Avoid expensive services like Sky Store and iTunes and stream new film releases for as little as £3.50… or even for free!
The very first article I wrote when I set up the blog was about how sad I was to see Blockbuster Video shut down. I still miss it! But since broadband speeds have increased it’s – more often than not – a perfectly good experience to stream a movie straight to your TV.
I do this a couple of times a month, usually to catch up on new releases I missed at the cinema. And I rarely pay anything at all. Yep, that’s right. Zero.
And even if I do have to shell out some cash, I’ll never pay more than £3.50, some £2 less than some of the most popular streaming services charge.
And if you don’t want to stream, there are a few options to get your hands on a DVD or Blu-Ray disc too. So here are my tricks to let you save cash when you rent a film.
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Renting and streaming digital movies
Don’t rent the “premiere” releases
Since the pandemic shut all cinemas we’ve seen some films come straight to home rental, usually at £14.99.
Now, that’s possible cheaper for a family than if you’d gone to the cinema, but if you wait just four months or so, it’ll come down to a regular rental price. Personally I’d be happy to wait and save myself a tenner (at least).
Choose a lower quality stream
Now that most new TVs are 4K, there’s a temptation to go for the best quality rentals. But that, of course, costs more money.
Personally I go for HD (High Definition) rather than 4K/UHD, but you could choose to go for SD (Standard Definition).
You’ll roughly save £1 between each level, with SD usually at £3.50, HD at £4.49 and UHD at £5.49.
Shop around for your rentals
But those prices actually vary depending on where you rent your movie, so it’s important to shop around.
If you’re a Sky Customer then you probably just go to the Sky Store app on your Sky Box and rent films there. Well, stop. It costs £5.50 for a one-time rental – and that’s just for Standard Definition (SD) quality. A total rip off!!
iTunes isn’t much better with most new release rentals costing £4.49, £4.99 or £5.49. Only a handful of the films I looked at were available for under £3.50.
But shop around and you should be able to get the latest releases at £3.50. The ones I tend to use are
Depending on the film you might find these services don’t actually offer an SD option, with Rakuten the most likely to only have HD or higher. Amazon also tends to present the HD version as the displayed price so you need to choose “More purchase options” to find the cheaper SD price.
A great tool to help you find the prices is a website called Just Watch. You type in what you want to watch and it’ll share what platforms it’s available on and how much.
You can select whether you want to watch in SD, HD or 4K and compare the price if you’re renting with if you’re buying.
As this picture shows, there’s a £2 difference in SD between the different services.
Look for special offers
If you do choose to rent online, it’s often possible to get an even bigger discount. You can even sometimes find deals to pay nothing!
I’ve got a guide I regularly update with the latest offers, but as an idea of what’s out there, here are the ways I’ve saved recently.
Free or cheap Rakuten movie rentals
If you bank with Lloyds or Halifax there are accounts where you can get free rentals every month – subject to conditions.
You can also usually take out a trial with Times + (the digital subscription service for The Times newspaper) and you’ll be able to get a free Rakuten movie each month. The trials tend to cost £8 for eight weeks which isn’t such a great deal just to get a rental, but there are regular 30-day free trials or three months for £3 offers. I’ll update any decent deals here.
And Tastecard (which you can usually get free for 90-days) has also started offering £1 off Rakuten rentals
£1.99 Amazon Instant Video film rentals
If you have Amazon Prime, it’s worth checking what titles are in the regular promotions for members where a selection of latest releases are just £1.99.
Free Chili Cinema movie rentals
There are regular deals for Chili, whether £10 of credit and an Odeon ticket for £5.99 on Groupon or codes to get 50% off movies. I’ll share the best of these on my streaming deals page.
Discounted Google Play film rentals
Every now and then special promotions appear in the Google Play store. These are often for £1.49 rentals, but sometimes you’ll nab a free one. You’ll find them in the banners, just as in the picture below.
Wait so it’s included in your Netflix, NOW TV or Amazon Prime subscriptions
If you’re already paying for a streaming service then eventually the films will arrive on one of these. Annoyingly it’s tough to tell which one.
Personally I’d avoid NOW TV’s Sky Cinema pass unless there’s a deal going on as the tricks above can make it cheaper to watch the films rather than shell out £10 a month.
Though if you are paying for Sky Cinema via Sky or Virgin then you are massively overpaying and NOW TV is a better option for the same channels.
Here’s a video explaining how the different rental and streaming services compare and which give the best value for money.
Check free services
Don’t forget that most films broadcast on BBC channels are also available to watch on iPlayer afterwards.
Rakuten also offers a small selection of free films every week, though from my experience there’s rarely anything worth watching.
Renting films on DVD and Blu-Ray
Rent films and TV by post for as little as £2.75 a film
Though Lovefilm was closed in 2017, there’s still an option to have films (and TV shows) sent via the post. And it’s cheap.
You can get a film for £2.75 sent to your door with Cinema Paradiso (named after the Oscar-winning Italian movie) based on two movies a month. And it could be even cheaper if you watch four or more new releases each month.
The service offers a 30-day free trial. After that there are three levels of monthly packages, which you can cancel or switch between at any time – as long as you don’t have any discs still at home. The options are:
- £5.99 p/month for two discs a month, but only one disc at a time
- £9.99 p/month for unlimited discs a month, but just one disc at a time
- £12.99 for unlimited films a month and two discs at once.
Rent films from the library
If you like to browse you can pop to your local library and there is often a collection of films to pick from. Unlike borrowing books you will have to pay, but it should only be a few quid.
Most libraries will also let you order films held at different libraries, and you can also reserve discs to make sure you get it next. Once you’ve joined up, also check out if you can access digital loans on e-books and magazines.
Buy them second hand
Retailers like Cex and charity shops often have a huge selection of older DVDs starting at 50p, though you can often find those same films on streaming services – so check you don’t already have access before buying.