I think about When Harry Met Sally a lot. And to be clear, I’ve always thought about the film a lot, but now that I’m self-quarantining in response to the coronavirus pandemic and trying to ideate new ways to feel closer to people with whom I can’t share physical space, learning how to watch movies together online feels particularly apt. Watching a film long distance isn’t a new innovation, per se, as evidenced by When Harry Met Sally. As the two protagonists demonstrate, being able to watch movies together online (well, depending on you define “online”) simply requires two telephones and Casablanca on channel 11 in order to work. But it’s not 1989 anymore, and streaming services and extensions are plentiful, so we blessedly have more options for being able to watch movies together online. On the flip side, now that streaming services and extensions are the plentiful, we have more options—and the last thing anyone needs right now is unnecessary exposure to decision fatigue.
So if you’re aiming to have a digital dinner-and-a-movie date with a friend or a long-distance love, there are several strategies to accomplish it. Below, find a guide to six stellar ways to watch movies together online, broken down by the best ways to use each, whether you’re in a long-distance relationship, casually dating via apps and FaceTime, or honestly, just miss connecting with your friends.
How to watch movies together online while you’re physically apart, using 6 services
1. Netflix Party
Netflix Party has quickly picked up steam as a popular tool that allows for watching movies together online. And, it’s simple enough to use: Just download it as a Chrome extension, open a video or show on Netflix, click the “NP” icon in the righthand corner, and share the link with the friends you want to invite in order to get the party started. That party, to be clear, looks like a little chat room on the side of your video window.
Pros: It’s a simple and clean interface that’s easy to use and is perfect for introverts who spent much of their adolescence in chat rooms (ahem, not that I know from experience). Netflix Party is great for watching movies together for sure, but it’s perfect if you’ve been meaning to rewatch all of Community or finally check out Tiger King in a way that let’s you talk about your reactions in real time.
Cons: Again, this is Netflix exclusive and requires a Google Chrome extension, so if you have a friend who’s married to Safari or Firefox, this option won’t work optimally for your movie night.
TwoSeven allows for group streaming from a multitude of streaming subscription services, including Netflix, HBO Now, Vimeo, YouTube, and Amazon Prime Video. You can also stream Hulu and Disney+ if you pony up for the paid feature as a premium version of the app.
Pros: TwoSeven allows for extreme versatility of content. It’s also webcam-friendly, which is great if you actually like seeing people’s reactions.
Cons: Well, it does cost $3 a month, but it also requires logging in, which for me is a greater issue. (I’m just very low-commitment right now, and feel I’m probably not alone.) It’s also worth noting that TwoSeven detects third-party videos by scanning your websites, so be mindful of what you’re pulling up.
Scener is very similar to Netflix Party, but it’s a bit more souped up: It allows you to video chat with your friends and keep tabs in a chat room while watching movies together online. It also, IMHO, has a cute and whimsical layout.
Pros: This is similar to Netflix Party, but is ideal for extroverts. (So, it shares a lot of the same pros with Netflix Party.)
Cons: Likewise, it shares a lot of Netflix Party’s cons, namely that it’s exclusive to that streaming service, and is a Chrome extension.
Metastream is a cozy a jack-of-all-trades platform that really allows you to get creative with media. It’s an extension that works with both Chrome and Firefox (according to its FAQ, the latter is recommended), and it showcases three tabs: one with users, one that doubles as a watch list, and a third that’s for chatting.
Pros: It has a sleek interface, is compatible with many platforms and services, and lets you build an actual queue of what you want to watch.
Cons: It is a little bit buggy, which isn’t surprising given that it’s still in beta. Developers are currently working out the kinks, but definitely keep Metastream as an option for watching movies online with friends in the future.
Gaze is a YouTube-specific service that I can tell immediately has a really straightforward, user-friendly interface, which is a big win for me. For whatever reason, though, it wouldn’t grant me video and audio access when I tried using it, even after I manually gave it permission. But it does have video and audio access, so you can theoretically see your viewing companion and the video at the same time.
Pros: It’s a simple interface that’s good for one-on-ones and virtual dates.
Cons: Well, stress on watching companion, no plural. You can only watch with one person at a time. And while I do love me some YouTube, it’s kind of rare that I use it as my go-to streaming service for movies.
At a glance, it appears that Watch2Gether has an AOL interface with Gen-Z priorities. That’s because it took me a hot second to figure out how to use it. The service focuses on more short-form streaming platforms, with the toolbar allowing users to toggle between sites like YouTube, Vimeo, and Dailymotion.
Pros: It offers plenty of viewing options for internet-specific video sources. I can see this being useful if you just want to share YouTube videos with each other while you’re chatting. And, as a bonus, it is webcam compatible, so you can see your watch companion in real time.
Cons: If you’re anything like me, Watch2Gether may confuse you and make you feel old.
By the way, this is why it’s so weird watching certain TV shows right now, as we adjust to a new temporary normal in quarantine. And if you’re sick of streaming, we have 56 other things to do inside the house.