#parent | #kids | The 10 best services for free movies

These are tough times, with many people out of work and many more trying to find ways to save money. It doesn’t help that live TV streaming services like ESPN, YouTube TV and Fubo have raised their prices. Weren’t these cord-cutting options supposed to be cheaper than cable?

Thankfully, as long as you still have an internet connection, you can keep yourself properly entertained. Here are 10 services that offer totally free, totally legal movies you can watch on smart TVs, media streamers and mobile devices. Some offer TV shows as well. Just be ready to sit through some commercials before streaming movies, because that’s how most of these services pay the bills. And don’t expect the option to download free 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, but we’ll try to keep it up to date.

Read more: The best live streaming services for cord-cutters in 2020


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10 best free movie and TV streaming services



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Crackle

Sony Crackle is an ad-supported streaming service, one that offers both movies and TV shows — including some original content and web series. It’s available on a wide variety of devices and doesn’t even require you to set up an account to watch free movies online, though doing so enables you to save a favorite movie, get recommendations and resume playback if you switch between devices.

Top picks: The Big Chill, The Illusionist, Once Upon a Time in the West, Patriot Games, Train to Busan

IMDb

This streaming service, 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 IMDb TV isn’t limited to movies; there are TV episodes available as well. Unfortunately, there’s a viewing limitation: The IMDb TV service can be accessed only on PCs and within Prime Video and IMDb apps. 

Top picks: Catch Me if You Can, Life of Pi, O Brother Where Art Thou, Taxi Driver (and shout-outs for TV series Lost, Schitt’s Creek and St. Elsewhere)

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: Ex Machina, Life is Beautiful, Good Will Hunting, The Commitments, Thelma & Louise, What We Do in the Shadows

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 movies. 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: Captain Fantastic, Eighth Grade, Logan Lucky, Super Size Me 2, The Farewell, The Gold Rush

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: All the President’s Men, I Am Not Your Negro, The Founder

Pluto

Pluto began life as a live streaming service that offered multiple “channels” of content — including a large selection of CNET video. It has since been purchased by Viacom, which then went on to merge with CNET’s parent company, CBS. Although it seems to be expanding more into the live TV space, with a growing number of news and sports, channels, it’s also home to plenty of on-demand free movies, including some of the latest movies and popular titles.

Top picks: Glory, Harold and Maude, Hugo, Seems Like Old Times

Roku

The Roku Channel isn’t a free movies 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 free 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: A Raisin in the Sun, Crimson Tide, Empire of the Sun, Sing Street

Tubi

Home to thousands of free commercial movies (though definitely not commercial-free), Tubi TV’s streaming platform 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: Fury, Galaxy Quest, It Follows, Memento

Vudu

Walmart’s Vudu video service has been consistently expanding its ad-supported section, which lets you choose from a generous selection of Hollywood movies (mostly older titles, alas) to watch at no charge. To watch free movies online, you’ll need a Vudu account, but it’s free to set one up.

Top picks: Grosse Pointe Blank, His Girl Friday, Scream 

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