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Americans have more than 271 streaming services to choose from. The only problem is figuring out which one has the movie you want to watch.
That’s where streaming search engines come in. Websites like JustWatch and ReelGood track every movie and every TV show on every streaming service. That way, you don’t have to pay to rent a movie that’s on a streaming service you subscribe to — or one that’s available to stream for free altogether.
But how accurate are these search engines really? And which one is the best at showing you all your options when you search for a movie?
To find out, we focused on five of the most popular streaming search engines out there: JustWatch, ReelGood, Decider, Yidio and Can I Stream It? To determine how accurate their results are, we looked up the top 100 most popular movies on IMDb, deducting points if they listed inaccurate information or didn’t list streaming services on which the movies were available.
How we found the best streaming search engines
We quickly eliminated Decider, Yidio and Can I Stream It? from contention. When we searched for 12 Angry Men and Schindler’s List on Decider — the number five and six movies on IMDb’s list, respectively — it came up empty. If a streaming search engine can’t find two of the most well-known movies of all time, it’s not worth using.
As for Yidio, our experience was marred by pop-up ads every few searches, something no other streaming search engine subjected us to. Its design also made it tricky to tell if a title was available to stream with a subscription, or just to rent. The final straw? Yidio told us The Dark Knight was available to stream for free on The Roku Channel, which it was not.
Finally, we nixed Can I Stream It? because it only worked for us on mobile apps.
That left us with two contenders: JustWatch and ReelGood. Both of these streaming search engines will get the job done. Across the list of IMDb’s 100 movies, we only found a handful of inaccuracies, and most of those were on fringe-y services.
They agreed (and were correct about) all of the movies on the major services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+. Where they diverged was the libraries of free streaming services and TV Everywhere apps like TBS and TCM, which use your TV provider credentials to watch those network’s on-demand content. Which one is best for you comes down to a few personal preferences.
✔ Includes DIRECTV’s on-demand library in results
✔ Shows when titles are available in 4K
✔ Results include every free streaming service
✘ Sometimes misses “TV everywhere” apps from channels like IFC, TBS and TCM
Available on: Web browsers, iOS and Android apps, Amazon Fire TV
While both of these streaming search engines gave us highly accurate results, we think JustWatch has a slight edge. It did a great job of pulling in the libraries of free streaming services like Hoopla, Pluto TV and The Roku Channel — all of which ReelGood missed. For example, if you search for Cinema Paradiso on ReelGood, it shows you that Cinemax is the only streaming service that has it. Try the same thing on JustWatch, and you’ll get a link to stream the movie for free through Hoopla.
We also appreciated that JustWatch included a lot of live TV providers in its results, including DIRECTV and live streaming services like fuboTV and Sling TV. ReelGood did the same, but we didn’t see DIRECTV show up in its results nearly as much.
Finally, we loved how JustWatch showed where each movie was available to stream in 4K. If you’ve recently bought a new 4K TV that you want to take advantage of, this feature could be a clincher all on its own.
The only downside? JustWatch didn’t list quite as many TV Everywhere apps as ReelGood. For example, JustWatch shows that Return of the Jedi is only available to stream through Disney+, but when you look it up on ReelGood, you’ll find that you can also stream it on the TBS and TNT apps — as long as you subscribe to a participating TV provider.
✔ Includes “TV Everywhere” apps in results
✔ Shows IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes ratings for each movie
✘ Results don’t show free streaming services Hoopla, Pluto TV and Roku Channel
✘ Shows that a number of movies are on EPIX which are not
✘ Criterion Channel missing from many searches
Available on: Web browsers, iPhone app, Apple TV
ReelGood shared almost all of the same results as JustWatch, with a few exceptions around the margins. As we said above, it didn’t search the libraries of free streaming services like Hoopla, Pluto TV and Roku Channel. If you use ReelGood often enough, there’s a decent chance you’ll end up paying to rent a movie you could stream for free at some point. It also showed that a number of movies were available to stream on EPIX, but when we checked the service directly, the movie was unavailable.
That said, it does include more TV Everywhere apps in its results than JustWatch. For instance, when we searched for GoodFellas on both sites, JustWatch said it wasn’t available to stream anywhere, while ReelGood directed us to the IFC app. As long as you have a TV subscription that includes IFC, you can log in and watch the movie through its app.
Why not search on your streaming device?
Another easy way to find where something is streaming is to simply search for a title on your streaming device of choice. That said, these results are usually not as helpful as those on JustWatch and ReelGood.
If you search for Cinema Paradiso on Apple TV, for instance, it returns Cinemax and renting through iTunes as the only options for watching it, with no mention of the free streaming service Hoopla. Most streaming devices are somewhat selective in their results. Unless a movie is on one of the major streaming services, they will generally push you in the direction of renting the title from their store. If you want to see whether a movie’s available for free before you pay for it, you’ll have better luck with JustWatch or ReelGood.