In a world where multiple apps help you watch flicks on the big screen, there’s one app that rises above the rest. It’s free, it’s easy to use, and it’s the best way to buy movie tickets on the go. Coming to an iPhone near you: Fandango.
Lookup showtimes by movie, theater, or time frame.
“Go Now” feature finds you the next movie showtimes at theaters close by.
Add specific theaters to a list of favorites.
Add movies to your favorites to create a watchlist of upcoming movies you want to see, or movies you’ve already seen and want to rate/review.
Receive notifications when tickets for upcoming movies on your favorites list go on sale.
Receive reminder notifications when a movie you’ve purchased tickets for is going to start soon.
Watch trailers for upcoming movies.
Research cast, crew, and synopsis information about movies.
See what movie tickets are selling like hot cakes in real time with “The Pulse” on iPad
Where It Excels
The Fandango app has all the basics like searching movie showtimes by movie, theater, GPS location, or time frame, but it’s also the best way to buy movie tickets with your phone. Fandango’s movie ticket-buying system (including the paperless, scannable mobile movie ticket), is used by several other movie showtime apps and services, so why not cut out the middleman apps and go right for the source? You can save your credit card information in the app, and purchase movie tickets for your entire family all at once with only a few taps.
The “Go Now” feature lets you turn a boring evening into a spontaneous movie night on the fly. You’ll see every theater near you, and what movies will be playing soon so you don’t have to do any more research. Just pick the movie, buy your tickets in the app, and go. You can get directions to the movie theater too, and Fandango lets you choose between using Google Maps or Apple Maps. If you have notifications enabled, you’ll receive a reminder that your movie is going start in half an hour. That way, if you’re out and about, you won’t get sidetracked doing something else and miss out on getting snacks before the show starts.
Fandango’s favorites system is also simple and straightforward. You can designate certain theaters as your preferred destinations, and you can keep an eye on movies that aren’t out yet. Just select a theater or movie within the app and tap the heart in the upper right. Any theaters you favorite will be the first ones that show up in the list when you’re looking for showtimes, which is nice if you frequent the same theaters most of the time. When you favorite a movie, the movie gets added to your “My Movies” list. Once there, you’ll receive news updates, exclusive offers, and notifications when tickets go on sale so you don’t miss out on opening weekend.
Where It Falls Short
Fandango isn’t perfect, though. There are two things that keep Fandango from that title: ads and review scores. No matter what tab you’re on in the Fandango app, there’s usually a small banner ad along the top or bottom of the screen. Occasionally you’ll get full-screen ads as you change tabs as well. There’s no “premium” fee or membership or app version to get rid of them, so they might be frustrating for some.
When it comes to Fandango’s review scores, they aren’t as helpful as the scores you’d find in some competing apps like Flixster and the IMDb app. Fandango’s user review scores are based on a five-star system which is harder to glean anything from when compared to a percentage-based aggregate system like Rotten Tomatoes. Furthermore, Fandango’s fan review scores are questionable because movies never seem to get less than three stars, according to a recent analysis from FiveThirthyEight. Fortunately, Fandango does show professional movie critic review scores (and a Metascore based on all of the linked critic scores), as well as links to each complete review for you to read.
Fandango just bought one of its biggest competitors, Flixster (our previous pick), and the movie review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. Both Fandango and Flixster will still operate as separate entities for now, but the best features of Flixster will probably come to Fandango shortly, and vice versa. A better review score system may well be on the way for Fandango (hopefully), and Flixster, the only movie showtimes app that wasn’t using Fandango’s ticket-buying system, will likely start using it.
IMDb (Free) is definitely a solid alternative (as well as our pick on Android) if you’re a serious movie buff who wants more behind-the-scenes information. In addition to all of the stuff IMDb is known for, you can lookup showtimes for any movie by theater or within a certain time range, and watch trailers for upcoming films. You can even buy tickets through the app, but the service is powered by Fandango.
Movies by Moviefone (Free) is another alternative, but the app’s features are sparse and the ticket-buying system is powered by Fandango. Moviefone doesn’t have any ads, however, and uses Metacritic for its movie review scores, so it might be worth it for some folks. In the same ballpark, Showtimes (Free) is pretty barebones when it comes to features. The app has banner ads, ticket sales are powered by Fandango, and Showtimes’ movie review scores are simply an average of the scores found in the Flixster app.