Break Out the Popcorn: The Best Movie Rentals for Your Money

The good news: You’ve got a free evening to spend however you wish.

The bad news: You are too tired to dress up and go out.

Solution: Movie night!

Even those of us who refuse to pay for cable (and here’s why) can’t bring ourselves to give up on big screen. Nothing can quite replace the experience of curling up with a glass of wine and a good flick.

We’ve said before that your home is your castle (and told you the best places to get artwork for cheap). So we must address the in-home entertainment: We would like to get our Natalie Portman in a tutu without overpaying.

There is a veritable smorgasbord of movie rental services out there—from streaming on your Wii to old-fashion DVDs. But how do you know which is best? (Hint, depending on what you like to watch, it's not necessarily Netflix.)

Since every person’s movie-watching habits are different, we researched the most well-known movie rental services and broke it down for you, so you can choose the best movie rental for your money and your tastes.

Service Ease Of Use Devices Movie Selection Cost Best For…

Through cable providers like Comcast

Video On Demand
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Super easy

TVs

A combination of early new releases, and bad B movies

OK*
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Some rentals free, others about $5 per rental
The occasional and/or lazy renter

Rental by mail and streaming

Netflix
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As long as you can stream or mailing isn't a hassle

Very easy
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Everything you can think of

Will fulfill all your obscure movie needs, but you'll have to wait for new releases.

Good
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$4.99-$27.99 per month

The discerning and enthusiastic film fan

Kiosks located in supermarkets etc. for 24-hour rental

Redbox
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The only option that requires driving

Somewhat easy
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DVD players

Mostly current movies, new releases are delayed; forget about oldies

OK
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$1 per rental, plus $1 for every late day

The occasional renter who doesn't mind driving

Streaming

Hulu
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Easy

Macs, PCs, Smart Phones, Blu-ray Players, Tablets, Set-top Boxes, Gaming Devices

Computers, TVs, etc.
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Visit for the TV shows, not the movies

Very limited
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$7.99 per month to watch more shows on devices besides computer

Free for limited service
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TV show aficionados

Streaming

iTunes
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Very Easy

Macs, PCs, Apple devices

New releases are out early, and oldies available too

Good
read more

$2.99-$3.99 per rental

Apple fans and the occasional renter

Streaming

Amazon Instant Video
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Easy

Macs, PCs, Set Top Boxes, Google TVs, Xbox360s, Blu-ray Players, TVs

Computers, etc.
read more

New releases are out early, and oldies available too

Good
read more

$79 per year or $2.99 – $3.99 per rental without subscription

The Amazon super user

Brand new, streaming

Crackle
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Easy

Smart Phones, Tablets, Google TVs, Set Top Boxes, Blu-ray Players, PS3s

Computers, TVs, etc.
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Rotating selection of 200 movies chosen by editors with a focus on B movies and classics

Curated
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Free (Has ads)

Someone with a tight budget and an open mind

Store, kiosks, streaming and by mail

Blockbuster
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Somewhat Easy

Smart Phones, Blu-ray and other DVD Players, Gaming Consoles, Set Top Boxes

Computers, TVs, etc.
read more

You'll have to wait for new releases, but the classics are there

Good
read more

$11.99- $19.99 per month

Especially after their recent bankruptcy and rash of store closures

Unless you live near a Blockbuster store, there are better choices out there
read more

*To assess a service's selection, we read reviews and looked for three movies: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the new documentary Inside Job, and Gone with the Wind.

  • Elizabeth L.

    I don’t know why you didn’t cover the library as a great option for movies. I’ve been able to watch movies brand new to DVD that Netflix doesn’t even have yet. Yes, I have to reserve and wait a little bit for the newest DVDs, but that’s not a big deal and there’s a great selection. I’ve found this to be the case in different cities I’ve lived in, even my small college town had a great selection. Libraries need more LV love!

  • Elizabeth L.

    I don’t know why you didn’t cover the library as a great option for movies. I’ve been able to watch movies brand new to DVD that Netflix doesn’t even have yet. Yes, I have to reserve and wait a little bit for the newest DVDs, but that’s not a big deal and there’s a great selection. I’ve found this to be the case in different cities I’ve lived in, even my small college town had a great selection. Libraries need more LV love!

  • Elizabeth L.

    I don’t know why you didn’t cover the library as a great option for movies. I’ve been able to watch movies brand new to DVD that Netflix doesn’t even have yet. Yes, I have to reserve and wait a little bit for the newest DVDs, but that’s not a big deal and there’s a great selection. I’ve found this to be the case in different cities I’ve lived in, even my small college town had a great selection. Libraries need more LV love!

    • Andrea

      Good point, and agree. It’s particularly helpful if you have kids, too — nice way to get fun stuff for them that you don’t want to buy.

    • Andrea

      Good point, and agree. It’s particularly helpful if you have kids, too — nice way to get fun stuff for them that you don’t want to buy.

      • kew

        Good point about kids. Apart from deciding whether a movie is worth buying, it can also be a good way to teach kids about the concepts of borrowing and not just running out and buying everything just because it looks interesting.

      • kew

        Good point about kids. Apart from deciding whether a movie is worth buying, it can also be a good way to teach kids about the concepts of borrowing and not just running out and buying everything just because it looks interesting.

      • kew

        Good point about kids. Apart from deciding whether a movie is worth buying, it can also be a good way to teach kids about the concepts of borrowing and not just running out and buying everything just because it looks interesting.

    • Andrea

      Good point, and agree. It’s particularly helpful if you have kids, too — nice way to get fun stuff for them that you don’t want to buy.

    • Cyndeeboyvey

      Plus it is uber-free!!!!

    • Cyndeeboyvey

      Plus it is uber-free!!!!

    • Cyndeeboyvey

      Plus it is uber-free!!!!

    • http://www.totallymoney.com/blogs Harri Pierce

      Absolutely. The library is an amazing resource for both DVDs, especially for world cinema films.

    • http://www.totallymoney.com/blogs Harri Pierce

      Absolutely. The library is an amazing resource for both DVDs, especially for world cinema films.

    • http://www.totallymoney.com/blogs Harri Pierce

      Absolutely. The library is an amazing resource for both DVDs, especially for world cinema films.

  • Elizabeth L.

    I don’t know why you didn’t cover the library as a great option for movies. I’ve been able to watch movies brand new to DVD that Netflix doesn’t even have yet. Yes, I have to reserve and wait a little bit for the newest DVDs, but that’s not a big deal and there’s a great selection. I’ve found this to be the case in different cities I’ve lived in, even my small college town had a great selection. Libraries need more LV love!

  • M. Daly

    You failed to say that there are kiosks in certain supermarkets for Blockbuster where most of the movies rent for $1.00.

  • M. Daly

    You failed to say that there are kiosks in certain supermarkets for Blockbuster where most of the movies rent for $1.00.

    • Sheila

      Blockbuster Express. In the Midwest you can find them at Quik Trips. Plus I’ve seen lots of coupons for free rentals and Groupons for them.

    • Sheila

      Blockbuster Express. In the Midwest you can find them at Quik Trips. Plus I’ve seen lots of coupons for free rentals and Groupons for them.

    • Sheila

      Blockbuster Express. In the Midwest you can find them at Quik Trips. Plus I’ve seen lots of coupons for free rentals and Groupons for them.

    • Sheila

      Blockbuster Express. In the Midwest you can find them at Quik Trips. Plus I’ve seen lots of coupons for free rentals and Groupons for them.

  • M. Daly

    You failed to say that there are kiosks in certain supermarkets for Blockbuster where most of the movies rent for $1.00.

  • Leisa

    You seem to have a real problem with Blockbuster, which is totally unjustified! I subscribe to Blockbuster and I get pretty much any movie I want and pay just $4.99 per month for 2 a month. It used to be $3.99 but they raised the price recently but that only made it as expensive as Netflix’s cheapest rate.

    Many times they have deals where I swap the movie out at the store and get an additional 2 movies.

    How is it “not easy” when it comes in the mail and you can drop it off at the store in addition to the mail. I used to have Netflix and Blockbuster was much better because of that feature!

    You folks are TOTALLY WRONG! and not to mention BIASED!

    • Sheila

      I had Blockbuster and switched to Netflix when they raised prices. I had several problems with Blockbuster where they would forget to send out my DVD even when I hadn’t reached my maximum rentals for the month. After about the 3rd time and a price increase I decided to switch. I never tried the drop off at a store option because most of the time I could drop it in the mail in the morning and 2 days later have a new one in my mailbox. I never have much time to watch during the week anyway. Other than that there’s not too much difference in the two. Blockbuster has the drop off at the store option and Netflix gives you one streaming movie rental online each month.

    • Sheila

      I had Blockbuster and switched to Netflix when they raised prices. I had several problems with Blockbuster where they would forget to send out my DVD even when I hadn’t reached my maximum rentals for the month. After about the 3rd time and a price increase I decided to switch. I never tried the drop off at a store option because most of the time I could drop it in the mail in the morning and 2 days later have a new one in my mailbox. I never have much time to watch during the week anyway. Other than that there’s not too much difference in the two. Blockbuster has the drop off at the store option and Netflix gives you one streaming movie rental online each month.

    • Sheila

      I had Blockbuster and switched to Netflix when they raised prices. I had several problems with Blockbuster where they would forget to send out my DVD even when I hadn’t reached my maximum rentals for the month. After about the 3rd time and a price increase I decided to switch. I never tried the drop off at a store option because most of the time I could drop it in the mail in the morning and 2 days later have a new one in my mailbox. I never have much time to watch during the week anyway. Other than that there’s not too much difference in the two. Blockbuster has the drop off at the store option and Netflix gives you one streaming movie rental online each month.

    • Sheila

      I had Blockbuster and switched to Netflix when they raised prices. I had several problems with Blockbuster where they would forget to send out my DVD even when I hadn’t reached my maximum rentals for the month. After about the 3rd time and a price increase I decided to switch. I never tried the drop off at a store option because most of the time I could drop it in the mail in the morning and 2 days later have a new one in my mailbox. I never have much time to watch during the week anyway. Other than that there’s not too much difference in the two. Blockbuster has the drop off at the store option and Netflix gives you one streaming movie rental online each month.

  • Leisa

    You seem to have a real problem with Blockbuster, which is totally unjustified! I subscribe to Blockbuster and I get pretty much any movie I want and pay just $4.99 per month for 2 a month. It used to be $3.99 but they raised the price recently but that only made it as expensive as Netflix’s cheapest rate.

    Many times they have deals where I swap the movie out at the store and get an additional 2 movies.

    How is it “not easy” when it comes in the mail and you can drop it off at the store in addition to the mail. I used to have Netflix and Blockbuster was much better because of that feature!

    You folks are TOTALLY WRONG! and not to mention BIASED!

  • Leisa

    You seem to have a real problem with Blockbuster, which is totally unjustified! I subscribe to Blockbuster and I get pretty much any movie I want and pay just $4.99 per month for 2 a month. It used to be $3.99 but they raised the price recently but that only made it as expensive as Netflix’s cheapest rate.

    Many times they have deals where I swap the movie out at the store and get an additional 2 movies.

    How is it “not easy” when it comes in the mail and you can drop it off at the store in addition to the mail. I used to have Netflix and Blockbuster was much better because of that feature!

    You folks are TOTALLY WRONG! and not to mention BIASED!

  • Cheryl

    Not sure why Blockbuster is rated as “Not Easy.” I used to rent from Netflix but the problem with that company at the time is that it took FOREVER to get DVDs in the mail. Perhaps it’s better now. I switched to Blockbuster and the only time it took longer than usual to receive DVDs is during last winter’s ice storms across the nation. Emails were sent out to subscribers notifying them of possible delays. What I like most about Blockbuster by mail is that you can trade in at the local stores up to 5 DVDs per billing cycle and get DVDs right off the shelf. And, like the mail rentals, there are never any late fees. I’ve never seen any Netflix stores.

    • Sheila

      I guess it depends on where you live. I’ve had both and I always received Netflix movies faster. I could drop one in a mailbox picked up early in the morning and by that afternoon get an email that they’d received it back and my next one was out the door. I’d get it in my mailbox the next day. Usually about 2 day turnaround for me.

    • Sheila

      I guess it depends on where you live. I’ve had both and I always received Netflix movies faster. I could drop one in a mailbox picked up early in the morning and by that afternoon get an email that they’d received it back and my next one was out the door. I’d get it in my mailbox the next day. Usually about 2 day turnaround for me.

    • Sheila

      I guess it depends on where you live. I’ve had both and I always received Netflix movies faster. I could drop one in a mailbox picked up early in the morning and by that afternoon get an email that they’d received it back and my next one was out the door. I’d get it in my mailbox the next day. Usually about 2 day turnaround for me.

    • Sheila

      I guess it depends on where you live. I’ve had both and I always received Netflix movies faster. I could drop one in a mailbox picked up early in the morning and by that afternoon get an email that they’d received it back and my next one was out the door. I’d get it in my mailbox the next day. Usually about 2 day turnaround for me.

  • Cheryl

    Not sure why Blockbuster is rated as “Not Easy.” I used to rent from Netflix but the problem with that company at the time is that it took FOREVER to get DVDs in the mail. Perhaps it’s better now. I switched to Blockbuster and the only time it took longer than usual to receive DVDs is during last winter’s ice storms across the nation. Emails were sent out to subscribers notifying them of possible delays. What I like most about Blockbuster by mail is that you can trade in at the local stores up to 5 DVDs per billing cycle and get DVDs right off the shelf. And, like the mail rentals, there are never any late fees. I’ve never seen any Netflix stores.

  • Cheryl

    Not sure why Blockbuster is rated as “Not Easy.” I used to rent from Netflix but the problem with that company at the time is that it took FOREVER to get DVDs in the mail. Perhaps it’s better now. I switched to Blockbuster and the only time it took longer than usual to receive DVDs is during last winter’s ice storms across the nation. Emails were sent out to subscribers notifying them of possible delays. What I like most about Blockbuster by mail is that you can trade in at the local stores up to 5 DVDs per billing cycle and get DVDs right off the shelf. And, like the mail rentals, there are never any late fees. I’ve never seen any Netflix stores.

  • http://www.totallymoney.com/blogs Harri Pierce

    So useful! Thanks so much for posting. Although harsh words about Blockbuster. You can occasionally get some alright deals and there’s something nice about the physical offline browsing.

    That said, iTunes any day! Thanks a lot.

  • http://www.totallymoney.com/blogs Harri Pierce

    So useful! Thanks so much for posting. Although harsh words about Blockbuster. You can occasionally get some alright deals and there’s something nice about the physical offline browsing.

    That said, iTunes any day! Thanks a lot.

  • http://www.totallymoney.com/blogs Harri Pierce

    So useful! Thanks so much for posting. Although harsh words about Blockbuster. You can occasionally get some alright deals and there’s something nice about the physical offline browsing.

    That said, iTunes any day! Thanks a lot.

  • MichelleC

    I have to completely disagree with you on Blockbuster. I don’t want to watch movies on my computer and don’t have any way to stream them to my big TV’s. So between Netflix and Blockbuster for by mail, Blockbuster wins. I can drop by a store (I have 2 within 3 miles of my home) and exchange the DVDs I recieved by mail and have access to the new releases easily doing that. I end up getting 10-12 movies a month for $15 total. With no late fees.

    • Sheila

      I don’t like using my computer to view movies either. After sitting all week in front of a computer at work the last thing I want to do is use mine at home to watch movies on.

    • Sheila

      I don’t like using my computer to view movies either. After sitting all week in front of a computer at work the last thing I want to do is use mine at home to watch movies on.

    • Sheila

      I don’t like using my computer to view movies either. After sitting all week in front of a computer at work the last thing I want to do is use mine at home to watch movies on.

    • Sheila

      I don’t like using my computer to view movies either. After sitting all week in front of a computer at work the last thing I want to do is use mine at home to watch movies on.

  • MichelleC

    I have to completely disagree with you on Blockbuster. I don’t want to watch movies on my computer and don’t have any way to stream them to my big TV’s. So between Netflix and Blockbuster for by mail, Blockbuster wins. I can drop by a store (I have 2 within 3 miles of my home) and exchange the DVDs I recieved by mail and have access to the new releases easily doing that. I end up getting 10-12 movies a month for $15 total. With no late fees.

  • http://profiles.google.com/mlle.octobre Tracy Alambatin

    My favorite way to rent is from the public library here in Hawaii. They rent DVDs for $1 for a week like Redbox. In addition to that you can borrow television seasons for the same flat price! They range from classics to foreign films. The also have Korean Dramas, a local favorite to watch here without paying a hefty price for them at retailers. And if there’s a movie/season not available at one library, you can request from other libraries (even ones from the outer islands) to have it sent to your preferred one.

    I suppose a disadvantage to this may be the convenience of the library. Unless you’re a regular library goer it may be considered out of the way. Then, there’s the time it may actually takes to go through the process of selecting your movie, waiting in line and at the counter until you finally get your DVDs.

    • kew

      Strange. My library has a ton of DVDs that they rent out for free. I’ve never known a library to charge for movie rental unless it was a late fee.

      • Sheila

        My library charges too after about 5 days which kind of hurts you when you are trying to watch a TV series that comes with 5 discs. Who can watch that in one week? Plus there are long wait times for the popular and new releases.

      • Sheila

        My library charges too after about 5 days which kind of hurts you when you are trying to watch a TV series that comes with 5 discs. Who can watch that in one week? Plus there are long wait times for the popular and new releases.

      • Sheila

        My library charges too after about 5 days which kind of hurts you when you are trying to watch a TV series that comes with 5 discs. Who can watch that in one week? Plus there are long wait times for the popular and new releases.

      • Sheila

        My library charges too after about 5 days which kind of hurts you when you are trying to watch a TV series that comes with 5 discs. Who can watch that in one week? Plus there are long wait times for the popular and new releases.

      • Fiona

        A lot of libraries have very low rental fees. The libraries that do that tend to have a great selection of DVDs and multiple copies of new releases and such. It’s SO worth it at the Hawaii public libraries, especially…they have the most amazing collection.

      • Fiona

        A lot of libraries have very low rental fees. The libraries that do that tend to have a great selection of DVDs and multiple copies of new releases and such. It’s SO worth it at the Hawaii public libraries, especially…they have the most amazing collection.

      • Fiona

        A lot of libraries have very low rental fees. The libraries that do that tend to have a great selection of DVDs and multiple copies of new releases and such. It’s SO worth it at the Hawaii public libraries, especially…they have the most amazing collection.

      • Fiona

        A lot of libraries have very low rental fees. The libraries that do that tend to have a great selection of DVDs and multiple copies of new releases and such. It’s SO worth it at the Hawaii public libraries, especially…they have the most amazing collection.

    • kew

      Strange. My library has a ton of DVDs that they rent out for free. I’ve never known a library to charge for movie rental unless it was a late fee.

    • kew

      Strange. My library has a ton of DVDs that they rent out for free. I’ve never known a library to charge for movie rental unless it was a late fee.

  • http://profiles.google.com/mlle.octobre Tracy Alambatin

    My favorite way to rent is from the public library here in Hawaii. They rent DVDs for $1 for a week like Redbox. In addition to that you can borrow television seasons for the same flat price! They range from classics to foreign films. The also have Korean Dramas, a local favorite to watch here without paying a hefty price for them at retailers. And if there’s a movie/season not available at one library, you can request from other libraries (even ones from the outer islands) to have it sent to your preferred one.

    I suppose a disadvantage to this may be the convenience of the library. Unless you’re a regular library goer it may be considered out of the way. Then, there’s the time it may actually takes to go through the process of selecting your movie, waiting in line and at the counter until you finally get your DVDs.

  • Jim

    The public library. No charge for DVD’s. All you need is a library card. Further, most libraries have their catalog available online so you can search to see what titles are at YOUR library. Many allow you to place a DVD on hold and/or will deliver a DVD to the library of your choice from any of the libraries in their “network”. Of course you still need to go to the library to pick up the DVD and return within 7 ~ 10 days (this varies by library).

  • Jim

    The public library. No charge for DVD’s. All you need is a library card. Further, most libraries have their catalog available online so you can search to see what titles are at YOUR library. Many allow you to place a DVD on hold and/or will deliver a DVD to the library of your choice from any of the libraries in their “network”. Of course you still need to go to the library to pick up the DVD and return within 7 ~ 10 days (this varies by library).