Netflix is far from perfect, most critics say, yet it remains the top choice among subscription-based movie streaming services. The content library is huge but its quality is variable. The best movies are older Hollywood hits. A deal with the Epix cable TV channel brings a handful of new films as well. Netflix also has lots and lots of past seasons of popular and cult TV shows, but little in the way of current episodes. A growing lineup of exclusive original programming including "House of Cards" and "Orange Is the New Black" is turning heads and earning raves.
Crackle's content is made up exclusively of movies and TV shows from the Sony Pictures Entertainment library. That means it is very limited compared to most movie streaming services, but it is absolutely free. Some original programming is offered, as well. Crackle is available on many smart TVs, Blu-ray players and set-top streaming boxes.
Vudu is an on-demand movie streaming provider owned by Walmart. Its catalog is broad and includes tons of new, high-profile theatrical fare, current-season TV programs and more. Critics say Vudu's picture quality is tops among streaming sites and services.
Getting streaming movies and streaming TV to your living room screen can be very easy. Many recent-model and are so-called smart TVs that include mobile-phone-like apps for the major and minor/niche providers. Video streaming is also built into many recent and other Internet-connectible entertainment devices like TiVo digital video recorders (DVRs). If streaming isn't built into the gear you own, inexpensive set-top boxes from Roku and Apple, among others, can add that capability to many existing sets. More information can be found elsewhere in this report, in our discussion of movie streaming hardware.