The 10 best services for free movies

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Is Netflix putting a strain on your budget? Following a price hike earlier this year, the streaming service now starts at $9 a month, with its most popular plan now at $13 and its ultra-HD tier priced at $16.

Fear not: As long as you have an internet connection, you can continue to enjoy movie night. Granted, you may not be able to stream Hollywood’s latest (OK, you definitely cannot), but you can still watch gems such as Captain Fantastic, Eighth Grade, Gravity, Raging Bull and more, all without spending an extra penny.

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.






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Crackle

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 December 2019: Adaptation, Aliens, Captain Phillips, Groundhog Day, Whiplash

IMDb

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 pretty major viewing limitation: The service works only on PCs and Fire TV devices. 

Top picks as of December 2019: The Founder, Gravity, Hacksaw Ridge, La La Land

Hoopla

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 December 2019: Ex Machina, The Illusionist, Life is Beautiful, The Sting, Good Will Hunting, The Commitments, Thelma & Louise

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.)

Kanopy

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 December 2019: Captain Fantastic, Eighth Grade, Logan Lucky, Super Size Me 2, What We Do in the Shadows

Plex

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 December 2019: Apocalypse Now, Evil Dead II, Raging Bull, The Right Stuff, Tucker: The Man and His Dream

Pluto

A fast-growing live-TV streaming service (with content from both CBS and, ahem, CNET), Pluto also offers 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 December 2019: Dances with Wolves, GoldenEye, Memento, The Terminator, Rain Man, Thelma & Louise

Roku

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 December 2019: Groundhog Day, March of the Penguins, Spotlight, The Iron Giant

Tubi

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 December 2019: The Aviator, Kill Bill Vols. 1 and 2, Rat Race, Red Dawn

Vudu

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 December 2019: Jerry Maguire, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s nest, No Country for Old Men, The Rock

Originally published two years ago. Updated periodically to reflect new services and movie selections.

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