Where To Watch Free Movies Without Breaking The Bank Or The Law
Whoops — you spent your last $25 on some 4-D Experience, and now face a choice of canceling your streaming services or eating ramen all month. Please, don't do that to your poor stomach; instead, check out this list of unlikely places you can find free movies, legally. This way, you can get your film kicks without spending any money or feeling guilty about breaking the law.
While there's plenty to enjoy in the comfort of your own place, there's a couple suggestions for seeing movies out of the house as well. If you're worried "free" means "movies I don't want to see," fear not, as there's something for everyone here: tried-and-true classics to rewatch and enjoy, indies and oddities, and deep cuts from Hollywood's sauciest eras. A number of filmmakers are cutting out middlemen entirely and posting their movies directly to viewers via streaming sites, and some Hollywood studios have gotten hip to the allure of "free" as a way to draw you in to their pay-for-play catalogue.
So dive on in and check out the smaller pockets and odd corners of absolutely free film entertainment. For all you know, you just might end up second-guessing if you should renew that streaming service after all.
Videos on a video site — bet you weren't expecting that. In all seriousness, though, Vimeo has become a launch pad/landing spot for many smaller distributors. If you don't want to dig around yourself, the Vimeo Staff Picks page is a good place to start, as you can sort by duration and find a feature fresh off the festival circuit or a short anthology to whet your appetite. Get the feel of being at the cutting edge of cinema without having to wait on lines or deal with crowds.
The Public Broadcast Station lives up to its names with a searchable database of incredible shows and documentaries. For foodies there are TV shows galore, including The Mind Of A Chef and The Great British Bake-Off. Music lovers can take in entire operas, or check out Austin City Limits' entire run. If you're more of a true-crime geek, there's Secrets Of The Dead and numerous NOVA episodes about famous murders. Not to mention PBS has an entire channel dedicated to indie films and docs alone.
3. British Pathé Archives
Pathé, one of the largest newsreel companies, has put over 85,000 videos from its archive on YouTube. If you want to use the footage in your own movie, it'll cost you, but if you just want to enjoy hours of history, fashion, and the craziest teen fads of the past, it's absolutely free. You can dig around by topic, or just browse at your leisure.
4. Public Domain
Thanks to expansive and stricter copyright laws, this source grows proportionally smaller each year as movies that should become public remain in private hands. Still, there's a lot to browse, especially if you're into Pre-Code films (and considering "pre-code" is shorthand for "before censorship'" i.e. "sexy results," you should be). All U.S. films before 1923 are in the public domain (here's an extensive list), and a number of post-1923 films are public domain due to not renewing copyright, or forgetting to register it in the first place. Night Of The Living Dead was famously registered under a different name, and has been in the public domain since. Public Domain Torrents offers totally legal downloads, if you'd rather watch them offline.
5. ShoutFactory TV
If you're looking for something a little weirder, look no further than Shout Factory's TV channel. Featuring cult favorite TV shows like Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Home Movies, midnight mainstays like Naked Angels and Class Of 1984, and.... Werner Herzog's Even Dwarves Started Small?!
6. Your Alma Mater/Local College
If you're near a campus, most colleges offer free movie screenings open to the public. Some are hosted by student groups, others are sponsored by specific departments, and some actually have filmmakers in person. Check student and department Facebook pages, college event calendars, or if there's an on-campus theater, check their schedule.
Some colleges even offer post-graduation access to their libraries, a potential source for DVDs. Or, if you don't feel like leaving the couch, many have inter-system streaming services available to students and alumni, accessible with your student ID.
7. The Korean Film Archive
Thanks to a slew of outré festival entries and big-studio remakes, Korea's amazing film industry is becoming better-known stateside. The Korean Film Archive has released hundreds of Korean classic films for free via YouTube, including the original Oldboy. If you're overwhelmed by the selection, YouTube has a few recommendations detailing the hits and better-known directors of Korea.
8. Your Local Library
Seems obvious, but just in case you didn't know: most local libraries have a physical collection of films you can stop in and pick up, and some have a larger selection you can reserve ahead of time. Many branches are joining up with Kanopy, a free streaming service that connects patrons to a large collection of films, including the Criterion collection. You can check whether your library has Kanopy available here. Others use Hoopla, a similar service, and you can check if your library uses Hoopla here. For those cognoscenti who turn their noses up at latest releases, many libraries are part of larger systems; do some digging around in their catalogue and you could find rare gems on VHS, Laserdisc and even film that can be sent to your local branch.
9. Open Culture
Dedicated to exactly what it says, Open Culture brings you the ultimate free movie list online. It includes an archive or two listed above, but this list has every free movie currently available, kept up-to-date by dedicated folks. There's early Kubrick, an enormous chunk of Russian cinema history, the first African-American feature film.... and that's just the start.
If you're willing to forego the latest blockbusters in favor of something untried and true, there's an entire world of amazing movies just waiting for you to watch them. Best of all, you won't have to spend a dime to do so.