The Best Video Players for Mac

Feb 15, 2017 - 31 Comments

Best Video Players for Mac

Ever wondered what the best video player for Mac is? While there are droves of app options available to watch movies and video on Mac, rather than going on a wild video player fishing expedition we’ve helped to narrow down some of the best free video player choices for you.


The best video player apps support a wide variety of movie file formats, are easy to use, support 1080p and 4k video, are full-featured, are free to download and don’t arrive with junkware, and are lightweight. We’ll review some of the best options available for Mac OS and Mac OS X users.

A quick note: most Mac users will find that QuickTime and Photos app are perfectly sufficient to watching their own personal videos on the Mac, the options here are aimed at Mac users who are looking for a third party video player app with support for many video formats often found on the web, downloaded, or ripped from their personal collections.

The 4 Best Video Players for Mac

We’ve chosen four of what we consider to be the best video players for Mac, they’re all free too as rarely will you find a paid video player app to be necessary for most users needs. Let’s check them out:

1 – VLC

VLC is the longtime king of video players, and it’s easily one of the best video players on the Mac. VLC can play virtually any video file or movie format imaginable, usually with no extra codecs required even for some of the more oddball video formats. Of course all the primary video formats are supported too, so whether you’re watching MKV, M4V, AVI, MPEG, MOV, WMV, or any of the other commonly encountered formats, the video will play flawlessly without an issue. VLC is also cross platform compatible, so you can use VLC on a Mac, Windows PC, Linux, iOS, Android, and keep the experience consistent. There’s even theme/skin support, if you’re into that sort of thing.

VLC is the best video player for Mac or all purpose use

VLC remains my personal preference for the best video player for Mac for all-purpose use, it’s fast, no-nonsense, free, easy to use, supports subtitles, adjustable playback speeds, and there is a hoard of other advanced features that you’ll likely never even need to use.

2 – MPV

MPV is another great video player for Mac that has gained popularity recently, it’s a fork of mplayer and has a wide range of support for nearly any video format you’d throw at it. MPV also has GPU video decoding support and has a variety of OpenGL video output options which can be desirable to many advanced users. Overall it’s quite similar to VLC in many ways, so whether or not you use VLC or MPV is mostly a matter of personal preference.

MPV video player on Mac

Like VLC and Plex, MPV is also compatible with Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux.

3 – Plex

Plex is much more than just a video player, it is a full fledged media server app which can play just about every imaginable video format or movie thrown its way. In addition to playing videos and managing your movie library, Plex can also manage your music, TV shows, photos, library streaming, has parental control support in the premium version, file sharing support, and many other features that make the app function similar to how an Apple TV or media center works, except it’s just an app that runs on your Mac (or Windows PC too).

Plex is an excellent choice as a video player, particularly if you want to stream video from one device to another in your house, or you plan on connecting a Mac to a TV for use as a media center and watching movies on a bigger screen.

Plex is a great video player for mac and maybe the best video media center app too

I personally prefer Plex as a media center app, so if you’re looking for something to play video and serve that purpose it’s a great way to go.

4 – QuickTime Player

QuickTime Player?? Yes, really! QuickTime comes free and bundled on every Mac by default as the systems movie player. It may be under appreciated, but QuickTime is a powerful video player app and includes support for many popular video and movie file formats without needing to add any plugins or third party tools, it just works with most videos.

As mentioned above, QuickTime is a perfectly adequate solution for watching your own personal videos recorded on a Mac from the webcam, from 4k recorded on an iPhone, movies captured on iPad, shared with friends or family, and most video and movies that Mac users will encounter. Where QuickTime may become less adequate is if you’re trying to watch a video you downloaded from the web and it’s in a more obscure movie format, and perhaps you want to include subtitles for another language.

QuickTime is a great video player for Mac and its free with every Mac

The lesson here is don’t write off QuickTime Player, it’s an excellent video player app for most Mac users needs.

Playing Web Video? Try Safari or Chrome

Many of you are probably wondering about the best video player app to watch web video with, and this too is a matter of personal preference. For playing HTML5 video, or web video services like Amazon Prime, Netflix, or HBO, both Safari and Chrome are excellent, whereas for anything requiring Flash then using Chrome with the built-in sandboxed Flash plugin is highly recommended so you don’t have to install Flash on the Mac directly.

The best web video players for Mac are Safari and Chrome for watching video like Netflix

One of the major perks for watching web video with Safari is using Picture-in-Picture mode to play a video in a little hovering window, whether it’s found on YouTube, Vimeo, or your favorite documentary site like PBS NOVA or Frontline. Chrome currently does not support PiP mode directly, but with a plugin you can use that feature for playing web video as well.

Do you have a great video player app you recommend for Mac? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

31 Comments

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  1. Scott says:

    I’ve been using VLC for many years, it has never failed to play a single movie I throw at it no matter the format. I like that it’s consistent on the Mac and Windows too, as I have used both platforms over the years and learning new apps is not necessarily fun, I’d rather keep to the same ones if possible so there is no discovery necessary. I don’t know why anyone would bother with anything else than VLC, but if someone wants to try to convince me of a better option go right ahead. Many years ago I tried mPlayer2 but now VLC can play flawlessly M4V and MKV just fine so there is no use for another app.

    VLC is still the best.

    • Yup says:

      Same here. I use VLC on Linux. I have it on OS-X. I usually run Linux on my mac.

    • Larry says:

      There’s also a VLC remote app that lets you control VLC from your phone or tablet (an Apple remote will also work, but you don’t have as much detailed control). My favorite.

  2. Helmuth says:

    You guys missed IINA, a modern player specifically build for OSX https://lhc70000.github.io/iina/

  3. Stan says:

    While it’s not without its share of early version issues, I’m really starting to like IINA, which seem to be based on the public code of (no longer free) Movist app.

    PS. Is that Stranger Things? I have a feeling I’ve seen that scene somewhere, can’t quite put my finger on it.

  4. Valentino says:

    Nice selection.

    Why did not MPlayerX is not present? Between all the players that are available for mac, I found this one to be the best to play 4K on the iMac 5K. VLC works pretty well, but MPlayerX is way better at least for the 4K playback.

    Tiny SS of a good 4K movie – http://imgur.com/dDUuYCs

    MPlayerX – http://mplayerx.org/#sthash.ZDXNEl38.dpbs

    • e01 says:

      Plex is not just a player, but something more.

      +1 for MPlayerX, it does perfect job, I prefer that the others, it could place subtitles over the black borders, something which other fails, it have nice and minimal interface and just works.

    • Alex says:

      Maybe the author did not include MPlayerX because, even with the installer from its official website, it contains malware/spyware, like MacKeeper, if I remember correctly.

      I used to install MPlayerX from the Mac App Store, but then the developers stopped the support for the Mac App Store version, and if you wanted all the features of its latest version, you had to download the installer from its own website. Now that installer has malware embedded, like the one you can find on some installers like uTorrent and so on.

      More info on reddit, for instance:

      https://www.reddit.com/r/apple/comments/3bhvh9/psa_do_not_install_mplayerx_the_official_site/

  5. PingPong says:

    Aurora for Bluray files and discs. Surprisingly good.

  6. expobill says:

    me thinks Quick time works great for Osx10.8.5 with an external sound system like a bose even with boom expanding the sound, and it’s easier to operate

  7. Todd Robinson says:

    I use Div x, the Pro version plays with Dolby surround-sound. Sounds great with my Polk sound bar.

  8. Jan says:

    Yes, VLC is the best option for me.
    Long time used on Windows and now on Mac. Happy with it.

    • TomK says:

      Longtime fan of ease-of-use of VLC. However, since switching to late 2015 iMac (Retina 5K), I find the colors super-saturated. No amount of tinkering with settings can get natural colors. Usually I can live with it, but if it’s important, I have to switch to QT.

  9. Ivan says:

    You forgot mention Movist.

  10. roman says:

    movist is the best video player for mac

  11. Alex says:

    If anyone needs to play mxf, DNxHR and other professional formats, try Switch by Telestream. They have a free version as well. ;)

  12. Konstantin says:

    I am using Elmedia Player Pro, great features and it can add external audio and subtitles to the video easy.

  13. Tzus says:

    Total Video Player 2.7.0 (App Store) has the edge for me. Even has the ability to take snapshots of videos.

  14. andiDoubleXX7 says:

    Looking for a light weight ”floating” video player? Try HELIUM.
    http://heliumfloats.com/

  15. Bryan Kuro says:

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned Elmedia Video Player. It’s clean and looks way better than VLC. Also available in the Mac App store.

    (I use VLC, but Elmedia is a great alternative)

  16. Marin says:

    I used to use MplayerX. It was great. Until they became malware…

    Now I found out about IIna… Well guys, thanks for this. It will certinaly help a LOT ! :)

  17. robert says:

    Movist is great if you care for battery life – its resource use is much lower than e.g. VLC’s.

  18. Bob says:

    Bryan, someone DID already mention Elmedia Player, just 3 posts before yours.

    Try using the search function next time – worked for me.

  19. Gurkan says:

    I’ve been using the app called as “playr” it does the job however, it’s not free. MPV config files were frustrating me, thanks for IINA, I wasn’t knowing that.

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