Are you sheltered, quarantined, hunkered down? That’s one effect of this; another is a possible reduction of income, what with so many businesses closing and so many workers laid off or put on part-time pay. Alas, streaming services like Netflix may be among the non-essentials you need to cut loose. Fortunately, as long as you still have an internet connection, you can keep yourself entertained.
Here are 10 services offering totally free, totally legal movies you can watch on smart TVs, media streamers and mobile devices. Some offer TV shows as well. Just be prepared to sit through commercials, because that’s how most of these services pay the bills. And don’t expect the option to download movies for offline viewing. At present, only Hoopla allows you to do that.
Take note: Because selections change regularly, not all the titles listed here may still be available.
Sony’s Crackle is an ad-supported streaming service, one that offers both movies and TV shows — including some original content. It’s available on a wide variety of devices and doesn’t even require you to set up an account, though doing so enables you to save favorites, get recommendations and resume playback if you switch between devices.
Top picks as of March 2020: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Adaptation, The Big Chill, Dr. Strangelove, Glory, It Happened One Night, La Bamba, Little Women, The Natural, The Social Network, Star Trek: First Contact
This relative newcomer, formerly known as FreeDrive, is part of IMDb, the Internet Movie Database, which is owned by Amazon. In other words, IMDb TV is Amazon’s way of offering ad-supported movie streaming independent of Amazon Prime. And it’s not limited to movies; there are TV shows available as well. Unfortunately, there’s a viewing limitation: The service can be accessed only on PCs and within Prime Video and IMDb apps.
Top picks as of March 2020: Bull Durham, Get Shorty, Memento (and shout-outs for TV series Friday Night Lights and The Middle)
Got a library card? Check to see if your library has partnered with Hoopla. This digital-media service allows you to check out all kinds of stuff — including movies. When you “borrow” one, you have 72 hours in which to watch it. Your library determines the total number of movies you can borrow each month.
Surprisingly, Hoopla’s mobile apps offer not only streaming, but also a download option for offline viewing.
Top picks as of March 2020: Ex Machina, The Illusionist, Life is Beautiful, The Sting, Good Will Hunting, The Commitments, Thelma & Louise, What We Do in the Shadows
Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET
The Internet Archive is home to all things public domain, including thousands of feature-length movies. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s no cost to use the service, nor do you need an account (though you can create one if you want to mark favorites and such).
“Public domain” is code for “old” or “mostly black-and-white,” making this the place for folks interested strictly in classic films. Thus you’ll find the likes of His Girl Friday, Plan 9 from Outer Space and Gulliver’s Travels. The archive exists only on the web, though, so you’ll need a browser to access it. (Most mobile browsers should work.)
If your library doesn’t offer Hoopla, maybe it has Kanopy? This commercial-free (yay!) service, which began life in Australia, has made its way to thousands of college campuses worldwide and, more recently, various US libraries. Check the website to see if your library has it — and ask for it if it doesn’t.
Kanopy offers some mainstream stuff, but also a large selection of indie films and documentaries from the likes of PBS and The Great Courses. Its library also includes titles from the esteemed Criterion Collection, which is code for “films.” There’s also a new Kanopy Kids section with loads of family-friendly content.
Top picks as of March 2020: Captain Fantastic, Eighth Grade, Logan Lucky, Super Size Me 2, The Gold Rush
Plex is best known for its media-slinging server software, but the company is now making a foray into free movie streaming. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s a fair bit of overlap with other services. But the Plex app offers an admirably simple portal to news, podcasts, web shows and other content as well.
Top picks as of March 2019: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Rain Man, The Limey, WarGames
Pluto began life as a live-streaming service that offered multiple “channels” of content — including a large selection of CNET video. It has since been purchased by Viacom, which then went on to merge with CNET’s parent company, CBS. But regardless of the fact that Pluto is now a sister property, it’s also a great place to find on-demand movies — including, as of this writing, most of the earlier James Bond titles. You’ll find everything from Dr. No to Tomorrow Never Dies. (Alas, nothing from the Daniel Craig era — though you can find him in Layer Cake.)
Top picks as of March 2020: Basic Instinct, Legally Blonde, The Big Short, The Founder
The Roku Channel isn’t a free-movie provider, but rather an aggregator of new and existing no-cost content. Thus, don’t be surprised if there’s some overlap with some of the movies available on other services. You’ll find movies from Roku partners such as Lionsgate, MGM, Sony and Warner, along with free content from existing Roku channels such as FilmRise, Popcornflix and Vidmark.
Needless to say, the channel is available on Roku TVs and devices, but it’s accessible in desktop web browsers as well.
Top picks as of March 2020: Contact, Stand By Me, The Karate Kid (original), Thelma and Louise, with a shout-out for the first five seasons of Schitt’s Creek.
Home to thousands of free commercial movies (though definitely not commercial-free), Tubi TV offers content from studios including Lionsgate, MGM and Paramount. To help separate the wheat from the chaff, check out these two categories: Highly Rated on Rotten Tomatoes and Not on Netflix.
Top picks as of March 2020: Black Hawk Down, Minority Report, Shaun the Sheep Movie, Train to Busan
Walmart’s Vudu video service has been consistently expanding its ad-supported section, which allows viewers to choose from a generous selection of movies (mostly older titles, alas) to watch at no charge. This option does require you to have a Vudu account, but it’s free to set one up.
Top picks as of March 2020: Carol, Dead Poets Society, Lethal Weapon 2, Misery, Superbad
This article was published previously.