The widespread availability of broadband Internet access has finally made legal movie-downloading services a viable business, so Maximum PC editor-in-chief Will Smith and I recently compared them all for the magazine's May 2008 edition (yeah, it's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it).
In reality, the job was a lot tougher than you might think, because none of these services (Amazon's Unbox, BitTorrent, CinemaNow, iTunes, Movielink, Vongo, Vudu, and Xbox Live Marketplace) lived up to our expectations when it came to the availability of new releases (simultaneously with their availability on DVD or Blu-ray, that is). We were also disappointed by the paucity of movies available in high definition, the number of classic movies available on demand, and the scarcity of our favorite cult classics.
We used top 25 movies in the American Film Institute's list "100 Years, 100 Movies" (10th anniversary edition) to evaluate the availability of classic movies. We determined the availability of new releases based on 25 of the latest movies that could be rented or purchased on DVD at press time, and we came up a list of 10 of our favorite cult movies. This last list is based on nothing more than our own preferences. The Netflix column in these charts indicates whether or not the listed movie was available for streaming, not whether or not you could rent the the DVD or Blu-ray disc through the Netflix service.
The bottom line is that we won't be giving up our Netflix subscriptions any time soon.
(Note: You'll no doubt notice that the Xbox column is currently blank. Will forgot to leave that information with me before he left on vacation, but we'll update the charts when he returns on April 21. --mb)