The rise of broadband Internet has ushered in a new era of media consumption. Blazing fast connection speeds have made it possible to stream just about anything imaginable, and while there are millions of sites out there that supposedly offer high quality versions of the latest movies, most of them are just as trustworthy as they are legal (i.e. not at all). We know that many of you reading this are film fanatics, and you like to support filmmakers and studios when you can, but you’re also on a budget. We’ve put together this list of sites where you can watch movies online for free without breaking any laws and without jeopardizing your computer’s security. The following sites are the most trustworthy video streaming services on the Web and combined have more movies than you could watch in a lifetime – so get streaming.
This guide has been updated since it was originally published to include additional services. DT writer Jacob O’Gara contributed to this article.
Crackle (available for Android | BlackBerry | iOS | Windows)
Crackle is owned by Sony, so it features a robust lineup of movies and TV shows in flash format from Sony Pictures Entertainment. In their collection of full-length movies, you’ll find a good number of blockbuster hits, along with generous smattering of obscure b-movies. They’ve got a strong library of freebies, but there are a couple downsides to it. Rather than keeping movies on the site indefinitely, Crackle tends to cycle through movies, posting the most popular titles for a limited amount of time. For example, at time of writing, they’re offering Bad Boys and Bottle Rocket, both of which expire at the end of June. After that, they’ll disappear and be replaced with other popular titles. Another drawback is that the movies are often interrupted by advertisements and there’s no way around them. The ads aren’t as frequent as they are in movies that play on network television, but it’s still somewhat annoying. All that aside, we like how easy the site is to navigate and as long as you check it every couple of weeks, it’s a great place to find free movies.
Hulu is a joint venture between NBC Universal, Fox, and Disney that offers a wide variety of on-demand movies and TV shows. Most of its content comes from NBC, Fox, ABC, CBS, Nickelodeon, and various other studios, so it’s has a solid selection of new stuff. The site is well-designed and simple to navigate, and Hulu has also developed apps for just about every device imaginable, so it’s easy to access no matter where you are or what hardware you’re using. However, as with most companies that offer free content, Hulu relies on ads to generate revenue, so you can expect your shows to be interrupted periodically. Again, these ads aren’t as frequent as what you’ll find on network television, but they can be a nuisance nonetheless. Hulu also offers access to premium content on Hulu Plus if you’re willing to pay a monthly subscription fee. If you are a Hulu Plus subscriber but don’t know what to watch, check out our picks for the best movies currently streaming on Hulu Plus.
This one is really a no-brainer. Everyone knows that YouTube is the biggest video hosting service in town, but it’s still worth mentioning. You probably already use the site for silly cat videos and footage of people getting hit with exercise balls, but did you know its got a pretty sizable collection of feature-length movies as well? They way the site is set up makes it difficult to find them quickly, but YouTube has an entire section devoted to free movies. Granted, the overwhelming majority of these are B-movies, but there are definitely a few A-list flicks hiding in there as well. You just have to do a bit of digging. In addition to all these free movies curated by Google, there are thousands of movies on the site that won’t show up unless you search for them. If you’re looking for any particular flick (especially older movies), it’s worth a quick search on YouTube to see if someone’s posted it. These aren’t always uploaded by the film’s rights holders, and are sometimes divided into episodes and playlists, but they’re still watchable in any case.
Love documentaries? Us too. There’s something about real life that’s almost more fascinating than fiction. TopDocumentaryFilms is, hands down, the best site to go for documentaries. Not every single one is full-length, but a good documentary doesn’t have to be two hours long – some of the best ones you’ll find are somewhere around the 30-60 minute mark. TDF has a simple and straightforward layout and categorizes all of their films based on subject matter, so it’s really easy to find something you’re interested in right away. The site’s movie collection is sizable too – by our count they currently have 2,460 different films and add more every day, so chances are good you’ll hunt down plenty of good stuff to beam into your eyeballs.
Snagfilms is a video-on demand site that sports a selection of films you can’t find anywhere else on the Web. Founded in 2008, it’s amassed a collection of independent documentaries and narrative films over 3,000 strong. There are plenty of rare gems to watch here and since the founders have worked to establish dozens of partnerships, there are also plenty of different devices you can to use to watch free movies using SnagFilms. It features a mobile app for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, as well as apps for Roku, Boxee, Vudu, Xbox, and a variety of other set-top streaming boxes. The main website isn’t too shabby either, complete with a clean layout that’s a breeze to navigate, so finding good content never takes too long.