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The best smart TVs for watching movies and streaming shows

Our testers reveal the top picks for viewing flicks and TV shows. 

family watching tv avengers
Last updated: 13 May 2021

Is there anything better in winter than a serious movie marathon or TV bingefest, complete with delicious snacks and snuggly blanket? We think not. 

A flashy new TV can bring your favourite films and shows to life in spectacular fashion, but how do you tell the A-list models from the B-grade pretenders? 

Factors like picture clarity, screen refresh rate, processor speed and colour quality all play a leading role in whether your show pops or flops on screen.

Choice lab expert Scott tests a TV

Our TV expert Scott watches A LOT of movies.

But it's not just the upfront specs of a TV's components that matter. The quality and internal build of them are important too, and that's much harder to assess at first glance.

That's why CHOICE experts test TVs meticulously in our labs, rating and reviewing over 60 popular units from brands like LG, Samsung, Hisense, Sony, TCL, Aldi Bauhn and many more. 

It's showtime! The best TVs for movies and series revealed

Our lead TV tester Scott O'Keefe and team of in-house experts spend all year watching movies (it's a tough job) to find the best models for your home cinema experience. And, spoiler alert, it's not always the most expensive ones. 

Usually our scores for movies feed into our overall CHOICE Expert Rating for each TV, but as a special winter treat, we're revealing them below. So if you're a Disney+ die-hard or you love chilling with Netflix, these are our top tested picks for flicks and streaming shows.

Of course, that's just one criteria for a great TV. Become a CHOICE member to see our full reviews, which include our other ratings for HD, SD and UHD viewing, plus ratings for smart TV features, user interface, remote and more.

Large-screen TV

  • Best scoring for movies: LG OLED65CXPTA
  • CHOICE movie rating: 93%
  • Price: $4495*
  • Size: 65 inches

With the highest movie rating in any size division, this stunning unit is the star of the show. Its picture quality even beat LG's 77-inch monster TV which costs just shy of $30,000! Of course, at $4000+, this one isn't cheap either. 

Our tests did discover some other drawbacks, such as less impressive ratings for sound quality and remote ease of use, but if you're hungry for some high-end TV hibernation, this one is the ticket.

Medium-screen TV

  • Best scoring for movies: LG OLED55CXPTA
  • CHOICE movie rating: 90%
  • Price: $3295*
  • Size: 55 inches

And the winner is... LG again. The smaller sister of the previous model, this 55-inch unit is the movie master of the medium TV category (and yes, it's wild to think 55 inches is now considered medium these days, but it is). 

At $3000+, it's definitely at the pricier end of the spectrum for the size, but it will deliver dazzling results for your winter watch list of movies and shows. Popcorn on stand-by.

Small-screen TV

  • Best scoring for movies: Sony KD43X8000H
  • CHOICE movie rating: 83%
  • Price: $1095*
  • Size: 43 inches

If you're looking for a smaller unit to watch your big blockbusters, this Sony model shines brightest for viewing movies in SD, HD and UHD/4K (note: some other models don't feature UHD/4K at this size). 

Interestingly, our tests have found smaller TVs rate lower in general than larger units for movie quality, so do keep that in mind. We've also spotted some very ordinary small TVs to avoid which are worth being wary of.

A movie lover's guide to buying a TV

1. Know your source

Before buying a new box, it's important you know the video resolution of the movies you'll mostly be watching. They could be standard definition (720 x 576 pixels), high definition (1920 x 1080) or ultra high definition, also known as 4K (3860 x 2160). Our tests show TVs perform differently at different resolutions.

If you're watching an old SD DVD on a 4K TV, it may attempt to upscale the video to display at the higher resolution. How well it bridges this 'gap' depends heavily on the quality of the unit and its internal processors. This can vary notably between models and definitions, which is why we score separately for SD and HD sources in our full reviews.

2. OLED or LCD – which is better?

According to our experts, OLED is definitely the showstopper here, particularly if you can control the ambient light in your TV room. But OLED TVs are usually more expensive, so it will depend on your budget.

What's the difference? Well, LCD (liquid-crystal display) TVs require a light source behind their screen panel, meaning they can go very dark grey but never full black. By comparison, OLED (organic light emitting diode) screens have lights integrated within each diode and they can simply turn off when required, giving you true blacks.

3. What size TV do you need?

Bigger is always better, right? Well, not always with TVs, because it also depends on your room size and how close you watch. If you sit too close to a massive screen, you may be able to see the pixels – and that's not pretty.

As listed in our TV buying guide, there are three important factors you need to consider for the best viewing experience:

  1. Your TV's screen resolution (HD or 4K)
  2. The size of your room
  3. How far you sit from the screen.
What-size-TV-should-I-buy

High definition TV viewing distance guide.

What-size-TV-should-I-buy-4K-distance

UHD/4K TV viewing distance guide.

4. Testing a TV instore

Retailers usually play animated movies on instore TVs because they look amazing. Live-action films are a different ball game, so switch to one of these to truly test a model's mettle. If that's not possible, take your own Blu-ray to test.

Assess key specs like picture clarity (are faces sharp?), motion, and colour balance (do skin tones look right?). Cycle through picture modes and note nasties like judder (lack of smooth panning), motion blur (trailing elements behind fast-moving objects) and odd saturation.

Store TVs are often muted too, so turn the volume up if you can and study the sound. Is it rich or tinny? How do voices sound? If it's ordinary, you might need to buy an accompanying soundbar – check out our soundbar reviews.

5. Suss out the screen angle

Got a big family or lots of housemates? Then you'll want to test the screen angle and ensure they'll all be able to see well.

As you move sideways from the centre of the screen, most TVs will lose some colour and contrast. Stand in the middle at your normal viewing distance and then take a few steps sideways. If the picture degrades too much, keep moving till you find a screen that does a better job. 

Image credit: Avengers: Endgame.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE