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Why you should watch West Side Story on Disney Plus and not HBO Max

Ariana DeBose and the cast of West Side Story
(Image credit: Amblin)

Looking to watch West Side Story before the The Oscars? Well, think twice before you just use it in the app you prefer, as it might be better in another app you already have. Because, yes, somehow this lauded film is included on two streaming services at the same time. 

This is because of a deal between Disney and WarnerMedia that saw many Fox movies getting shared across both Disney Plus and HBO Max. But even though we really like HBO Max here at Tom's Guide, there's good reason to watch it on Disney Plus instead. 

Yes, sometimes even the best streaming service fails to stack up. That said, if you only have HBO Max (say you took my advice to cancel Disney Plus this month), I'm not sure this will be enough to push you back to the house of the mouse.

It all depends, you see, on how clearly and vividly you want to see West Side Story.

West Side Story won't look as good on HBO Max

While you can watch West Side Story on HBO Max, it's streaming an inferior version of the film. This is because, unfortunately, not all of the HBO Max movies stream in 4K Ultra HD. 

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The details screen for West Side Story on HBO Max

(Image credit: Future)
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The details screen for West Side Story on Disney Plus

(Image credit: Future)

HBO Max only offers a select list of films at that rate, and limits its HDR 10 and Dolby Vision support to just those films as well. You might not have noticed this selective 4K streaming, as it's (mostly) limited to the huge 2021 releases that hit HBO Max the same day as theaters, such as Dune, Godzilla vs Kong and The Suicide Squad, as well as the first three Matrix movies (The Matrix Resurrections is not on HBO Max at the moment). 

Disney Plus, however, offers 4K Ultra HD streaming for West Side Story, and for many other movies as well. Those include the Star Wars movies and the Marvel movies. Disney Plus also adds on Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos for Spielberg's modern classic, so that it looks and sounds as good as it can, provided our TV supports those modern standards.

Analysis: HBO Max costs too much to lack 4K

If the $7.99 per month Disney Plus can offer 4K for many of its movies, it only seems right that HBO Max (starting at $9.99 per month with ads, and $14.99 without ads) would follow up and do the same. 

The pricing for each service may be more about the content it streams — JustWatch claims that Disney Plus has more than 740 movies and 280 TV shows, while HBO Max has over 2,000 movies and 580 shows — but try telling that to someone who is trying to manage their streaming budget.

Sure, HBO Max has a wider range of content, but fans want to see those shows in crystal clear 4K. Especially if they know another app can offer it.

Henry T. Casey
Henry T. Casey

Henry is a senior editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.