Like it or not, hard copies of movies are a dying breed and the easiest way to enjoy the best (and worst) of cinema is to go digital and buy movies online. Sure, many of the best TV streaming services offer movie rentals, but they also have a habit of shifting their catalog around without much notice. This often leads to the annoying experience of finding the tense, plot-driven, espionage thriller you enjoyed a few months ago has disappeared just when you wanted to give it a rewatch.
Now if you're going to fight the digital revolution to the bitter end, then don't worry, we've got some great advice on picking up the best Blu-ray players. But if you do want a digital movie that you can buy and keep forever to enjoy on your TV, smartphone or one of the best tablets of 2020, where should you go? We’ve had a look at five great places to buy digital movies and listed them below, along with a few pros and cons of each one.
1. Amazon Prime Video
Amazon’s video services can be a little confusing. For instance, users can buy movies digitally through Amazon Prime Video regardless of whether or not they subscribe to Amazon Prime.
Once that’s understood, Amazon Prime Video offers a wide selection of movies, including the latest blockbusters, and provides apps for Smart TVs, tablets, smartphones, and games consoles along with its own streaming stick.
Amazon is no novice when it comes to storage and servers so you're unlikely to encounter problems with getting a movie purchase delivered to your chosen device for viewing online or off. On the downside, some of the app interfaces can be less intuitive compared to their peers from Apple and Google, and there’s no download option for PC or Mac.
Pros: Big selection of movies; Stable and reliable; Wide compatibility
Cons: No download option for PC or Mac
2. Google Play
Google play offers a huge range of movies that can be played on an equally huge range of devices. You can stream Google Play on any Android device as well as on your PC, Roku, Smart TV, and even on iPhones or iPads. If your games console has a YouTube app you can use that too, as all Google Play rentals and purchases can be played via YouTube.
You’ll need a Google account to stream or download purchases and prices are pretty much in line with other services across the board.
Pros: Wide range of movies; Can be watched on a huge range of devices and platforms
Cons: Currently no offline downloads for desktops or laptops
While not as high-profile as Google Play or Apple iTunes, Vudu has been around for 10 years and is owned by giants of retail, Walmart. So, its credentials are sound. Like its more famous peers, it offers digital movies for rental and purchase in SD, HD, and a limited amount in 4K. They also offer their own HDX format which is slightly better than HD.
Vudu boasts an incredibly wide range of compatible devices with a list including iOS, Android, games consoles, and a few Smart TVs to boot. Another nice feature is the ability to download purchased movies to laptop and desktop computers.
Pros: Watch from pretty much anywhere on pretty much everything; No monthly subscription; 'Free with ads' option for some movies
Cons: Pricing is a bit higher
4. Apple iTunes
If you have an iPhone or iPad then it’s sensible to make iTunes your first port of call when you look to buy movies online. As well as working seamlessly with all your Apple kit, you can also access other subscription services, such as Hulu and HBO, via the Apple TV app. All purchased movies can be downloaded for viewing offline on iPhone, iPad, Mac, and even PC.
The catch comes if you want to view your purchases on anything other than an Apple product or via iTunes on the PC. There is an Apple TV channel available on Roku that plays iTunes purchases but, beyond that, you won’t be able to watch your movies on other devices. This means that should you wish to migrate to another operating system you’ll have to leave your movie collection behind.
Pros: Easy to use with great stability; Huge selection of movies
Cons: Limited to Apple products and iTunes
While everyone knows that YouTube is a great place to find videos of cats being adorably cute and humans hurting themselves in hilarious fashion, fewer people are aware that it also offers movies for rental and purchase.
While its catalog doesn’t rival that of the other services mentioned here, there are some decent titles on offer in SD, HD, and even a few in 4K. A big plus is that you’ll be able to watch them on any device that has an internet connection so long as you have a Google account to make the purchase through. It’s also worth knowing that any purchases you make via YouTube will appear in Google Play (and vice versa).
Pros: Available on any device with an internet connection
Cons: Not as big a catalogue as other options; Rental and purchase options not clear on some devices
Buying movies from your cable provider
Many cable companies offer movie rental and purchase as part of the package and while it can be easy and convenient to buy movies in this way, we wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as you won’t be able to take the purchases with you should you switch providers.