Cheapest ways to legally watch films and TV online
Got a serious streaming addiction? Find out how to save money on Netflix, Amazon Prime, NOW TV and more. And, you can even watch some shows for free online...
You probably don't need us to tell you how great Netflix is. But, what if we told you that you could be saving serious money on your streaming subscriptions? Yeah, now you're listening.
Better yet, you can also save money when streaming films and TV without a monthly subscription. Your hungover Sundays just got a lot cheaper.
What's in this guide?
How to save money on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+ and NOW TV
If you're a serial film addict, the subscription services easily give you the best deal for your money.
For a relatively small monthly fee, you'll get unlimited access to each service's respective offering. And given that the total length of everything on Netflix alone is estimated to be about three and a half years, this should comfortably fill some of your free time at uni.
But what does each streaming service have to offer, and how can you save money on each one? Allow us to enlighten you...
Amazon Prime Video
Standard price: £7.99/month, or £79/year as part of Amazon Prime (£39/year for students); other titles available at additional cost.
Popular titles: The Grand Tour, Mr. Robot, The Office US, Vikings, Outlander.
Research has shown that Amazon Prime's selection of films is almost three times as big as Netflix's, but when it comes to settling down with a bowl of popcorn, you're usually after quality – not quantity.
Fortunately, Amazon Prime delivers on this front too. It boasts a whole host of blockbusters, including Lord of the Rings, Paddington, Elf, Full Metal Jacket and Inception.
The selection of TV shows is somewhat less vast, but there are still plenty of treats on offer – The Man In The High Castle, Parks and Recreation, The Office US and The Walking Dead are just a few of the big hitters.
When you're deciding what to watch on Amazon Prime, just make sure that what you choose is actually part of the service. A lot of the titles you'll see listed aren't included in your subscription, and you'll have to pay extra to either buy or rent them.
How to save money on Amazon Prime Video
As long as you've got a valid .ac.uk email address, you're entitled to Prime Student membership. It's almost exactly the same as standard Prime membership, except rather than costing £79/year, it only costs £39/year.
Not only does this get you access to Prime Video, but it also unlocks Prime Music, Prime Photos, and perhaps best of all, free delivery on all Prime-eligible products.
Weirdly, the only thing missing from Prime Student is access to the Kindle library, despite this arguably being the most useful part for students...
But the money saving doesn't stop there. If you're eligible for Prime Student, you should also be able to get your hands on a free six month trial of the service!
And even if your .ac.uk email address no longer works, standard users are still entitled to a free trial of Prime Video, which lasts a month before reverting to the standard price of £5.99/month.
Note: As Prime Student can't be bought as a gift (unlike standard Prime, which can), using any gift card tricks to get Prime Video will still work out more expensive than just getting a Prime Student membership.
Standard price: £4.99/month.
Popular titles: The Morning Show, Dickinson, See, For All Mankind, The Elephant Queen.
Apple TV+ launched in November 2019 and, as it's so new, there's currently only a handful of shows on there.
The £4.99/month price tag might currently seem quite (well, very) steep for a small amount of content, but there are some ways to watch Apple TV+ for free when you buy other things which you can get more use out of...
How to save money on Apple TV+
The best way for students to save money on Apple TV+ is by getting the Apple Music student plan which includes a subscription to the TV-streaming service for a limited time.
The Apple Music student plan lets you stream and download songs from a library of 50 million, ad-free. It has a three-month free trial, costing £4.99/month thereafter for up to 48 months (or until you leave uni) when it'll go up to the standard price of £9.99/month.
It costs the same as a student subscription of Spotify Premium, but with the added bonus of the Apple TV shows. As Apple TV+ expands, this could end up being a very good way of saving money on streaming TV and music.
Plus, you can also get access to one year of Apple TV+ for free when you buy a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPod touch or Mac after 10th September 2019. While we definitely wouldn't recommend buying an Apple device just to get the free Apple TV+ subscription, it's a good way to save money on streaming TV shows if you were planning to get one anyway.
Standard price: £5.99/month (Basic), £8.99/month (Standard), £11.99/month (Premium).
Popular titles: Stranger Things, Breaking Bad, Making a Murderer, Mindhunter, The Crown.
Just as Google has become a by-word for any kind of online search, Netflix is now pretty much the go-to term for a streaming service. 'Amazon Prime Video and chill' just doesn't have the same ring to it, you know?
While Netflix's selection of films is certainly nothing to be sniffed at (Seven, The Wolf of Wall Street, Pulp Fiction and Whiplash, to name just four), it's the catalogue of TV shows that has really helped establish it as the popular choice.
Despite having the rights to stone-cold classics like Breaking Bad, Peaky Blinders and Mad Men, Netflix's original content is arguably the best of the bunch. Narcos, Stranger Things and BoJack Horseman are among the critically acclaimed titles that Netflix has produced in-house.
How to save money on Netflix
Unlike Amazon Prime, it's a lot easier to get a cheap Netflix account with a gift card. Why? Because where there's a gift card, there's (usually) a discount to be had.
On eBay, you'll find that users sell gift cards that they don't want. They can go for up to 20% less than their value – a £20 gift card for just £16, for example.
Netflix vouchers are among the more popular ones on eBay, so don't always expect savings as big as 20% – but if you ask us, any discount is a good discount.
It's also worth keeping an eye out for gift card sales. Shops (including Tesco) will occasionally run offers on gift cards, meaning you can once again get a whole chunk of Netflix credit for less than it's actually worth. Check out our deals section to see if there's a sale on now!
Standard price: £8.99/month (Entertainment Pass), £11.99/month (Sky Cinema), £33.99/month (Sky Sports).
Popular titles: The Wire, The Handmaid's Tale, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, Westworld, The Affair.
With a relatively small selection of titles, NOW TV has very much gone for the 'quality not quantity' approach.
As it's owned by Sky, NOW TV boasts exclusive rights to some of the best shows around. This includes all of Sky Atlantic's (or, more accurately, HBO's) most popular titles, such as Game of Thrones, Westworld and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.
Their film offering isn't bad either, but that's probably not a surprise given that it's basically just the back catalogue of Sky Cinema.
On the downside, if you're working to a budget (which we always reckon you should) you'll have to make a choice between film and TV. NOW TV charges a separate monthly fee for each service, plus a massive £33.99 a month for Sky Sports.
How to save money on NOW TV
Good news! NOW TV vouchers are usually also on eBay, so you can use the same tricks here as you can to get a discount on Netflix.
However, as the deals often only apply if you purchase one of the 12-month passes, you should probably consider whether or not you'll use it for a year.
Make sure to take a look at our deals section, too. It's fairly common for the NOW TV streaming boxes to be on offer with several months of service included, and that should save you a few quid!
If there aren't any sales on, head to CDKeys.com. Although the discounts won't be as big as you'd get in a proper sale, it's still cheaper than paying full whack.
And, if you're already a NOW TV customer, try phoning them up and saying that you want to cancel your subscription. As with many other companies, this could prompt them to offer you a cut-price deal in order to persuade you to stay – just make sure you know how to haggle.
Finally, as you'll find with most other streaming services, there's a free trial of NOW TV on offer to new customers (sadly just 7 days long, though).
How to save on pay-per-view services
If you're not a super streamer, but just like to indulge in the odd film here and there, pay-per-view (PPV) services could well be the option for you.
With a lot of sites, you can also pay to download the titles forever – great if you think it's going to become a classic.
By now you're probably well aware that iTunes offers films and TV shows – and boy, do they offer them. We're going to go out on a limb and say that their library is possibly the biggest of the bunch.
Using iTunes isn't without its drawbacks, though. You'll need to download the iTunes software before you can buy or rent, and whatever you get can only be watched through an Apple device (or computer).
How to save money on iTunes
iTunes always has sales on, and even outside of the offers, lesser-known films can cost significantly less than the blockbusters. Sometimes rentals are available for as little as 99p, and there's usually a fair number of films for sale at just £3.99.
But however much it costs, make sure you get some gift cards first! Head back up to our section on getting a discount on Netflix for a recap on how to bag some cheap gift cards.
Google Play Movies
Honestly, is there anything Google doesn't do? The answer, apparently, is no.
Like iTunes, Google Play Movies offers a huge selection of films and TV series. However, unlike iTunes, Google doesn't restrict you to just viewing your downloads on their operating system. Google Play Movies is available on Apple devices, as well as Android phones and tablets.
You can also watch through your laptop and, if you have a games console, your downloads should be accessible through the 'Purchased' tab on your YouTube app. Now that's what we call compatibility.
How to save money on Google Play Movies
Firstly, you'll want to get your hands on Google Opinion Rewards. As payment for answering a few very short surveys about your shopping or viewing habits, the app gives you some credit for the Play Store.
Each survey tends to pay no more than about 40p, and there isn't always one available to complete, but it's a great little way to earn some pennies to put towards your next film purchase.
Failing that, check out our deals section. Google often sell their Chromecast with some Google Play Store credit to boot, so it could be worth checking if they're running this kind of offer first (although obviously you shouldn't spend extra for the Chromecast if you don't need/want one!).
Google Play Movies is also no stranger to a sale, and there's literally always something on offer. And yes, you can use vouchers on the Play Store, so you should use the cheap gift card trick here too.
Not heard of Rakuten TV? It used to be called Wuaki. Still not heard of it? Well, prepare to be enlightened.
The streaming service has a massive back catalogue just waiting to be watched, including all of your favourite picks. You can stream Rakuten TV through all Android and iOS devices, as well as your computer, but it's only supported by Xbox in the world of game consoles.
That said, you can download content to watch offline. While you can also do this on iTunes and Google Play, not all streaming services offer it as a feature, so its value shouldn't be overlooked.
How to save money on Rakuten TV
First up, Rakuten TV has a whole library of free films and TV shows. The overall quality of the selection isn't the best, but there are some genuine classics in there and we'd definitely recommend giving it a look before parting with your cash.
The site also has a section on its site dedicated to Deal of the Week offers. These feature a handful of popular films which are available at discounted prices.
While not the most generous loyalty points scheme, the Rakuten Super Points (RSP) can help you save money on online films and TV shows. For every pound you spend on Rakuten, you'll get one RSP (worth one penny) which you can use as credit for future purchases.
When you have enough points to cover the whole cost of something you want to rent or buy, you can choose the option 'Use Rakuten Super Points' at the checkout. You can redeem RSPs on their website and on Smart TVs which are compatible with their app's most recent version.
And, be sure to check out our deals – we often have offers on Rakuten TV (including free credit and films), so if you want to save money, that's where to go.
Formerly owned by Tesco and known as 'Blinkbox', TalkTalk TV is now (you guessed it!) owned by TalkTalk and has had a bit of an upgrade in the process.
One of the bonuses of TalkTalk TV is that if you don't want to stream the film, you can download it and watch it later on. This is perfect if you're planning any long train journeys or going anywhere without WiFi.
But remember, both Netflix and Amazon Prime also let you download things to watch offline, so if you're planning on getting a few episodes or films, it might be better value to sign up to one of them for a month.
How to save money on TalkTalk TV
TalkTalk TV often has deals running where titles will be available for as little as 99p. Obviously this limits your selection a little, but who knows – maybe your favourite film is in the sale, or perhaps a hidden gem is just waiting for you to discover it?
Best ways to stream films and TV for free
There's no better discount than getting something for free, and luckily for you, there are plenty of ways to watch films and TV for absolutely no cost whatsoever.
And before you say it, yes, there are lots of ways to stream things for free which aren't strictly legal. But, because we don't want to get you (and, more importantly, ourselves) into trouble, we'll stick to the legal options.
'Game-changer' doesn't even come close to describing our thoughts when we first heard about BoB (and no, we're not on about the flat-earther rapper).
BoB is intended as an online learning resource (it's genuinely useful as one, too), and it has an archive of over two million TV and radio broadcasts. This includes films, and believe us when we say that we're yet to find a major title that isn't on there.
The Harry Potter films? American Horror Story? They're all on it. The picture quality isn't as good as you'll find on a paid-for streaming service, and the episode selection can be slightly hit and miss – but when you're not paying a penny and it's completely legal, who cares?
BoB uses your university's login service to confirm you're a current student and, to find exactly what you're looking for, make sure to select 'Title only' under 'Search options'.
iPlayer also allows you to watch a selection of the films that have been on the BBC in the past 30 days, as well as some iPlayer-exclusive documentaries. And now the Beeb has even started adding some of its old content to the service too, meaning you can get your Louis Theroux fix without having to pay for Netflix.
As for All 4, while it doesn't tend to have any films for you to watch, it does have the complete box sets for most of its popular shows, past and present. This means every single episode of Peep Show, Catastrophe and Misfits, as well as some golden oldies like Dawson's Creek.
Similarly, UKTV Play has most of the shows that have been on the UKTV channels (that includes Dave!) in the past few weeks, as well as a fair few box sets to add to the equation. If you love Taskmaster (and let's face it, who doesn't?), this is an absolute treasure trove.
Just make sure you're keeping in line with TV licence rules, especially if you're exploiting the TV licence loophole! You wouldn't want this legal way to stream TV and film to land you in jail, now would you?
Before you go about signing up to a streaming service, or buying from a pay-per-view shop, double check to see if your parents (or the parents of one of your flatmates) have Sky TV.
If they do, ask them if they would be so kind as to let you log into their Sky Go account on your laptop (bonus tip: this also lets you watch the Sky channels they have live). Should they say yes, you'll have your hands on an impressive selection of titles.
Anyone on the Box Sets or Complete package will have access to Sky's on-demand service, a selection that contains over 350 box sets. Sky Cinema subscribers also have a selection of over 1,000 films to stream, so it's worth asking if they have that too.
Cheapest ways to stream TV series and films to your TV
Everyone knows that you can use streaming services on your laptop, but it's hardly the most sociable or comfortable way to do things.
If you're keen to watch your flicks on the big(ger) screen, you've got a few options: get a streaming device to plug into your TV, hook your computer up to the screen using an HDMI cable, or go via your games console.
Each method has its own pros and cons, so let's quickly run through the best cost-effective options.
Amazon Fire TV stick
Pros: Supports most streaming services | Has Alexa remote which can control other smart devices | Can be controlled with phones and tablets.
Cons: No NOW TV | No 4K Ultra HD on the cheaper model | More expensive than some alternatives.
Don't be fooled by the name – the Amazon Fire TV stick can stream a lot more than just Amazon's own content. In fact, with the notable exception of NOW TV, this little device has an app for pretty much every streaming service you can think of.
Price wise, the RRP is £39.99, but Amazon almost always has some kind of offer on it. Prime members also get free delivery, so if you haven't got an account, get your free six-month trial now.
Pros: Supports most streaming services | Usually the cheapest streaming stick | Can be controlled by phones and tablets.
Cons: Doesn't support Amazon Prime | No 4K Ultra HD on the cheaper model | Still more expensive than some alternatives.
Chromecast was the first major streaming stick to hit the market, and as it's made by Google, you know you're getting a quality product.
It's easily the cheapest stick out there, but Chromecast is let down slightly by the fact that it doesn't support Amazon Prime.
Pros: No extra cost if you have one | Comes with controller | Most services supported.
Cons: Pricey if you haven't got one | Not all services supported on all devices.
The beauty of streaming through your games console, be it a PlayStation, Xbox, or one of the Nintendo offerings, is that you won't need to buy any additional kit that'll take up your precious HDMI sockets.
However, if you don't have a console (and you don't intend to start gaming) it's probably the least cost-effective way possible to start streaming.
It's also worth noting that not all services are available on all consoles – for example, NOW TV isn't available on the Wii.
Pros: Cheap | Allows you to stream anything that your computer can.
Cons: Difficult to control if you're not sat by your computer | Tricky if you have a desktop computer.
This is very much the back-to-basics approach to streaming through your TV, but hey – if it works, it works, right?
All you have to do is get an HDMI cable (which, if you don't already have one, is cheap as chips on Amazon) and plug it into your laptop.
Most modern laptops have an HDMI socket, but for some MacBooks and Microsoft Surface Pros, you'll need an HDMI adapter (also cheap).
If you've got a desktop computer rather than a laptop, this can be a little more complicated. You'll have to move the unit to wherever your TV sits, and considering how much of a faff this is, you're probably better off going with another option.
Pros: Supports all services | Comes with a remote | Can be controlled with phones and tablets.
Cons: Some complaints of slow operating system and lag between video and audio | No 4K Ultra HD on cheapest model.
Roku also offers a higher-end streaming device, but we've gone for the cheaper model because it's, well, cheaper (about a third of the price, in fact!).
The biggest selling point of the Roku Express is that it supports all of the major streaming services, plus a few hundred more.
A quick look at some reviews will reveal more than a few complaints of the software being slow, but that's a compromise you'll have to live with if you want to have all your streaming services on one cheap device.
Pros: No extra cost if you already have one | Most popular services supported.
Cons: Expensive if you haven't got one | Not all services supported on all devices.
Before you dive in and buy another device, double check whether you've got a Smart TV first. If you do, there's every chance that you're already set up to stream through your tele already!
This method isn't without its drawbacks, though. Smart TVs aren't cheap, so if you don't already have one (and don't need a new TV), it's a huge outlay.
What's more, not all services are available on all devices – NOW TV, for instance, isn't available on Sony and Panasonic Smart TVs.
Prefer to watch your flicks on the big screen? Check out our guide to saving money at the cinema.