Best Video Player for Linux

Any desktop Linux system should come with a default video player, which is usually capable of handling all of the most popular video formats and codecs. However, you may find that some systems do not include the proprietary software necessary to play back certain file types. Or, maybe you are just not satisfied with the pre installed video player that came with your Linux distro.

We have gone through the trouble of testing out various video players for Linux, weighed their pros and cons, and decided on what we think is the best video player (spoiler: it’s VLC). Read on to learn about the best video player, some other honorable mentions, and what you can expect to gain from installing one of these video players on your own Linux system.

In this tutorial you will learn:

  • What is the best video player Linux
  • How to install VLC on all major Linux distros
Best Video Player for Linux
Best Video Player for Linux
Software Requirements and Linux Command Line Conventions
Category Requirements, Conventions or Software Version Used
System Any Linux distro
Software VLC
Other Privileged access to your Linux system as root or via the sudo command.
Conventions # – requires given linux commands to be executed with root privileges either directly as a root user or by use of sudo command
$ – requires given linux commands to be executed as a regular non-privileged user

Best Video Player for Linux

The best video player for Linux is – in our humble opinion – VLC media player. Here is why we think it deserved the the first place title:

  • VLC is free
  • VLC is open source
  • VLC can be installed from default repositories
  • VLC is lightweight and cross platform
  • VLC can play back all the video media we have thrown at it
  • VLC is an all in one solution for video playing
  • VLC can also handle music files
VLC Media Player on Linux
VLC Media Player on Linux

Free and open source

Since we are talking about Linux, one of the most important requirements to gain our endorsement for the best video player is that it must be free and open source. VLC is developed by the VideoLAN Project based in Paris, France. It was first released in February 2001, so it has had a very long time to make a name for itself as one of the best video players available.

VLC installation

Another big point for VLC is its ease of installation. It is already common enough to find VLC installed by default on Linux distros. If you do not find it already installed, it is included as an easy download from your system’s default repositories. Its open source nature makes it a no-brainer for Linux distribution developers to include the software for download. Of course, updating the software is equally as easy.

Lightweight and cross platform

You would think that having the ability to play such a wide variety of formats and codecs would inflate the file size of VLC. But, you would be surprised. VLC is only a 40 MB download. All of the extra codec package dependencies definitely increase the size, but this would be necessary for any media player. In addition, you can use it on Windows, MacOS, and Android. This makes it convenient to use the same video player across all of your platforms.

All in one solution

We tried playing a lot of different formats and codecs with VLC, just to make sure it could handle all of files. After all, it can’t be the best video player if we need to install additional players or codecs just to read certain files. VLC was able to play our mkv, mp4, mov, and avi files, which are among the most common video formats. This included H.264 and H.265 codecs.

But we did not stop there. We also tried flv (flash videos), wmv, and even 3gp videos. I had some videos recorded with cell phones from 2006, and VLC still played them without a hitch. Not only does it read all the most common formats, but it even recognizes dead and obsolete file types. You really only need one video player installed on your system, if you choose VLC. In a pinch, it even works as a music player, able to recognize wav, mp3, flac, ogg, etc.

How to Install VLC

If we have convinced you to try VLC, you can use the appropriate command below to install it with your system’s package manager.

To install VLC on Ubuntu, Debian, and Linux Mint:

$ sudo apt install vlc

To install VLC on Fedora:

$ sudo dnf install$(rpm -E %fedora).noarch.rpm 
$ sudo dnf install vlc

To install VLC on Arch Linux and Manjaro:

$ sudo pacman -S vlc

Honorable Mentions

In case you do not like VLC, there are other video players to choose from on Linux. Some other free and open source video players which meet are standards for quality are:

  • SMPlayer
  • Haruna
  • MPV Player
  • Parole

Closing Thoughts

In this tutorial, we learned about our choice for the best video player on a Linux system: VLC. Of course, this will always be subjective and will ultimately come down to user preference. But we feel that the points covered above make it an all around solid choice for any typical user’s video playing needs.

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