5 MKV Video Players for Mac OS X

Mar 13, 2012 - 45 Comments

MKV files are usually high quality videos compressed within a Mastroska container format. Typically you’ll encounter these with Bluray rips or video exported from an HD stream, and you might have discovered they won’t open in a standard movie player app. Not to worry though, MKV files can be played on a Mac easily, you just need to download a free application or codec that supports playing the high quality video format.

Play MKV on a Mac

We’ll cover five excellent free MKV video players that will work on the Mac, some are just general movie player apps and some are full-fledged media center applications that will do far more than just playing HD video formats. Ultimately which is the best is up for debate, but since they’re all free there is no reason not to try them all and discovering which is the best for your specific needs.

#1 – VLC 2

The first recommendation is VLC, which will play just about any video or audio file thrown at it and MKV is no exception. VLC 2 recently came out with some pretty significant changes, and even if you don’t plan on using it to play .mkv movies, it’s a worthwhile app to have on any Mac. Some users report performance issues with playing MKV from VLC, but I’ve had no such problems.

#2 – XBMC

XBMC is another good app to play MKV video, it’s simple interface focuses on media use and it makes a great media console in general. To get the most out of XBMC, copy any MKV video files to the Movies directory in the users home folder and you’ll be able to quickly find them within XBMC.

#3 – Plex

Plex is very similar to XBMC and works as well. Although it is generally a great media center app, the most recent update took a strange turn and the interface is more confusing than it needs to be. Nonetheless, it still plays MKV files quite well, if you’re going to use it drag and drop the MKV video onto the Plex icon to load the movie, otherwise trying to navigate through Plex’s confusing new menus will likely leave you frustrated and lost.

#4 – Perian

Perian is a third party Quick Time component that adds support for a huge variety of video formats (including MKV) to Apple’s very own QuickTime Player. It’s easy to install and sits as a preference panel, and once it’s installed there is nothing extra required to use, just open the once unsupported videos in QuickTime Player. Perian is quite good, but some users encounter strange issues with OS X Lion and OS X Mountain Lion, so this may not be the best solution until Perian gets updated with full support for the latest versions of Mac OS X.

#5 – MPlayerX

I hadn’t used MPlayerX before, but after several of our readers recommended it in the comments I downloaded the app and gave it a try. Low and behold, MPlayerX works wonderfully to play MKV files, and the interface closely matches QuickTime Players black minimalist theme. Performance was excellent too. This is definitely another worthwhile choice for watching HD video on the Mac, and it’s available free on the Mac App Store. Thanks to everyone who recommended this, this may be my new favorite video player!


Which is the best? That’s up for debate. For general versatility, VLC is a must-have app for all computer users, MplayerX is really giving it a run for it’s money, but for overall media center functionality XBMC is great. Try out a few and see which fits your needs. Enjoy your movies!


Related articles:

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


» Comments RSS Feed

  1. Dan says:

    You may already have an MKV player on your Mac…. if you have Chrome installed. Just drag / drop the MKV into Chrome. Works great for me as a full screen type player.

  2. AppleGuru says:

    MplayerX is great for MKV videos. For some reason QuickTime plays HD MP4 videos in very low quality if they are encoded to H264.

    I do need to warn users that it does install MacKeeper without the user knowing. I chose the advance install option which allows me to select what is installed. All I saw was options to install Google Chrome and make Yahoo the default homepage for Chrome. After install is where I suspect the MacKeeper gets installed. It says the Application needs to be updated to run smoothly on Sierra. Ran that update and my fan on my iMac has been running while playing a video. I launched Activity Monitor and saw MacKeeper running in the background. Did an advanced search for all the files associated with MacKeeper and removed it.

    After all that hassle MPlayerX just works better than VLC on a Mac IMHO. VLC for Mac still doesn’t feel like it’s built for the Mac software. It still feels like a Windows Application that happens to run on a Mac. With VLC not interested in updating their Application for the Mac it is time for us Mac users to look elsewhere until something else comes along. I sure hope something does. The market is huge for a good video player that actually works on the Mac. I’d pay for it if there was one out there.

  3. Muhammad says:

    I don’t think any of those browser can be compared to mplayerx – it’s just awesome

    Subtitle: You can just use shortcodes to change subtitle timing without any editing software or anything

    Get a screenshot from playing video
    Use shortcode to move to next video of a videos series
    Play video from where you left last time
    Change the subtitle position

  4. Ron I says:

    You shouldn’t recommend MPlayerX. It’s garbage. Full-screen doesn’t even work (it just gets stuck a white screen that doesn’t go away until you quite).


  5. Paul Abrahams says:

    The XBMC or whats called Kodi is excellent, files that would crash VLC play perfectly in kodi. OSX Yosemite

  6. Elliane says:

    Total Video Player is also very good. I love it because it is a video player for mac subtitles. It can load the subtitle contained in MKV files automatically.

  7. Paige says:

    Vlc2 works great. Thanks for the tip

    • MBV says:

      Appreciate your recent post. Could advise if it will playback the dts HD and True Hd audio formats? I am in process of backing up my blu ray collection.

  8. Julio says:

    Has anyone had a play with Nice player?

    The interface is a nightmare, but if you compare the playback quality to VLC or MPlayerX it’s incredibly sharp and the colours are much more realistic – Not over saturated and “fake”.

  9. […] QuickTime Player is also a fine choice for playing .MOV, m4v, .mp4 files, but for other movie file formats like .WMV, Flash .flv, .mpeg, .avi, and others, you’ll want to get a third party app instead. For other formats, VLC is a classic app and should be included in just about every Mac users app toolbox, and MplayerX is becoming increasingly popular for being just as versatile while having the added bonus of supporting BluRay and MKV playback. […]

  10. Go Mid Rak says:

    MpayerX best of the best

  11. Go Mid Rak says:

    vlc bad sound quality 1080p :(

  12. sherpav says:

    vlc cool player.

  13. […] it with flying colors. WMV files are no exception, but because it supports so many other popular (mkv, divx, etc) and obscure formats, MPlayer is debatably one of the best free video players available […]

  14. AtariBaby says:

    Quicktime with Perian is higher quality than MPlayerX.
    MPlayerX is higher quality than VLC.
    VLC is still excellent quality and good to have when the other two won’t play something.

  15. […] necessary if you want to watch the movie directly on your computer, in that case, check out a handful of free MKV video players for Mac. If you need to convert other video types to iOS compatible format, Handbrake works great for […]

  16. Tim says:

    Nevermind, forgot they dropped PC/Mac support…

  17. Tim says:

    Um…What about Boxee?

  18. Max says:

    Perian is simply useless on OSX Lion. This OS is more than 6 months old and the developers don’t care about making Perioan work on it. I’m not even talking about Snow Lion support… Too bad, it used to be an interesting product, but it’s dead now.

    MPlayer OSX Extended and XMBC are my favourites. Plex’ GUI is very bad and I removed it 5 minutes after installing it.

    To repackage MP4 to MKV, I use MKVtoolnix
    To repackage MKV to MP4, I use MKVtools (now MP4tools)

  19. Gary Dauphin says:

    Huge MOVIST fan! It plays everything, it has neat extra features, and it prioritizes video playback while other tasks are going on, so that video playback is rarely interrupted.

  20. Attila says:

    I had performance issue with VLC (the audio channel wasn’t line in with the movie) and then I’ve started to use Divx Player that is a good alternative.

  21. Nick says:

    I like MPlayerX

  22. Movist certainly should be on a list, but with Lion and VLC2, again VLC is #1. I have now problems with Movist.

    Movist was unbeatable on leopard/snow leopard

  23. Chris says:

    As a long time Plex user, i find the comments about Plex being confusing to use troubling, especially in the context of this article.

    The 10 foot interface for Plex is exactly the same a XBMC, and the separate Media Server app makes adding media easier as you don’t need to plough through layers of 10 ft interface to manage your media.

    It’s the first comment of its kind i’ve heard – I’d love to see a review of the new Plex.

  24. Naresh says:

    # sudo port install mplayer-devel

    ^ best player out there that renders styled soft-subtitles without coughing up.

  25. looky says:

    I also use Subler to make mkv -> m4v and watch them on My Mac, Apple TV2 and iPad 2

  26. Mateus says:

    If you do care about subtitles (color, size, outline, shadows, position) I recomend “Movist” available on App Store.

  27. Anthony says:

    I use sublr to repackage MKVs to M4Vs without re-encoding. Then you can watch them on your appletv. ;)

    • tcogrey says:

      Sounds cool, can you elaborate on how you get it to work?

      • Anthony says:


        Most MKVs are x264 codec and so the only difference between that and a M4V is the container. The video simply needs to be demuxed and remuxed into an M4V.

        Just install the app, drag your MKV to it, add desired metadata and when you go to save it will repackage your MKV in an M4V container. Easy.

        In the Preferences you can also set it to reencode the audio to 5.1 AAC so if you have an MKV with a dts or dolby digital track, it will reencode that for you.

    • David Owens says:

      I’ll have to try Subler again. I used it previously, but since I was re-encoding blurays from 1080p down to 720p, I ended up sticking with Handbrake, since it could also burn in subtitles (which for some reason if I use soft subs, get out of sync with the video while watching if I pause/rewind/ff)

      Can Subler re-encode hi-profile/10-bit video down to standard 8-bit? I don’t have my AppleTV 3rd gen yet, but I’m going to assume it won’t display 10-bit video :( This would be another issue, as that functionality is something which Handbrake now includes.

  28. SteveHiggs says:

    I’ve been using MPlayerX (Free) for the last few months. I used to swear by VLC but over the years it’s caused me too much grief and with the recent GUI changes it’s just become a bloated mess.

    MPlayerX app store link:

  29. David Owens says:

    The one issue I’ve noticed with Perian which is frustrating is that for many MKV’s, it will say it requires QuickTime 7 to open properly. This may be the issue which the author mentions as requiring “full support”; regardless, it’s pretty annoying.

    I used to use VLC to watch MKVs, but lately I’ve taken to re-encoding them into m4v format using HandBrake, which allows me to watch them on my AppleTV, and copy them onto my iphone or ipad for on-the-go watching.

  30. I came here to recommend Movist as well. However, even with Movist installed, I also install Perian to handle all manner of files. This allows Movist to open a variety of files with the Quicktime playback system (which in turn allows adjustments to playback speed, which is make-or-break for me)

  31. TheLove says:

    Movist is the best

  32. Curtis says:

    #5 – MPlayerX http://mplayerx.org/ also available directly from App Store http://itunes.apple.com/en/app/mplayerx/id421131143?mt=12

    I consider it basically the same as VLC but you can easily update it via the App Store

Leave a Reply


Shop on Amazon.com and help support OSXDaily!

Subscribe to OSXDaily

Subscribe to RSS Subscribe to Twitter Feed Follow on Facebook Subscribe to eMail Updates

Tips & Tricks


iPhone / iPad



Shop on Amazon to help support this site