Everyone has those days where they fire up Netflix or Hulu, only to find they’ve already watched every good movie the service has to offer. Few of us have actually seen all the movies on Netflix (is that even possible?) but it’s reasonable to look for other options when you just can’t find anything interesting. If you’re resourceful, you’ll grab your laptop and open your browser, but where do you go from there? There are millions of sites out there that (supposedly) offer high-quality versions of the latest movies, yet most are just as trustworthy as they are legal — i.e. not at all.
That’s why we’ve put together a list of sites where you can watch movies online for free, without breaking any laws or jeopardizing your computer’s security. The following are some of the most trustworthy video-streaming services on the internet and, combined, they house more movies than you could watch in a lifetime. Things move quickly online, though, so get streaming!
The big players
Crackle is owned by Sony, so it features a robust lineup of movies and TV shows from Sony Pictures Entertainment. In the collection of full-length movies, you’ll find a good number of blockbuster hits along with a generous smattering of obscure B-movies. There’s a diverse library of freebies, but rather than keeping movies on the site indefinitely, Crackle cycles through them, posting titles online for a limited period. Crackle is a great resource, though the constant interruptions from advertisers can get old pretty quickly.
This one is really a no-brainer. Everyone knows YouTube is the biggest video-hosting service online, and you probably already use the site for silly cat videos and footage of people getting hit with exercise balls. But YouTube has a sizable collection of feature-length movies on its free tier as well. Granted, the majority of these are B-list novelties, but there are a few quality flicks hiding in there, and we’ve even dug up some of the best free movies on YouTube for you.
In addition to the free, Google-curated movies, there are thousands of films on the site that won’t show up unless you search directly for them. If you’re looking for a particular flick, especially an older one, it’s worth performing a quick search on YouTube to see if someone has posted it. These aren’t always uploaded by the film’s rights holders, and many of them are divided into episodes and playlists, but as they say, beggars can’t be choosers.
Finding free movies on YouTube is getting more difficult lately, as more rights holders are opting to offer their films for rent via the service, and YouTube also has subscription tiers like YouTube Red and its live TV streaming service, YouTube Live. Still, you’ll find plenty to watch, especially if your standards aren’t too high regarding the quality of the stream.
YouTube might be the biggest video-hosting site, but Vimeo is probably the best. Yeah, them’s fighting words, but Vimeo has the muscle to back them up. The site dons a clean layout that’s devoid of ads and benefits from an active user community that’s widely considered more professional and constructive than YouTube’s. From this community emerges a lot of great original short and feature-length films. Vimeo also has an On-Demand section where users can purchase full-length movies and television shows. The majority of these are independently produced by Vimeo users, but some offerings are produced by major studios as well. Either way, Vimeo is a great place to find free, high-quality movies.
Though it may not be nearly as well-known as the above services, Pluto TV is absolutely worthy of your attention. Not only are on-demand films available, but the service is also a totally free live TV streaming service, hosting content curated from across the web. While the channels vary wildly, we’re focused here on the movies. Pluto TV currently features nine live movie channels, perfect if you want to watch something but don’t know what. There are two general purpose movie channels, with the rest being focused on specific genres or categories: Action movies, Flicks of Fury, Horror 24/7, Classic Movies, Black Cinema, Gravitas Movies, and The Asylum.
Pluto TV’s on-demand movie library is relatively small and rotates frequently, but offers just as much variety as its live movie channels. In additions to films shown on its live channels, you’ll find a library that runs the gamut from Braveheart to The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. It’s also available on a ton of devices in addition to your computer, like the Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku devices, and more. For more on everything available on Pluto TV, see our guide to the service.
Independent and documentary films
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 around 10,000 independent documentaries and narrative films. 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 streaming devices which support free SnagFilms; the service is currently available as a free app for iOS and Android, but it’s also compatible with various Roku devices, Kindles, and a host of other streaming devices. The main website is also a breeze to navigate.
Kanopy is not only free to use, but entirely commercial-free as well. There is a catch of sorts though, if you could call it that: In order sign up to watch movies through Kanopy, you’ll need a library card. Originally founded in 2008 in Australia as an educational tool, Kanopy now offers a library of over 30,000 films through its partnerships with more than 200 libraries. There is a heavy focus on independent movies and documentaries, but you’ll find all sorts of films available, and even more are on the way thanks to a deal that will see the entire catalog of filmmaker Fred Wiseman coming to the service.
Love documentaries? So do we. After all, there’s something about real life that’s almost more fascinating than fiction. The apt-titled TopDocumentaryFilms is, hands down, the best site to go to for documentaries. Not every selection is full-length, but a good documentary doesn’t have to be long — some of the best are under the 60-minute mark. Boasting a library of over 3,000 films, the site also has a simple and straightforward layout and categorizes all of its films based on subject matter, making it really easy to find something you’re interested in right away.
Sources for classic films
Chances are, you’re reading this article because you’re looking for a place to watch newly released movies online. While there’s nothing wrong with that, you definitely shouldn’t ignore all of the fantastic older films the internet has to offer. Archive.org offers a veritable treasure trove of old movies you’ve probably never heard of, as well as a handful that you’ll recognize.
The Archive — which is also the home of the famous Wayback Machine that shows you how the internet used to be — has silent films, black-and-white horror flicks, obscure sci-fi movies, and an assortment of other movies. It might not have all the fancy CGI we’ve all grown so accustomed to, but the occasional throwback is a great way to mix things up.
Open Culture is designed to be your one-stop shop for all things free and cultured. The site offers hundreds of free online classes to enroll in, thousands of free ebooks to read, and hours upon hours of lectures from prominent figures such as Carl Sagan and Leonard Bernstein. It also offers a ton of free movies. Here, you’ll find everything from silent and Hitchcock-helmed projects to Westerns and film noir. The site even houses some early shorts by legends like Quentin Tarantino and Stanley Kubrick. Open Culture may be difficult to navigate, but with more than 1,000 free movies available, it’s definitely worth the slog.
If Big Five Glories’ name seems kind of corny, that’s because the folks behind the project spent their time compiling hundreds of free movies from the ’20s to the ’50s — aka the “Golden Age” of Hollywood — instead of coming up with a hip and edgy name. (If you’re curious, it’s a reference to the former big five movie houses: 20th Century Fox, RKO Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.) If your idea of a fun weekend is kicking back and watching Turner Classic Movies, you’ll dig Big Five Glories.
Retrovision is another public domain site that features hundreds of classic movies from several different eras. The word “classic” might be up for interpretation — there are some films here that were made as recently as last year, and not all of Retrovision’s movies are high-quality — but there’s still plenty of good stuff here. Retrovision is also a well-designed site that allows users to filter based on genre. It’s not limited to feature-length movies, either, as there’s a robust collection of classic TV shows to choose from.
Shocker Internet Drive-In is a bit niche, and its website looks like it was made in the ’90s, but it’s a great resource. The site is updated weekly with “featured” horror classics, which are then made available for free download as .WMV files at the website’s “Snack Bar.” The site is a fun little blast from the past, with weekly showings framed in a digital drive-in. Users can also purchase DVD copies of any film on the website for a mere $3.
The downside to so many different services being available is that if you have a film in mind but don’t know where to watch it, you have a lot of different catalogs to wade through in the hopes of finding it. Fortunately, as long as you have a smartphone, you probably have access to a tool that can help you. Apple’s TV app, which is available on iOS as well as the fourth-generation Apple TV and Apple TV 4K, lets you search across more than 50 different streaming services. For Android users, the Google Play Movies & TV app offers similar functionality, though currently the number of connected services is smaller. In either case, you can’t guarantee that you’ll find a way to watch what you’re seeking for free, but they can be a good place to start.
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