With broadband speeds becoming faster and more reliable, the internet can now be used for an increasing number of activities, including live gaming, live streaming of TV programmes from around the world and watching movies.
A number of websites allow you to watch films. Some let you see them for free, while others make you pay. Some have movies you have to stream (watch on the website only), while others let you download them to your computer and watch them later. To play the films, you may need to download additional plug-ins – small enabling programs for your computer.
Choosing a film website
You should be careful about the sites you choose to download or watch films from. Some are based in countries other than the UK and may trigger pop-up windows leading to sites you’d not ordinarily choose to visit. Also, some sites infringe copyright laws, showing films when they don’t have permission to do so. You may encounter problems if you stream a movie from one of these – your internet service provider may penalise you by cutting your internet speeds, so it’s important to choose carefully.
Blinkbox is the UK’s leading movie streaming website with more than 9,000 films to choose from, as well as a range of TV series. Some films are completely free to view, but you’ll need to rent others.
It costs around £2.99 to rent a movie and you have up to 30 days to watch it. Once it’s been played, you can watch it again as often as you like in the following 24 hours. You can download it or watch it online. Some films you can buy outright and keep (as a download) forever.
Other sites that you might like to explore include:
Netflix - a great selection of television series and films to watch, for a monthly subscription.
LOVEFILM – now owned by Amazon, it previously specialised in sending films on DVDs by post, but now allows them to be watched online
iTunes – once you’ve downloaded the free iTunes application, open it and go to the iTunes Store for masses of films and TV series.
If you’re unable to find a particular movie, you can look for it on FindAnyFilm.com, which will search all the legal film sites and suggest the cheapest options.
Follow these step-by-step instructions to watch films on your computer
This guide will show you how to use Blinkbox to find a film and watch it.
a high-speed broadband internet
a good graphics card
a sound card
Step 1: Go to the Blinkbox website and choose a film. In the search box at the top of the screen, you can enter a title, director or actor. Alternatively, click Movies to the right of the box to browse.
In the ‘Movies’ section, you can search the free movies or by genre. You can also move straight to the ‘Rent & Buy’ section, where you’ll find the most current available films and be able to watch movie trailers and consider special offers.
You can also browse Blinkbox’s entire collection in its A–Z:
Step 2: If you’re choosing a free movie, you can simply click on the thumbnail picture. If there’s an age restriction, you’ll be asked to confirm that you’re old enough to watch it.
Then you simply click the ‘Play’ button and the movie will start to stream. At the bottom right of the screen, there are options to change the video quality, volume and screen size.
Step 3: If you’d prefer to download a movie, you’ll have to join Blinkbox. Click Join at the top right of the screen to bring up a simple form that you have to complete, which includes choosing a password.
Once you’ve done that, press Register. You’ll be sent a code by email that you’ll need to enter in the appropriate box.
Now when you click on the download option, the site will prompt you to download Blinkbox’s desktop program ‘Download Manager’. Like the BBC iPlayer, this program will provide you with a place to store your downloads until you watch them.
Step 4: To download or watch a paid-for movie, choose one of the buttons below the movie screen.
You’ll be taken to an intermediate screen to confirm your choice. Once you’ve agreed, you’ll be taken to another screen to enter your card details.
As soon as your payment is confirmed, you can watch or download your movie. Your desktop will store a downloaded movie for 30 days.
Siobhan O’Neill is an experienced freelance writer living in Surrey.