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Can VPNs still unblock Netflix? I tested them (so you don't have to)

Netflix in a tablet next to some popcorn
(Image credit: Studio R3/Shutterstock)

About a month ago I wrote an article exploring how a number of the best VPN services had been affected by Netflix’s new blocking techniques. Let’s just say that the results weren’t stellar.

Now the dust has settled and the providers have had time to develop their solutions, I thought I’d see how they’ve improved – if at all.

I tested the paid-for versions of ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Surfshark, Hotspot Shield, CyberGhost, IPVanish, VyprVPN and ProtonVPN in five different locations, and during each test for each location I changed the individual Netflix VPN server a number of times. 

It’s worth noting that during these tests I used the automatically selected regional server to reflect the average user, although if I had issues I’d manually select another.

So, if you’re wondering whether ExpressVPN can still unblock US-only Netflix shows or if NordVPN can get you access to The Office on Netflix UK, just check the relevant sections below for the in-depth results – or reference the table for quick info.

NB: While I’m confident these tests are correct at the time of publishing, be aware that we’re seeing a lot of changes pretty quickly in this area. However, all the providers I’ve tested offer at least a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can make sure you can unblock what you want before committing.

Which VPNs work with Netflix at a glance

UKUSCanadaAustraliaJapan
ExpressVPNYesYesYesYesNo
NordVPNYesYesIntermittentIntermittentIntermittent
SurfsharkIntermittentYesIntermittentIntermittentNo
ProtonVPNYesYesNoNoNo
Hotspot ShieldYesIntermittentNoNoNo
CyberGhostYesNoNoNoNo
VyprVPNNoNoNoNoNo
IPVanishNoNoNoNoNo

Netflix regional error message

(Image credit: Future)

1. US Netflix

Probably the most popular location for those looking to evade geo-blocks, US Netflix is home to a whole host of shows and movies unavailable anywhere else, like Radium Girls, Rain Man, and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

Because of that, it’s usually fairly easily accessible when using a US VPN, but it was by no means a clean sweep in my testing.

NordVPN, ProtonVPN, CyberGhost and Hotspot Shield impressed, and unblocked Netflix on each server I tried.

A week or so ago I was having a few issues with ExpressVPN and US Netflix, but after a quick chat to a customer support agent I was informed that the Los Angeles – 3 server should be working. Thankfully it did, and I was able to watch exactly what I wanted.

Surfshark also had a few problems with US Netflix, and while I was able to unblock content, it was only about 30% effective. Finally, VyprVPN and IPVanish weren’t able to unblock US Netflix and – spoiler alert – they couldn’t unblock any other countries either. That’s the last you’ll hear of them in this article.

2. UK Netflix

Thanks to the proliferation of streaming services in the US, tons of hugely popular titles like the aforementioned The Office have moved to other sites – but in the UK, many of these are still available on Netflix. So, it’s definitely worth having a UK VPN that can get access if you’re in the States.

ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Surfshark and ProtonVPN had no issues getting access to UK content. So, if you want to watch It’s Always Sunny, American Graffiti, or even Green Street (don’t judge me) on Netflix, one of these providers is a safe bet.

Hotspot Shield wasn’t a total failure, but in this round of testing it only had a 30% success rate when accessing UK content. Unfortunately, despite having a dedicated streaming server, CyberGhost wasn’t able to get access at all in my testing.

3. Canadian Netflix

While perhaps not as widely used as the UK or US, Canadian Netflix has a remarkably good selection of content not available elsewhere. However, many VPN providers appear to neglect the location – and this was true even before Netflix’s beefed-up blocking came into play.

In my testing, only ExpressVPN was able to crack the Canadian library on every try, which is an impressive result. However, on some occasions Netflix loaded at a snail’s pace – not reflected in general browsing when using the same server – so while it’s effective, you’ll need to exercise a little patience.

NordVPN was successful about 50% of the time, and Surfshark about 30%. If you’re a Surfshark user looking to unblock Canada, I’d suggest trying the Toronto server first – it’s the only one that worked for me.

Canada is where ProtonVPN’s run of successes ended. While it’s disappointing that it couldn’t complete a clean sweep, its excellent performance in the US and UK demonstrates that the provider’s committed to upping its game in this department. Until recently, Proton wasn’t even a contender as a streaming VPN, so I’m looking forward to seeing if it continues to up its game.

The cast of Stranger Things

(Image credit: Netflix)

4. Australian Netflix

We’re getting a little more niche now, but I think it’s important to check more than just the most popular locations. Plus, Aussie Netflix boasts a number of classic movies like The Big Lebowski and Airplane, so it’s worth having access.

Unfortunately, Down Under doesn’t seem to have been a priority for VPN providers, and none of the VPNs tested were able to unblock it 100% of the time.

Much like with US Netflix, a number of ExpressVPN’s Australian servers were unable to access Aussie content, but after talking to the support team I was informed that Sydney – 2 would get me access. Lo and behold, it did, and this goes to show just how useful a responsive customer support team is.

NordVPN also performed well, with each server tested gaining access to the library. However, in one instance playback was blocked because a VPN was detected. Surfshark again delivered a roughly 30% success rate, which is usable in a pinch, but is hardly the effortless experience I’ve become used to from the excellent cheap VPN.

5. Japanese Netflix

Again, it’s a niche library, but for those travelling outside Japan or wanting to watch some anime available nowhere else, having access to Japanese Netflix could be a deal breaker.

Perhaps reflecting that lack of demand, I found it was the trickiest location to gain access to. Out of all the providers I tried, only NordVPN was able to unblock Netflix Japan – and even then, only every other time. ExpressVPN, Surfshark, and the rest all failed to get access to exclusive content.

Which VPN is best for Netflix right now?

With the server information I received from support agents combined with my own testing, I’d say that ExpressVPN has the edge over NordVPN, but it’s a seriously close fight. 

That comes down to the fact that although Nord can access most things after several tries, knowing the correct ExpressVPN servers allows seamless streaming in more locations. If I didn’t have that information, I’d be coming to a different conclusion.

Surfshark comes in third, but the big surprise is ProtonVPN. While it’s not class-leading, it’s quietly upping its game, and may well be a provider to keep an eye on in the future.

So, if you’re not after Japanese exclusives I’d recommend ExpressVPN, and if you are, then NordVPN is the sensible choice. But right now anything could happen. The main take away, though? Make use of your VPN’s support network if you can – it really can save you a lot of trial and error.


Which ExpressVPN servers work for US Netflix?

At the time of publishing, you need to use Los Angeles – 3 to access US Netflix from outside the States. If that’s not working, get in contact with the support team and see if they have up-to-the-minute information.

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ExpressVPN is the most flexible VPN on the market
Despite some issues in our testing, ExpressVPN is still our top-rated provider for just about everything. It's the least affected by Netflix's new changes, it's super secure, and Tom's Guide readers can even claim three months free on a 12-month plan.

Mo is eCommerce Editor at Tom's Guide. Day-to-day he oversees privacy and security content, and his product guides help his readers find the best software and products for their needs. When he's not testing VPNs, you'll find him working on his classic car or plugged into a guitar amp.