More and more of us now get our video content from streaming services. But unlike the “good old days,” you can’t just look at TV Guide to see what TV shows and movies are on. (Nor do you have to adjust your 19-inch TV’s rabbit ears or climb on the roof to move the antenna, so no complaining.) Sure, most of these services have at least passable browsing and search capabilities (albeit tainted by user-hostile interfaces—see “#DeathToAutoPlay—No More Audio and Video That Plays Automatically!,” 6 February 2019), but you never know which service has the show you want.
Apple has tried to solve this with the Apple TV app, but since not every service (mainly Netflix) participates, it’s just an extra, unhelpful layer. And Netflix itself doesn’t make content easy to find. It often seems like Netflix shows you what it wants you to see instead of what you want to see. To a degree, that makes sense. Netflix would prefer that you get hooked on its original shows, instead of something like Friends that it has to pay $100 million per year for and will lose anyway.
I used to use the Can I Stream It? Web site to find content, but it seems to have been abandoned. As it turns out, there are a number of these services now, but two have been recommended to us: Reelgood and JustWatch. Both are free to use, offer iOS apps, and don’t require an account, though they provide more features to those who sign up.
We found that it’s usually worth checking both services to find the content you want to watch, since both have gaps in their data. Here’s what they help you do.
Search Across Multiple Streaming Services
The marquee feature of both Reelgood and JustWatch is that they can search across multiple streaming services for content. How many? By our count, Reelgood is the clear winner on that metric, searching 71 services, while JustWatch searches across just 47. The reason for the difference is that Reelgood supports more streaming services tied to TV channels, like Adult Swim, BBC America, and Fox. Reelgood also supports anime streaming service Crunchyroll and independent movie service IndieFlix while JustWatch doesn’t.
You might think of this as an instant win for Reelgood, but not so fast. Although JustWatch doesn’t have as extensive a database or as slick an interface, its search results are often more useful. For instance, if you search for the 1980s sitcom Who’s the Boss? on Reelgood, you first have to click the search result, and then drill down into the specific season you want.
As it turns out, the only place to stream Who’s the Boss? is Crackle. Reelgood tells me that Crackle has four seasons available when it only has two. Meanwhile, JustWatch correctly tells me from the search results page that it’s on Crackle and there are only two seasons.
Look for a Show by Browsing Genres
A lot of times, when you turn on the TV, you know exactly what you want to watch. But sometimes you don’t, so it’s useful to have a way to browse content by genre.
Reelgood enables this with a filterable list, which you can filter by genre, media type (movie or TV show), and service. The selection of genres offered by Reelgood is surprisingly broad, including categories like alien, apocalypse, Greece, robot, tank, and time travel (I wonder if there’s a movie that hits all of those?).
You can sort the results of browsing or searching by title, year, IMDB rating, and Rotten Tomatoes rating. Annoyingly, although Reelgood includes an age rating, you can’t sort by it.
You can also switch the Reelgood title list to Grid layout, which retains the sort option from list layout, but even more interesting is its Best layout, which sorts by a Reelgood 100-point score that seems to combine IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes ratings.
Completely at a loss for what to watch? Let Reelgood’s Netflix Roulette pick for you. Choose a genre, a media type, an IMDB score, or a Rotten Tomatoes score and click Spin. Click Watch to go directly to that entry on Netflix.
In comparison, JustWatch is again all about expediency. From its home page, you can filter its entire title list by media type, release year, genre, price, rating, and yes, age rating.
Unfortunately, JustWatch’s genre list pales in comparison to what Reelgood offers.
Find All Titles Related to a Particular Person
Maybe you want to watch something with a particular actor or director. The obvious thing to do is search. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work well with Reelgood. Searching for “Tarantino” brings up a few movies with the name in the title and some unrelated stuff. JustWatch works significantly better—searching for “Tarantino” mostly brings up his movies, along with a few tangentially related titles.
Browsing through a particular person’s work operates similarly on both services: pull up a title involving that person and click their name. Reelgood makes that more accessible, thanks to headshots and generous spacing.
Although Reelgood makes it easier to get to a person’s filmography, JustWatch’s results once again provide more capabilities on a single screen, listing stream, rent, and buy options for all available services and letting you filter the results by all the aforementioned criteria. Reelgood presents a table just like the genre table described above, which you can switch to Grid or Best layout.
Make a Watchlist
People like making watchlists (even if they seldom watch what they put on them) for tracking what they want to see and may wish to watch again. JustWatch’s watchlist feature is straightforward: click the bookmark icon on a title to add it. You don’t need an account to create or maintain a watchlist, just to sync it between devices. The JustWatch watchlist displays movies and TV shows side by side, though you can filter them with the usual JustWatch options.
Reelgood doesn’t offer a unified watchlist. Instead, it provides three: one for TV shows, another for movies you want to see, and a third for movies you’ve seen. That complexity can be irritating, but it pays off when tracking TV shows.
When you add a TV series to your Reelgood list (by moving your mouse pointer over a title and clicking Track Series), the service asks whether you’ve seen All, Some, or None of a series. If you click Some, Reelgood prompts you to select the last episode you watched. That makes it easy to watch the next episode when you select that series in your TV show list. Both services notify you when added items appear on your services or when your tracked TV shows get new episodes.
Find Titles about to Expire in Reelgood
Reelgood can keep you apprised of changes to your streaming service lineup with its New, Coming, Leaving feature. A lot of times titles will leave a streaming service before you even knew they were there, so this feature helps you catch those gems before they disappear. Likewise, you can filter by New On to see what has arrived recently, or Coming To to see what to look for in the future. I have a knack for renting movies just before they hit streaming, so I particularly appreciate this list. JustWatch has no equivalent.
Track Price Drops with JustWatch
In the “turnabout is fair play” category, the JustWatch iOS app has a tab that tracks price drops of purchases and rentals from services like iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play. You have to select the services you like to purchase from at the top for results to show. Reelgood has no equivalent.
More Than Pretty Faces
On the surface, Reelgood’s designers have created a better overall interface, especially for browsing, whereas JustWatch’s filters can help you quickly find things you might want to watch. My impression is that JustWatch provides better search results, but if you don’t find what you want on one service, it pays to check the other, since both have strengths and weaknesses.
The good news is that both services are free, so you can easily give them both a try, even without creating an account. If you find that you greatly prefer one over the other, you can sign up (also for free) to track your favorite shows and keep up with what you’ve already watched.
How useful Reelgood and JustWatch will be to you depends in part on how you get your TV and movies. Let us know your preferred services in our quick one-question survey.