Google launched its YouTube Movies & Shows library in 2011, and the list of titles for rent, purchase, or free ad-based streaming has increased dramatically since that time. If you don’t want to pay for a streaming service like Netflix or HBO, you can view some movies free on YouTube, offering a nice alternative to subscription-based streaming platforms. You’ll just need to deal with a few commercials when viewing them.
In order to help you decide what’s worth your time, we’ve sifted through the library to bring you this list of the best full-length — and, yes, free — movies on YouTube right now. If you want to broaden your search, we also have lists of the best movies on Netflix, the best movies streaming on Amazon, and plenty of guides for Hulu, Disney+, and HBO Max.
One of the greatest comedic filmmakers of all time, Mel Brooks tackled the sci-fi genre with this 1987 movie that parodies Star Wars and other popular franchises in the genre. The film follows a princess who finds herself on the run from a variety of colorful cosmic villains and has her teaming up with a group of reluctant heroes to save her planet. Bill Pullman, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Daphne Zuniga, and Dick Van Patten all play featured roles in the film along with Joan Rivers, who voices an android nanny caught up in the adventure.
As the movie that turned filmmaker James Cameron and stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton into rising stars in Hollywood, The Terminator cast Schwarzenegger as a near-unstoppable killing machine sent from the future to assassinate the woman whose child will eventually lead a rebellion against the sentient machines destined to conquer the planet. Both Hamilton and Schwarzenegger deliver praiseworthy performances in the nonstop thriller and are joined in the cast by Michael Biehn, who portrays a soldier who follows the T-800 android assassin back in time, desperately trying to save the future.
Absolutely Anything (2017)
With a Monty Python-studded cast, Absolutely Anything is an appropriately silly film. When a group of aliens decides to test the fate of Earth by bestowing extraordinary powers on an ordinary schoolteacher (Simon Pegg), only the man’s talking dog seems to understand the value and importance of the powers. The teacher really just wants to flex a lot and lift things up. Robin Williams voices the canine companion in his final role while Kate Beckinsale also co-stars.
The Ghost Writer (2010)
From acclaimed director Roman Polanski (The Pianist, Rosemary’s Baby), The Ghost Writer follows a gifted ghostwriter (Ewan McGregor) who is hired to write the memoirs of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). However, the writer soon finds himself caught in a web of political and sexual intrigue as Lang is implicated in a scandal over his administration’s harsh tactics. As the ghostwriter digs deeper into the politician’s past, he discovers secrets that threaten to jeopardize Britain’s international relations forever.
Europa Report (2013)
This fictional found footage film directed by Sebastián Cordero follows the crew of the first manned mission to Europa as they attempt to investigate evidence of life on the far-off moon of Jupiter. Although the movie flew under the radar when it was released, it received critical praise for its realism and scientific accuracy as the team struggles to overcome one crisis after another during their journey. The film’s international ensemble cast includes Christian Camargo, Anamaria Marinca, Michael Nyqvist, Daniel Wu, Karolina Wydra, and Sharlto Copley.
Out of Time (2003)
Denzel Washington stars in this fast-paced murder mystery set in the Florida Keys. Matt Lee Whitlock (Washington) is the respected chief of police in tiny Banyan Key. But when a vicious double homicide happens practically under his nose, he must find the murderer before he falls under suspicion himself. He’ll have to stay a few steps ahead of his own police force and everyone he trusts in order to find the truth.
The Hunter (2011)
Willem Dafoe stars as Martin, a skilled and ruthless mercenary sent into the Tasmanian wilderness to hunt a tiger that was previously believed to be extinct. The shadow corporation that sends him wants the tiger’s genetic material, thinking that it holds the key to a dangerous weapon. When Martin arrives in Tasmania, he poses as a scientist and makes a base with a family whose father has gone mysteriously missing. Usually a loner, Martin unexpectedly grows close to the family, complicating his deadly mission as his employers will stop at nothing to ensure Martin completes the job.
The Escort (2016)
Mitch (Michael Doneger) is a sex-addicted journalist desperate for a good story. When he meets Natalie (Lyndsy Fonseca), a high-class, Stanford-educated escort, he convinces her to let him write an exposé on the industry for a magazine. Without his knowledge, Natalie begins to use Mitch as a bodyguard, leveraging his interest in her into protection. What starts out as a business proposition soon evolves into something more.
Super Size Me (2004)
If it was released five years later, Super Size Me might have been a viral phenomenon that inspired a dietary revolution. Instead, it was simply a food documentary that everybody was talking about for a solid year. While Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me hasn’t had quite the impact that the initial societal response might have suggested, it was instrumental in eliminating the “super size” option from McDonald’s menu and forcing fast-food restaurants to be more transparent with their food’s nutritional information.
For an entire month, Spurlock ate only McDonald’s, attempting to see what kind of effect that diet would have on his system. Over the process, his weight balloons, his energy level plummets, and he experiences a wide variety of deleterious side effects. Meanwhile, he examines McDonald’s role in the lives of American consumers and its methods of indoctrination that aimed to make people (especially young ones) entirely dependent on Big Macs and fries. While the fast-food industry has undoubtedly improved since 2004, the message of corporate propaganda and the filthiness of mass-produced food still rings through today.
With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story (2010)
With the recent passing of comics icon Stan Lee, there is ample reason to get reacquainted with the man who co-created Spider-Man, Iron Man, The Avengers, Hulk, the X-Men, and so many other world-famous superheroes and their supporting cast of colorful characters. This 2010 documentary chronicled the life and career of the man who helped make Marvel Comics a household name and changed the face of the comics world for generations. While the film offers an origin story of sorts for Stan “The Man” Lee, it also provides a touching look at his life away from all of the superheroes and larger-than-life adventures, as both doting husband and father.
Uptown Girls (2003)
One of the late Brittany Murphy’s most charming movies, Uptown Girls is a beloved fish-out-of-water tale about a nanny who has very little idea of what she is doing. Molly Gunn (Murphy) is rich, conceited, and happily complacent in her life, living off her inheritance from her deceased rock legend father. But when her manager steals her money, her life is turned upside down, and she’s forced to get a job as a nanny for the precocious, neglected child (Dakota Fanning) of a music executive. While Molly learns what it means to be an adult, she has to simultaneously teach her young charge what it means to be a kid.
The General (1926)
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 Chase, The 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.
Kung Fury (2015)
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.
Reefer Madness (1936)
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 it’s actually 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.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
A seminal entry for American horror cinema, George A. Romero’s classic horror movie 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.
Free to Play: The Movie (2014)
More than a year after the Overwatch League was founded, e-sports are still carving out a niche and establishing itself as a legitimate form of entertainment. Those who don’t game on a competitive level might not understand the level of dedication required for such endeavors, not to mention the physical and mental tolls placed on young players who train for hours on end each day.
Free to Play, a documentary from game developer/distributor Valve Entertainment, focuses on two athletes and one coach who are competing in the 2011 International Defense of the Ancients (DotA) tournament. It explores the stresses the players are forced to deal with and deftly compares the struggles of e-sports athletes to those of traditional athletes.
This silent adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula is often regarded as one of the most influential films in the history of cinema. After failing to acquire the proper rights to Dracula, German film studio Prana Film rebranded the legendary vampire as Count Orlok, and resorted to calling vampires “Nosferatu.” While it won’t scare the pants off you, director F.W. Murnau perfectly tells the story, harnessing the haunting atmosphere associated with German Impressionist cinema to great effect (in Nosferatu, you can see the influences of such seminal works as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari). Production designer Albin Grau birthed the film’s concept after speaking with a Serbian farmer who believed his father was one of the undead.
Free Birds (2013)
Chicken Run this is not, but with a talented, recognizable voice cast headlined by Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, and Amy Poehler, Free Birds is nonetheless a fun, animated tale for the whole family. After discovering what happens at Thanksgiving, two turkeys from opposite sides of the tracks must put aside their differences to travel back in time to change the first Thanksgiving. It’s almost like Bill & Ted, but the animated turkey version.
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