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- There are a number of online services that let you rent movies to stream at home.
- Popular video rental services include Prime Video, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu, and FandangoNow.
- Movie rentals typically last 48 hours after you start watching a film.
Remember when renting a movie meant going to a store? Times have changed for the movie industry. With video rental chains a relic of the past, online streaming has become the new standard for renting movies to watch at home.
With multiple services to choose from – including Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Vudu, Google Play, and FandangoNow – it’s never been easier to find a film worth renting on a smart TV, media player, or mobile device. These platforms all allow you to browse through a huge catalog of digital films, enabling you to pay for rentals individually rather than as part of a subscription.
To help make your next movie night at home more enjoyable, we’ve broken down some of the basics of renting streaming films from a variety of services. So, put a bag of popcorn in your microwave and pick up your controller or tablet – there are a lot of great movies out there waiting to be discovered.
What services can you rent streaming movies from?
Services like Vudu, Google Play Movies, Apple TV, and FandangoNow all offer a comprehensive assortment of movies that you can rent individually without a subscription. Amazon Prime Video, meanwhile, actually offers individual rentals in addition to its subscription service for Prime members.
Once you’ve created an account with any of the above services and added your payment details, renting a title is as simple as a few clicks. In most cases, you can simply browse through the platform’s website or download the service’s app. After finding the title you want, you simply click on the movie and complete the instructions to confirm your rental.
How much do streaming movies cost to rent?
Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Apple TV, FandangoNow, and Google Play all let you rent movies for as little as $3, though most newer releases top out at $8 depending on the quality you choose. Brand-new movies that are still playing in theaters can cost a bit more, however, with some in-theater titles going for as much as $20 to rent.
How long can you stream movies after you rent them?
You typically get 30 days to start watching a title once you rent it. After you press play, you usually have 48 hours before your rental expires.
Can you buy streaming movies to keep permanently?
In many cases you can choose to buy a digital movie instead of just renting it. This will allow you to stream it whenever you want for as long as you want. Digital movie purchases typically range in price from $5 to $30 depending on how new a film is. 4K Ultra HD versions of movies are sometimes more expensive than high definition (HD) or standard definition (SD) versions.
It should be noted, however, that digital purchases aren’t quite as permanent as buying a DVD or Blu-ray. When you make a digital movie purchase, you’re essentially buying the license to keep streaming that title from the service you’ve selected. But, if that service somehow goes out of business or loses the rights to the title you bought, it’s possible that you’ll lose access to your digital copy.
Can you rent brand-new movies still playing in theaters?
In response to theater closures during the pandemic, studios have allowed people to stream many brand-new movies that would otherwise be exclusive to theaters.
Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Vudu, FandangoNow, and Google Play all offer these “in-theater” titles. Disney Plus also releases select in-theater movies via “Premier Access,” which requires an extra fee in addition to your regular subscription. Depending on the studio, some titles might only be available to rent, while others are only available to buy.
Prices for in-theater rentals can be as high as $30 per title. This may seem expensive if you’re planning to watch “Spiral: From The Book of Saw” on your own, but if you’re a parent with kids who would have otherwise spent a small fortune to see “Raya and the Last Dragon” in a theater – this is a steal. Rental prices are also reduced over time – “Raya,” for instance, is now just $6 to rent through VOD, or free to stream with a Disney Plus subscription.
Some notable ‘in-theater movies’ currently available to rent or own include:
- “Cruella” – $30 to buy on Vudu
- “Spiral: From The Book of Saw” – $20 to rent on Vudu
- “Wrath of Man” – $20 to buy on Vudu
- “Spirit Untamed” – $20 to rent on Vudu
Since the movie selection is about the same no matter which rental service you choose, picking a platform to use really comes down to choosing the app that works best on the devices you own. Below, we’ve broken down some key details for all of the major digital movie retailers.
Vudu is available on many devices and even includes a selection of free movies with commercials.
Vudu maintains a massive inventory of titles to rent at various price points. The service used to charge more for 4K versions of its titles, but most movies are now priced the same regardless of their video quality.
The Vudu app is readily available on many platforms and recently expanded its support to Amazon Fire TV, which was one of the few devices it was missing from. We also like that its app tends to work well and support most features no matter what platform you use it on.
Vudu also has an edge over some competing services thanks to its “Free With Ads” selection. This collection of titles rotates practically every week, and though there are ads, breaks are rarely lengthy or too intrusive. So, if you’re trying to entertain on a budget and don’t feel like paying for a rental — this is one of the best options available.
Apple TV ties in seamlessly with the rest of Apple’s services.
Apple offers a large selection of movies to rent through its Apple TV app on a variety of connected devices. Though in-app transactions were originally limited to web browsers and mobile devices, you can now rent movies directly from the Apple TV app on most media players and smart TVs.
The Apple TV app is also a strong performer when it comes to general video and audio quality. The service offers one of the largest 4K rental selections, giving you the best overall AV experience for your dollar.
As a bonus, the Apple TV app is also home to the Apple TV Plus streaming service. You have to pay a subscription fee of $5 a month to unlock Apple TV Plus content, but it’s convenient to be able to access TV Plus shows and movies in the same app as your rentals.
On the downside, the Apple TV app is not available on Android mobile devices.
FandangoNow is the only rental service with IMAX Enhanced movies for high-quality streaming on select Sony TVs.
Like all of the digital rental stores on our list, FandandgoNow offers a large selection of movies to choose from. The platform is also available on most connected devices, and was recently added to Apple TV products.
The service has been in the 4K streaming game a long time now and they do an impressive job bringing high quality picture and audio to homes. FandangoNow is also the only rental service currently offering support for the IMAX Enhanced format. This tech offers specially optimized HDR picture and DTS sound on supported Sony TVs.
Amazon Prime Video
Prime Video has a huge library of movies you can pay to rent, even if you’re not a Prime subscriber.
Amazon Prime Video does a lot of things right, and it provides an impressive list of digital rentals you can buy without a subscription. If you’re a Prime member you also gain the added benefit of a massive number of movies and shows as part of your subscription. On top of that — similar to Vudu — Amazon Prime offers a small selection of “Free With Ads” titles sponsored by IMDB.
Prime Video is one of the only digital retailers currently offering support for the HDR10+ format. With that said, the platform’s Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos support is sorely lacking as there are very few titles that offer those features.
On that note, my main problem with Prime Video is its lack of clear format and quality labels. 4K HDR viewing options aren’t always available and it’s not even always clear whether a title is supposed to include those features or not.
Depending on the device you’re using, you often have to hunt specifically for the 4K UHD version of a movie or show to see if that option exists.
Google Play Movies/YouTube
Google Play Movies and YouTube are both convenient rental service for Android users.
When it comes to movie selection, Google is basically on par with the other services on our list. That said, Google appears to be in the process of phasing out the Google Play Movies app. As reported by Variety, the service is no longer available on Roku devices or smart TVs from Samsung, LG, and Vizio. Instead, you can rent movies directly through Google’s YouTube app on those devices.
YouTube doesn’t have the best interface for highlighting Google’s selection of movie rentals, but the rental process works about the same as any other service once you’ve found a movie you’d like to watch.
Google Play Movies is still available as an app on Android devices, however, and I prefer this mobile interface for renting movies. It easily allows me to find what titles I have in my digital library and what titles offer 4K, as well as navigate new rentals and purchase options, shop deals, and browse what new “in-theater” titles are available.