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The Best VPNs for Streaming

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Streaming laptop.
Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN
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Simon is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times, CNet and more. Read full bio

The best VPNs for streaming allow you to watch region-restricted content on Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Disney Plus, HBO, Prime Video, and many more.

You’ll enjoy fast, unrestricted access to HD movies and TV shows that aren’t available in your region.

We tested dozens of VPNs to find the fastest and most reliable for streaming. We analyzed average speeds, server coverage, and the ability to access multiple streaming services.

For watching international streaming content, the five best VPNs are:

  1. ExpressVPN: The best VPN for streaming Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and Prime Video. Read summary or Visit ExpressVPN
  2. NordVPN: The best choice for BBC iPlayer and overall fastest VPN for streaming. Read summary or Visit NordVPN
  3. PrivateVPN: The cheapest streaming VPN with good speeds and specialized servers. Read summary or Visit PrivateVPN
  4. Surfshark: The best VPN for streaming Disney Plus, and great for Firestick. Read summary or Visit Surfshark
  5. CyberGhost: The top VPN for streaming with Smart DNS, with dedicated streaming servers. Read summary or Visit CyberGhost

The five streaming VPNs above have apps for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and Fire TV. They hide your IP address and stream geo-blocked content from any country.

Other than PrivateVPN, all of these VPNs have a Smart DNS tool. This allows you to stream with a VPN on Apple TV, PlayStation, and Xbox.

You can also find the best VPN for each specific streaming platform further down the page. If you don’t want to pay for a VPN, see which free streaming VPN we recommend below.

September 2021 Update: Due to a stricter VPN ban, most VPNs are not working with Netflix. See our top-rated Netflix VPNs to find VPN servers that can still access US Netflix.

The 10 Best Streaming VPNs Compared

The table below compares the 10 most popular streaming VPNs based on on their average speeds, smart DNS capabilities, and support for US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Disney+.

We prioritise US Netflix because it hosts the largest number of TV shows and movies. To find the best VPN for other Netflix libraries and services like Hulu, Amazon Prime video, and HBO, skip to the best VPNs by streaming service.

The Top Streaming VPNs: Performance Ratings

Use the following table to compare how the best streaming VPNs perform in each key testing category:

The 5 Best VPNs for Streaming in 2021

  1. 1. ExpressVPN: The Top Streaming VPN

    The best VPN for streaming Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and Prime with fast speeds.

    Ranked #1 out of 68 VPNs for Streaming
    ExpressVPN's new app on mobile devices
     96% 
    (1,769 user reviews)
    Visit ExpressVPN

    Pros

    1. Works with 19 Netflix libraries incl. US
    2. Impressive international speeds
    3. Native Amazon Fire TV app
    4. User-friendly apps & Smart DNS
    5. Minimal anonymous logging
    6. VPN servers in 94 countries

    Cons

    1. Expensive on shorter plans
    2. Inconsistent access to BBC iPlayer

    ExpressVPN is the best VPN for streaming overall. It’s extremely fast and works to stream international content on six major services including Netflix, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, and Hulu.

    It works with 19 international Netflix libraries and also works with smaller streaming services like Zattoo and Sling TV. It’s great for accessing US Netflix and HBO Max from overseas, which makes it the best choice for streaming outside the US. If you’re looking to stream international sports, it even works with 4 different DAZN libraries.

    Cheapest Price$6.67/mo over 15 Months See all plans
    US NetflixYes
    No. of Netflix Libraries19
    International Speed76Mbps
    Works with FirestickYes
    Smart DNSYes
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. iosiOS
    4. androidAndroid
    5. amazon_firetvFire TV
    6. appletvApple TV
    7. playstationPlayStation
    8. xboxXbox
    9. routerRouter

    Fast international speeds for HD streaming

    ExpressVPN is very fast on both short-distance and long-distance connections, with no interference or connection drops.

    We measured average global download speeds of 71Mbps in our latest tests, which is ideal for buffer-free streaming. You’ll be able to watch all your favorite TV shows in HD or even 4K.

    94 server locations & 3000+ IP addresses

    ExpressVPN isn’t only speedy, it’s safe and private, too. It maintains a privacy-first logging policy with no personally identifiable logs, and we’ve never experienced any IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks during our tests.

    You’ll get access to over 3000+ IP addresses in 94 server locations. That means you’ll be able to find a VPN server in almost every country in the world.

    ExpressVPN's server list

    ExpressVPN has streaming-optimized servers in 94 locations.

    Although it doesn’t have specific servers for streaming, our tests have found that almost every ExpressVPN server works with streaming platforms. This makes using ExpressVPN to watch streaming content much simpler than other VPNs.

    Smart DNS and native app for Fire TV Stick

    To stream content on devices that don’t support VPN apps, you can use MediaStreamer – ExpressVPN’s Smart DNS feature.

    MediaStreamer allows you to spoof your location and stream blocked content with ExpressVPN on Apple TV, games consoles, and smart TVs.

    Moreover, we found that it’s currently the best VPN for Chromecast. It comes with an intuitive app for Google TV and a dedicated app for routers.

    ExpressVPN also has a native Firestick app. The app works with streaming content and streams Kodi add-ons and IPTV apps anonymously. It works well, but lacks some of the features of newer Firestick VPN apps.

    Not recommended for BBC iPlayer

    Streaming BBC iPlayer with ExpressVPN is inconsistent due to the BBC’s increased efforts to block VPN traffic.

    If you’re looking for reliable access to BBC iPlayer, both PrivateVPN and NordVPN are better choices right now.

    ExpressVPN works with:

    • Netflix
    • Hulu
    • HBO Max
    • Disney+
    • Amazon Prime Video
    • HBO Max
    • DAZN
  2. 2. NordVPN: Fastest VPN for Streaming

    The best VPN for BBC iPlayer and the fastest for streaming HD video.

    NordVPN Mobile App Screenshot
     94% 
    (246 user reviews)
    Visit NordVPN

    Pros

    1. High speed access to Netflix, iPlayer, Disney+ & more
    2. Consistently fast VPN speeds
    3. Works with Amazon Fire TV & Smart DNS
    4. Easy setup on wide range of devices
    5. Verified no-logs policy
    6. VPN servers in 59 countries

    Cons

    1. Responded poorly to server breach
    2. Some issues unblocking Netflix on Firestick

    Overall Streaming Rating: 9.5/10

    This overall rating is calculated based on the following subcategory ratings. For more details, read about how we test streaming VPNs.

    • 99.0/10
    • 9.79.7/10
    • 9.59.5/10
    • 9.99.9/10
    • 9.99.9/10
    • 9.39.3/10

    NordVPN is one of the best services on the market and it’s a great choice for streaming, too. It works well with most popular streaming services including US Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu.

    it is also the fastest VPN for streaming, so you shouldn’t experience any buffering when streaming in HD or 4K. We measured a speed loss of just 2% when connected to nearby servers.

    Cheapest Price$3.30/mo over 27 Months See all plans
    US NetflixYes
    International Speed83Mbps
    Smart DNSYes
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. iosiOS
    4. androidAndroid
    5. amazon_firetvFire TV
    6. appletvApple TV
    7. playstationPlayStation
    8. xboxXbox
    9. routerRouter

    The best option for BBC iPlayer

    One of NordVPN’s highlights is how well it works with BBC iPlayer. Only a few VPNs can bypass the BBC’s VPN ban, and NordVPN is currently the best on the market.

    It also comes with a fully-featured app for Fire TV Stick and includes a Smart DNS feature for devices like PlayStation 4 and Apple TV.

    Streams 15 international Netflix locations

    NordVPN currently works with 15 international Netflix regions. The most popular of these include the US, Brazil, India, Japan, and South Korea. In our latest tests, we were able to watch every one of these in HD.

    Using NordVPN with US Netflix

    You can use NordVPN to stream US Netflix from overseas.

    It’s also a very safe and private VPN with a no-logs policy and no IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks.

    5000+ servers in 59 countries

    There are no servers dedicated to streaming like the ones offered by CyberGhost or HideMyAss. That’s because NordVPN’s SmartPlay feature does the hard work for you.

    With SmartPlay, you can pick any US server and it will automatically access all your favorite Netflix shows.

    NordVPN works with:

    • BBC iPlayer
    • Netflix
    • Hulu
    • Disney+
    • Prime Video
    • HBO Max
  3. 3. PrivateVPN: Cheapest VPN for Streaming

    Streams 30+ international Netflix libraries for under $2 per month.

    Image of PrivateVPN's app on mobile
     98% 
    (1,736 user reviews)
    Visit PrivateVPN

    Pros

    1. Works with many streaming apps
    2. Impressive VPN speeds
    3. Custom app for Amazon Fire TV
    4. Easy setup on various popular platforms
    5. Strict no-logs policy
    6. VPN servers in 63 countries

    Cons

    1. Small server network
    2. Unreliable live chat
    3. No Smart DNS
    4. No VPN browser extensions

    Overall Streaming Rating : 8.9/10

    This overall rating is calculated based on the following subcategory ratings. For more details, read about how we test streaming VPNs.

    • 9.89.8/10
    • 9.29.2/10
    • 9.39.3/10
    • 8.98.9/10
    • 5.55.5/10
    • 9.39.3/10

    PrivateVPN is a cheap VPN that makes streaming simple. It labels the servers that work best with specific streaming services, and it successfully streams Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, BBC iPlayer, Prime Video, HBO Max and more.

    It also offers fast speeds, intuitive apps, and a privacy-friendly no-logs policy. This makes PrivateVPN an ideal choice for those who love streaming without compromising on their online privacy.

    Cheapest Price$1.98/mo over 24 months See all plans
    US NetflixYes
    No. of Netflix Libraries32
    Works with FirestickYes
    Smart DNSNo
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. iosiOS
    4. androidAndroid
    5. amazon_firetvFire TV
    6. appletvApple TV
    7. playstationPlayStation
    8. xboxXbox
    9. routerRouter

    Access to 30+ Netflix libraries

    One of PrivateVPN’s best features is the number of foreign Netflix libraries it can access. You’ll have access to 32 international Netflix catalogues with just one subscription.

    The only VPN that works with more Netflix libraries is Windscribe. PrivateVPN also works with Hulu, HBO, and Disney+.

    Extremely cheap and great for Kodi streaming

    You can install PrivateVPN on your Amazon Fire TV Stick in minutes with its native app, and it works well with Kodi, too. That means it’s a good choice for streaming on Smart TVs.

    PrivateVPN working with US Netflix.

    PrivateVPN reliably works to stream US Netflix.

    Unlike CyberGhost, you don’t have to commit to a long subscription to access the big price discounts. PrivateVPN is cheap on even the shortest subscription plans.

    Small server network and slow customer support

    The only drawbacks are PrivateVPN’s fairly small VPN server network and its inconsistent live chat support. The server network consists of just 150+ servers in 62 countries, and live chat is only available intermittently.

    It’s also the only VPN in this list that doesn’t offer Smart DNS functionality or VPN browser extensions. This means it’s not a great choice for streaming on Smart TVs or games consoles.

    Reasonable long-distance speeds

    With just 150 servers, most of PrivateVPN’s in-demand servers are overly-congested — resulting in some unreliable speeds.

    Its long-distance speed results are still reasonable, though. Our download speed fell by just 16% to 84Mbps when connected to Canada from the UK.

    Despite its small server network, PrivateVPN is so effective and simple to use that it deserves its place as one of the best streaming VPNs. If you’re looking for an affordable streaming VPN, this is a great choice.

    PrivateVPN works with:

    • Netflix
    • Hulu
    • Disney+
    • BBC iPlayer
    • Prime Video
    • HBO Max
  4. 4. Surfshark: Best for Disney Plus

    Fast speeds, Smart DNS, and access to 8 popular streaming services.

    Surfshark app
     82% 
    (113 user reviews)
    Visit Surfshark

    Pros

    1. Works with all major streaming services
    2. Fast speeds on nearby VPN servers
    3. No-logs privacy policy
    4. User-friendly app for Fire TV Stick
    5. Easy to setup on popular devices
    6. VPN servers in 65 countries

    Cons

    1. Not quite as fast as its top rivals
    2. Access to BBC iPlayer is inconsistent

    Surfshark is an excellent VPN for watching restricted content on Netflix and other streaming websites. It consistently bypasses region restrictions with fast loading, no lag, and high video quality.

    In addition to the intuitive custom VPN apps for desktop and mobile devices, Surfshark also comes with an effective native VPN app for Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Fire TV Stick.

    Cheapest Price$2.49/mo over 24 months See all plans
    US NetflixYes
    No. of Netflix Libraries31
    International Speed79Mbps
    Works with FirestickYes
    Smart DNSYes
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. iosiOS
    4. androidAndroid
    5. amazon_firetvFire TV
    6. appletvApple TV
    7. playstationPlayStation
    8. xboxXbox
    9. routerRouter

    Works with 31 international Netflix libraries

    You can watch 31 different Netflix libraries through Surfshark’s VPN servers.

    You can also watch Disney+ through every single Surfshark server, too. For this reason, we recommend it as the best VPN for Disney+.

    Access to BBC iPlayer is inconsistent, but you can watch it using Surfshark’s browser extensions. This doesn’t offer the same level of privacy as the VPN applications themselves, though.

    Surfshark is also our budget choice for those looking to access HBO Max.

    Trust DNS and Smart DNS options

    Surfshark is so reliable for streaming because of its Smart DNS and Trust DNS features, which act as a proxy to help to access streaming content reliably.

    Surfshark VPN home screen

    Surfshark is a good choice for streaming on multiple devices.

    If you need help to set up or use the apps to stream your favorite shows the Surfshark customer support team is also on hand 24/7 via live chat.

    3,200 Servers in 66 countries

    While Surfshark has no dedicated streaming servers, almost all of its US servers will work for streaming. In our most recent tests, only the St.Louis and Charlotte servers didn’t stream US Netflix.

    Thanks to its fast international speeds, we also experienced great video quality and quick loading in our streaming tests.

    Secure, fast and affordable

    Founded in 2018, Surfshark may be new, but it does privacy right with a no-logs policy and plenty of security extras.

    It’s also very affordable – offering all of these features for just $2.49 per month on a two-year subscription.

    Surfshark works with:

    • Netflix
    • Hulu
    • Disney+
    • BBC iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime Video
    • HBO Max
    • Sky Go
    • Kodi
  5. 5. CyberGhost: Best for Streaming Servers

    A simple VPN with 100+ dedicated streaming servers and Smart DNS.

    CyberGhost app
     94% 
    (312 user reviews)
    Visit CyberGhost

    Pros

    1. Easy access to Netflix, Disney+ & other popular services
    2. Very fast local speeds
    3. Amazon Fire TV Stick & Smart DNS
    4. Easy-to-use apps for all devices
    5. No personally-identifiable logs
    6. VPN servers in 91 countries

    Cons

    1. Slower international speeds
    2. Limited VPN extensions

    Overall Streaming Rating: 8.6/10

    This overall rating is calculated based on the following subcategory ratings. For more details, read about how we test streaming VPNs.

    • 88.0/10
    • 99.0/10
    • 8.58.5/10
    • 7.97.9/10
    • 9.99.9/10
    • 9.29.2/10

    CyberGhost is an excellent VPN for streaming. It offers 100+ dedicated servers for different streaming platforms and works with 4 major Netflix libraries including the US, UK, Germany, and France.

    These streaming servers change their IP address frequently to help avoid the bans put in place by services like Netflix.

    Cheapest Price$2.25/mo over 3 years See all plans
    No. of Netflix Libraries6
    Works with FirestickYes
    Smart DNSYes
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. iosiOS
    4. androidAndroid
    5. amazon_firetvFire TV
    6. appletvApple TV
    7. playstationPlayStation
    8. xboxXbox
    9. routerRouter

    Smart DNS and Fire TV Stick

    CyberGhost is so effective at bypassing geo-blocks because it comes with a Smart DNS tool. This technology changes the DNS server that your traffic is routed through.

    You can find out how to configure Smart DNS on CyberGhost’s support website. You can also set up the VPN on your Fire TV Stick quickly and easily.

    100+ optimized servers for streaming

    The VPN’s applications also make streaming simple by highlighting the server locations that support the platforms you need.

    There are 90 countries available and connection speeds are fast enough for HD-quality video.

    CyberGhost's dedicated Netflix servers.

    CyberGhost has servers that are specifically optimized for streaming Netflix.

    Though it is fast on some same-country connections, CyberGhost’s speeds lag behind ExpressVPN and NordVPN over long-distance VPN connections.

    Simple VPN applications for beginners

    CyberGhost’s custom VPN apps are easy to use, good-looking, and, most importantly, safe. A no-logs policy ensures your online activity is private, and the VPN has never leaked our IP address or DNS requests.

    If you ever run into issues when streaming with CyberGhost you can contact a member of the customer support team via live chat 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

    There’s very few downsides to using CyberGhost other than its inability to work with BBC iPlayer. If you’re looking for a simple way to watch streaming content on multiple devices, it’s a great option.

    CyberGhost works with:

    • US Netflix
    • Hulu
    • Disney+
    • Prime Video
    • HBO Max

The Best VPNs by Streaming Service

The five VPNs recommended above are the best VPNs for streaming overall.

The right VPN for you will depend on the specific streaming website you’re looking to watch.

In this section, you can find our VPN recommendations for individual streaming websites.

In the table below, you can find a summary of the best VPN for each streaming service. Alternatively, you can read past the table for more details on each platform.

Streaming Service Best VPN
Netflix ExpressVPN
BBC iPlayer NordVPN
Disney Plus Surfshark
Prime Video ExpressVPN
Hulu ExpressVPN
HBO Max ExpressVPN
Sky Go Windscribe
Kodi IPVanish
DAZN Windscribe

 

Here’s a full list of the top VPNs for each major streaming service, along with the results of our streaming tests:

1. Netflix

A good VPN for Netflix will bypass the service’s geographic restrictions.

That means you’ll be able to watch movies and TV shows in the US, UK, Japan, France, and dozens of other countries.

Based on our latest tests, ExpressVPN is the best overall VPN for Netflix – especially if you’re outside the US. It has excellent international speeds, responsive customer support, and a 30-day money back guarantee.

It also works with 19 international Netflix libraries, including the US.

To find out what makes ExpressVPN so effective and to see our other top five recommendations, read our list of the best VPNs for Netflix.

2. BBC iPlayer

BBC iPlayer is notoriously difficult to watch for anyone outside of the UK. That’s because the service is becoming increasingly effective at detecting and blocking foreign VPN traffic.

NordVPN is currently the top VPN for BBC iPlayer. It’s secure, extremely fast, and works with BBC iPlayer on all of its UK servers.

You’ll be able to watch UK TV in HD without buffering or slow loading times. You can find out more in our guide to the best VPNs for BBC iPlayer.

3. Disney Plus

Using a VPN with Disney Plus will give you access to movies from Marvel, Pixar, Disney, and more.

Unfortunately, the service is only available in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, France, and Germany. If you want to stream Disney+ from any other country, you’ll need a VPN.

The best VPN for Disney+ is Surfshark. That’s because it works to stream all Disney+ content on absolutely any server.

You’ll need a payment method registered in one of the countries with access to sign up. If you don’t have this, you can follow our workaround in our list of the best VPNs for Disney+.

4. Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime Video has an international content library of over 20,000 movies and TV shows.

However, a VPN will not give you access to all geo-restricted content from Amazon Prime Video. That’s because the service only allows you to stream content from the region where your account is registered.

This makes a VPN mostly useful for watching your home version of Amazon Prime Video while traveling abroad.

Based on our tests, ExpressVPN is the best VPN for Amazon Prime Video in 2021. It works on every US server and streams movies without any buffering or lag.

The 5 best VPNs for Amazon Prime Video are:

  1. ExpressVPN
  2. PrivateVPN
  3. NordVPN
  4. Surfshark
  5. Windscribe

 

EXPERT TIP: To access the US Amazon Prime Video library, you’ll need to sign up while connected to a US VPN server and use a US payment method. If you don’t have one, you can use a digital gift card instead.

5. Hulu

After Netflix, Hulu is the most difficult streaming service to access with a VPN. All of Hulu’s movies and TV shows are strictly blocked for anyone from outside of the US.

To calculate the best VPN for Hulu, we tested a number of randomized US servers from all of our top-rated streaming VPNs.

We found that ExpressVPN is the best VPN for Hulu. Once connected, it gave us access to shows like Fargo, The Simpsons, and The Handmaid’s Tale, all in HD.

ExpressVPN also comes with a Smart DNS feature, which means you’ll be able to stream Hulu on your Apple TV and PS4/PS5, too.

PrivateVPN and NordVPN also work with Hulu on their US servers, but CyberGhost and Surfshark only work on two thirds of their servers. We recommend avoiding these VPNs if you watch Hulu regularly.

The 5 best VPNs for Hulu are:

  1. ExpressVPN
  2. PrivateVPN
  3. NordVPN
  4. CyberGhost
  5. Surfshark

6. HBO Max

HBO Max is the premium streaming service of HBO. To watch it, you’ll need an American IP address.

Using a VPN with HBO Max gives you access to all the TV shows and movies from HBO, as well as the full WarnerMedia library.

ExpressVPN is the best VPN for HBO Max in 2021. It reliably streams HBO Max from other countries, so you can watch content like Wonder Woman 1984, Friends, and Game of Thrones from outside the US.

All three of streaming VPNs we recommend above consistently work with HBO Max.

However, VPNs with dedicated HBO streaming servers are significantly slower than VPNs with no streaming-specific servers.

This is probably the result of server congestion, with too many users connected to a single server at one time.

We prefer VPN services that work with HBO Max without a dedicated HBO server, like ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and Surfshark.

These three VPNs can balance users over a wider range of servers — resulting in faster streaming speeds.

The 5 best VPNs for HBO Max are:

  1. ExpressVPN
  2. NordVPN
  3. Surfshark

Read more in our guide on How to Watch HBO Max with a VPN.

Why You Need a VPN for Streaming

Man using a streaming VPN

Using a VPN can greatly improve your streaming experience. If you’re at home, you can use a VPN to access thousands of movies and TV shows that aren’t available in your country.

If you’re travelling, you can use a VPN to access all of the content from home that you miss.

Streaming services like Netflix, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime Video restrict their content to users in specific locations. For example, US Netflix has over 5,500 titles, whereas Australia only has 2,000.

What’s more, some services like HBO, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu are only available in one country.

That means there’s a huge number of shows available that you can only access with a VPN for streaming.

There’s even more on offer if you’re a fan of sports. If you subscribe to a sports streaming service and don’t want to miss a game from home, simply switch on your streaming VPN and log in.

Using a VPN with Netflix

Windscribe Free is the only safe free VPN that works with US Netflix.

When you use a VPN, you hide your IP address and mask your location so that streaming websites think you’re browsing from a different country. This allows you to watch all of the content that’s unavailable in your region.

Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a VPN service that reliably works with major streaming websites.

That’s because most services are now extremely effective at identifying and banning IP addresses belonging to VPN servers.

There are still a handful of high-quality VPN services that consistently work to access international streaming libraries with fast speeds and low prices.

Just make sure to connect to a server in the country where the movie or TV show is available to watch.

How to Use a VPN for Streaming

Before you can watch foreign streaming content, you’ll need to set up your VPN software.

If your chosen VPN service comes with custom apps then the installation process is very simple.

To stream movies and TV shows with a VPN:

  1. Subscribe to your chosen VPN service.
  2. Download the VPN software and follow the installation prompts.
  3. Once installed, log into the app using your subscription credentials.
  4. Select a VPN server in the country you’d like to connect to.
  5. Navigate to the streaming service you’d like to access and log in as normal.
  6. You’ll now have access to all of the movies and TV shows available in that country.

If you want to watch Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, or similar streaming platforms then you’ll have to buy a subscription to those services first.

While using a VPN can unlock different international content libraries, it can’t get you free access to each platform.

What if your streaming VPN doesn’t work?

Most streaming services try to stop users from accessing their content with a VPN.

They do this by blocking IP addresses that they believe belong to VPN servers. This usually happens when a large number of users try to access the service using the same IP address.

You’ll know when your VPN IP address has been blocked because you’ll see a proxy error message:

How to bypass Netflix proxy error.

Netflix’s “streaming error” message.

These bans come in waves, and it’s often impossible to predict. However, a good streaming VPN will work hard to get around these blocks.

If your streaming VPN isn’t working, try these troubleshooting tips:

  1. Use our VPN leak test to see if your VPN is leaking your IP address or DNS requests. If it is, get in touch with the customer support to resolve the issue or change VPN services.
  2. Clear your cache and cookies, flush your DNS cache, and then relaunch the streaming service.
  3. Connect to a different VPN server and repeat solution #2. If there are no dedicated streaming servers, you should contact your VPN provider’s customer support team to find out which VPN servers are currently working with your chosen streaming service.
  4. Access the streaming service using a different browser. For example, sometimes you can access a certain service through Mozilla Firefox even if it’s not working on Google Chrome.
  5. Disable GPS and location services on your computer, smartphone, or browser.
  6. Disable IPv6 at the device-level.
  7. If all these solutions fail, try a different VPN service.

How We Test Streaming VPNs

Our experts use a scientific testing system to rate each VPN for streaming.

For streaming specifically, we test for:

  • Easy access to multiple Netflix libraries
  • Consistent access to BBC iPlayer
  • Compatibility with streaming services such as Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and more
  • Fast connection speeds for buffer-free streaming
  • Smart DNS technology to make bypassing geo-restrictions easier
  • VPN apps for multiple streaming devices like Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, and others

For a more detailed look at the science behind our rating system, here’s an overview of each testing category and what percentage of the overall rating they make up.

1. Netflix Streaming: 20%

Minimum Requirement: Works with US Netflix.
We Recommend: Works with multiple international Netflix libraries.

Netflix is the most popular streaming service and the reason a lot of people invest in VPNs.

For this reason, a VPN’s ability to access Netflix makes up 20% of its final rating.

Most people want access to US Netflix because it has the largest content library, but we also give additional weight to VPNs that work with more libraries, like Netflix Japan or Netflix Canada.

The more reliable a VPN is for accessing international Netflix libraries, the better its rating.

2. BBC iPlayer Streaming: 20%

Minimum Requirement: Usually works with BBC iPlayer.
We Recommend: Consistent and reliable access to BBC iPlayer, with dedicated servers.

BBC iPlayer is another popular geo-restricted streaming service that is notoriously hard to access from abroad.

We reward VPNs that have a track record getting around the BBC’s tough blocks. The more reliable the VPN is, the higher it is rated.

3. Accesses Other Streaming Services: 20%

Minimum Requirement: Works with some other streaming services.
We Recommend: Consistent access to Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Max, Disney+, and more.

As more streaming services enter the marketplace, we reward the VPNs that stay on top of the game and and offer access to a variety of different platforms.

We test every VPN on Amazon Prime, Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max, and DAZN. The more sites the VPN works with, the higher it is rated in this category.

4. Speed: 20%

Minimum Requirement: Less than 40% speed loss.
We Recommend: No more than 10% speed loss.

VPN speeds are important to streaming. The faster the VPN is, the less lag and buffering you will experience.

You should be able to stream in Full HD or 4K when using a streaming VPN.

Our experts regularly run both manual and automated speed tests to ensure our speed testing data is up-to-date. We test for both local and long-distance speeds to calculate an overall rating for each VPN’s speed capabilities.

5. Smart DNS: 10%

Minimum Requirement: Smart DNS is not a minimum requirement.
We Recommend: The VPN comes with Smart DNS functionality.

Smart DNS allows you to use a VPN’s DNS servers to reroute your web traffic through another country.

This is the easiest way to access region-restricted content on TVs, consoles, and other devices without native VPN applications.

We test every streaming VPN for Smart DNS integration. Top-rated services offer simple Smart DNS functionality that works to access international streaming content easily.

6. Streaming Device Support: 10%

Minimum Requirement: Compatible at router level.
We Recommend: Native VPN apps for multiple streaming devices.

As long as you can install a VPN on a router, you can use it for all of your streaming devices.

However, this process is complicated and not user-friendly. We reward the VPNs that have designed and created VPN apps for specific devices and platforms.

We test the compatibility of each VPN for Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Xbox, PS5, and more.

Our experts then test these apps to see if they’re user-friendly and useful for watching streaming content.

FAQs About Streaming VPNs

Is It Illegal to Use a VPN for Streaming?

In the US, UK, and most European countries it is completely legal to use a VPN to access different international content libraries. In other words, there is no risk that streaming with a VPN will result in any form of legal penalty.

Many users are worried that bypassing geo-restrictions is somehow similar to piracy. Piracy is illegal because it allows people to access copyrighted material they have not paid for. When you use a VPN for streaming, you still pay for the platform you’re accessing.

Simply put, using a streaming VPN doesn’t allow you to access content for free, it simply allows you to circumvent licensing restrictions.

While using a VPN for streaming isn’t illegal, some streaming platforms do state that accessing geo-blocked content is against their terms of service.

What’s the Best Free VPN for Streaming?

Free VPNs usually don’t work with streaming services. In addition, they often come with restrictive data and speed caps.

Windscribe Free is the best free VPN for streaming. It’s the only safe free VPN to consistently unblock content platforms.

It has a 10GB monthly data cap, but it’s very effective for a free VPN service.

You can learn more about using Windscribe in our Windscribe VPN review.

What is Smart DNS?

SmartDNS is a technology that reroutes your DNS (Domain Name Server) requests to servers in a different country.

Smart DNS alone does not encrypt your browsing data or mask your public IP address. However, it does allow you to access websites and services that aren’t available in your country.

That’s because the websites you visit will see your DNS requests have originated from a different country.

Smart DNS is often used to bypass geographic restrictions on devices that do not support native VPN applications. Once you’ve signed up to a VPN that support Smart DNS, you simply update the DNS settings of your device with the DNS details your chosen VPN server.

If you’re looking to configure Smart DNS on a particular device, take a look at our VPN Setup guides.

Smart DNS is by far the easiest way to watch restricted content on games consoles and Smart TVs. However, many VPN services simply don’t offer Smart DNS functionality.

If you’re looking for the best VPN with Smart DNS, we recommend using ExpressVPN, Surfshark or CyberGhost. They all come with a Smart DNS feature and unlock the most popular streaming services.

However, if you’re looking to watch streaming content on desktop or mobile, we strongly recommend using a full VPN over any Smart DNS feature.

Not only are VPNs more reliable than Smart DNS, they also encrypt your internet traffic and hide your IP address – protecting your privacy in the process.

A VPN will also allow you to access content from more regions than Smart DNS, which typically only supports US and UK streaming libraries.

Which VPNs Are Bad for Streaming?

Most free VPNs aren’t good choices for streaming due to data and speed restrictions. Even some paid VPNs don’t make a dedicated effort to get past VPN bans.

Good streaming VPNs offer dedicated servers, Smart DNS, and consistently fast international speeds. These features cost a lot to maintain though, which means many popular VPN services simply don’t make the cut.

Popular VPNs that are bad for streaming include:

  • TunnelBear
  • AirVPN
  • TorGuard
  • Trust.Zone
  • Avira Phantom
  • Perfect Privacy

There are hundreds of other VPNs available that aren’t ideal for avid streaming fans. If you’d like a reliable service, we recommend choosing one of the five VPNs mentioned in this article.

Can You Use a VPN to Stream With Kodi?

Kodi is a popular streaming media player. Millions of people use free Kodi add-ons to watch sports, movies, and TV shows.

Some Kodi add-ons host copyrighted works, which poses a problem for streaming users. Internet service providers (ISPs) can issue fines to Kodi users or block Kodi traffic, which is why using a VPN with Kodi is vital.

A VPN masks your real IP address, preventing your ISP from seeing your streaming activity. You can learn more about streaming with Kodi in our guide to the best VPNs for Kodi.

About the Author


  • Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

    Simon Migliano

    Simon is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times, CNet and more. Read full bio