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How to Choose the Right Movie Download Website

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The video store is a dead duck. Or at least a dying one. Let’s face it, who can be bothered trekking down to the shops when you can just click a button and have a top movie playing within moments? Downloading movies from the web is an important multi-million dollar industry that continues to grow, offering new ways of accessing your favorite entertainment easily, safely and conveniently.

We have reviewed some of the best of these to help those who are new to it, and offer guidance to those who download movies regularly. Our reviews look at the most important aspects of each site with the consumer in mind, helping you to learn more and make an informed decision. We endeavor to point out the benefits and potential pitfalls for each site, letting you know all you need to know.

In the following reviews, we scrutinize a range of different movie download and streaming websites, some you will have, such as Netflix, whilst others will probably be quite new to you. We've chosen our sites very carefully to give you optimal choice and convenience. Each of the sites we’ve chosen enables you to stream or download a huge range of films any time of the day or night, and from the comfort of your own home.

In addition, you can now watch in many different ways, whether it's on the main TV, on your PC or laptop, or on a portable device when you're out and about. All of the sites reviewed here are completely legal, so you don't have to worry about copyright issues, inferior quality or computer viruses that are a risk if you download films from file-sharing websites.

So, before you launch headlong into the world of movie downloads please take a moment to look at our reviews and you're bound to find the package that best suits your needs and your budget, leaving you free to enjoy movies 24/7. Here are some top tips for when reading our reviews and making those all-important movie watching decisions:


Discs by post

Although it’s increasingly rare now, some sites still offer to send you DVD's through the post. This is particularly useful if you go travelling and don’t have a brilliant internet connection on your mobile device. There will be a limited period for you to watch and return your disc, so be careful not to keep it too long!


Downloading movies

All of the sites reviewed here allow you to download or stream content to your computer (or other device) in a few different ways:

  • Download to rent: just like DVD or Blu-ray disc rental, digital files can also be downloaded to your computer or portable device for a limited rental period. This varies with the rental service you use, but is usually 24-48 hours, allowing unlimited viewing within the rental period. Downloads to rent normally have to be played within 30 days of purchase. When you start to play a film the rental period will commence. 
  • Download to buy: Once you've chosen a film to watch on your computer or portable player, you can download files giving you unlimited viewing for an unlimited time. Downloads to buy are yours to keep, but you may only watch them on a limited number of different devices. If you find a movie that has “ultraviolet” options this means that you can redeem your code on several devices.
  • Legal downloads: All of the sites in our reviews take copyright law very seriously and are trusted sites. Be aware that copyright law may prevent you from burning files to a DVD or transferring content between devices. If you’re ever uncertain what your rights are, please check the website’s FAQ or contact the customer services department to find out more. 


Streaming films online

You don't have to download films to your hardware. You can also view them by 'streaming' online, without waiting for a transfer to your hard drive. Sites such as Netflix and Hulu allow you to do this and it’s a method which provides a great quantity of choice without the need to download everything in order to watch it. However streaming does mean that you’ll need to be connected to the internet in order to watch a movie or TV show.


Movie Catalog and Quality

Some movie download sites concentrate more on the latest Hollywood blockbusters, whilst others (such as TigerCinema.com and AnimeHere)  focus more on independents, art house and world cinema. Of course, most sites will have a little of each in their catalogs, so this is something to consider before you sign up. You will also find that you can access some free content on some of these sites, which is a good way to see what there is on offer.  

A site's collection can be browsed in a number of ways, the most popular being by genre (e.g. comedy, sci-fi, drama). Good movie download websites have powerful search features to help you find what you're looking for. They may also have trailers and customer generated movie reviews to help you decide whether or not a movie is worth watching in full.

It’s worth testing these out to find out what the audio and visual quality of a movie is like. SD (standard definition) is fine but HD (high definition) is ideal for high budget movies. Some sites offer free viewing but the quality can be lacking, so if this is important to you then it’s good to test the waters before making purchases.


Compatibility Across Devices

With some movie download services, you can also watch movies directly through your HP MediaSmart TV or your TiVo DVR. This bypasses the need for a computer altogether. However you might be interested in watching movies on your iPad or other mobile device. Check whether this is possible.

Generally speaking, you ought to be able to watch most content on most video-ready devices, and sites which stream their movies will often play in the browser (rather than through a separate piece of viewing software). A few of the sites we’ve reviewed also allow synchronization between your various devices, meaning that if you start watching a movie on your laptop, you can continue watching it later using your Kindle Fire HD or other device. 


The Bottom Line

There really are plenty of options and we’ve done our best to help distinguish one site from another. Whether it's specialist Asian cinema or Hollywood blockbusters that float your boat, we’ve got you covered.