The advent of services like Netflix and HBO here in Spain has meant that we the people are no longer so reluctant to reach into our pockets to consume video media online – which was basically unthinkable until relatively recently. Still, digital media piracy remains rampant. That’s why the fact that there are places where you can watch movies for free – and legally – is sure to be a lifesaver for lots of people. Today we’ve got a list for you with a bunch of sites where you can enjoy video media without worrying about a thing.
If any free (and legal) content stands out above all the rest, it’s classic cinema. This varied era dates from the primitive clips invented by the Lumière brothers and extends to the middle of the 20th century. The prevalence of classic content might be due to the fact that its copyrights have expired or been released by the rights holders. Before you get scared off by the idea of watching something in black and white, do keep in mind that it was during this period that the language of multimedia and almost all the cinematic tricks we see today were invented. An era of genuine masterpieces that can be enjoyed legally without paying a cent.
Big Five Glories
An elegant site whose name refers to the five big movie producers of Hollywood’s golden age: 20th Century Fox, RKO Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. This site compiles and categorizes classic American films from the birth of cinema till the 70s, with a heavy interest in black-and-white film. Because it depends on YouTube much of the content is regionally restricted, and you might not always find subtitles if you need them. [Website]
Classic Cinema Online
Another site that brings together classic films from YouTube, but this one puts greater emphasis on color movies. Although the site’s design is a bit meh, its films are nicely categorized by genre and period (with a whole section for silent films). Plus it has a special section for those serials from the 30s and 40s that have several reels on a specific subject, sort of like a proto-TV show that used to run in cinemas. [Website]
Looking rather more like a blog than a webpage, this site hides a treasure trove of constantly updated content and a huge catalogue of movies from the 20s, though its strength lies in films from the 50s and 60s. Its content includes primarily American films though you can also find gems from other places. That said, the lack of subtitles might pose problems for people who don’t speak English. [Website]
The site that compiles all of Internet history has a cinematic nook, too. Here you’ll find classic films of all sorts to either stream or download. Lots of them have subtitles so it’s a great choice for non-English speakers. The available content is vast and if you dig around a bit you’ll find a good amount of AV material in the public domain. [Website]
Movies and documentaries
Below we’ve picked out a good smattering of websites and apps that let you watch movies and documentaries from all periods, although they tend to give a bit more emphasis to more modern productions. Indie filmmaking has a strong showing among our picks, as does the documentary genre that has suddenly gotten so trendy. Maybe don’t expect to find the latest blockbusters, but I’m convinced you’ll be surprised at the quality of lots of the movies that can be watched legally and for free.
A place to, well, snag tons of free movies and documentaries. It’s been around since 2008 and has a huge list of media to enjoy: about 10,000 indie movies and documentaries. While some of its content is blocked in certain regions, you’re still sure to find movies in its catalogue that you’d never come upon otherwise. It has an app that works great and lets you select what quality to play the content in and display subtitles when they’re available. You can also natively send content to connected devices like Chromecast. [Download] [Website]
A good chunk of TubiTV’s catalogue is made up of low-budget films. The B list and Z list have a good place here to roam free. But as you submerge yourself in the underworld of low-budget cinema on TubiTV, you’ll realize that there’s more gold there than one might expect. Classic gems like Little Shop of Horrors, giallo legends like Suspiria, a selection of Korean movies… Even the directorial debut from Peter Jackson! The app works well and there’s an option to display subtitles whenever the film has them. [Download] [Website]
Crackle’s catalogue is about the best you can find in terms of free and legal movie streaming. It has tons of big-name movies since it belongs to Sony, and it also lets you (on both the website and the app) change the audio track or language of the subtitles. Its biggest problem is that the available content varies enormously by geographical region. It does also have a lot of ads and sometimes it’s a bit annoying. Still, though, it’s a great media streaming service with a large audience. [Download] [Website]
Anime and the documentary genre have a respectable showing on Viewster. Whether it’s full features or shorter works, there’s a huge diversity of content. In terms of movies there’s tons of 21st century titles although often the production values are sometimes a bit low. Horror movies are very popular here, so fans of that genre should definitely break out the popcorn. The app is very functional and can also display subtitles when they’re available. [Download] [Website]
No question about what you’re getting with this one. Here you’ll find everything from a broad selection of classics to indie titles that most of the mainstream is sure to have never heard of. This site gathers content from sites like Youtube, Vimeo, and DailyMotion and categorizes it in different sections so it’s super easy to find. And besides movies it has a good batch of documentaries, shorts, and animated productions. [Website]
This site does an enormous labor of love for the documentary genre. It organizes the documentaries on YouTube and Vimeo into categories and lets you view all this free content easily. There’s something for everyone, so make sure you check out its Top 100, with the films rated highest by its user community. [Website]
Youtube and Vimeo
We left the two most important video platforms for last. They obviously have all kinds of different videos, especially of funny animals doing funny things, but there’s also tons of movies to watch. And not just classics and indie productions, but movies and documentaries of all kinds. Do a bit of knocking around on YouTube and Vimeo and you’ll find whatever you’re looking for. But in case you’ve already popped the popcorn we have a small selection ready here for you.
Official South Korea film archive
South Korean cinema is on the rise thanks to the recent thrillers that have shaken the world and put the industry on the map. But Korea has always been a prolific moviemaker, a fact that is immediately obvious from the collection of free movies it has on YouTube. All are subtitled at least in English and new films are added to the channel every few months. [Website]
Vimeo on Demand
The bastion of indie filmmaking. Feature and short film directors release their works in the creators’ section on Vimeo. Lots of the films can be watched for free – though do note that many others will cost you money. [Website]
The Paramount Vault
A carefully curated selection of Paramount movies from all eras. Dark City, Hamlet, Ironweed, etc. Full movies are right within reach … so long as you live in the US of A. [Website]