I’ve never been very good at cultivating hobbies (whereas my brother-in-law is into creating his own baking extracts, I am into refreshing Twitter), but I do like watching movies, and the internet has made it possible for sitting on my arse in front of HBO Max to feel like a genuine leisure time pursuit.
That isn’t just because it gives me easy access to my fellow snooty cinephiles in the Criterion Collection subreddit; I’ve also assembled a library of apps and websites that help me maximise my movie-watching, from easily searching what’s available on the way-too-many streaming services I subscribe to; to cataloguing, ranking, and sharing what I’ve been watching recently; to building a never-ending list of what I’ll watch next — provided I can get my wife to agree.
Here are seven apps I consider musts for every movie lover/streaming addict.
JustWatch (Web, iOS, Android)
This might be the most useful app of the streaming era, and you don’t have to take my word for it — Lifehacker has written about JustWatch a bunch of times in the years since it launched. It’s the easiest way to see what movies and TV shows are available on streaming or for digital rental, and where. You can type in the name of the film you want to see, or browse the libraries of the various services you subscribe to.
JustWatch has some decent discovery options for those nights you aren’t sure what to watch; you can scroll through recent additions to the streaming services you subscribe to, sorted by date; you can see what’s trending with other users; you can sort available titles by genre and decade; or you can rely on the app algorithm to suggest movies based on things you’ve already watched and liked.
Although the free version of the app is pretty robust, you can get access to extra features with a paid subscription. A $US2.49 ($3) monthly fee removes banner adds, gives you the ability to hide movies you’ve already seen or disliked from search results, and allows you to filter results more granularly by factors such as country of origin or even runtime (for when you only want to watch a movie of the perfect length, which happens to be 105 minutes).
Letterboxd (Web, iOS, Android)
I used to keep a small notebook around where I would write down every movie I watched and give it a star rating. Somewhere over the years (or, to be precise, after I had kids), I stopped keeping track, and at my current advanced age, I probably couldn’t name the last five movies I watched. That’s where Letterboxd comes in.
This social app works a lot like the website Goodreads, but for movies. You can use it to log all the movies you watch, give them a star rating, write a review (if you so choose), and share your profile with other users (though you can also keep your viewing info private). You can follow other users on the site to keep track of what your friends and favourite film critics are watching, or check in on what’s trending.
Like JustWatch, Letterboxd offers a robust free version, but if you are willing to pay around $US1.50 ($2) per month ($25 per year), you can remove ads, enjoyed more personalised stats and sorting options, and integrate your watchlists with JustWatch so you get an alert when something you want to see is added to a streaming service you subscribe to.
My Movies (Mac, iOS, Android)
If you are one of those cinephiles still clinging to your physical media, this app offers a great way to catalogue your collection. By using your phone’s camera as a barcode scanner, you can easily build a database of every disc you own, or you can search for titles manually. You can track what you’ve watched and when, or mark when you’ve loaned a title to someone. The app displays your collection via full colour cover art, making it easy to scan through and pick something you want to watch, and you can share your library on social media. There are both desktop and app versions, and your collection will sync across devices.
The one downside is you’re basically forced to pony up $US9.99 ($14) for the paid version, since the free one caps your library at 50 titles.
IMDb (iOS, Android)
Like any internet user of a certain age, IMDb has been a presence in my life for decades, and though the web version has gotten worse in the years since Amazon bought it and began a never-ending series of feature and layout changes, I still find the app version quite useful — mostly for when I want to figure out what other movie I’ve seen an actor in, or browse other titles from a certain writer or director.
The app does more than replicate the IMDb site, though, as it also allows you to create watchlists, find out where a movie is streaming, browse showtimes and buy tickets to see a film in theatres, and watch trailers. I usually don’t remember it can do all of those things, of course, so I just use it to play “what’s that guy from again?”
Reelgood (iOS, Android)
Reelgood is a bit redundant if you’re a hardcore JustWatch user, but it’s not without its own useful features. For one, it searches a more robust list of streaming services for content — whereas JustWatch claims to support “85+” streaming services, Reelgood ups that number to 150+. True, both likely cover the big ones you actually subscribe to, but maybe you’re way into obscure streaming niches; I don’t know your life.
I keep Reelgood around for its other handy features. Helpfully, the app can automatically scan your home network for any streaming devices that support virtual remotes, for those times you can’t figure out what your kid did with the Apple controller (did you check the decorative vase on the coffee table?). But my favourite feature is Search Party, which allows you to invite other friends to access a shared search that includes filters you set (streaming services, release, genre) so you can all vote (via swiping left or right) and choose something to watch — perfect for those cross-country video chat movie nights that became a staple during the pandemic.
TV Time (iOS, Android)
TV Time is another app that handles some of the same discovery/where’s that streaming? features as Reelgood and JustWatch, if not quite as satisfactorily, but it’s worth a look for its robust cataloguing features. If you are someone who watches a lot of TV, it’s a great way to keep up with where your favourite shows are streaming, how many episodes you’ve watched, and get notified when new seasons and episodes drop. There’s even a profile setting that approximates how much time you’ve spent watching TV and movies, based on what you’ve logged in the app — provided that is a number you’re comfortable knowing.
In an era where I tend to forget a show exists the minute I have finished my binge of the latest season, it is helpful to have an app that reminds me that, oh yeah, I do like AP Bio on Peacock.
RunPee (iOS, Android)
It’s been a minute (or a pandemic) since I’ve been anything approaching a regular at my local movie theatre, but I aspire to be one again someday, which means I will inevitably face that age-old conundrum: having to pee while not wanting to miss a minute of whatever I’m watching.
RunPee can’t quite solve that problem for me — I’d prefer to see every second of a film I paid $US16 to watch — but it can let me know when I can feel safer running to the bathroom (or concession stand, I guess) without missing anything critical. Along with some limited social elements like “Peepole’s Poll” movie reviews, there’s even a built-in timer than can alert you when you’ve reached the next pee break so you don’t have to light up your phone screen and further irritate the people around you, who are already annoyed about you standing up and pushing past them. And my favourite bit: It’s an easy way to check if there are any extra scenes during the credits (because I know I’m not the only one searching “Cats + end credits scene” the moment the movie ends).
You do need to earn “peecoins” (gross, guys) to view the best pee times for a given film; you can either buy them for 10 cents ($0.14) apiece or earn them by watching short ads.