PROS / You can stream movies and TV shows on the go and at home on a huge number of devices.
CONS / The streaming content selection is limited compared to the disc-rental selection.
VERDICT / Netflix’s streaming service beats out all the competition in every aspect of the movie-on-demand business.
When it comes to instant movie streaming and downloads, Netflix is king – and a king deserves gold and jewels. The winner of our TopTenREVIEWS Gold Award has a wide selection of movies and television shows available for instant streaming and DVD rental by mail.
The best thing about movie streaming services like Netflix is that once you get comfortable on the couch, you never have to get up again – not even to switch DVD disks. What really sets Netflix apart from other movie download services is the number of ways you can access it. You can watch movies and TV shows from Netflix on your television, Blu-ray player, PC or Mac computer, Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 3, Roku, internet TV, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and more.
Although Netflix isn’t necessarily a movie download service, we're partial to streaming because it takes less time, doesn’t take up space and is generally free. It doesn’t matter whether you watch a movie on your iPad, computer or Blu-ray player; all streamed content is high quality and accessible in seconds.
One of the only complaints we have with Netflix is the difference between the number of movies it has available for streaming compared to the selection available for the mail rental service. Although a few new releases trickle in throughout the year, the streaming library is comprised mostly of older movies such as "The Three Musketeers" and "Meet Me in St. Louis."
Netflix has a fantastic array of instant movies and DVDs to offer its members, especially considering the low monthly cost of membership. Membership packages include:
- Unlimited streaming only: $7.99
- 1 DVD out at a time with up to two hours of streaming per month: $4.99 ($5.99 with Blu-ray rentals)
- 1 DVD out at a time plus unlimited streaming: $9.99 ($11.99 with Blu-ray rentals)
- 2 DVDs out at a time plus unlimited streaming: $14.99 ($17.99 with Blu-ray rentals)
- 3 DVDs out at a time plus unlimited streaming: $19.99 ($23.99 with Blu-ray rentals)
- 4 DVDs out at a time plus unlimited streaming: $27.99 ($32.99 with Blu-ray rentals)
Netflix is famous for its easy-to-use mail rental system that is all it’s cracked up to be. You can queue up the movies and TV shows you want to watch from your online account and Netflix will send them out to you in order based on the number of DVDs you pay to have out at one time. When you’ve finished with a movie, simply put it in the pre-paid shipping envelope and mail it back. Most members usually get their next DVD within one or two business days.
You can access your Netflix account online and view your streaming and DVD-shipping history, add or remove movies from your queue and change your plan and parental-control settings.
When searching for movies, it’s usually important to have information such as the MPAA rating, run time, cast, format and language, and Netflix provides all that information and more. Each movie has its own page with the previously mentioned information plus a theatrical poster, awards and nominations and additional information such as the director and genre, plus the option to stream live (if available) or add it to your queue.
We love that each movie page also has the average member rating of the movie as well as member and critic reviews. The reviews voted most helpful by other members are within plain sight.
It’s Friday night at the end of a rough week and all you want to do is curl up on your couch with your significant other and watch movies until you fall asleep. What do you do when you want to keep going after your first movie ends and your girlfriend is already snoozing across your lap? You can’t get to the DVD player without waking her. She’s a cute sleeper and all, but now is one of the only times that you get to watch whatever you want, and you can’t let that opportunity go to waste! This wouldn’t be a problem if you had Netflix, because you could instantly stream movies to your TV using the remote.
One of our favorite things about Netflix is how accessible it is. You can stream movies anywhere with your Android, watch reruns of "The X-Files" at any time on your laptop or Xbox 360 and change your account settings from your TV and computer.
The speed at which your desired show streams depends on the strength of the internet connection. The speed at which both television shows and movies stream is astounding; Netflix brings a completely new meaning to the phrase “on demand.”
Netflix dominates all competitors when it comes to its selection of free movie downloads. We were pleased to see popular TV shows such as "The Office" and "Lost," as well as family favorite "Up" available for instant stream. However, we wish that the streaming selection was even bigger and that it included more new releases and other modern favorites.
Netflix has a huge library of DVD rentals, but many of those titles are not available for streaming, so it may be in your best interest to purchase a plan that includes DVD rentals as well.
A large portion of content formatted for instant streaming includes children’s movies, cartoons and toddler's TV shows, which is perfect for keeping kids entertained, especially if they can easily access Netflix from their gaming console.
That said, it is important to emphasize the incredible number of movies you can watch with Netflix. This service has more than 20 movie genres to offer including westerns, documentaries, foreign and religious films. Surely there is something for everyone with a selection that large.
Help & Support
Netflix’s website is extremely easy to use and understand, but it does not offer email support or live chat help. The only way to contact customer service if you need help is by telephone. This solution is not for everyone, especially people with hearing or speech impairments.
However, the company has Facebook and Twitter accounts that it keeps up to date. There are several discussion boards on its Facebook page where members can hash over problems and other issues, and Netflix will often comment on these boards to clarify an issue or announce an update. Netflix's Twitter help account is also a great resource because the company will retweet members’ questions and answer them.
If you’re looking for the best movie download service, look no further: you’ve found Netflix. No other movie download service can beat this service’s on-demand streaming speed, membership perks, price, easy-to-use website and number of ways to watch movies instantly. The only blemishes on Netflix’s near perfection are the absence of email and live chat support and the limited number of movies available for instant stream.
Even with these two minor weaknesses, Netflix is an all-around accomplished service. This company is at the top of the movie-on-demand pack, where we expect it will stay for many years to come.