Skip to main content

The best streaming services in 2021

best streaming services
(Image credit: Drazen Zigic on Getty Images)
Jump to the best streaming services...

It's always good to know the best streaming services out there, especially when you demand high quality-telly and bang for your buck. Why settle for less when the outside world is somewhat off-limits? But with a plethora of streaming services now available, it can be hard to choose the one most worth your hard-earned cash. So how do you decide which is the best streaming service for you? 

When choosing a streaming service, there are a few things to consider. The deciding factor for many will be cost, but there are also the variety and quality of content, number and type of devices available, quality of video – ie. is it in HD/4k or not (if you've got one of the best monitors and are using it to watch TV, you'll care about this one) and ease of use to consider. 

The good news is that free trials are available for most streaming services, so you can always test out all the platforms before committing to the one/s you like best. If you happen to have a lot of time on your hands, you might even be able to binge your favourite show before the trial runs out.  

Here, we've rounded up the best streaming services available right now in the US and UK (or both),  and outlined their various pros and cons. 

Best streaming services in the US

Netflixcb badge

(Image credit: Netflix)

01. Netflix

The godfather of streaming has lots to offer

Devices: Apple, Android, Windows, Roku, PlayStation, Xbox, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Smart TVs | Simultaneous streams: 1-4 | Free trial : 1 month

Lots of content 
Netflix Originals
Affordable
Hard to browse
Poor categorisation

Netflix has seeped its way into popular culture for a reason. It's got tons of content, both in terms of TV shows and films, is affordable and the chances are, your friends or colleagues have got it too and are likely to be talking about its latest 'trending' show. Recent hits include Tiger King, Emily in Paris and The Queen's Gambit. We also love the Netflix 'N' credits when it starts a show.

While we think it is the best streaming service out there, it doesn't offer everything, and some content is already being pilfered from Netflix for other networks. What you get does also vary quite widely depending which country you are in. You've also got to wonder who's in charge of Netflix's categorisation and descriptions, it frequently mislabels hard-hitting dramas as 'comedies', and the descriptions manage to make most of the content awful. It's not that easy to browse either, so finding something you actually want to watch can be tricky.

Saying all that, we still love it. You just need to check out recommendations of what you want to watch (see our best Netflix shows) before you log on, or prepare to lose an hour scrolling.

best streaming service HBO Maxcb badge

(Image credit: HBO Max)

02. HBO Max

Classic shows and future faves in one package

Devices: Apple, Android, Amazon Fire sticks, Xbox One, Google Chromecast, Roku, Smart TVs | Simultaneous streams: 3 | Free trial : None except via Hulu

Prestige TV and cinema
Excellent exclusives
Original news programming
No free trial
4K HDR only available for select titles

Cord-cutters will be happy to know that HBO Max packs current HBO faves including Euphoria, as well as completed seasons of Succession, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Veep. But for $14.99 per month, HBO Max adds a lot more to be a compelling competitor to Netflix. Exclusive highlights include the tubthumping epic of Zack Snyder's Justice League and The Flight Attendant with Kaley Cuoco. There's also Friends, the Studio Ghibli library and British faves like Doctor Who.

Besides the recently unveiled Snyder Cut, superhero fans will also find cult faves like Doom Patrol and the upcoming spinoff show from James Gunn's The Suicide Squad: The Peacemaker, starring John Cena. It's a pity therefore that the service recently nixed its free trial (although you can enjoy it by proxy if you download Max as an add-on during a Hulu free trial; more on Hulu below.) The curation and interface also leave room for improvement, especially considering the amount of content available for subscribers. But that wealth of entertainment still makes HBO Max one of the top new streaming services in the US.

Disney Pluscb badge

(Image credit: Disney)

03. Disney Plus

Streaming newcomer gives you lots of bang for your buck

Devices: Apple, Android, Amazon Fire sticks, Xbox One, Google Chromecast, Roku, Smart TVs | Simultaneous streams: 4 | Free trial : 7 days

A mix of content
Affordable
Disney originals
Not in all countries yet

Disney Plus has stormed onto the streaming scene and made a huge impact. It's great value for money and has, as you'd expect, an array of classic and new Disney content. There are also all the Star Wars films, and content from the Marvel universe, National Geographic and Pixar. That's an awful lot of films and shows.

On top of that, Disney Plus' mix of original content is already proving incredibly popular. WandaVision is just one of Disney Plus' offerings, and there's also The Mandalorian and The World According to Jeff Goldblum.

There's plenty more in the pipeline too, plus you can download any of the service's offerings for watching without WiFi. Overall, we think that Disney Plus is one of the best streaming platforms around, and has something for a range of ages and tastes. At the moment, there's a seven-day free trial on all of Disney Plus' content.

Amazon prime best streaming

(Image credit: Amazon)

04. Amazon Prime Video

The best streaming service for movies, but it'll cost you

Devices: Apple, Anrdoid Windows, Roku, PlayStation, Xbox, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Smart TVs | | Simultaneous streams: 3 | Free trial : 1 month

Lots of new movies and shows
Original series
Not all content included in plan
UI confusing

Lots of people have Amazon Prime Video as part of their Amazon Prime package, as it is automatically included. But it is possible to buy just Amazon Prime Video if you want to. Should you bother? Well, Amazon Prime Video is similar in its offering to Netflix, there's a vast array of films, including hot new releases, often very soon after they've been in the cinema, and plenty of TV shows. 

Amazon doesn't have as many Originals as Netflix, but some of the ones it does have are well worth watching, including The Boys and Good Omens. Where Amazon Prime Video differs from Netflix is that not everything that you see within its somewhat confusing UI is included in your package, so just because a film appears when you search for it, doesn't mean that it is free. 

But if you're not too bothered about having the latest films, or don't mind renting or buying them occasionally, then Amazon Prime Video should suit you nicely. And if you've been considering signing up to Amazon Prime for a while, then the Video services could be the thing that convinces you. It's worth trying a free trial, at least.

best streaming services

(Image credit: Hulu)

05. Hulu

A comprehensive streaming package with various options

Devices: Apple, Android, Windows, Roku, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Smart TVs | Simultaneous streaming: 1-2 | Free trial: 1 month

Lots of content available
Add ons available
No simultaneous streams
There are adverts 

Hulu has a wide range of content, including shows from ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox, and one of the best things about it is the variety of plan options. You can have Hulu + Live TV, or add Disney Plus or ESPN Plus, for example. Like Amazon and Netflix, Hulu also does a pretty neat line of its own original shows – The Handmaid's Tale is just one. 

The most basic Hulu subscription is incredibly cheap for what you get, the only downside is that there are adverts. If you don't mind having scheduled snack breaks then this is fine, but if you want to watch TVs and movies without the commercials, then you'll have to pay for a slightly pricier plan. Even then, some of the most popular shows still have ads before and after they start. Saying that, it's still pretty cheap overall, there's a one month free trial, and the range of content that Hulu offers should satisfy most.

best streaming services Peacock

(Image credit: Peacock)

06. Peacock

Good freemium and premium content from NBC

Devices: Apple, Android, Xbox One, Google Chromecast, Roku, Smart TVs | Simultaneous streams: 3 | Free trial : 7 days for Peacock Premium

Freemium tier
Diverse content
Free for Xfinity customers
Exclusives behind paywall
No 4K HDR
Ads are hard to avoid on all tiers

Peacock is the NBC streaming service which launched in 2020 and promised all nine seasons of The Office free and on-demand. That's great news if you're an Office fan wanting to enjoy some Michael Scott on your plasma TV. The even-better news is that the US-only service offers a whole lot more content: entire seasons of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Frasier, Parks and Recreation, and Law & Order: SVU for starters, a lot of them for free and running with commercials.

It's a shame there's not much decent original content to shout about (and not one trace of 4K picture quality to be found.)  Also, getting rid of ads will cost you $9.99 a month on the Premium Plus plan; rather scandalously, the Premium tier gives you 20,000 hours of additional content for $4.99 a month – but with all the ads intact! And even for 10 bucks, you'll find some some programs must contractually play commercials. Not worth declaring bankruptcy for, but at least The Office is ad-free on both Premium tiers (plans which you can sample in a 7-day free trial).

best streaming services

(Image credit: Sling TV)

07. Sling TV

The best streaming live TV option

Devices: Apple, Android, Windows, Roku, Xbox, Google Chromecast, Apple TV, Android TV, Smart TVs | Simulatenous streaming: 3 | Free trial: 7 days

Watch TV from anywhere
Contract-free
Search function not the best
Connection can be poor

Sling TV isn't like the other services on this list in that it isn't a Netflix-style approach to content, that is, collecting together lots of shows and films for people to watch from one place. No, Sling TV is a different way to watch TV, providing an alternative to cable channels. You can use it to watch live TV without having any cables or satellite dishes or any of the other stuff that you used to have to faff around with. It allows you to pause, rewind and fast-forward live TV on some (but not all) channels, and you can watch TV after it has aired. 

There are various options and add-ons available, depending on what channels you like. You'll have to have a pretty good internet connection for it to work, though and the user experience varies across devices. It's definitely worth giving the free trial a go though, because if it works for you, it's brilliant.

best streaming service Shudder

(Image credit: Shudder)

08. Shudder

The scariest streaming service. Boo!

Devices: Apple, Android, Amazon Fire sticks, Xbox One, Google Chromecast, Roku, Smart TVs | Simultaneous streams: 0 | Free trial : 7 days

Great collection of horror films and shows
Nicely priced
No ads
Not all content available in 1080p
No offline downloads on mobile
No simultaneous streams

Probably the most unique streaming app on our list, Shudder caters to a very specific kind of viewer: horror fans, or anyone into their chillers and the supernatural. As a creative, you may be naturally drawn to the horror genre's use of VFX and character design. If not, know that Shudder – which offers a 7-day free trial – also has its share of milder fantasy shows like A Discovery Of Witches and Stan Lee's Lucky Man.

But if you are passionate about your guts and gore, then Shudder is well worth subscribing to for your dose of werewolves (Ginger Snaps), vampires (Thirst) and slashers (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). It also has its fair share of extreme Asian cinema like Audition, Oldboy and Cold Fish. Clearly Shudder offers a decent selection of content, all for a very un-scary price of $5.99 (or cheaper if opting for the $56.99-per-year annual plan.) Just beware that not all content is available in 1080p, and that simultaneous streams aren't possible. Boo!

Best streaming services in the UK

Netflixcb badge

(Image credit: Netflix)

01. Netflix

The titan of streaming has lots to offer

Devices: Apple, Android, Windows, Roku, PlayStation, Xbox, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Smart TVs | Simultaneous streams: 1-4 | Free trial : 1 month

Lots of content 
Netflix Originals
Affordable
Hard to browse
Poor categorisation

Netflix dominates the US, UK and global markets for a reason. It's got tons of content, both in terms of TV shows and films, is affordable and the chances are, your friends or colleagues have got it too and are likely to be talking about its latest 'trending' show. Recent hits beloved by British audiences include Tiger King, Emily in Paris and The Queen's Gambit. We also love the Netflix 'N' credits when it starts a show.

While we think it is the best streaming service out there, it doesn't offer everything, and some content is already being pilfered from Netflix for other networks. What you get does also vary quite widely depending which country you are in. You've also got to wonder who's in charge of Netflix's categorisation and descriptions, it frequently mislabels hard-hitting dramas as 'comedies', and the descriptions manage to make most of the content awful. It's not that easy to browse either, so finding something you actually want to watch can be tricky.

Saying all that, we still love it. You just need to check out recommendations of what you want to watch (see our best Netflix shows) before you log on, or prepare to lose an hour scrolling.

Disney Pluscb badge

(Image credit: Disney)

02. Disney Plus

Streaming newcomer gives lots to Marvel over

Devices: Apple, Android, Amazon Fire sticks, Xbox One, Google Chromecast, Roku, Smart TVs | Simultaneous streams: 4 | Free trial : 7 days

A mix of content
Affordable
Disney originals
Not in all countries yet

Disney Plus has stormed onto the British streaming scene and already made a huge impact. It's great value for money and has, as you'd expect, an array of classic and new Disney content. There are also all the Star Wars films, and content from the Marvel universe, National Geographic and Pixar. That's an awful lot of films and shows.

On top of that, Disney Plus' mix of original content is already proving incredibly popular. WandaVision is just one of Disney Plus' offerings, and there's also The Mandalorian and The World According to Jeff Goldblum.

There's plenty more in the pipeline too, plus you can download any of the service's offerings for watching without WiFi. Overall, we think that Disney Plus is one of the best streaming platforms around, and has something for a range of ages and tastes. At the moment, there's a seven-day free trial on all of Disney Plus' content.

Amazon prime best streamingcb badge

(Image credit: Amazon)

03. Amazon Prime Video

The best streaming service for films, but it'll cost you

Devices: Apple, Anrdoid Windows, Roku, PlayStation, Xbox, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Smart TVs | | Simultaneous streams: 3 | Free trial : 1 month

Lots of new movies and shows
Original series
Not all content included in plan
UI confusing

Lots of Brits have Amazon Prime Video as part of their Amazon Prime package, as it is automatically included. But it is possible to buy just Amazon Prime Video if you want to. Should you bother? Well, Amazon Prime Video is similar in its offering to Netflix: there's a vast array of films, including hot new releases, often very soon after they've been in the cinema, and plenty of TV shows. 

Amazon doesn't have as many Originals as Netflix, but some of the ones it does have are well worth watching, including The Boys and Good Omens. Where Amazon Prime Video differs from Netflix is that not everything that you see within its somewhat confusing UI is included in your package, so just because a film appears when you search for it, doesn't mean that it is free. 

But if you're not too bothered about having the latest films, or don't mind renting or buying them occasionally, then Amazon Prime Video should suit you nicely. And if you've been considering signing up to Amazon Prime for a while, then the Video services could be the thing that convinces you. It's worth trying a free trial, at least.

best streaming service Shudder

(Image credit: Shudder)

04. Shudder

The scariest streaming service. Boo!

Devices: Apple, Android, Amazon Fire sticks, Xbox One, Google Chromecast, Roku, Smart TVs | Simultaneous streams: 0 | Free trial : 7 days

Great collection of horror films and shows
Nicely priced
No ads
Not all content available in 1080p
No offline downloads on mobile
No simultaneous streams

And now for something completely different with Shudder, a streaming service catering for a very specific kind of viewer: horror fans, or anyone into their chillers and the supernatural. As a creative, you may be naturally drawn to the horror genre's use of VFX and character design. If not, know that Shudder – which offers a 7-day free trial – also has its share of milder fantasy shows like A Discovery Of Witches and Stan Lee's Lucky Man.

But if you are passionate about your guts and gore, then Shudder is well worth subscribing to for your dose of werewolves (Ginger Snaps), vampires (Thirst) and slashers (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). It also has its fair share of extreme Asian cinema like Audition, Oldboy and Cold Fish. Clearly Shudder offers a decent selection of content, all for a very un-scary price of £3.99 per month (or cheaper if opting for the £47.88-per-year annual plan.) Just beware that not all content is available in 1080p, and that simultaneous streams aren't possible. Boo!

Read more: