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No Internet Connection? Here’s How You Can Still Watch Netflix Movies and Shows

It might feel like everyone in the world is connected to the internet 24/7, but there are plenty of situations where connecting to the web just isn’t possible — consider your last airplane flight, for an obvious example. Even if you can’t get a decent Wi-Fi or mobile signal, you can still watch your favorite Netflix shows and movies.

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Netflix introduced downloads back in November 2016, and the service has beefed up its features for downloading since. Now you can tweak your Netflix settings to get automatic downloads and deletions once you’ve finished watching a movie or episode, as well as an endless supply of new downloads to make sure you always have something to watch offline.

Learn how to adjust your downloads settings to get Netflix to automatically manage it for you with its Smart Downloads features, and how to manage downloads for countries with restricted licenses. For more, learn about Netflix’s hidden menu or see CNET’s reviews of all the streaming services

How can I download Netflix shows?

If you’re familiar with using Netflix on your mobile device, you’ve probably noticed the dark “Download” button that sits right below “Play.” Clicking that button starts a download of a local version of the movie or TV show you want.

You can download Netflix movies and TV shows on iPhone, iPad, Android and Amazon Fire devices, as well as computers with Windows 10 or 11 and some Chromebooks and Chromeboxes. Netflix downloads are set by default to only use Wi-Fi, though you can change that in your app settings.

There’s no Mac app for Netflix yet, so unfortunately, that means no downloads for Mac laptops (unless they’re running Windows too).

A screenshot of the download options for TV shows on Netflix Android app A screenshot of the download options for TV shows on Netflix Android app

On Android, Netflix lets you download entire seasons of TV shows.

Netflix/Screenshot by Peter Butler/CNET

TV shows can be downloaded individually by clicking the download icon next to each episode. On Android devices, you can download an entire season of a show by tapping the separate Download Season button next to the My List, Rate and Share links near the top of a movie or show listing. 

Netflix allows you to keep a maximum of 100 downloads on as many devices as are included in your subscription plan. Each of the downloads has a different expiration date based on its content license — some expire as early as 48 hours after you first start watching. Downloads can be renewed, but some have a limit on how many times per year. If a movie or show leaves the Netflix service, all downloads for it immediately expire.

You can delete individual movies and shows by unselecting the check box next to each title. You can remove all of your downloads by going into your App Settings and clicking “Delete all downloads” under Downloads.

A “Downloads” tab (called “My Downloads” on Windows) that sits at the bottom of the Netflix app shows you which downloads are in your library and lets you play them. It also lets you customize your download settings, such as Smart Downloads.

How do Smart Downloads work on Netflix?

Netflix’s Smart Downloads option provides an easy way for you to manage the movies and TV shows that you’ve downloaded. It basically contains two download options — Download Next Episode and Downloads for You.

Netflix's Smart Downloads settings on Android Netflix's Smart Downloads settings on Android

Download Next Episode keeps you up to date on TV shows. Downloads For You automatically downloads recommendations up to a certain file storage limit.

Netflix/Screenshot by Peter Butler/CNET

When turned on, Download Next Episode will automatically delete TV show episodes once you’ve watched them and then download the next episode in the season. It’s a no-brainer for anyone who downloads TV shows, which is probably why the feature is turned on by default in Netflix apps.

In the Windows Netflix app, toggling on Smart Downloads enables Download Next Episode, even though it’s not called out as a separate feature.

What is Netflix’s Downloads for You?

Downloads for You expands the automatic downloading and deleting options for Netflix that are used in Download Next Episode. The feature is available in the iPhone, iPad and Android versions of the Netflix app, as well as some Chromebooks and Chromeboxes.

After Downloads for You is turned on, Netflix uses your viewing habits and preferences to download movies and TV shows that the service thinks you will like. Once you watch them, they’re automatically deleted. 

A screenshot of the Netflix Downloads tab on iPhone A screenshot of the Netflix Downloads tab on iPhone

Once Downloads For You is enabled, automatic downloads will show up beneath your manually downloaded shows.

Netflix/Screenshot by Peter Butler/CNET

If you don’t want to watch a downloaded title, you can delete it the same way you would delete downloads that you initiated manually. You can also click the icon of a square surrounded by a broken circle to cancel downloads in progress. Downloads for You only works over Wi-Fi. 

To turn on Downloads for You, click into the Smart Downloads settings (via the Downloads tab or App Settings) and then toggle on Downloads for You

Turning that feature on will then open up options for limiting how much data Netflix will automatically download for each user profile, anywhere from 0.5GB to 9.5GB. (Netflix notes that one hour of video at normal quality is about 0.25GB.) 

Which movies and TV shows can’t be downloaded from Netflix?

Whether a movie or TV show can be downloaded on Netflix depends on its content license, and licenses vary from title to title. Netflix says that it tries to make as many titles available for download as possible, and when a movie or show is not downloadable it’s usually because of three reasons:

  • Another company has exclusive content rights
  • The content rights aren’t available for purchase
  • Popularity, cost or seasonal factors

A quick survey of Netflix’s most popular titles shows that all of the Top 10 movies and Top 10 TV shows in the US are available for download as of Oct. 3.

In my informal survey, the titles I found mostly likely to be excluded from downloading are popular TV shows from cable or broadcast networks. “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Gilmore Girls” and “The Walking Dead” are three shows you can stream on Netflix, but not download.

Can I watch Netflix downloads in any country?

It depends on whether Netflix has the content license in the country you’re visiting for the movie or show you want to watch.

Geographical restrictions that limit streaming titles in certain countries also apply to downloaded movies and TV shows. If you’re traveling in a country where Netflix is not showing the title you downloaded, you won’t be able to watch it, even though you already downloaded it in your home country.

Trying to watch a downloaded movie in a country where Netflix doesn’t show it will result in an error message in the Netflix app: “Download Not Available in This Country — Not all downloads are available to watch in every country.”

VPN software that create virtual private networks can be used to get around geographical restrictions, but Netflix makes a strong effort to block VPN from working with its service. Using a VPN to bypass geo-blocking could also be considered a violation of Netflix’s terms of use.

For more on Netflix, check out our lists of the best sci-fi and fantasy movies on the streaming service.

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