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5 easy ways to add subtitles to the best movies and TV shows

Subtitles aren’t just for people who have hearing impairments. They’re great if you’re trying to watch a show and you have a lot of background noise, or if the actors speak with accents that you have a hard time understanding (Hello, “Game of Thrones”).

Kim said her husband, Barry, sometimes watches TV and movies with the subtitles on, and at first, she complained that the words on the screen were a distraction. Then she realized that she actually caught things that she would have missed. It’s possible to read and watch at the same time, and with the right programming, the subtitles can actually enhance your TV-watching experience.

First we’ll take a look at tools you can download and install to provide subtitles to a vast library of TV shows and movies. But if you’ve got a smart device, Netflix, Amazon or other streaming services, these platforms come with subtitles that are very easy to turn on and off. Scroll down to “Easy ways to add subtitles to streaming devices.”

Subtitle tools you can download and install

Full disclosure: The title to this article says “5 easy ways…” and this first one isn’t really that easy. It entails a lot of steps, but it’s worth it if you watch a lot of TV and movies on your computer and you don’t have a smart device or streaming subscription service.

Subtitle tools are useful in the event you have a foreign film, accents or fast, technical dialogue such as a science fiction film. One person we know mentioned he uses subtitles for easily searchable text when arguing with people about sci-fi technology, so there’s that too.

For this example of digging in and showing the process, we downloaded a film and used opensubtitles.org and a VLC player. Your media player of choice could work for this as well if it has the subtitle menu available.

Once you download the media subtitle file of choice, extract the file. After it’s extracted, load your video file and go to the Subtitles menu and select Add Subtitle file.

Click Open, then click the Subtitle menu header again, select Sub Track, and select the specified track. It is possible to load multiple subtitle tracks, as many as you want, and switch between them. It can be beneficial for certain movie files, notably in the MKV format, which comes with many subtitles in various languages.

Finally, the file will load and you should see the dialogue.

You can cut out a step, however, which has the ability to search and download subtitles right within the app. Some can automatically find subtitles based on the filename of your media.

4 truly easy ways to add subtitles to streaming devices

1 – Turn on closed captioning on your TV set

Check your TV remote to see if it has a CC or subtitles button. If it’s been there all along and you had no idea, you’re forgiven — happens to the best of us. If the remote has no subtitle button, access your TV’s settings menu. The next part gets tricky, with so many makes and models of televisions, but most recent-model TVs have the close-caption feature near the top of the settings menu — you should find it no deeper than one or two clicks into your settings.

2 – Turn on closed captioning on your streaming device

If you’ve got a Roku, Amazon Fire, AppleTV, Chromecast or another streaming device, you’ll likely find the subtitles feature in the devices main menu. For example, Roku has a * button on its remotes. Press this and select or de-select the Closed Captions option. Amazon Fire devices have a Menu button on the remote. Press that and select Subtitles. It really is that simple.

3 – Turn on subtitles with Netflix or Amazon Prime Video

Netflix enables you to turn on subtitles for individual movies and shows. Select the show you want to watch and then from the options menu, select Audio & Subtitles, or, depending on the device you’re using, hover over the subtitle icon.

how to turn on subtitles in netflix screen shot

Click the English [CC] option to turn on subtitles.

subtitles demo on netflix the office

When you want to turn off subtitles, follow the same steps and this select Off.

Amazon does a nice job of labeling its content with “Closed Caption” identifiers, so you know whether subtitles are available.

amazon prime example of closed caption label

To activate subtitles if you are watching Prime Video on your laptop, mobile or desktop, find the playback controls, and press the speech bubble icon for Subtitles and Audio.

speech bubble icon or logo for subtitles

From there, you’ll turn on your subtitles, and you can select the size of the font, as well as their format, which comes in handy if the text isn’t visible on your screen. Sometimes white text on a light background gets lost; Amazon lets you choose white text on a black background, so your text is always visible.

4 – Turn on subtitles using your cable TV provider

Lastly, if you are a cable or satellite TV subscriber and you have a remote control from Cox, DirecTV, Dish or another provider, which typically includes a remote control that works with the cable TV box, you can activate subtitles here. Every cable and satellite provider differs, but you should be able to navigate to closed caption or subtitle options with only one or two clicks.

Look for the Menu or Guide button on the remote control, and then look for an option labeled Closed Captioning, Settings, Caption, Language or Accessibility.

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