Appy Geek

6 ways to watch movies online for free

CNET
CNET
FRIDAY, MARCH 3, 2017 8:50 PM GMT

No money in the budget for a Netflix subscription? Or Amazon Prime? Fear not: As long as you have an internet connection, you can still enjoy movie night. Granted, you may not be able to stream Hollywood's latest, but you can still enjoy gems such as "Apollo 13," "The Imitation Game" and plenty of classics, all without spending an extra penny.

Here are five services offering totally free (and totally legal) movies you can watch online.

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.

Crackle offers mostly older movies, but there are some top-rated, award-winning titles in the mix.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

What you can watch: Crackle's selection has improved dramatically in recent months, with well over 100 movies available at any given time (the selection changes periodically). At this writing, you'll find gems like "About a Boy," "Apollo 13," "The Big Chill," "Stand by Me" and "Wild Things" mixed in with some decidedly C-grade fare. They're all older films, to be sure, but there's still plenty of quality stuff to watch. Just plan on sitting through the occasional commercial interruption.

Where you can watch: Crackle's list of supported devices is extensive. The service offers apps for all mobile platforms, game consoles and major streaming devices, and it's even baked into many smart TVs. It does not offer the option to download movies for offline viewing.

Hoopla Digital

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" a movie, you have 72 hours in which to watch it. Your library determines the total number of movies you can borrow each month.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

What you can watch: It's hard to get a bead on how many movies Hoopla has available at any given time, but you can browse a huge range of genres -- everything from African films of the 1970s and 1980s to world cinema. Some noteworthy picks available at press time include "Annie," "The King's Speech," "Silver Linings Playbook" and "The Imitation Game." The service also has a generous selection of family-friendly content.

Where you can watch: Hoopla content can be viewed on your PC in a browser, or on Android or iOS devices. Surprisingly, Hoopla's mobile apps offer not only streaming, but also a download option for offline viewing.

Internet Archive

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).

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

What you can watch: "Public domain" is code for "old" and/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."

Where you can watch: The Internet Archive exists solely on the web, so you'll need a browser to access it. However, most mobile browsers (including Safari on iOS) can stream the content.

Tubi TV

Home to the web's largest library of free commercial movies (though definitely not commercial-free), Tubi TV offers content from studios including Lionsgate, MGM and Paramount. Similar to Crackle, it's available on a wide variety of devices and doesn't require an account, though doing so enables you to save favorites and resume playback if you switch between devices.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

What you can watch: Tubi TV has a lot of movies -- in the neighborhood of 46,000 according to a company rep -- but chances are good you've never heard of most of them. To help separate the wheat from the chaff, check out the Highly Rated on Rotten Tomatoes and Not on Netflix categories. And there are at least some notable titles, including "Mud" (starring Matthew McConaughey), the criminally underrated Woody Allen film "Love and Death," new horror classic "Paranormal Activity" and the venerable "The Usual Suspects."

Where you can watch: Tubi TV's list of supported devices rivals that of Crackle. The service offers apps for Android and iOS, the major game consoles and major streaming devices, and some Samsung TVs. It does not offer the option to download movies for offline viewing.

Vudu

Last October, Walmart's Vudu video service quietly announced "Movies on Us," which allows viewers to choose from a generous selection of movies (around 1,000 titles) to watch at no charge. This ad-supported option does require you to have a Vudu account, but it's free to set one up.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

What you can watch: It's hard to get super excited about Vudu's selection, which consists of mostly older and direct-to-video-caliber titles, but there are a few gems in the mix: "Legally Blonde," "Mystic Pizza" and "School of Rock," for example.

Where you can watch: Vudu is available pretty much everywhere: all major streaming devices, mobile devices, game consoles and so on. While the mobile apps do allow you to download paid movies for offline viewing, however, Movies on Us titles can only be streamed.

Yahoo View

Although Yahoo's streaming service focuses mostly on TV shows, it does have a movie section. You don't need a Yahoo account to access it.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

What you can watch: Although Yahoo's recent partnership with Hulu has yielded lots of great TV to watch (no subscription required), you'll find almost none of Hulu's movies. And the smattering of titles Yahoo View does have available are probably not going to appeal to many viewers. ("Sharknado 3," anyone?)

Where you can watch: For the moment, Yahoo's movies appear to be web-only. Although there are mobile Yahoo View apps, they sling only clips -- no movies or TV shows. I was unable to find a list of supported devices or platforms.

YouTube

You might think Google's video service is nothing but clips and more clips, but it does host some free full-length movies -- mostly of the public-domain variety. (This is not to be confused with YouTube Red, the subscription service that includes some original movies.)

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

What you can watch: If there's an old movie -- old enough that the copyright has expired -- you're interested in seeing, you may be able to find it on YouTube. Indeed, there are at least 11 great movies there. For anything even remotely modern, however, you'll need to look elsewhere.

Where you can watch: Needless to say, anywhere you can access YouTube (which is just about everywhere), you can watch YouTube movies. In fact, if there's something you found on Internet Archive that you want to watch on a big screen, try YouTube via your streaming box.



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