It isn’t the most popular source for streaming movies, but Google’s YouTube Movies & Shows does offer a good selection of films available to view via free, ad-based streaming. Its relatively small library also adds and removes titles frequently, so there’s plenty of variety as long as you don’t mind a few commercials.
To help you decide what’s worth watching, we’ve sifted through YouTube’s entire free library to assemble a list of the best full-length films available to watch 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.
Galaxy Quest (2009)
Director Dean Parisot’s Galaxy Quest is both a parody of Star Trek and a love letter to the iconic sci-fi franchise, featuring an impressive ensemble cast that takes its self-aware themes to the next level. Tim Allen plays actor Jason Nesmith, the former star of a fictional, Trek-like television series, who suddenly finds himself caught up in a very real intergalactic war when aliens mistake the TV show for historical record. The aliens beam aboard Allen’s character, as well as the show’s supporting cast — played by Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Sam Rockwell, Tony Shalhoub, and Daryl Mitchell — and their misunderstanding soon becomes a matter of life and death for both actors and aliens.
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.
The Terminator (1984)
James Cameron’s 1984 sci-fi action film The Terminator not only launched its director’s and co-writer’s careers, but it also turned Arnold Schwarzenegger into a bona fide leading man with his performance as the titular, near-unstoppable android assassin. The film follows a young woman, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), who finds herself pursued by a cyborg killer sent from the future to prevent her from giving birth to the man who will lead the human rebellion against the machines in the decades to come. Michael Biehn plays a supporting role as Kyle Reese, a human soldier sent from the future to protect Connor from the terrifying T-800 assassin.
André Øvredal wrote and directed this dark, found-footage mockumentary film that follows a group of Norwegian film students who set out to make a movie about a mysterious man they believe to be a bear poacher, only to discover that his actual job involves eliminating rogue trolls who venture too close to populated regions. Several prominent Norwegian comedians are featured prominently in the cast of the quirky film, which received positive reviews from critics both in Øvredal’s home country and here in the U.S., where it became a cult hit and led to a viral clip featuring actor Otto Jespersen screaming, “Troll!”
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople casts Sam Neill and Julian Dennison as an unlikely duo of foster father and foster child, respectively. A troublemaker from the city adopted by a rural family, Ricky (Dennison) struggles to settle in with his new family, leading to a series of events that sends him fleeing into the New Zealand wilderness. Ricky’s foster father, Hec (Neill), sets off to track the teenager down, only to end up in trouble himself. A national manhunt soon begins, bringing Ricky and Hec closer while showcasing both the fantastic chemistry of the film’s leads and Waititi’s wonderfully endearing, clever script.
Paul Verhoeven directed this wild 1987 action film that infamously received an X rating for its graphic violence before finally hitting theaters with a more audience-friendly (but still R-rated) final cut. The film casts Peter Weller as a Detroit cop who is tortured and nearly killed by a murderous gang, only to be resurrected as a cyborg law enforcement officer. Set in a dystopian (but not too unrealistic) world in which corporations rule the country, RoboCop is a visceral exploration of greed and capitalism run amuck as well as society’s obsession with violence and consumerism. Nancy Allen, Kurtwood Smith, Miguel Ferrer, Dan O’Herlihy, and Ronny Cox play supporting roles in the franchise-spawning film, which managed to be a critical and commercial success and earn a pair of Academy Award nominations for its sound and film editing.
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.
Mr. Church (2016)
Eddie Murphy plays the title role in this drama that casts him as a cook who becomes the caretaker for three generations of women, through good times and bad. One of Murphy’s most dramatic roles, the film is based on Susan McMartin’s short story The Cook Who Came to Live with Us, and is often cited as the actor’s greatest performance of his career to date. The supporting cast is filled out by Britt Robertson, Xavier Samuel, Lucy Fry, Christian Madsen, and Natascha McElhone, with director Bruce Beresford behind the camera.
Ghost in the Shell (1995)
This groundbreaking animated feature inspired The Wachowskis and James Cameron, among other noteworthy sci-fi filmmakers, with its tale of a cyborg operative in the year 2029 who’s tasked with hunting down a mysterious hacker known as The Puppet Master. Directed by Mamoru Oshii and based on Masamune Shirow’s iconic manga of the same name, Ghost in the Shell explores the nature of humanity and self-determination as the story’s protagonist, Motoko Kusanagi, finds herself increasingly drawn into the criminal’s world of complicated cyber-crime. The film went on to spawn multiple series and several sequels, as well as a forgettable 2017 live-action film.
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.
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.
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 as a business proposition soon evolves into something more.
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.
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.
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.