Add subtitle downloads to VLC Media Player

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 25, 2013
Updated • Jul 25, 2013
Music and Video

I prefer to watch movies and television shows in their original language whenever possible as I believe that voice synchronization is always inferior to that. Plus, it saves me from having to cope with puzzling translations and rewrites that are sometimes introduced in the process.

If I do not speak a language, I prefer to watch the movie or show with subtitles as it keeps the original audio but also helps me understand what is going on. I like Japanese and Korean movies and shows for instance, and use subtitles to get a better understanding when I'm watching those shows without sacrificing anything in the process.

While it is possible to search for subtitles manually, for instance with programs such as Sublight or by visiting one of the large subtitle repositories such as Open Subtitles on the Internet, you may speed up the process further by using your media player's subtitle functionality.

One of my favorites, SMPlayer, ships with options to search for subtitles automatically. VLC Media Player on the other hand does not, but it supports extensions and it is through this way that subtitle search and download support can be added to the application.

VLC Subtitles

You need to download the vlsub extension for the media player.  Note that you cannot just right-click on vlsub.lua here to download it to your system as you will download the HTML page instead which is not what you want as the extension won't be recognized by VLC if you do.

Locate the download zip button instead on the right and use it to download the extension to your local system. You need to place the vlsub.lua file in the extensions folder of your VLC installation.

  • Windows (all users): %ProgramFiles%\VideoLAN\VLC\lua\extensions\
  • Linux (all users): /usr/lib/vlc/lua/extensions/
  • Mac OS X (all users): /Applications/

Once you have done so, start VLC Media Player and load a movie of your choice.  Right-click in the interface afterwards and select View > VLSub from the context menu.

A new window pops up that you can make use of to find subtitles for the movie you are playing. Make sure you select the correct language in the menu on top, and modify the title so that it matches the movie you are watching. You can optionally add a season and episode to the search if you are watching a TV show.

You can search by hash, which is the better way but will yield less results usually, or by title, which often returns a lot of results that you need to go through manually to find a subtitle that matches your video file.

Once you have found a match select it and hit the download selection button afterwards. The subtitle will be downloaded to the folder of the video automatically. The video will use the subtitle automatically as well so that you can verify that it is the correct one easily.

Note that you can download multiple subtitles, which can be useful if you are not sure about the correct one for your video file. This way you can test them one by one until you find the correct subtitle for it. You can switch between different subtitles from the Video > Subtitles Track menu.


The little extension for VLC can be useful to semi-automate your search for subtitles. The ability to search by hash is excellent as a hit here guarantees that the subtitles will be in sync with the video file you are watching. The name search is less accurate and it may take you some testing to find the correct subtitle - if any - for the file at hand.


Tutorials & Tips

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  1. Anonymous said on August 1, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Why not make use of the mplayer.conf?

  2. Mike J said on August 1, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Huh, I have never even seen this “font cache” pane; videos play at once for me, using VLC & XP SP3.

    1. Martin said on August 1, 2010 at 3:39 pm

      Mike, in theory this should have only been displayed once to you, at the very first video that you played with VLC. The time this window is displayed depends largely on the number of fonts in your font directory.

      1. Mike J said on August 2, 2010 at 2:30 pm

        huh, I lucked out for a change?? Amazing!!
        Apparently VLC keeps this info through version updates, but I didn’t see this message after a fresh OS install about 8 weeks ago, & a new VLC.

  3. myo said on August 1, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    yes, yes, i have the same problem. sometimes, VLC crashes when it is playing .mov file.

  4. Kishore said on August 13, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Buidling font Cache pop-up


    Open VLC player.

    On Menu Bar:


    (at bottom – left side)
    Show settings — ALL

    Open: Video
    Click: Subtitles/OSD (This is now highlited, not opened)
    Text rendering module – change this to “Dummy font renderer function”


    Re-open – done.
    Progam will no longer look outside self for fonts

    Source –

    1. Martin said on August 13, 2010 at 3:10 pm

      Great tip, thanks a lot Kishore.

  5. javier said on August 14, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    @Kishore, I’ll try your tips, but does this mean it will no longer show subtitles either?
    I do use subtitles, but the fontcache dialog box pops up (almost) everytime I play a file.

    Could this be related to the fonts I have installed? Or if I add/remove fonts to my system?

    I’ll try to do a fresh install also, if your tips does no work. I’ll post back here later…


  6. Kishore said on August 15, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    @ Javier, The trick i posted will show up subtitles too. If not,

  7. Kishore said on August 15, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    @ Javier, The trick i posted will show up subtitles too. If not,Dont worry, VLC is currently sorting out this issue and the next version will be out soon.

    No probs @ Martin !! Its my pleasure

  8. Ted said on October 22, 2010 at 3:57 am

    Try running LC with administrator privileges. That seemed to fix it for me

  9. Evan said on December 8, 2013 at 1:48 am

    I am using SMplayer 0.8.6 (64-bit) (Portable Edition) on Windows 7 x64. Even with the -nofontconfig parameter in place SMplayer still scans the fonts. Also, I have enabled normal subtitles and it is still scanning fonts before playing a video. Also, it does this every time the player opens a video after a system restart (only the fist video played).

  10. Mike Williams said on September 6, 2023 at 1:26 pm

    Does that mean that only instrumental versions of songs will be available for non-paying users?

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