When you’re a couple and one of you is more into sci-fi movies and TV shows while the other is all about sports and crime dramas, it can be difficult to decide what to watch. Throw in a couple of older kids along with a new toddler and picking the right streaming service to subscribe to can feel like taking a shot in the dark. You want everybody to get along and find easy ways to entertain themselves, but you also want to make sure parental controls are on when they need to be and that you and your partner don’t have to be consigned to watching only kid-friendly content for the next five years.
Here are our picks for the top best streaming platforms for families.
Best for Families
The Streamable’s Choice
A relative newcomer to the streaming scene, HBO Max is moving aggressively to bolster its library, and the result is the most varied and impressive streaming service to cater to an entire family.
For parents, you have award-winning, thought-provoking miniseries like “Watchmen,” “Band of Brothers,” and “Chernobyl.” There are groundbreaking series like “The Sopranos,” “Game of Thrones,” and “The Wire.”
For young adults, you have the movie and TV superhero adventures of Batman and Superman. There are also series like “Euphoria” and “Girls” that aim to capture the experiences of younger people.
The edgy animation category is filled by “Rick and Morty,” “South Park,” and “Adventure Time.”
For the youngest children, you can access episodes from every season of “Sesame Street,” along with animated classics like “The Flintstones” and “Looney Tunes.”
Beyond this, there is a huge movie library covering all genres. From the groundbreaking foreign cinema of Studio Ghibli and Akira Kurosawa to dazzling titles from Stanley Kubrick to sci-fi classics like “Blade Runner” to Charlie Chaplin masterpieces and everything in-between, HBO Max can scratch almost any itch, no matter your mood, age, or interest.
- 2021 blockbusters arriving on HBO Max same day as theaters
- Enormous movie and TV library, appealing to all ages
- Ability to restrict content for kids
- Option for lower price if you’re willing to watch ads
- The Streamable’s choice for best comedy and action movies
- Higher price point than other services
- New content slower to arrive than other services
Disney+ was first introduced at a time when Netflix was the reigning king of the streaming services. Having learned from the best, the formula Disney+ now uses is familiar in all the ways it should be: A familiar UI, multiple users per profile, a wide catalog of content, and parental controls for supervising what your kids have access to viewing. While Netflix still has more content, with Disney+ it’s always a matter of quality over quantity.
Within the scope of what’s best for the family, their collection is extremely strong. Disney+ is home to all classic Pixar and Disney movies that young kids will enjoy (and that might tickle your own nostalgia), along with Marvel TV shows and movies (with more to come), and, of course, Star Wars shows such as “The Mandalorian.”
Where Disney+ might fall flat is for adults who want more mature content. You won’t find much adult language or violence or sexuality in this library. Disney deliberately pushes those titles to Hulu. That said, you can bundle Disney+ with Hulu and ESPN+ to save some money. But it is frustrating to need another service for a gritty, adult drama.
- Multiple profiles
- Family-friendly content
- Save with optional package including Hulu and ESPN+
- The Streamable’s choice as best for kids.
- Less overall content than some services
- Not worth it if you don’t like Disney-owned content
Tried and true, Netflix is still a great contender for the best overall streaming service. Like our top choices, Netflix also houses original content, allows for multiple profiles, and can be viewed absolutely commercial-free from multiple devices.
Netflix shines against most competitors with arguably better material for teens, such as “Stranger Things” or “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” both of which are exclusive to Netflix. If you’re worried about your younger kids stumbling upon something questionable, there’s also a kids profile you can set up.
The kids’ library is missing some of the marquee IP you’ll see over on HBO Max or Disney+, but Netflix is pushing hard to bolster that area. There’s no shortage of content for children, but it’s hard to identify quality since so much of it looks the same as you scroll by.
Because Netflix has the most robust production schedule (and budget) of any streaming service, they are working feverishly to appeal to audiences of all ages around the world. In some cases, it feels like a firehose of content. But that firehose occasionally shoots out a gem.
- Wide variety
- Original programming
- Kids section
- Excellent UI across devices
- Losing content to other services
- Slim library of blockbuster IP
Paramount Plus has a surprisingly robust library that might be the perfect fit for your family. For sci-fi fans, you have the many Star Trek offerings. For children, you have access to lots of Nickelodeon shows like “SpongeBob SquarePants.” Comedy fans will enjoy the Comedy Central options. Throw in nature documentaries, some great movies, and iconic shows like “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” “The Twilight Zone,” and “Chappelle’s Show,” and there’s something for almost everyone on the platform.
- Lots of variety
- Free trial
- Less expensive tier available if you don’t mind ads
- Movie library not as robust as other services
- Most headline content is older
- Not much current pop culture for teens
This one is easy on the wallet. If you’re a Prime member, you already get this service for free, which means it’s an easy winner for the most convenient option. Even if you’re not a Prime member, the video service is only $8.99 a month (about the same as either Netflix or Disney+).
Amazon Prime Video is an excellent pick for the younger members of your family, offering limited episodes of the most popular kids shows, such as “Sesame Street,” Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants and “Paw Patrol,” or PBS Kids’ “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.”
You can also add inexpensive subscriptions to various services like PBS Kids to bolster your viewing options and gain more episodes of the shows your family loves.
Amazon Prime Video’s user interface is notoriously terrible, however. You’re just as likely to stumble on a low-budget hyper-partisan “documentary” as you are to find an Oscar-winner. Because there’s so much clutter, it can be hard to find the best content on the service.
Prime Video is also slow to spin out new, original content. The series and films they do roll out seem focused only on adults, so teens and kids aren’t going to see much growth for them.
- Great content for kids
- Free if a Prime member
- Optional free trial
- Clunky UI
- Largely poor original programming
- Limited content for teens
Peacock has a very solid library, but it’s the kind of service that will likely appeal more to parents than teens or kids.
With Peacock, you’ve got some big mainstream TV hits like “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation,” “This is Us,” “Friday Night Lights,” and “30 Rock.”
But Peacock’s movie library does rotate, so you don’t have unlimited access to NBCUniversal films like the “Fast and Furious” or “Jurassic Park” franchises. For sure, there are some great movies on Peacock, but until they are exclusive to the service, the quality may vary, depending on the timing of your subscription.
The options for children are extremely weak, however. Aside from a few lesser films aimed at kids, it’s a virtual ghost town.
If your family loves wrestling, however, Peacock’s WWE access is hard to beat.
Since Peacock does offer some content free with ads, along with a middle tier for ads along with premium content access, you have lots of ways to sample this service before you commit.
- Big TV hits, especially comedies
- Some blockbuster movies
- WWE events and programs
- Free content
- Very weak children’s content
- Movie library rotates
Similar to Netflix, Hulu is a dinosaur of a streaming service - old, formidable, and still able to give the other contenders on this list a run for their money. Also similar to Netflix, Hulu users can create a kids profile and access a wide variety of disparate content (great if everyone in your family has different tastes).
For adults, great series like “Fargo,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Shield,” and “The X-Files” provide dark, compelling content. The movies are also solid for grown-ups, with titles like “Parasite,” “Gone Girl,” and “Prisoners.”
What We Do in The Shadows” is a comedy favorite, and Hulu does have a few originals focused on comedy, like “Shrill” and “PEN15.
Kids will enjoy titles like “The Princess Bride,” but a big negative is that Disney puts most of its child-focused content over on Disney+. Without the optional bundle, Hulu itself doesn’t offer much for kids. Teens may also prefer the Disney+ adventures of Marvel and Star Wars.
If you go with Hulu’s live TV option, you’ll find thousands of options (Boomerang, Disney Channel, and Cartoon Network all live here), so there’s a guarantee you’ll find something for everybody. Of course, the live version of the service does have commercials.
- Tons of content
- Option for Hulu Live TV along with on demand catalog
- Commercials on live TV or ad-supported tier
- Limited original content
- Most content aimed at children is on the sister service, Disney+
A quick trial of discovery+ will reveal whether this service will work for your family. If you’re the kind of crew who likes niche reality shows and nature documentaries, it might be the perfect option. But if you’re looking for action or comedy or science-fiction, you’re unlikely to find much worth watching here.
A service like this is more likely to appeal to some of your family, but it’s not a one-stop shop for regular entertainment.
- Solid nature documentaries and shows
- Inspiring science content
- Content may feel repetitive over time
- Lots of “junk food” reality shows can overwhelm
- No content specifically for young children