checking to see what’s there. With movies at least, we often struggled to get the TV shows to play.
Even with all that considered, it’s hard to grumble at free, and if you’ve exhausted all your paid for streaming services and still come out with nothing to watch, it could be worth checking Snag’s catalogue. You might just find a hidden gem.
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- Price: £4.99/month (ad-free), free (with ads)
- Compatibility: iOS/Android, Mac/PC, Apple TV, Google ChromeCast, Amazon Fire TV, PS4, Xbox One, Roku
Originally a hosting platform for fan-subs and illegal uploads, Crunchyroll made the jump to legal streamer after a bunch of Japanese animation and entertainment studios realised the service’s value, and chose to invest, rather than shut it down.
Since then it’s become the primary place to watch Japanese TV and cartoons, with new episodes of series appearing on it mere hours after airing. Available for free or on ad free subscription models and distribution deals with most mainstream asian studios, Crunchyroll is king of the anime streaming services.
Whether you’re a fan of classic animes like Gundam, Bleach and Naruto, or prefer newer tales like the bizarre Dog Scissors and epic My Hero Academy, CrunchyRoll has you covered.
Streaming quality caps out at 1080p, but that’s not too much of a problem as most of the anime on it isn’t mastered at 4K.
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- £4-10 monthly passes
- Compatibility: iOS/Android, Mac/PC, Apple TV, Google ChromeCast, PS4, Xbox One, Roku
If you like Sky content, but you don’t want a Sky subscription or can’t get a satelllite dish installed, this is an excellent alternative. Basically, this is a condensed version of Sky’s offerings, available for streaming.
The system works on category passes, which lets you pick and choose what you watch. If you only watch films, get the Cinema pass and enjoy access to newer films before they hit Netflix. If you want TV box sets, you get the Entertainment pass and keep up with Game of Thrones as the episodes come out. There are also options for kids’ TV and sports.
Picture quality isn’t the best, though. We’re currently stuck at 720p with 1080p, with no word yet on HDR, so if you’re a picture nerd, this service lags behind Netflix and Amazon.
Check out our comprehensive guide – What is Now TV? – for everything you need to know.