Netflix alternatives: Stream all the films and TV you want without paying a dime. Here’s the scoop on Crackle, IMDb TV, Plex, Pluto and more.
Are you currently sheltered, quarantined, hunkered down? That’s one effect of this coronavirus madness; another is a possible reduction of income, what with all these companies closing and so many workers laid off or put on part-time pay. Alas, streaming services such as Netflix may be among the non-essentials you need to cut loose. Fortunately, as long as you still have an online connection, you can keep yourself amused.
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 ready to sit through advertisements, because that is how most of these services pay the bills. And do not expect the option to download pictures for offline viewing. At the moment, the only Hoopla permits you to do that.
Take note: Because collections change regularly, not all the names listed here may still be accessible.
Sony’s Crackle is an ad-supported streaming service, one that delivers both movies and TV shows — including some original content. It is available on a huge array of devices and doesn’t even require you to establish an account, though doing so enables you to save favorites, get recommendations and restart playback if you switch between devices.
Top picks as of March 2020: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Adaptation, The Big Chill, Dr. Strangelove, Glory, It Happened One Night, La Bamba, Little Women, The Natural, The Social Network, Star Trek: First Contact
This relative newcomer, formerly called FreeDrive, is a 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 films; there are TV shows available as well. Unfortunately, there’s a viewing limit: The service can be obtained only on PCs and inside Prime Video and IMDb programs.
Top picks as of March 2020: Bull Durham, Get Shorty, Memento (and shout-outs for TV series Friday Night Lights and The Middle)
Got a library card? Check to see if your library has partnered with Hoopla. This digital-media service permits you to check out all kinds of stuff — including movies. When you”borrow” one, you’ve got 72 hours in which to watch it. Your library determines the total number of movies you can borrow every month.
Surprisingly, Hoopla’s mobile programs offer not only streaming but also a download option for offline viewing.
Top picks as of March 2020: Ex Machina, The Illusionist, Life is Beautiful, The Sting, Good Will Hunting, The Commitments, Thelma & Louise, What We Do in the Shadows
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 will need an account (though it’s possible to create one in case you want to mark favorites and such).
“Public domain” is code for”old” or”mostly black-and-white,” which makes this the place for people 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 will require a browser to access it. (Most cellular browsers should work.)
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 choice of indie movies and documentaries from the likes of PBS and The Great Courses. Its library also includes titles in the prestigious Criterion Collection, which is code for”movies” There’s also a brand new Kanopy Kids section with loads of family-friendly content.
Top picks as of March 2020: Captain Fantastic, Eighth Grade, Logan Lucky, Super Size Me 2, The Gold Rush
Plex is famous for its media-slinging server applications, but the company is currently making a foray into free movie streaming. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s a fair bit of overlap with other providers. But the Plex app offers an admirably simple portal to news, podcasts, web shows and other content as well.
Note that as of this writing, the Plex streaming service appears to be down.
Top picks as of December 2019: Apocalypse Now, Evil Dead II, Raging Bull, The Right Stuff, Tucker: The Man and His Dream
Pluto started life as a live-streaming service that offered multiple”channels” of content — such as 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. But whatever the fact that Pluto is now a sister property, it’s also a great place to find 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 age — though you can find him in Layer Cake.)
Top picks as of March 2020: Basic Instinct, Legally Blonde, The Big Short, The Creator
The Roku Channel
The Roku Channel is not a free-movie provider, but instead an aggregator of new and existing no-cost content. Thus, do not 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 like FilmRise, Popcornflix and Vidmark.
Obviously, the channel can be found on Roku TVs and devices, but it’s accessible in desktop web browsers also.
Top picks as of March 2020: Contact, Stand By Me, The Karate Kid (original), Thelma and Louise, with a shout-out for the first five seasons of Schitt’s Creek.
Home to thousands of free commercial films (though definitely not commercial-free), Tubi TV provides content from studios including Lionsgate, MGM and Paramount. To help separate the wheat from the chaff, take a look at these 2 categories: Highly Rated on Rotten Tomatoes and Not on Netflix.
Top picks as of March 2020: Black Hawk Down, Minority Report, Shaun the Sheep Movie, Train to Busan
Walmart’s Vudu video service has been consistently expanding its ad-supported segment, which allows viewers to choose from a generous choice of films (mostly older titles, alas) to watch free of charge. This option does require you to have Vudu accounts, but it is free to set up one.
Top picks as of March 2020: Carol, Dead Poets Society, Lethal Weapon 2, Misery, Superbad