Abstract Transparent conducting zirconium-doped zinc oxide (ZnO:Zr) films were firstly deposited on polyethylene terephthalate (PET) substrates with ZnO buffer layers by DC magnetron sputtering at room temperature. Dependence of physical properties of ZnO:Zr films on deposition pressure was systematically studied. All the deposited films were polycrystalline and (1 0 0) oriented. When deposition pressure increases from 1 to 2.5 Pa, the crystallinity of the films improves and the resistivity decreases. While deposition pressure increases from 2.5 to 3.5 Pa, the crystallinity of the films deteriorates and the resistivity increases. The lowest resistivity of 1.8 × 10 −3 Ω cm was obtained for the films deposited at the optimum deposition pressure of 2.5 Pa. All the films present a high transmittance of above 86% in the wavelength range of the visible spectrum.