author-profile
ByLidia Davis Home Security Writer

Lidia writes about home security, home automation, and online privacy for Reviews.com. She graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

Frequently Asked Questions


Does cord-cutting actually save money?
What equipment do I need to stream movies?
How do I stream movies for free?
What are some of the best free streaming sites?
What about illegal movie streaming?
Why don’t people want to pay for streaming?

Does cord-cutting actually save money?

The short answer: maybe. It depends on how many streaming services you want to purchase. Live streaming services, like DIRECTV Now and YouTube TV cost around $40 per month, whereas on-demand services like Netflix cost around $10 per month. There really is no catch-all service for live and on-demand streaming, so based on where your preferences lie, you may find yourself footing a hefty monthly bill to have it all. Of course, you can be strategic on how to cut costs, especially if you’re looking to avoid cable bills (which can cost around $107 per month).

Return to top

What do I need to stream movies?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommends consumers have enough bandwidth for 5-8 Mbps of download speed in order to stream videos in high definition. It’s best to double those numbers to account for devices potentially streaming at the same time. For older TVs, you may want to think about purchasing a separate HDMI to AVI converter in order to plug in your streaming device, or you could purchase a Roku Express+ — which, in our opinion, provides the most bang for your buck and comes with an HDMI port.

Return to top

How do I stream movies for free?

Some of our favorite free streaming sites like Hoopla, Tubi TV, and Kanopy, allow you to watch movies on-demand without having to pay a dime. Note, these will come with advertisement breaks and, likely, some extra time weeding through content to find a renowned or compelling film. Films in this camp of free streaming services probably didn’t make the cut for Netflix or Hulu, but this doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find something to watch.

Return to top

Where can I stream movies for free?

We spent a month answering this question. After sifting through the content, examining user-friendliness (and legality), here's our take on the best of the best:

  • Hoopla — The all-around best for showing an array of documentaries, classics, drama, and self-improvement videos. If you want any Oscar winners, though, look elsewhere.
  • Tubi TV — Tubi has more blockbusters than Hoopla — and options in general — than Hoopla, but we weren’t able to find as many new releases as we did on the former.
  • Kanopy — We dubbed this one the “college library to Hoopla’s local branch.” It’s a tad more worldly and arthouse and boasts a plethora of educational videos. For comedy or family-oriented shows, look elsewhere.
  • Vudu — Vudu is your friend if you’re stuck in 1980s-1990s nostalgia: It’s perfect for pretending you’re a kid again, browsing through your local VHS store. Newer films aren’t Vudu’s forte.

Return to top

What about illegal movie streaming?

Just don’t. Even though we’ve found illegal streaming to be a bit like jaywalking, there are plenty of legal ways to watch your favorite movies for free. Remember LimeWire and Napster? As of late 2018, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) found that 38% of consumers were still obtaining music illegally. Nearly 24% of U.S. consumers skirt ticket costs by pirating movies while they’re still in theaters. In some cases, it’s not necessarily illegal to watch pirated content, but it is certainly illegal to do the uploading or downloading of content you don’t have the rights to. Take Plex, for example. Its servers are technically legal, but since they’re populated by people, a lot of the uploaded content is likely pirated.

According to Sam Cook, editor and writer for Flixed.io, there are two trends we’ll see as the number of streaming services grows: “a shift back toward piracy, and a shift back toward content ownership via DVD sales and digital downloads.” Cook referenced this Vice article in an email, claiming that the shift toward piracy is already happening again. A Global Internet Phenomena report shows that BitTorrent use is on the rise, as people have to work harder to scour among the “myriad of streaming services to actually find the content they’re looking for,” the Vice article reads. “The latter, a shift back toward content ownership via DVD sales and digital downloads, is something that hasn’t occurred yet, but is a likely consequence,” Cook wrote.

Return to top

Why don’t people want to pay for streaming?

The subscription fatigue is real. Research shows people don’t really know where to start and how to vet several sites to find what’s worth it and what isn’t. In all honesty — these streaming sites are going through some growing pains themselves. (Just look at how WarnerMedia is reclaiming Friends for its streaming service, HBO Max, in 2020.) A 2019 Deloitte survey reveals consumers are frustrated for having to hunt for content across such a variety of platforms, and 43% of consumers simply give up on the search for content if they can’t find what they’re looking for within a few minutes. This could be a contributing factor in the rise of piracy, as people seek vast libraries with all the content they need in one place.

Return to top

What’s next?

You might also like