How to Watch Films on the Go with Google Play Movies

Advances in technology have made the once-gruelling travel times into a moment to catch up on the latest media. While you were once stuck with a book or whatever in-flight movie was being shown, now you can tailor your media as you see fit and even plan the period it takes to watch all of it to coincide with your travel times. Google Play Movies is a great way to watch films on the go, but you need to do a little bit of preparation before you can watch movies on the plane.

What Do I Need?

To ensure we have enough entertainment on the trip, we'll need the following in order to set everything up:

  • Enough space on your phone to download movies. Unfortunately, Google Play Movies has no way to tell you how big each movie is, so try to leave a gigabyte or two available. You could also use an SD card if your phone supports them for extra space.
  • The Play Movies app, all ready and updated. You may already have it on your device if you've kept your base Google Play app updated, so make sure you check.
  • A Wi-Fi connection with, ideally, no data cap on it. This allows us to download movies via Play Movies without extra charge.
  • Optionally, a date that is at most thirty days from the time you plan to watch the movie.
  • Headphones. (Don't disturb your fellow travellers!)

Getting Set Up

So you're all ready to go, connected with Wi-Fi, and want to get a movie. To start, search for the movie you want by entering it into the search bar of Google Play Movies. This can be done on a web browser or in the app itself.

Once you have found the movie you'd like to watch, there are some considerations you need to take in before you grab it.


  • Rent or Buy? Some movies will have rent an buy options for you to choose from. The rent option will always be the cheaper one, for good reason: it's only available to start watching for thirty days after you rent it, and the moment you begin watching, you have forty-eight hours until the movie vanishes. Also, buying a movie that's eligible for Family Library can be shared with your family, but rented movies cannot.
  • HD or SD? Some movies will let you choose between SD and HD qualities. Typically, the larger your screen is, the more you'll notice an increase from SD to HD. People with smartphones may feel totally happy with SD, while large tablet owners may appreciate the upgrade to HD. Also, remember that HD quality will cost more in storage space than SD, which is good to consider if you want to download multiple movies on limited space.
  • What's the Runtime? It's not great to pick a single hour-and-a-half long movie for a four-hour flight; likewise, grabbing a Lord of the Rings movie for a one-hour bus trip might be overkill. You can check the runtime in the movie details to ensure you're getting something that fits your travel time.

After Purchasing

Once you've made a choice on what movie you'd like to get, proceed to rent or purchase the movie you want to watch. If you're renting a movie, do not play the movie right away, even if you're just testing it! Playing a movie you've rented will trigger the forty-eight-hour watch window and severely cut down on the time you have to watch it. It's best to leave rented movies alone until you're ready to begin watching them.

Downloading the Movie

Now that you have the movie, it's time to download it to your phone. That way, when you're travelling, you don't have to destroy your mobile data plan in order to watch it. If you know your mode of travel will have built-in WiFi on board, it might be best to download anyway unless you're absolutely sure that a) the Wi-Fi comes at no extra charge to use, and b) it's not dreadfully slow.

To download the movie, simply press the "Download" arrow button next to the movie's name on your mobile device.


The movie will now download itself to your phone, ready to watch on your trip.

While Travelling

When you're on the go and ready to watch the movie, simply press the "Play" button on the movie's page to start watching it.


If you're in a loud environment and struggling to hear what's being said even with headphones, you can tap the closed caption button to bring up subtitles, if the movie supports it. Unfortunately, Google has blocked taking screenshots in Play Movies, so we can't show you directly where the button is. Google's official documentation, however, shows you what the button looks like.

Also, if you want to know a song title or actor's name but don't have an Internet connection to look it up, try pausing the movie at the time the song or actor is present. Google Play Movies will then tell you what's currently visible or audible at that precise moment of the movie. If you do have 'Net access, you can tap the actor's name on these info cards to see their filmography on Play Movies.


Movies on the Move

Watching movies on your mobile device is a great way to kill time, but it takes a little bit of preparation before you board. Now you know how to set yourself up with a film on Play Movies, so you can catch up on those classics on the go.

What's your favourite tech-related way to pass the time as you travel? Let us know below.

Simon Batt

Simon Batt is a Computer Science graduate with a passion for cybersecurity.

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