If you need subtitles on your movies, you can always find them on the DVD, but if you’re ripping, downloading, or streaming, things get a bit tougher. Here’s how to get subtitles on all your digital movies, regardless of where you’re getting them.
For the bulk of this process, we’ll use our favorite DVD ripping tool, Handbrake because it’s pretty easy to use and free. With that, let’s get to it, starting with ripping your DVDs with the subtitles included.
Rip the Subtitles With Your DVDs
By default, Handbrake doesn’t include the subtitles when you rip DVDs so it can keep the ripped movie’s file size small. Thankfully, it’s really easy to keep the subtitles on when you rip the DVD:
- Put your movie on your disc drive and wait for Handbrake to scan it.
- Click over to the “Subtitles” tab.
- You have two different options here. Select the language you want, and then the “Burned In” checkbox to lock the subtitles to the movie or select Closed Captions from the drop-down list to get the subtitles in the original language of the film.
- Click “Start” and you’ll rip the movie.
That’s pretty much it. There are a few quirky exceptions to certain DVDs, so check out Handbrake’s subtitle wiki for more information if you need it.
Add Subtitles to Digital Movies You Already Have
If you don’t have the disc, fear not: you can still add subtitles to the movie file. You’ll just need to find the subtitles online at Opensubtitles or Subscene (you have other options, but we’ve had the best luck with these two) by searching for the movie’s name and the language you’d like.
Once you have the subtitles, you just need to get them into the right folder. If you’re using a media player like VLC, you just need to store the subtitle file in the same folder as the video and VLC will automatically detect it. If you don’t feel like hunting down the subtitles, you can also use a VLC extension like this one to automatically grab the subtitles for you. Other media players, like XBMC also just require that the subtitle file is in the same directory as the movie.
If you want to embed the subtitles you download into your movies for use on other devices, you’ll need to use Handbrake again:
- In Handbrake, click the “Subtitles” tab.
- Select, “Add External SRT” and find the subtitle file you just downloaded.
- Click “Start” to add the subtitles to the movie.
It’s a pretty simple process, but it can take a little trial-and-error to find the right subtitles, so don’t expect to always get the right subtitles on the first shot. If you have a massive collection you’d like to get subtitled, we like Filebot as a way to automatically search and add any missing subtitles to your movie library.
The Streaming Services with the Best Subtitles
If you’re more partial to streaming services and not keeping copies of your movies around, then it’s good to know which services have the most movies with subtitle options. Unfortunately, this isn’t as easy to figure out as it should be.
For English language subtitles, Netflix likely has the biggest selection, and they plan on having all of their movies subtitled by the end of 2014. Hulu is a close second, and Amazon is a bit behind on their subtitles.
For non-English subtitles, it’s a lot harder to find a streaming service. From Netflix, you can log into your account, head to the Subtitles page (located at the very bottom of your home page), select the language of your choice, and Netflix will display which movies have those subtitles. You can also add subtitles manually, but it’s a bit of a process.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a way to search for non-English subtitles on either Amazon or Hulu at the moment. If YouTube is more your thing, they have a pretty large collection of subtitled clips, and any video can be closed-captioned by clicking the “CC” button in the video box.