Popcorn Time may revolutionize movie streaming

Martin Brinkmann
Mar 11, 2014
Updated • Jul 22, 2019
Music and Video, Video

According to Google, piracy is all about availability and pricing, and while I do not agree with the company often these days, I have to admit that they nailed it this time.

If you are not living in the US, you do not get access to Hulu, Pandora, and other streaming services. While Netflix and Amazon Instant Video are expanding, their services are limited to select countries too.

Additionally, an increase in services fragments availability significantly leading to a situation where you either have to subscribe to multiple services to watch the bulk of shows or movies, or ignore a part of the shows and movies instead.

What remains is not pretty. You can watch movies on Television when they air, which can be a year or more later after they are available on streaming sites in the US, buy the movie as a DVD, Blu-Ray or streaming video, and that is about it.

There are workarounds to make Hulu or Netflix work for people outside of countries where the service is offered in, but that requires the use of additional software and maybe a fake address and may not be perfectly legal because of it.

The Internet on the other hand makes available all movies and television shows on file sharing websites. Not only are the video files made available on sites such as The Piratebay, they are also offered in various qualities, from low definition videos for mobile phones and slow connections to 1080p or even 4k versions for users with fast connections.

Popcorn Time is an Open Source project that is available as a beta version for Windows, Mac and Linux. What makes it interesting is that it makes available that movie database to users from all over the world.

Start the program after you have installed it on your system and the program presents a list of popular movies to you. You find 2013 and 2014 smash hits listed here, from 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle to Gravity or Reasonable Doubt.

The left sidebar displays a search and genres that you can click on. Each genre lists select movies in the same way as the main page of Popcorn Time does.

If you only click through the categories though, you will miss out on movies, as it limits the display somewhat. The search is where all the power is at.

Search for Star Wars, and you get all six episodes of he series. Do the same for Star Trek and you get all Star Trek movies from the very first in 1979 to the most recent in 2013.

No matter what you enter, the program will return a clean list of matching movies to you.

When you click on a movie, information about it are displayed. This includes a short plot description, if subtitles are available, the quality it is available in, its health, and the playing time.


When you click on the watch it now button, a buffering video progress bar is displayed.

Popcorn Time uses torrent files to make available the movies which means that it can take some time before the actual movie starts to play.

Note: The program may not be legal in your country. It depends on local laws. If streaming movies via BitTorrent is illegal in your country, then what you do with the app is too.

The process should not take longer than a couple of seconds on fast connections, but if you are on a slow connection, it may take more time than that.


Popcorn Time demonstrates how easy movie streaming services can be. From its vast assortment of available movies to the concentration on features that matter, such as subtitles or qualities, it is all there.

While it could and probably will grow over time, for instance to add movies to favorites or mark them as watched, it is near perfect in its current state.

Plus, and that happens rarely, I'd gladly pay for it.


Now, the main problem is that using the app is not legal in most countries due to the sources it uses and the lack of distribution rights.

While it demonstrates streaming done right, users of it can get in legal troubles as torrent files are being used for that which may be monitored by rights-holders or companies that monitor BitTorrent traffic.

Closing Words

If all movie studios would create an app like Popcorn Time in a joint venture and offer it to a worldwide audience for a subscription fee, I'd sign up for it immediately if the price is right.

For now, it is a proof of concept that demonstrates how a good movie streaming app that is available to a worldwide audience could look like.

Update: The developers of the application have shut it down, and it appears that it cannot be used anymore to establish a connection. Since it was an Open Source project, there is still the chance that someone else will fork it and continue to work on it. For now though, it is dead.

Update 2: The project got resurrected, new clients coming soon. First previews released, you can grab them here.

Update 3: The developers launched Butter Project in 2015 in an attempt to create Popcorn Time but without the legal implications. Nothing has come out of it until 2019 (the time of this update) though.

Popcorn Time may revolutionize movie streaming
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Popcorn Time may revolutionize movie streaming
Popcorn Time was an open source project that aimed to bring all TV shows and movies to users in a single application.
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  1. Oxa said on March 26, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    Interesting article in the NY Times today noted that: “Shortly after the app [Popcorn Time] went public, its creators faced a barrage of legal notices, and they pulled it down.”

  2. Anon said on March 15, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Can anyone post the MD5 checksum of the Win32 installer?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on March 15, 2014 at 1:16 pm

      It is 821D73DE1514F7A5EFEC9D6E00FBF276 for Install Popcorn Time Beta 2.5.exe with a size of 24,125 KB.

      1. Anon said on March 15, 2014 at 2:31 pm

        Thanks Martin, you’re a legend :)

  3. q. said on March 12, 2014 at 11:47 pm

    When attempting to dl, (Firefox 26 on W7) the following message is thrown:
    “Your browser does not allow data to be written. Please make sure you use default browser settings.”

    NoScript is set to allow both of the scripts on mega.
    Any idea which about:config line needs to be changed to allow a dl from mega?

  4. Rick said on March 12, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    And now the message:

    Download links are down for a bit
    We’ll be right back! Careful when downloading from other sources, as we have the only official ones.

  5. AM97 said on March 12, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    The installer has been pulled from Mega’s site for violating their terms of service.

  6. fokka said on March 12, 2014 at 12:35 am

    i tried it.

    it’s as clean and as simple as it can get, a/v-quality was great, as it is curated and it’s nice not having to skim through 12 versions on pb, maybe check screenshots and comments, just to start watching your 720p flick.

    streaming was comfortably fast too and worked better than the function implemented in utorrent. buffering took about one minute, maybe a bit more, for a 720p rip on my good old 8gbit connection. i could live with that.

    the video wasn’t perfect though, as it kept skipping a bit. it was managable, since at least the sound was ok, but if it got any worse i would have stopped sooner.

    the thing that threw me off was that i couldn’t seek to another position of the video though. i tried it out, knowing that this may take a while using bit torrent, but it just buffered forever. then i wanted to skip back to where i left and it didn’t work either. so in my experience skipping doesn’t work, pausing is fine though.

    another thing is that i got some artifacts in firefox, after i streamed a couple minutes and decided to check facebook, even when there was no movie running anymore. i closed the application and it’s fine again.

    also my laptop got quite warm while streaming. it was more like watching 720p fullscreen on youtube, than torrenting and watching with vlc. torrent+vlc seems to be more efficient.

    so for me it still is downloading with torrent and then watching with vlc as this seems just more versatile and robust to me.

    maybe i’ll try it out agai in a couple months, but for now it’s just a proof of concept for me. a very interesting and mostly very well executed one, mind you, but not yet ready for prime time, if you ask me.

  7. Britt said on March 11, 2014 at 11:59 pm

    I can’t believe people still use Norton?!

    1. DW said on March 12, 2014 at 12:37 am

      Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, lest you forget! Comrade?

  8. DW said on March 11, 2014 at 11:55 pm

    I too received the Norton “I should be careful” advisory, but for the installer download, only. The app install produced a Norton scan result of “clean”, sans bonofides (Norton Insight, as it were)!

    Reminds me of “321Soft DVD Ripper”.

  9. JohnMWhite said on March 11, 2014 at 11:38 pm

    Nevermind, Firefox pushed this to the wrong place.

  10. Sylvio Haas said on March 11, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    I downloaded the program, but Norton advised “I should be careful” (normal is “This program is secure”), so I decided to exclude it and maybe wait untill it is out of Beta. Thanks for the tip, anyway.

  11. Oxa said on March 11, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    “The program may not be legal in your country.” Uh, if they’re streaming copyrighted works (virtually all movies are copyrighted, even old ones), it’s illegal in every country. It does not depend on whether streaming movies via BitTorrent is illegal. It’s a copyright issue, not a method of distribution issue. I find it curious that you’re promoting such illicit sites.

    1. Anon said on March 11, 2014 at 7:24 pm

      Oxa, how can you be so ignorant to assume you know the law in every country in the world? It’s legal in the Netherlands too. Has been for at least 3 years.

      1. JohnMWhite said on March 12, 2014 at 9:51 pm

        Steaming and downloading are two different things and you have already been given information as to why your blanket statements are not always correct, yet you persist in repeating yourself. What are you doing? Do you understand how to converse?

      2. Oxa said on March 12, 2014 at 4:53 am

        No one anywhere is legally allowed to download copyrighted works (books, movies, images, etc.) without appropriate compensation to the copyright holder or permission from the copyright holder, including the Netherlands. Unlike most other countries, compensation in the Netherlands is accomplished by a tax, not via individual payment.

        I doubt if Popcorn Time has the permission of the movie copyright holders to freely give away their intellectual property. I doubt if they are in any way compensating the copyright holders.

      3. JohnMWhite said on March 11, 2014 at 11:39 pm

        Never let the facts get in the way of self-righteous pontificating.

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on March 11, 2014 at 6:42 pm

      Actually, in some countries, you are allowed to download, but not to distribute. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Switzerland is one of them.

      1. Oxa said on March 11, 2014 at 7:17 pm

        No one anywhere is legally allowed to download copyrighted works (books, movies, images, etc.). That’s inherent in the very definition of copyright – a legal principle giving creators of works exclusive rights to their use and distribution.

  12. patrick said on March 11, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Can it be streamed directly from your router to a Apple TV (ATV) or Roku or etc… or do you need to have your computer/browser on all the time?

    1. fokka said on March 12, 2014 at 12:16 am

      it’s a standalone application for mac and pc, so the only way to get this on a tv seems to be to mirror the screen.

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on March 11, 2014 at 6:25 pm

      Patrick I have only tried it on a Windows PC, cannot say unfortunately.

  13. Anon said on March 11, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    Maybe someone will make it into a MediaBrowser3 Server plug-in? :)

  14. Sukhen said on March 11, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Amazing, Love at First Sight.

    Thanks so much, Martin for this.


  15. Maou said on March 11, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    Works like a charm, I´m really impressed.

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