How to watch movies with your friends online

You don't need to be living amid a global pandemic orHow to watch movies with your friends online

~unprecidented times~

to see the

appeal

of a virtual watch party. It's all the fun of a movie night with friends, except you don't have to leave the comfort of your own couch or bed, and all the snacks are yours for the monching. You're basically getting the best of both worlds, to quote the great philosopher Hannah Montana.

Watching a movie together while apart was once a precarious dance of devices that involved linking up over a group text or Skype call while you all tried to press "Play" on "3, 2, 1" (and god forbid anyone needs a bathroom break). Not so much anymore, though.

Several major streaming services rolled out group watch features in the thick of the COVID-19 restrictions that forced everyone to isolate indoors, and a handful of third-party tools with screensharing, video-syncing, and chat capabilities have picked up the slack for those that haven't.

Soon you'll even be able to watch movies together on FaceTime thanks to a

new watch party feature

for Apple called

SharePlay

, which is coming to iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey later this year.

SEE ALSO:

The best streaming sites for movies, from Netflix to HBO Max to Disney+

So, your pals are assembled and the popcorn is popping — what's the game plan, here? There's actually no one "right" way to host a virtual watch party; rather, the method to your movie-marathoning madness (so to speak) will heavily depend on how many people are participating and whether or not all of you subscribe to the same streaming service.

With that in mind, here's a rundown of all the ways you can now watch movies with your friends online, with tutorials embedded when available. (Oh, and don't forget a VPN if you're tuning in from outside the U.S —

click here

to learn more.)

Hulu Watch Party

Hulu's

Watch Party

mode lets you stream select titles from its library with up to seven other people. The feature film gets synched up among all of the session's participants, who can talk (well, type) amongst themselves in a live group chat. (Not sure if your movie of choice is supported? Visit its Details page on Hulu.com and look for a little Watch Party icon near the Play button — it looks like a circle with three silhouetted figures inside.)

Watch Party is currently an

online-only

feature for web browsers, meaning you don't have to install any apps or extensions, and inviting friends to movie night is as easy as sending them a special link to your session. The only catch is that your entire group — not just the host — needs Hulu accounts to participate. (The "everyone needs a login" thing is a common thread among most of these group watch tools, as you'll soon find out.)

Amazon Prime Video Watch Party

Credit: screenshot via amazon prime video

You and as many as 99 of your closest friends can watch a movie together through

Prime Video Watch Party

, a browser-based feature Amazon

debuted last summer

that's included with anyHow to watch movies with your friends online

Prime

or

Prime Video

membership. (Pssst — anyone who hasn't subscribed within the past 12 months can score a free 30-day trial.)

To get started, simply visit your movie's landing page, click on the Watch Party icon to the right of the blue "Watch Now" button — this one looks just like the

party popper emoji

— and create a unique link to share with your crew. Once everyone's in the session, you're all free to mingle in the group chat sidebar while the host manages all of the playback controls (play, pause, skip, etc.).

Keep in mind that if your movie isn't free to stream with Prime, every participant will have to rent or buy it separately.

Click here

to peep the list of titles that are currently included with a membership.

Twitch

Credit: twitch

Twitch isn't just for gaming anymore — and no, we're not talking about the

hot tubs

.

As of last fall

, anyone with an account (not just Twitch affiliates and partners) can stream movies available with their

Amazon Prime

/

Prime Video

subscription directly on the Twitch web client with its new

Watch Parties

tool. (You'll find it under the "Stream Manager" section of your Creator Dashboard.)

If you're the evening's host, all you have to do is enter your Prime or Prime Video credentials, set up your webcam's video and audio for

picture-in-picture

(if desired), pick a movie, and then hit "Start Watch Party" to have it play on your channel. Your friends can then join by creating a free Twitch account, visiting your channel, and then authorizing their devices using their own Prime Video login. (It's the same as any standard Prime Video Watch Party where everyone needs a subscription.)

The only real downside to this option is that Twitch streams can't be made private — i.e., anyone with a Twitch and Prime Video account can hypothetically crash your watch party. (Not that it's very likely if your channel is super small, but still.)

Disney+ GroupWatch

Credit: DMED Media

Disney's take on the viewing party feature is

GroupWatchHow to watch movies with your friends online How to watch movies with your friends online

, which lets you watch any Disney+ title with a handful of friends through its

app

. (Note that it's

not

supported on Playstation 4 and certain Roku models — boo.)

Introduced in September

, this one's similar to Hulu Watch Party and Amazon Prime Video Watch Party in that you'll invite everyone to a session using a special link — oh, and everyone needs their own login.

Unlike its competitors' features, though, GroupWatch lets participants accept an invite through the Disney+ mobile and web app, then switch to a connected TV to watch the movie. In other words, your

Star Wars

and

Marvel

viewing parties aren't confined to a browser window.

There's no voice or text chat feature for mid-movie commentary with GroupWatch, which is kind of a bummer, but you're free to share emoji reactions to everyone else's screens using the Disney+ mobile app. Plus, all participants are able to control playback.

Scener

Trying to host a

Bridgerton

viewing party? Organizing a

Harry Potter

marathon? Have too many people for a Hulu Watch Party? Wish Disney+ GroupWatch let you discuss

Loki

theories in real-time?

Enter:

Scener

, a free third-party Chrome extension that creates private, invite-only "rooms" where you can watch a movie with up to nine friends while chatting via text, voice, and even video. (There's also a "theater" mode that supports up to a million guests and as many as 10 cohosts, but we doubt you're that popular — no offense.) Previously limited to Netflix, HBO Go, and HBO Now, Scener now works with a plethora of platforms, including YouTube, Vimeo, Disney+, Prime Video, Hotstar, Alamo On Demand, Shudder, Funimation, and HBO Max — in fact, it has an

official partnership

with the latter.

This one requires a little more prep work, since all participants must install the extension and have an account with the designated streaming platform, if applicable. Your host will start a room by logging into their (free) account on a laptop or desktop computer, clicking the "Host a watch party" button on the Scener website's homepage, and then sharing access with either a code or invite link. (You can return to that room at any time for future watch parties, which is nice.)

Teleparty

Credit: teleparty

Just as with Scener, all participants will need to install the Teleparty extension and log into their streaming account ahead of time — you can't join a session without both. Once you're all ready to go, the host will select a movie, press "Play," then hit the red and white "TP" icon next to the address bar in their browser window — that'll generate a link to their session that everyone else can just click to join. From there, the host can either pick someone to control the movie or give everyone free rein over the "Pause," "Play," and "Rewind" buttons.

TwoSevenHow to watch movies with your friends online

Available for Chrome and Firefox,

TwoSeven

is the rare watch party extension that works with both Apple TV+ and Crunchroll, in case everyone's trying to get their

Ted Lasso

or

My Hero Academia

on. The free version is pretty robust in its own right, offering support for those two platforms as well as YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, and even personal video files (plus text, audio, and video chat). For even more options, sign up for its

Patreon

: Hulu and Disney+ are both included at the $3-a-month Social Distancing tier, while the $5-a-month Convivialist role unlocks 720p screensharing with up to 10 other people.

Setting up a TwoSeven session can be a little tricky, but it's nothing you can't handle: One person will make an account on the

TwoSeven website

(or log into an existing one) and click the "Start Watching" button, where a popup will prompt them to enable or disable webcam use and tweak playback controls. From there, they can either add friends to a room, or — if you've never used TwoSeven before — create a solo room to which they can invite others with a link. Per usual, everyone will need to have a login if you're going to be watching a movie from a particular streaming service. (If it's from someone's personal video collection, they'll either upload the mp4 or webm file directly to the room and stream it, or have everyone else download it manually and use TwoSeven to sync up the playback.)

Kast

The real-time video-sharing app

Kast

will let you and your friends stream third-party content from YouTube and Tubi for free while chatting over text, voice, and video, but you're probably going to want to shell out for one of its paid plans to unlock its full watch party potential. A $10/year Kast Base membership includes access to its entire in-house library of movies and series as well as a screensharing feature, which is a great option if not all of you are subscribed to the same streaming platform *or* if you're trying to watch something from someone's personal movie collection. A $6.49/month Kast Premium membership, meanwhile, gets you zero ads, HD screensharing, and picture-in-picture.

You'll boot up a session by creating an account, inviting everyone else with a link, and then either launching content directly from the Kast TV library or sharing your screen. The latter is only supported on Kast Web and the desktop app, FYI, but mobile and tablet users can still host parties, watch anything others play on Kast TV, and share their camera and mic. (There are currently apps for both iOS and Android.)

If all else fails, use

Discord

.

While PC gaming community's go-to chat app (hot off a

fresh, new redesign

) isn't specifically designed for watch parties,

Discord

's

Go Live

feature makes it super easy to share anything on your monitor to up to 50 people. Not only is it a workaround for those black sheep streaming services that aren't supported elsewhere — see: Paramount+ and Peacock — but it's also supported on a

ton

of different platforms, from macOS and Windows to iOS, Android, Linux, and

soon even Playstation

. (There's a web version, too, in case you don't feel like downloading anything.)

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