It’s easy to find movies to download or stream illegally, but there’s no need to any more. If you can’t find anything good on Netflix or Hulu, there are thousands of great free or public domain films to enjoy. Here are some great sites to bookmark and visit when you want something new to watch.
Many films are available on multiple free services at once, so if your movie has too many commercial interruptions or a low resolution, search for it on another service.
Kanopy and Hoopla
The streaming services Kanopy and Hoopla both have a large selection of high-quality movies—Kanopy carries the Criterion Collection—but they’re only available if your local library system has a subscription. (The New York and Brooklyn library systems recently dropped Kanopy due to high license prices.) Check on either site to see if your local system carries them.
While many titles are restricted to paying members, some of PBS’s online selection (taken from its TV programming) is available free online, including a series of film school shorts. You might remember sitting down to ad-free shows on your local PBS station, but you’ll have to watch some short commercials before the free TV episodes and short films here.
Free streaming site Tubi offers movies (and some TV shows) from several major studios with minimal (sometimes zero) advertising. The catch is that—judging by a spot-check—desktop streaming is limited to SD resolutions.
The wide range of titles includes What Dreams May Come, Harold and Maude, Trailer Park Boys: The Movie, Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, Heathers, Up in Smoke, Chef, Bad Santa, and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. There are several genre lists to help you browse the large catalog, and there’s even a dedicated section called “Not on Netflix.” Tubi is available for desktop and most major streaming devices.
MoviesFoundOnline collects free films, independent films, stand-up comedy, TV shows, and other media freely available around the web. From full films to indie TV series to classic film, you can browse the site’s categories across the top—like short films, documentaries, viral videos, or comedy to name a few—to find something you’re interested in specifically. Once you get past some nasty pop-up ads, highlights are as varied as Gone With the Wind, 6 Days to Air: The Making of South Park, Starship Troopers, Shadow of Mordor, and Face/Off.
It’s worth pointing out that since MoviesFoundOnline doesn’t upload or host the media themselves, some of it may wind up vanishing if there’s a copyright claim, but they do host a lot of great, freely available, and difficult to find movies and TV recordings that would otherwise fall by the wayside of time.
Paid streaming service Vudu has a free section, with an assortment of recognizable movies floating among less familiar titles. You’ll need to sign up for a free account (no credit card needed) and sit through some ads, and some movies are only available in SD. But in return you can see over 4,500 movies for free on your computer, phone, or streaming device.
Current popular titles (mostly concentrated on the 80s and 90s, where the rights have gotten cheaper) include Shakespeare in Love, Batman, This Is Spinal Tap, Multiplicity, Clerks, The Boondock Saints, Little Giants, Paddington, and District 9.
Many free streaming services are packed with movies you’ve never heard of, so you need to sift through them or find the “Most Popular” section to get to the good stuff. But IMDb TV, a free portal for watching TV and movies, focuses on recognizable titles. You’ll have to make a free IMDb account and watch occasional ads, though these include inoffensive remnant ads for other Amazon products.
IMDb TV is available on desktop, Amazon Fire TV devices, and streaming devices with the Prime Video app. Current titles include Memento, Donnie Darko, Funny Girl, The Cable Guy, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Moon, La La Land, A Knight’s Tale, My Girl, Jerry Maguire, and The NeverEnding Story.
Public Domain Torrents
If you’d rather download than stream, Public Domain Torrents is the place to go. As you’d expect, a number of the available films are pretty old, but many are cinematic classics, and they’re all completely free to download.
Best of all, many of the films here are available in versions optimized or encoded for specific mobile devices. Or you can grab the highest quality download and do the encoding yourself.
TopDocumentaryFilms has tons of documentaries broken up by category, from war and global conflict and crime to health and environment, and so on. It’s a little easier to navigate, and the site has a community of users who provide ratings for each film and can comment on them so you have an idea of what you’re in for before you watch. If you’d like a starting point, check out their top 100 documentary list to see what people are watching, or check the front page for their featured films.
They’re more of an aggregator than a host, and their content is pulled from YouTube, Vimeo, and other sources, but that makes them a convenient one-stop shop for what you want to see.