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How to Play Downloaded Movies on TV in 2021

How to Play Downloaded Movies on TV in 2021

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Are you wondering how to play downloaded movies on TV from videos stored on your hard drive? By following this guide you’ll learn 6 very simple ways to put downloaded movies on your TV.

How to play downloaded movies on TV:

  • USB flash drive: Connect a correctly formatted USB with your movie on it to the TV’s USB port.
  • Plex app: Store and stream your personal movies with Netflix style navigation by using the Plex app on your TV.
  • HDMI: Use an HDMI cord to mirror a display on your computer to your TV.
  • Cast using Miracast or Chromecast: Use your computer, mobile phone or tablet to cast or mirror your display to your Smart Tv.
  • Cast using Airplay: Use your MacBook, iPhone or iPad to cast or mirror your display to your Smart Tv.
  • VLC Media Player: Download VLC on both devices to cast your movie to your TV.

The methods mentioned above will all allow you to quickly put movies from your computer on to your TV for you to watch. (some quicker than others)

How to play downloaded 4k movies on TV will also be covered throughout this guide.

What is the best way to watch downloaded movies on TV?

How to watch downloaded movies on TV using Plex
Example of a Plex Library from downloaded movies on TV (Plex is impressive)

When I’m asked “How do I watch downloaded movies on TV” my favorite option is always the Plex app. 

Plex allows you to create your own personal Netflix by easily streaming your videos from computer to TV and organizes media visually just like Netflix does. 

This will solve many problems long term compared to the other quick fixes listed in this guide and is just as simple.

Visit our article on How to get new movies on Plex for the full guide.

1. Use Plex to Play downloaded movies on TV (including 4K)

How plex works to watch downloaded movies on TV
How to watch downloaded movies on TV

Not only is the Plex app free, but it also makes getting downloaded movies to your TV extremely easy.

Plex will organize your library of movies and TV shows on your computer and allow you to instantly play them on devices other than where it’s originally stored (such as your TV).

This app allows users to play downloaded movies by creating their own personal streaming service with Netflix style navigation.

It’s also compatible with almost any video container and allows you to play almost any file. (including torrented files)

So… will Plex will play torrented movies? The answer is yes. 

We have a very useful personal streaming service guide for those who want to learn more on this. (Automating this process would allow you to never have to touch your computer for downloaded movies)

Here is how to use Plex to play downloaded movies on TV:

  1. First, download Plex app on your computer or Network attached storage (NAS)
  2. Next, add your files to your Plex library.
  3. Watch your movies on your Smart TV, streaming stick, mobile phone, tablet or gaming console.

Table of Contents

2. Plug in a USB Flash drive to watch downloaded movies on your TV

How to play downloaded movies on TV using a USB

You can plug your USB flash drive into your TV’s USB port to quickly play movies on the fly. Today’s movies typically require a high speed USB for smooth playback. (Luckily they are relatively inexpensive now)

Before I switched to Plex I used this USB Drive on Amazon with zero issues.

Here’s how to use a USB Flash drive to play movies on TV:

  1. Format your USB flash drive: Files over 4Gb typically use exFAT or NTFS.
  2. Plug the USB flash drive into your TV
  3. Choose and watch the movie!

Smart TV’s will give you an option to play your files. If you are using a TV that doesn’t do this then you’ll likely need to pick up a streaming device such as an Nvidia Shield TV Pro. Alternatively, you can follow our Plex guide linked earlier in this post to eliminate the need of a USB drive altogether. As a last resort you can always plug your USB flash drive into a gaming console such as the Ps4 or Xbox one and play the movie through using the console. You can also download VLC media player on your console to watch hard to play files as discussed below. 

What you can do when your movie won’t play on TV using USB

If your movies just won’t seem to play on your Smart TV, Xbox one or Ps4 with a USB Flash drive then you can download apps that support a wider variety of video formats on your Smart TV….

Apps such as VLC Media Player, Plex and KODI can be downloaded on most Smart TVs and will play nearly any video file extension you throw at it including 4K movies on TV. You can search for these on your smart TV’s app section. (Just make sure you Smart TV is 4K compatible of course)

If the downloaded movie still won’t play at this point then and error related to your video file is possible. Replacing the video with another version would be the next step to troubleshoot.

 In the case of downloaded 4K movies not playing smoothly you may need a stronger device such as the Nvidia Shield TV Pro (or a faster USB flash drive- yours may not be “strong” enough) I’ll be going  over 4K devices in greater detail in this article.

What format does a USB drive need to be in to Play movies on TV

What format to use a usb to watch downloaded movies on TV
Format to play downloaded movies on TV using a USB

Files over 4Gb cannot be played on a USB flash drive with FAT32 format. You can format your flash drive to exFAT or NTFS to fix this. 

To format to expat or NTFS, simply right click on the USB drive option on your computer (as shown above in the photo) and format exFAT or NTFS. 

Be sure to back up your movies and any important data if they aren’t already since formatting will delete all the data on the drive.

How to play movies on TVs without a USB port.

Most recent TVs will have a USB port, however If yours is an older model and doesn’t have a USB port you can use Plex, HDMI, VLC media player/chrome cast or grab a USB to HDMI adapter.

3. Use an HDMI cord to mirror your computer display

HDMI how to put downloaded movies on TVs

You can connect an HDMI cord to your TV from your computer to mirror its display. This is the most time efficient method next to the Plex app.

It is not uncommon to have an HDMI cord laying around and this makes this method one of the most reliable ways to play downloaded movies on TV.

I personally use this HDMI cord for my 4K screen mirroring and never once had an issue.

If your computer or laptop doesn’t have a HDMI port (such as a MacBook Pro) you can get a much needed, inexpensive USB C Hub adapter on amazon to solve this problem. If you’re a MacBook user you’ll likely need this at some point anyway.

Here’s how to mirror your computer display using an HDMI cord to watch downloaded movies on TV:

  1. Locate the HDMI ports on each device. If your device doesn’t have one you’ll need an adapter.
  2. Plug in your HDMI cord to the devices.
  3. Next, ensure your TVs input is on the HDMI port you’re using.
  4. Finally, adjust your screen mirroring display options- If using Windows locate to settings, system and finally display. If on Mac, locate system preferences, then displays.

4. Cast using VLC media player to stream downloaded movies to your TV

VLC how to cast for playing downloaded 4k movies on TV

VLC media player does not provide the luxury of a personal “Netflix style” navigation like Plex will give you, however those familiar with VLC Media player and have a chrome cast (or TV with Chromecast built-in) may want to give this option a try.

VLC Media player can play nearly any video format (including high end 4K formats) and is free. It also is available on almost any device. I’ve personally used VLC Media player on my Xbox to play downloaded movies on TV for years until I finally discovered Plex. 

Here’s how to use VLC Media player to stream downloaded movies to your TV:

  1. Make sure each device is on the same network.
  2. Check to ensure you’re not on a VPN and that you have the latest version of VLC.
  3. When on VLC go to Playback, then Renderer
  4. Wait a few moments and choose your device when it appears
  5. Hit play and enjoy!

5. How to use casting to watch downloaded movies on Smart TV

Which casting works best to put downloaded movies on tv
Which works best to put downloaded moves on TV?

If you’re curious how to play downloaded movies on a Smart TV without using the methods listed so far then you’ll learn a lot in this section. This will also cover how to play downloaded 4k movies on TV as well through casting or display mirroring.

Most recent Smart TVs will have features such as Miracast or Chromecast built in…

The main difference to note is that Miracast does not require an internet connection and is often referred to as “HDMI over WiFi” by using WiFi direct. Chromecast on the other hand does require both of your devices to be on the same network.

If you are casting from an Apple device such as an iPhone or MacBook Pro, then Miracast will not be an option as it is not supported. Casting methods for Apple devices include Airplay if you’re using an Apple TV or a display adapter or a downloaded App if using your Smart TV only. These options are covered in greater detail under the Airplay section of this article.

Your Smart TV has Miracast or Chromecast built-in and you don’t even know it.

Miracast or Chromecast could be built in to your Smart TV and you may not even know it. Most built-in Miracast and Chromecast will also play 4k if you have a recent Smart TV.

How you will cast downloaded movies using your Smart TV’s capabilities will depend on which of the two your TV has built in: Miracast or Chromecast. 

What is Miracast and how does it work?

Miracast uses something called WiFi-Direct and can be used to cast your windows display to your Smart TV. This typically does not work when casting from an Apple device. 

It’s important to note that Miracast is not a media player-It is a wireless display technology that allows media to be put on your Smart TV.

How do I know if I have Miracast on my TV?

Mira cast will be in the apps section of your smart TV under Miracast, screen casting or WiFi casting apps. Alternatively, you can also check by going under input or source and checking for casting labeled inputs.

Here are TVs that have have Miracast built in:

  • Samsung (Models with with android 4.2 or later)
  • Sony (Models with with android 4.2 or later)
  • LG models (Models with with android 4.2 or later)
  • Toshiba models (Models with with android 4.2 or later)
  • Panasonic models (Models with with android 4.2 or later)

VIZIO on the other hand uses Smartcast which is their alternative to Miracast. 

If your TV doesn’t support Miracast you can use this USB display adapter (amazon) to cast to any device… it even enables Airplay for those who also want to be able to cast their apple products to their TV without using an Apple TV.

How do I watch downloaded movies without WiFi?

With many devices having Miracast built in it is very simple to watch downloaded movies on TV without WiFi. This is because neither device does not need to be connected to the internet in order for it to work.

As mentioned earlier most Smart Tv’s allow Miracast however Apple does not support Miracast since it uses Airplay to accomplish similar results.

Here’s how to watch downloaded movies without WiFi:

  1. On windows, open the action center on the bottom right of your screen and click on project.
  2. Select “connect to a wireless display”.
  3. After the scan you will be presented with the option to choose which wireless display you’d like to connect to.
  4. Your device will now be mirroring the computer or laptops display. Enjoy! 

Other ways to watch downloaded movies without WiFi include using HDMI, USB Flash drive, or casting with Airplay and are all covered throughout this guide.

Use Chromecast to play downloaded movies on TV

Chromecast is built-in to many Smart TVs. For TVs without it built-in there is also the Chromecast dongle you can connect to make casting available. It works by using your existing WiFi network to stream video on your Tv. (Chromecast source)

How do I know if I have Chromecast on my TV?

One way to check is by trying to cast something through your phone or desktop and ensuring it is not a Miracast or WiFi direct system. If this is the case it will most likely be Chromecast as it’s often built into Smart Tv’s already.

Here are TVs that have Chromecast built in:

  • Toshiba (Varies by model)
  • VIZO (Varies by model)
  • Sharp (Varies by model)
  • Sony (Varies by model)
  • Toshiba (Varies by model)
  • Poloroid (Varies by model)
  • Sonic (Varies by model)
  • Skyworth (Varies by model)
  • LG (Specific models)

You can see which TV’s have Chromecast built-in specifically by visiting google’s selection here.

Here’s how to use Chromecast to play downloaded movies or shows on TV:

  • Make sure your device is connect to the internet on the same network as the TV with Chromecast.
  • Open the Chromecast enabled app- Alternatively simply having the TV on works in most cases.
  • Tap the cast button and choose the device you’d like to cast to
  • Enjoy watching your downloaded movie on your TV!

You can use also use apps such as VLC media player on the device you are casting from to enable Chromecast using this method. This is useful for Mobile phones or video formats that are difficult to play since VLC media player supports nearly any video format.

Apps on the apple store such as Infused are great alternatives to VLC to cast using iOs or Apple operating systems, however you’ll need a Chromecast Ultra or an Apple TV to do so as Infused is not compatible with Miracast.

6. Use Air play to watch downloaded movies on Smart TVs without Apple TV

Airplay uses bluetooth for discovery and a point to point WiFi connection for data with no network required and is used with select Apple devices.

Airplay between iPhone and Apple TV 4K (or a Smart TV with an adapter) does not require internet to work after the initial set up. The end result is similar to that of Chromecast or Miracast as you’ll be able to play downloaded movies on TV.

Can I use Airplay to Cast to a non-Apple device such as an Android TV?

It is possible to use Airplay to cast from Apple devices (such as a MacBook or iPhone) onto your Smart TV, but not without an adapter or application present. There are however select Smart TV’s that have Airplay 2 capabilities installed-including, but not limited to select Samsung models.

This can also be useful if you’re looking at how to play downloaded movies from iPhone or Android mobile phones to your Smart TV.

Here’s how to use airplay on a VIZIO, Samsung, Sony and LG TVs without an Apple TV:

  • Connect an Adapter that allows Airplay to identify and connect to your Smart TV.
  • Download an app that creates its own server by using your Smart TV to enable Airplay connectivity.

Apps known as “Airscreen”, “Air receiver” (and many others) can be found on your Smart Tv’s App Store and will allow airplay connectivity by creating its own server… but, not without a cost.

The downside to these apps is that they usually have a limit on the free versions where casting stops depending on if you reach the apps time limit. This made make me feel like a kid with a curfew and can be very frustrating.

These apps that allow Airplay are not ideal for long term use when ease of use and convenience is valued…unless you’re ok with paying for the premium version of the app. 

This is why most either choose to go with the free Plex app (see our Plex guide) or opt for grabbing a USB display adapter like the Anycast M100 on amazon that allows both Miracast and Airplay on your Smart TV.

Using Plex or an adapter to use Airplay on Smart Tv’s is the preferred long term solution by most. This is well worth the investment for those who don’t plan on spending hundreds on an Apple TV.

In conclusion there are several different ways to put downloaded movies on TV. Which of these options works best for you will depend on your current TV and your demands when playing downloaded movies on TV. 

For a more permanent solution your best bet will be the Plex app to play download movies on TV as it provides an experience just like Netflix: instant streaming, playback and ease of navigation.

Other preferred options include casting your display to your TV using one of the many methods outlined in this article. 

Relate: You can also visit our guides to learn how to download Netflix movies to computer and how to download how to download Netflix movies on Mac.

If you’re only watching movies and shows very infrequently, then a USB Flash drive, HDMI display mirroring or casting will quickly solve issues related to playing downloaded movies on TV.

If you liked this you’ll likely enjoy our article on How to watch still in theater movies for free… you will thank me later.

Short on time?
If you’re short on time… you can skip this guide and see How to watch any movie or show that exists in less than 10 minutes

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