While the primary reason for using a VPN is to increase your digital privacy, there are some entertainment benefits as well. For instance, using a VPN to mask your location allows you to unlock streaming services’ international media libraries — but you need the right VPN.
FYI: Want to know more about VPNs in general? Check out our VPN resource guide. There you’ll learn everything you need to know to make an informed decision.
You see, some streaming services — particularly the big ones like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max are cracking down on this practice to make sure they’re staying on the right side of licensing agreements. However, while their use might be a little frowned on by the streaming companies, you’re well within your legal rights to use a VPN to gain access to movies and shows that might not be available in your home country.
We’ve put tons of VPNs to the test, and at the end of the day, these were the best VPN services for streaming.
If you’re looking for a great all-purpose VPN that’s both easy to use, tremendously secure, and will allow you to stream on multiple platforms without batting an eye, look no further than ExpressVPN. Not only are they one of the most powerful services in the industry today both in terms of speed and security, they’re one of the best we’ve ever seen for streaming.
If you’re looking for safety and security, coupled with the entertainment factor of being able to access multiple streaming platforms’ geo-restricted libraries, your search can pretty much start and end with ExpressVPN.
When we put ExpressVPN to the test, we found they worked well with all the major platforms: Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max … Express could handle whatever we threw at them. They’re one of the most well-designed, easy-to-use VPNs we’ve ever looked at, and their security protocols are some of the tightest we’ve seen.
What do we mean by that? Well for one, their entire network is RAM-only — meaning that no data is ever permanently written or logged. Simply put, their capacity for increasing your privacy is best in class. And said network is fast, too. Extremely fast. When we tested ExpressVPN’s streaming capacities, we never noticed any buffering or interruptions. Great news if you’re looking to watch the newest episode of “Alone” without getting bogged down by those frustrating slowdowns sometimes associated with VPN use.
Now, ExpressVPN isn’t perfect, and there is one drawback to mention. They are one of the priciest VPNs we’ve tested — more on that in our guide to ExpressVPN’s pricing. That said, however, we think they’re well worth the cost, and we don’t think you’d be disappointed, either.
NordVPN is another one of our favorite VPNs. Their user interface is engaging and unique, they offer air-tight security, and their speeds are second to none. All in all, NordVPN keeps you safe and secure online while offering lighting-fast speeds for streaming.
One thing we really liked when we reviewed NordVPN was their huge list of security features. They are one of the few VPNs out there that come Tor-ready out of the box, and they have functionality that would be suitable for protecting activists in hostile regimes to stay safe and anonymous while online.
Which means they’re going to be more than powerful enough to protect you while you’re eating popcorn and watching Hulu from Iceland.
And there’s more good news. They’re one of the fastest VPNs we’ve ever tested. (Seriously, while using NordVPN, we actually saw our speeds increase.) So you’re never going to experience interruptions or buffering issues while you’re watching that Icelandic Hulu or doing any kind of streaming. NordVPN is hands down one of the best VPNs available for watching movies and TV shows online.
Now there is a bit of bad news. Similar to ExpressVPN, Nord is a little north of totally affordable. You can check out more on that in our guide to NordVPN costs and services. But we would be remiss if we didn’t throw in the old adage — which we think rings true here — you really do get what you pay for.
Any list of the best VPNs for streaming would be incomplete without the inclusion of CyberGhost. They offer solid protections, a great list of core features, stable connection speeds, and a slew of hyper-specific servers tuned specifically for certain streaming platforms in certain countries.
In our CyberGhost review, we couldn’t find much to complain about. They’ve got a great user interface, stellar security protocols, and a list of bonus features that’s nothing to sneeze at.
But for our purposes, we wanted to talk about one functionality in particular — their streaming optimizations. Some streaming platforms want to block VPN traffic and do so by cutting off access to known VPN servers. To stay ahead of this, CyberGhost provides its users with an entire network of servers that are constantly tested to ensure they can access specific streaming platforms.
And they get really detailed with it. Want to see what Comedy Central is streaming in Germany? Connect to that server, and you’ll be watching some standup auf Deutsch bitte. Want to watch Mexican fútbol? You’ll be connected before you can yell “goooooooal.”
It’s also a really affordable service, as you’ll see in our guide to CyberGhost VPN costs.
We always recommend playing it as safe as possible, so we’d advise you to always use a VPN regardless of what you’re doing online. Now are there particular attack vectors that streaming exposes you to that a VPN would prevent? No, not really, but think of it this way: You probably keep your front door locked when you’re at home rewatching “The Mandalorian” on Disney Plus, right? Well, using a VPN is the digital equivalent of that.
FYI: Want to know how our two top picks for streaming look head to head? Check out our ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN comparison guide.
Also, using a VPN to stream can help you access media that might be restricted in your region. By changing your IP address to appear in other parts of the world, you’re going to have way more access to movies and shows than you would staying at home. If we can go back to our physical vs. digital space analogy, this is the digital equivalent of flying to Thailand to see what movies they have in their theaters.
It might seem a little weird at first using a VPN to get around a streaming platform’s geographic restrictions, but you’re not doing anything close to illegal. You’re well within your rights to use the service you pay for in the ways you see fit, and unless you’re downloading and distributing unlicensed copies of media you don’t own the rights to, you should be in the clear.
That said, if you look deep into any particular streaming platforms’ terms of service, you’ll probably see language that says you shouldn’t use software to circumvent their geo-restrictions. As far as we can tell, no one has ever had an account suspended for using a VPN.
The benefits of using a VPN to stream your favorite movies and shows are twofold:
First, you’re going to be more protected online. Like we said earlier, streaming Netflix (or any other streaming service) in and of itself is not risky behavior — unless you’re streaming from some shady site on the dark web or something. However, being online in general can be risky. You never know who you’re sharing your network with, and you never know who might be trying to gather information on you. A VPN will stop that activity dead in its tracks.
FYI: If you’re not convinced the above VPNs are right for you, you should head over to our list of the ten best VPN services in 2021. There’s certainly something there to fit both your needs and your budget.
The second benefit is way more fun. If you’re using the right VPN, you’re going to have access to a whole host of new media that you might not otherwise have known about. This includes TV shows from other countries, movies from other parts of the world, and everything in between. If you’re adventurous in your media tastes, this is the best way to approach streaming in our opinion.
Several VPN providers offer streaming optimizations while others don’t. If you’re selecting a service that doesn’t have specific optimizations, make sure they play well with the streaming platform of your choice.
As mentioned above, streaming platforms will often block traffic from known VPN servers. If a VPN provider isn’t proactive, what worked today might not tomorrow. Ensure they update constantly so access to your favorite platform isn’t compromised.
One thing that’ll take you out of the movie you’re enjoying faster than anything else is a buffering interruption. To prevent this, use a VPN with a large server network that can handle the bandwidth needed for streaming. VPNs are going to slow you down a little — that’s inevitable — but just make sure you’re selecting one that won’t hit the brakes too hard.
Want to protect everyone in the house while they’re watching the shows of their choice? Make sure you know how many connections you’re getting per subscription to the VPN provider of your choice. A lot of them offer unlimited protections, but many are capped depending on your service plan.
Who doesn’t like to watch their shows on the go? If you’re on the train or at the café, sometimes it's fun to fire up Hulu and take in a show or two. However, when you’re out and about, that’s also when you’re the most vulnerable to cybercrime. Make sure you’re selecting a VPN that offers on-the-go protections.