The best free movies on YouTube

Save a few bucks with the best free feature-length movies on YouTube

Google quietly starting rolling out the youtube.com/movies section in 2011. Since then, its library of titles for rent, purchase, or streaming has grown considerably, adding up to more movies than you could watch in a lifetime. If you don’t want to pay for a streaming service like Netflix or HBO, you can view some free movies on YouTube, but it’s tough to find stuff that isn’t illegally uploaded or in poor quality.

Many of the movies that are available are documentaries, campy horror flicks, and older titles from Hollywood’s “Golden Age,” and it’s not easy to make an educated choice when you’re faced with choosing something you’ve probably never heard of. So, to help save you some time in your search, we’ve sifted through the site to bring you this list of the best full-length — and, of course, free — movies on YouTube.

‘Fists of Fury’ (aka ‘The Big Boss’)

Bruce Lee’s first major film, Fists of Fury (titled The Big Boss outside the U.S.) was the movie that first earned him the attention of Hollywood and much of Asia, showcasing his formidable martial arts skills and seemingly boundless charisma. The feature casts Lee as Cheng Chao-an, a young man who travels from China to Thailand to work in an ice factory with his cousins. A vow he made to his mother never to fight again is soon tested, however, when a drug trafficking operation based in the factory puts his cousins in danger.

A surprise hit around the world, Fists of Fury became the highest-grossing film in Hong Kong’s history when it was released (only to be surpassed by Lee’s next film), as well as a bona fide box-office success in U.S. theaters. The initial cut of the film was brutal even by today’s standards, but it’s been cut significantly over time for domestic and international audiences. The version of the film on YouTube is one of the more tame cuts, but it’s still a phenomenal showcase of everything that made Lee a cinematic icon.

Watch now on:

YouTube

‘The General’

While Charlie Chaplin remains a household name more than 40 years after his death, Buster Keaton is an oft-overlooked film pioneer, and one of the first true silent film stars. The General met mixed reviews and poor box office returns upon release in 1926, but has since become regarded as Keaton’s greatest film and an all-time classic.

Adapted from Union soldier William Pittenger’s memoir, The Great Locomotive ChaseThe General follows a Confederate train engineer forced into action after the father of his love interest (Marion Mack) is wounded in battle. The film includes two train chase scenes that proved to be the most expensive stunts ever in a silent movie, and features some impressive historical detail, all things considered.

Watch now on:

YouTube

‘Kung Fury’

A rare example of a successful Kickstarter film, Kung Fury promised its backers a spectacular homage to ’80s action films, and it delivered. Director David Sandberg also plays the lead, Kung Fury, a detective who gained superhuman fighting abilities after being simultaneously struck by a bolt of lightning and bitten by a cobra. Kung Fury uses his supreme combat skills to clean up the filthy streets of Miami, but faces his greatest challenge when no less a villain than Adolf Hitler (Jorma Taccone) arrives, intent on conquering all of time through his own mastery of kung fu.

If it’s not apparent already, Kung Fury is a film that makes no attempts at seriousness. That’s not all, either; a full-length sequel is on its way, with Michael Fassbender, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and David Hasselhoff involved in varying capacities. Yeah.

Watch now on:

YouTube

‘Reefer Madness’

If you’ve never heard of Reefer Madness, you might be living under a rock. No matter your views on marijuana use, this absurd 1936 movie was made to “educate” young Americans on the dangers of drug abuse, but really it’s a propaganda film produced by a church group and distributed by notorious exploitation producer Dwain Esper.

In the film, pot abuse drives several young adults to violence, murder, and (of course) madness. At the end, Dr. Alfred Carroll (Josef Forte) breaks the fourth wall (uh, spoilers?) to warn viewers that their children might die after consuming marijuana. After a sort of reappearance in the 1970s, Reefer Madness took on a new life as a parody film for supporters of drug reform and cannabis legalization.

Watch now on:

YouTube

‘Night of the Living Dead’

A seminal entry for American horror cinema, George A. Romero’s classic follows seven people who find themselves trapped in Pennsylvania as the terrifying walking dead surround them. They have to try to survive without understanding the terror that lurks outside. The movie has been noted as the first zombie film, and its influences can be seen in everything from 28 Days Later to Shaun of the Dead. Romero’s debut — he wrote, directed, edited, and acted in the film — made him into a superstar, quickly revolutionizing the genre on a budget of a mere $114,000.

Watch now on:

YouTube

‘The Strange Love of Martha Ivers’

This film noir follows Martha Ivers, a defiant orphaned teenager who ends up accidentally-but-kind-of-on-purpose killing her authoritarian aunt, her guardian, and the town matriarch. Eighteen years later, Martha is married to Walter, the only witness to her crime, whom she does not love but agreed to marry after his ambitious father helped her avoid the consequences. The predicament places Martha — now the heiress of her aunt’s fortune and power —under the old man’s thumb.

Strange Love (unrelated, as it were, to Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove) is worth watching alone for Kirk Douglas, who delivers a brilliant on-screen debut performance as Martha’s weak alcoholic husband that’s far different from his later tough guy roles.

Watch now on:

YouTube

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